Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Rick Reed joined the New York Mets when he signed as a free agent on November 7, 1995. The once overweight once-a-week sandlot pitcher from Huntington, West Virginia defied the odds and earned a shot at the major-leagues. Reed weighed 225 pounds when first signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1986. He worked to lose 30 pounds and pitched his way through the organization. Rick won the first game of his big-league career on August 8, 1988. The 1-0 victory came as a spot start facing the Mets at Three Rivers Stadium. "I've dreamed my whole life of just getting the chance to pitch to the Mets, because they're such a great team. " the rookie said afterward. "I shut them out for eight innings? It can't be real."

Reed could only manage limited time at the major-league level. He passed through three organizations before accepting the role of a replacement player for the Cincinnati Reds during the strike of 1994. The stigma would remain with him and eventually end his days in Cincy. "Water under the bridge now. I did it to help my parents. I told the Reds I wouldn't play in a regular-season game." Rick said in 2010. "Spring training broke and I went to Indianapolis. The strike was over. I don't think it's as much of a big deal as all this steroid stuff."

In New York the finesse pitcher hit his stride. Beginning with the 1997 season, Reed became a mainstay in the Mets' starting rotation. He developed the reputation of "a poor man's Greg Maddux". The right-hander registered double digit wins in each of his first four years in Flushing. He won the National League Player of the Week Award on May 4, 1997. When Rick was selected to represent the Mets during the 1998 Major League All-Star Game he said, "I think I can appreciate this more than anyone else." His ten year struggle through the minor leagues was far behind him.

On June 8, 1998, he joined the list of Mets pitchers to toss near no-hitters. Reed took a perfect game into the seventh inning facing the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at Shea Stadium. "It seemed like after I threw my first pitch they were really into the game." Rick said. A Wade Boggs double ruined the bid which ended as a three-hitter and a 3-0 New York win.

Rick was on the mound in another big moment at Shea the next season. He faced the Pittsburgh Pirates on October 2, 1999 and pitched what might have been his best game ever. Reed hurled a three-hit shutout, while striking out a career-high 12 batters. Rick even delivered a two-run single himself as the Mets won 7-0 to force a tie with the Cincinnati Reds for the National League wild-card lead on the second to the last day of the season. "After the Reds game, I started pacing from the locker room, to the trainer's room, to the weight room," Reed shared. "I had to be calmed down....The butterflies in my stomach were growing. They were big ones." The effort contributed to the Mets first appearance in the postseason since 1988.

The Mets bested that the next year when they repeated as the National League Wild Card entry in 2000. This time they advanced to the World Series facing the New York Yankees. Reed was the starting pitcher for Game Three of the Subway Series. "Just to stand out on that mound would have been thrilling enough." Rick explained. "But to pitch your first game and your team getting the win, that's the biggest thrill of all." The 4-2 victory at Shea Stadium was the only Mets win of the series.

Reed left the New York Mets when he was traded to the Minnesota Twins in exchange for Matt Lawton on July 30, 2001. "I wish I could've ended my career in New York." Rick shared in 2010. "When I was traded, I was tore up. I can say it now that I'm not playing. That's how much we loved New York. Did I compete when I went to Minnesota? Absolutely. But there's no place like New York."

After his pitching career, he returned to his alma mater, Marshall University. He became the baseball team's pitching coach in 2005. "I was away from my kids more than when I played," Reed said. That fact resulted in his leaving the position to become a full-time dad. Rick and his wife, Dee have a son and daughter. "I used to miss playing, but right now they are keeping me so busy I don't have time to miss it."

I created Rick Reed's card in the set from an signed index card given to me by my good friend, Jessie on December 10, 2011.

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