Amazin’ rookie third baseman Brett Baty takes a swing at some Q&A with Post columnist Steve Serby.
Q: What is the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?
A: A lot of people didn’t think I was gonna be able to play third base at this level. A lot of people told me, “You’re probably gonna end up having to move over to first base.” There was actually a turning point for me, it was after that COVID spring training, we got sent home and they told me at the end of it, they were like, “If you don’t come back moving better, in better shape — I know you’ve hit the ball for power and you’ve hit the ball really well, we’re not worried about your offensive stuff — but if you don’t come back, then we’re gonna have to try to find another place for you to play on the field.” And I really took that to heart. I went back after COVID spring training, and I really just hit the weight room, hit the gym, I tried to transform my body. Because coming out of high school, I was kind of dumpy, honestly. I wasn’t very strong, I wasn’t very fast. … I feel like that changed me defensively.
Q: Have you ever felt pressure on the baseball field?
A: I don’t really look at it as like pressure. It comes with the territory, honestly, that’s how I look at it. We’re up here for a reason, and everybody wants to succeed … like this game’s not life-and-death, it’s not like the end of the world, that’s kind of how I look at it. I really enjoy the pressure situations, and I try to like pride myself on how calm I can be and how even keel I can stay.
Q: What drives you?
A: I would say my competitive spirit for one. But also just my determination to succeed. I’ve always said that you can accomplish a lot with hard work and having a good attitude and that’s what I strive to do every single day. I try to come in here, be early, and stay late, and just really give it all I got, ’cause I’ve talked to a lot of players [such as former catcher Rob Johnson] that have been done with this game and they said, “Man, wish I would have done more.” … And I don’t want to look back at the end of my career and say that.
Q: How do you handle slumps?
A: I’ve been through (chuckle) quite a few honestly in my professional career. I think in pro ball, my first season in Kingsport, Tennessee, I think I started like maybe 1-for-20 with like 15 strikeouts. And I was sitting there thinking to myself, I’m like, “Man, can I even do this?” The way I look at it is you just gotta keep pushing in this game because you can’t ride the lows, you can’t ride the highs.
Q: Whose swing do you admire? Because you’ve got a beautiful swing.
A: Thank you. I’ve drawn a lot of comparisons to Christian Yelich over the years. Also, they had me with I think Adam Dunn or something like that. I try to think of my swing more like I’m a hitter with power, instead of just like a power hitter. I want to be able to shorten up with two strikes and still hit the ball hard and out of the yard and stuff like that, but I like to think I’m a hitter first, and then I also have power instead of just being up there a true-outcome guy, I don’t want to be that, I don’t want to be a strikeout-walk-homer guy. I want it to be whatever-the-situation-calls-for type of guy, you know?
Q: Are there guys other than Yelich you like to watch hit?
A: A young and up-and-coming one that I really like watching is Nolan Gorman. He’s having a monster year, too. I just love how he loads so early, and how he’s always on time. Growing up a Ranger fan, I always watched Josh Hamilton. Similar swing, I feel like. Barry Bonds had a really good swing … David Ortiz … all these lefty guys that like hit the ball all over the yard, and hit it with some ooomph, I really like watching those guys.
Q: Have you always had good power to the opposite field?
A: In high school, my senior year I hit like 19 homers, and I want to say like 15 of ’em were probably opposite field.
Q: How do you explain that?
A: I feel like growing up, they’ve always tried to throw away, and I kind of had to get used to that. So I just tried to let the ball get deeper and just hit it wherever they pitched it, honestly. My mindset’s always been, wherever they throw it, I’m gonna try to hit it that way. Like if they try to bust me in, then I’ll try to get the hands extended and get it out front, or if they try to pitch me away, then I’ll let it get deep and try to go the other way.
Q: Describe your on-field mentality.
A: I’m a competitor, and whenever I’m looking at the pitcher, when I’m in the box, I want to beat him. I want to compete my butt off up there. I want to make it really tough for him to get me out. I want to swing at the pitches that he leaves over the plate, and I want to take the balls that he tries to get me to chase on. And then defensively, I want to make every single play for my pitcher.
Q: What is it like from the on-deck circle watching Pete Alonso hit?
A: Unbelievable. I mean, anytime he hits the barrel, I feel like it’s 110-plus every time. It’s such a veteran approach at the plate, and I feel like he had that … when he came in the league when he hit 50-something homers his rookie year. Just watching him execute the plans that he has at the plate is really unbelievable. And if you leave it over the plate, good luck, because he’s gonna hit it hard somewhere. It’s a blessing to watch.
