Thursday, June 16, 2011
#605) DESI RELAFORD
Desi Relaford joined the New York Mets when he was selected off waivers from the San Diego Padres on October 12, 2000. "Let me see," he recalled thinking after getting the news from Mets general manager, Steve Phillips. "I knew they had a Gold Glover at shortstop. I thought about it. But I had to think realistically. Last year wasn't a good season for Desi. Maybe it wasn't my time." Relaford had led all National League shortstops in errors during the 2000 season, and did not expect to unseat Rey Ordonez for the starting job in New York.
He made the team out of spring training and adjusted to the unfamiliar role of a bench player. "This is new for me, but I figure it's just one more thing," said Relaford. "I'll be a better ballplayer and person for it." Desi continued to prove his worth to the team in many ways. The switch-hitting infielder added a new one on May 17, 2001. The Mets were facing the San Diego Padres at Shea Stadium when manager Bobby Valentine chose to send Relaford to the mound to pitch the top of the ninth-inning. Desi retired all three batters he faced by throwing exclusively fastballs (one reaching 91 mph) and changeups. The experience was bittersweet for Relaford as New York suffered a 15-3 loss. "Things could have been a lot worse if Desi didn't have as good of stuff as he did." Mets manager, Bobby Valentine offered. "I got to face a pitcher and I got me a punchie," Relaford said. "I just hope that I at least got the guys to laugh a little...It's been a tough time." Desi became only the fourth position player to pitch in New York Mets history, and joined Matt Franco as the only other Mets player to accomplish it at Shea Stadium.
Relaford continued to find ways into the lineup all season long, and in late August found himself with a team best .311 batting average. "I've got to keep believing that I'm an everyday player," he said. "That's what I'm trying to prove to everybody." By the end of the year he had accumulated 301 at-bats, with 8 home runs, 36 RBIs, a .302 batting average, and team leading 13 stolen bases. "If I'm playing every day, I'm happy." Desi explained. "Or whenever I play, I'm happy."
The Mets traded Relaford along with Tsuyoshi Shinjo to the San Francisco Giants in exchange for Shawn Estes on December 16, 2001.
Desi Relaford signed his card in the set for me through a private signing held by Kevin Heninger on June 4, 2011.