NEW YORK – Kevin Kaczmarski hopped out of an Uber at Citi Field still trying to process it all.
The 2010 Prairie Ridge graduate and minor league teammate Drew Smith nearly had completed the final leg of their journey to the majors; a flight from Triple-A Las Vegas, the Mets’ team SUV taking them from the airport to the team hotel, and now they were looking at an orange interlocking “NY” emblazoned on a royal blue floor below the Mets’ clubhouse double doors.
They looked at each other, took a deep breath and then Kaczmarski said, “Ready? Here we go.”
For the 26-year-old, Friday’s major league game against the Los Angeles Dodgers was affirmation that persistence pays off when pursuing a childhood dream.
“Grind is a good word for my journey,” Kaczmarski said. “You have that goal in your mind for a long time and no matter what you keep following it. There’s going to be certain setbacks, but that’s all part of it. You have to see the bigger picture.”
Kaczmarski was not in the lineup for Friday’s game – a 5-2 loss to the Dodgers. The Mets used two pinch hitters, but elected to go with Jose Reyes in the seventh inning and Dominic Smith in the ninth.
The teams play again at 6:15 p.m. Saturday and finish up their three-game series at 12:10 p.m. Sunday.
If the left-handed Kaczmarski is to get a start this weekend, it will have to be against a lefty. After throwing Alex Wood on Friday, the Dodgers will start two more lefties in Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.
After being snubbed in the MLB First-Year Player Draft after his junior year at the University of Evansville, Kaczmarski led the nation with a .465 batting average in his final college season and was drafted by the Mets in the ninth round.
Since 2015, the 6-foot outfielder has worked his way up the ranks through five Mets affiliates and a spring training invite before this season.
Through it all, Kaczmarski said the biggest hurdle was injury, such as an abdominal tear he experienced in 2016 that required surgery.
But the persistence paid off when Las Vegas 51’s manager Tony DeFrancesco called a team meeting Thursday.
“I had no idea what was coming,” Kaczmarski said. “We were in the Las Vegas heat, I was just focused on getting hydrated for the day.”
DeFrancesco announced that he had a bonus check to give former Vegas-turned-Mets player Dominic Smith for winning a previous Player of the Month award.
“Well, I guess Kaczmarski and Drew Smith are just going to have to give it to him in New York,” he said. To which the room exploded in cheers.
Kaczmarski said his phone hasn’t stopped buzzing since getting called up and he’s done his best to respond when he can.
“I got a lot of cool texts,” he said. “One from a friend in college saying how we always talked about this and we believe in you.
“The support I’ve had to get here has been second to none.”
Since graduating from Prairie Ridge eight years ago, Kaczmarski has continued to work on making a major league roster as the goal.
Now that that has happened, he’s not stopping.
“I want to be the best I can be and how ever far that takes me is how far I go,” he said.