Q: Whatever comes to mind: Mark Vientos?
A: Same thing, man. If you leave the ball over the plate, he’s gonna do some damage with it.
Q: Francisco Alvarez?
A: Hardest worker I know. I got to play with him at every single level in the minor leagues, and his work ethic has only gotten better. I know he has all the talent in the world too, but he’s doing it up here right now. He’s hitting balls hard, he’s handling our pitching staff super well as a 21-year-old. And he’s just so happy to be here, he’s so happy-go-lucky, he has fun, he wants the team to win. … He could go 0-for-4 with four strikeouts and if we win the game, he’ll be the happiest person in the world.
Q: Have you ever seen Brandon Nimmo in a bad mood?
A: Never. A lot of these guys I have never seen ’em in a bad mood. It’s cool.
Q: Buck Showalter?
A: Super detail-oriented. I feel like I’ve had a lot of hard-nosed coaches over the years, especially my high school baseball coach was a super hard-nosed guy, my dad was my basketball coach, super old-school guy. I feel like they bring the best out of me because they expect the most.
Q: What is it like watching Jeff McNeil hit?
A: Some of the best bat-to-ball skills in the world, honestly. If it comes over the plate in any count, he’s gonna be swinging, and he’s gonna put it in the outfield, he’s gonna do something with it. But the at-bat that sticks out to me the most was against Shohei Ohtani in the World Baseball Classic. I just saw how well he knows the zone. He took three different pitches, and I was like, “How is he taking those pitches?” He sees the ball better than almost anyone in the game.
Q: How beneficial is it having Francisco Lindor at short?
A: Huge. We’re starting to have fun out there together too, like balls in the hole, he’ll hype me up if I make a play over there, and then same thing with him. Like he made a barehand, off-the-pitcher ricochet play the other day and I was so pumped up for him. He’s the best shortstop in the game. To be able to have him over there on the left side of the infield with me as a young player has been huge.
Q: David Wright?
A: The best third baseman to ever play for the New York Mets. We got to chat in spring training this year and last year as well. I just love having conversations with him about New York in general, how to navigate it, the media, playing well in New York, playing bad in New York … just everything under the sun.
Q: How do you navigate New York?
A: He said it best: You just gotta put your nose down and work. You take accountability when you make mistakes, and then when you have good games you don’t hang on those too much, you gotta come in and do it the next day because everyone expects you to win. And it’s a microscope up here too.
Q: You enjoy playing on this stage?
A: Yeah. I mean, it’s all I know right now. I love it. I love how much the culture, the atmosphere expects us to win. And I want to win, so that’s perfect for me.
Q: Thoughts on the pitch timer?
A: Love it, love it. I just love how fluid the game feels now. If you got a pitcher up there and he’s trying to mess with your timing or something like that, he can’t really do that. He can’t hold the ball off the mound for 20 seconds. I’ve always been a guy that likes to, “All right, let’s go. Let’s have some tempo, let’s play this game with some feel.”
Q: Bench coach Eric Chavez?
A: He’s been great for me. Just to be able to pick his mind about third base, and about hitting too.
Q: Have you met Aaron Rodgers through your high school buddy Garrett Wilson yet?
A: No, I haven’t met Aaron Rodgers.
Q: As a former high school quarterback, you’ve watched Rodgers?
A: He can throw it all over the yard.
Q: What kind of a quarterback were you?
A: I was a pocket passer, but like if it was a big third-and-4 or something like that and I dropped back to pass and then I saw a lane, like, I’m going to get the first down. If anyone’s in front of me, I’m not dodging ’em or juking ’em, I’m running right over ’em.
Q: What is the most memorable catch Garrett made?
A: We were in sixth grade, I think it might have been a playoff game in Peewee or something like that. I dropped back to pass, and we were on like the 20-yard line and he ran like a 20-yard dig to get to the end zone. And I threw it over the middle, and the safety cut in front and jumped up, caught it in the air, and then Garrett came out of nowhere from behind him, jumped over him and reached over him and caught it and brought it back to him and it was a touchdown. That was the most insane catch I’ve ever seen.
Q: How about in high school?
