Thursday, April 8, 2010
#771) NELSON FIGUEROA
Nelson Figueroa was selected by the New York Mets in the 30th round of the free agent draft on June 1, 1995. The Brooklyn, New York native did not reach the major leagues before he was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks with Bernard Gilkey in exchange for Willie Blair and Jorge Fabregas on July 31, 1998.
He returned to New York when the Mets signed him as a free agent on February 6, 2008. Making his way onto the major league roster following spring training, Nelson appeared in a relief role during two road games to start the season. His special moment came on April 11, 2008. The now 33 year-old, made his first appearance as a starting pitcher for the New York Mets at Shea Stadium. Actually his first start in the majors since 2003. Around 100 of Figueroa's friends and family were in attendance that night. "Every time I looked up in the stands there were three or four more," Nelson remembers. He did not disappoint them. The right-hander was perfect through the first four innings. "This is fantastic. I died and went to heaven." was Nelson Figueroa, Sr.'s comment during an in-game interview during the television broadcast. The elder Nelson, an electrician in Brooklyn, was wearing one of his son's jerseys in support. "You do not know how proud he made us tonight." his mother, Irsa would say, "That's his dream. His goal was to play on this team." And his father added, "He was so blessed to get his chance."
The Mets would win the game while the family watched from Billy Wagner's donated stadium suite. Nelson throwing six innings in the 4-2 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers. "It was everything that I dreamed it would be," Figueroa would say. "To come back in baseball and pitch for my hometown team, this journey has been incredible. It's storybook like."
He would remain in the rotation that season until returning to Triple-A Buffalo in mid-May. Only to return on August 27th and finish the year in New York.
His father would honor Nelson's achievement with the Mets on a FanBrick at the new Citi Field.
Nelson Figueroa signed his card in the set for me following a game between the Buffalo Bisons and Indianapolis Indians at Victory Field on July 26, 2009. Even adding the awesome "April 11, 2008 Shea Stadium" inscription.