Over the last decade of New York Mets’ baseball, two players have stood out as being fan-favorites, given their passion for the game.
José Reyes was the sparkplug shortstop who could do it all — hit, field, throw and, of course, run like the wind. His exciting style of play earned him four All-Star nods in orange and blue as well as the 2011 National League batting title.
Wilmer Flores – currently on the Arizona Diamondbacks – signed with the Mets when he was 16 years old and came up with a number of clutch hits during his tenure in Queens. He’ll always be remembered as the player who loved the organization so much that he began to cry on the field as trade rumors swirled in 2015.
So what do you get when you combine the likes of Wilmer Flores and José Reyes? None other than, Wilmer Reyes, an infielder on the Mets’ Single-A short-season affiliate Brooklyn Cyclones.
Reyes has been a fixture in the middle of the order and primarily at shortstop for the Cyclones this season. The 21-year-old from Mao, Dominican Republic, is in the top five of the New York-Penn League batting average at .340.
Just like those other Mets’ fan-favorites, Reyes is already popular among the Coney Island faithful. He has thrived on the field, but has also opened up about how thankful he is for the opportunity to play professional baseball. Before each game, Reyes leads his teammates in a prayer on the field.
The ritual started with just Reyes, catcher Jake Ortega and third baseman Yoel Romero, but it became contagious and soon other teammates joined.
“I wake up every morning and I’m thankful,” Reyes said through a translator. “God is the one who controls everything I do each day. I give thanks to the Lord each day. I wake up every morning and pray. At night before I go to bed, I pray.”
Within the prayer huddle, Reyes does most of the talking. He thanks God for the blessing of playing high-level baseball, then his teammates follow suit by expressing their thanks.
Before an important series earlier this summer against the Hudson Valley Renegades – the Tampa Bay Rays’ New York-Penn League affiliate – Reyes called the team together and said they needed to play hard since they were only two games back in the standings.
What started as a team meeting evolved into team prayer. The players all began praying and giving thanks in a show of gratitude bigger than the game of baseball. The tradition has continued and is now in full swing as the Cyclones make a late-season push toward the playoffs.
Praying before games has truly united the team. There’s a genuine respect for each other evident in the day-to-day happenings at MCU Park.
“As a team, we’re all thankful for the opportunity to play baseball,” Reyes said. “I’m not sure praying makes us better players or not, but we do it out of thanks. We appreciate being able to play baseball.”
Reyes may not think praying is making them better, but the proof is in the standings. Though they still trail Hudson Valley in the McNamara Division, the Cyclones are in the mix for the wild card berth. It seems as though the team that prays together stays together.
“It’s really amazing to see how something as small as a prayer circle has made the unity in the clubhouse that much tighter,” Reyes said. “These little things have helped the team gel together.”
The family atmosphere exhibited by the Cyclones will come in handy during the final two weeks. If the players trust in themselves and trust God has their backs, they’ll be in good shape as the season winds down.
As for Reyes, someone upstairs is definitely watching out for him. He’ll continue to pray for the opportunity to play as well as he can while serving as the spiritual leader for his Cyclones teammates.
“I go into every game having the confidence knowing that God is with me by my side,” he said. “I have the support of God behind me, and that gives me the confidence to play this game. Walking with God is the way I live my life.”
Only God knows for sure if Wilmer Reyes will someday become the next Mets fan-favorite like Wilmer Flores or José Reyes. For now though, the Cyclones’ star is solely focused on using his blessings to help his team this season.
Contact Jim Mancari via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.