A: I threw into triple coverage one time, they were triple-covering him. We were winning by a lot, but it was like fourth-and-a-million, and we were on like the 40 or something … it might have been fourth-and-goal, I don’t know (laugh) … but I just threw it up into the end zone in triple coverage and he came down with it. And I’m like, “What are we doing?”
Q: If you could face any pitcher in MLB history to test your skills, who would it be?
A: I’d like an uncomfortable AB. I’d want to face Randy Johnson just to see how that was. From that arm slot, the way he was throwing it, that was insane. But also I’d want to face Mariano Rivera in a big situation in like the ninth or something like that when he came in, and was throwing cutters.
Q: If you could pick the brain of any hitter in MLB history?
A: I think the honest answer’s probably Barry Bonds. I know with all the steroids and stuff, but if you take all that stuff away, I still think he’s one of the best hitters to ever play this game. Just the way he could like stand like right up on dish as a lefty, and get to balls on the inside. And playing in San Francisco, that’s not an easy park to be a lefty in. And he made it look so easy.
Q: Boyhood idol?
A: In baseball it was probably Adrian Beltre, ’cause I was a third baseman, grew up in Texas … just loved how much fun he had playing the game. … Football, probably Tom Brady. He’s the best to ever do it, I think. Basketball, I’ve always liked watching LeBron [James’] greatness. … This new NBA, I could really go without just all the complaining and whining to the officials and stuff like that. I just feel like back then it was so much better to watch. I think today it’s physical, but I think it was way more physical back then. I don’t like all the … “That’s a foul!” After you go up for a layup and miss a shot or something, like it’s just straight to the referees if you miss it … the point guard for the Kings [Jason Williams], I like watching his highlights. … My favorite player right now is Luka Doncic just ’cause of how skilled he is. He just slows the game down so well.
Q: So the boyhood idol would be … ?
A: Maybe Dirk [Nowitzki] or … Timmy Duncan down in San Antonio.
Q: Baker Mayfield played for your high school, Lake Travis in Austin, Texas?
A: I was his ballboy in sixth grade in middle school (smile). On the state championship runs, I got to warn him up on the sidelines. It was a cool deal for me.
Q: Was be pleased with your work?
A: Yeah, he loved the balls I brought out for him every single day (smile).
Q: You’re always chewing gum.
A: I feel like it just relaxes me. I’ve always either been seeds or gum or whatever. It’s just like you’re playing baseball, like you’re just chewing on some gum, you’re just having fun, you’re out in the backyard (smile).
A: I’m a big don’t touch the foul line like before the game or anything like that kind of guy.
Q: What was it like having your mother as your high school principal?
A: (Laugh) It was really cool, I never got in trouble. Anytime I had like a break, I’d just go grab a snack, she always used to keep snacks for me at the office. And I’d just say “Hey” to the secretary and just walk on back, it was cool. But, it was some long days because she would get there like 6 in the morning, and we’d leave at like 5 or 6 at night.
Q: Three dinner guests?
A: M.J. [Michael Jordan], Kevin Hart, Tiger [Woods].
Q: Favorite movie?
A: “The Greatest Game Ever Played.”
Q: Favorite actors?
A: Kevin Costner, Kevin James and Adam Sandler.
Q: Favorite actress?
A: Emma Stone.
Q: Favorite singer/entertainer?
A: My walk-up song is by charlieonnafriday, and he reached out to me and he was like, “Hey, I heard you’re using my music as your walkout song.”
Q: Favorite meal?
A: Either steak and potatoes or a good old-fashioned cheeseburger.
Q: What makes you feel that you belong?
A: You always gotta have that confidence that you belong anywhere and this if the highest level in the world of this game. And I feel like, I know I’ve said it, but if I work hard and if I study with a good mindset, a positive attitude, then good things are gonna happen and I’m just gonna go up there and be the best player I can be. But yeah, I feel like I belong, felt like I belonged last year, had good ABs last year, played good defense.
Q: Career goal?
A: To win a World Series, for sure … maybe be an All-Star. Honestly, I’m not really that result-oriented with my goals. It’s more about like the process for me, just because this game is so unpredictable. You can’t chase numbers, you can’t chase stats, but I just want to be the best player I can be. Wherever the good Lord thinks I can be, I want to be that.
Q: Message to Mets fans about Brett the Met?
A: I’m gonna try to win every single night, I’m gonna lay my body on the line every single night, and I’m just gonna try to be the best player I can be and win some ballgames for this club.