Most young baseball players share the same dream:
“I want to play professional baseball someday in front of my friends and family in my hometown.”
Even for the small percentage of ballplayers who turn pro, the likelihood that they get drafted by their hometown team is extremely slim. Yet for one local ballplayer, playing for your hometown just took on a new meaning.
Jaylen Palmer, a graduate of Holy Cross H.S., Flushing, was drafted by the New York Mets in 2018. He progressed nicely through the low levels of the team’s system his first two seasons, but unfortunately, the entire minor-league season was shut down last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Brooklyn Cyclones, who for their entire history had been the Mets’ short-season Single-A affiliate, were bumped up to the High-A level this season. This meant the Cyclones were scheduled to play more games and field a team of prospects who were already more advanced in the system.
When the system reorganization happened, Palmer, a Canarsie native, took notice. He recently was called up to Brooklyn and has been playing for the Cyclones the past few weeks.
“It was definitely a goal of mine to be here at some point during the year,” said Palmer, who starred for the Holy Cross varsity baseball team not too long ago.
After being named a Tablet All-Star as a junior in 2017, he enjoyed a stellar senior season for the Knights, batting .406 with 21 runs scored and 13 stolen bases. He was selected to the CHSAA ‘AA’ All-League First Team, named a Tablet All-Star once again, and played in that year’s Mayor’s Cup Game.
Palmer was set to attend Long Island University Brooklyn, Downtown Brooklyn, but the Mets chose the 6-foot-3-inch shortstop in the 22nd round of that summer’s MLB draft. He decided to put college on hold and live out his dream of playing pro ball.
So far, so good for Palmer. His time playing in the CHSAA prepared him well for the rigors of the minor leagues. While playing for the Low-A St. Lucie Mets, he enjoyed a torrid streak this July, batting .319 with 24 runs scored, 11 extra-base hits and 10 RBIs. The hot month earned him a call-up to the Cyclones.
He’s been here a few weeks, yet there’s still an element of shock that this Brooklyn native is playing his professional home games right here in his home borough.
“It’s so hard to put it into words how it feels honestly,” he said. “It’s an honor. Not only am I a professional baseball player for my hometown, but finally my friends and family can see me play in a competitive atmosphere.”
Every home game, someone new from Palmer’s past shows up to cheer him on. Recently, the Holy Cross coaching staff took in a game at Maimonides Park to cheer on their former star shortstop.
Though drafted as an infielder, Palmer has spent the bulk of his playing time with Cyclones in the outfield. The organization told him he might have more opportunities to see the field if he also learned the outfield, and this summer marked the first time he’s spent considerable time out there.
“It’s fun in the outfield,” he said. “As long as I get my at-bats, I don’t care where I play.”
In the outfield at Coney Island, players can truly enjoy the amusement park atmosphere that is such a draw to the fans. You have the roller coasters, the lights from the Parachute Jump, the boardwalk, and the fireworks. What could be better?
“Every game, I always tell my teammates how cool of an experience this is,” Palmer said. “It’s just crazy.”
As much as Palmer is enjoying his time in Brooklyn, the goal of any minor leaguer is to advance through the system as quickly as possible. He’s simply trying to stay true to himself, maintain the pace he’s at and finish out the season strong.
“I’m trying to make my friends and family proud at every home game that we have,” he said.
While this Brooklyn native now calls the ballpark in Brooklyn home, Palmer has his sights set on something a little more.
The student-athlete who once called Flushing his high school home surely wants to call the big ballpark in Flushing — Citi Field — his home someday.
Contact Jim Mancari via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.