The Brooklyn Cyclones, the Single-A short season affiliate of the New York Mets, are once again providing an entertaining quality of baseball in Coney Island this summer.
And while the entire team has been busy honing their baseball skills each day, a handful of players have made it a point to continue practicing their Catholic faith.
Catcher Tomas Nido, pitcher Brandon Welch and first baseman Michael Katz have all relied on their faith to guide them in their young professional baseball careers.
The trio has been regulars at the team’s chapel services every Sunday, and they all agree that their faith will undoubtedly play a role in their continued success on the baseball diamond.
“It’s definitely a challenge to stay intact with your faith when we play every single day and on the road,” said Katz, a former altar server who graduated from Bishop O’Connell H.S., Alexandria, Va., before starring at the College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Va. “But it’s something you need to stay on because I found once I got back into it, it’s just good to get a new perspective when times are going tough.”
For the Florida native Welch, his faith has aided in his long road back from an arm injury. During last offseason, the right-hander underwent arthroscopic surgery on the back of his elbow, so this past Spring Training was the first time he threw off a mound in quite a while.
“There’s always a process, and sometimes you have to overcome those obstacles,” Welch said. “I know He’s (God) always there with me and going to get me through those.”
To ensure this, Welch wears a crucifix whenever he pitches. He said he started wearing it when he was younger and said it helps him feel God’s presence at all times, especially when he says a prayer during the National Anthem before one of his starts on the mound.
Like Welch, Nido, a native of Puerto Rico, also wears a cross and a Virgin Mary medal whenever he suits up behind the plate. His father passed away from a heart attack when he was only 4, so the young catcher made a promise to never take off the necklace to honor his father. Except for a few times in high school where he had to remove the necklace in games by rule, Nido has remained true to his word.
“It’s (necklace) something personal for me,” he said. “When I pray for my family and talk to my dad in my thoughts, I always try to remind myself and remind him that I kept my promise.”
Nido played last summer in Brooklyn and struggled a bit offensively, but he’s rebounded this summer to be a contributing force at the plate.
“My faith has helped me 100 percent,” the 20-year-old backstop said. “Last year, I was the youngest guy in the league I think. God has a plan, and no matter how much you struggle, you were drafted for a reason. If you know God has a plan for you, everything is going to be fine.”
Similar to his teammates, Katz was accustomed to wearing a Virgin Mary medal that he received for his first Holy Communion as part of his baseball uniform. However, during his college season, the medal broke when a sharp ground ball bounced up and hit him right in the chest. Katz was sure to say though that he was able to get the out on the play.
These three young players know that it’s a long road from the Single-A short season with the Cyclones to the big leagues with the Mets.
“It’s a grind,” Nido said. “You’re not just competing against the other team; you’re competing against everyone in the minor leagues.”
But like Welch said, faith can give a player a necessary mental edge and will play a role in every step of the way as these players advance through the Mets’ minor-league system.
“It’s (faith) something I plan to keep a part of my life because it’s gotten me to where I am now,” Katz said.
Only God – and the baseball gods – knows what’s in store for these players, but a continued commitment to their faith will keep them in good standing with their main manager up above. [hr]All photos taken throughout the season by Jim Mancari. [hr]Contact Jim Mancari via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.