After his freshman year of college, Joe Suozzi went home to Glen Cove, N.Y., for a summer of lifeguarding and playing slow-pitch softball with his friends.
This summer looks a lot different for the 22-year-old, who came to Boston College without a spot on the baseball team but is leaving as a member of the New York Mets. He signed with his hometown team as an undrafted free agent on Monday.
“It’s really surreal,” Suozzi said on a Zoom call with the media Tuesday. “Kind of a pinch yourself moment. Everything in my room is Mets stuff – David Wright posters, Pete Alonso. It really is just a dream come true.”
Long Island's own is staying home.
— BC Baseball (@BCBirdBall) June 16, 2020
A co-captain, Suozzi was ranked the No. 65 college outfielder in this year’s MLB Draft by D1Baseball.com after starting all 15 games in a pandemic-shortened season for the Eagles. He slashed .414/.471/.638 while leading the team with 16 RBIs and scored 14 runs. His 14-game hitting streak this season is tied for sixth-longest in program history. This season’s success followed up a 2019 campaign, his first as a regular starter in the Eagles’ lineup, that earned him an ACC All-Tournament Team selection.
“This is a kid who would have been drafted, had the season played out and the draft been normal,” said Boston College coach Mike Gambino. “He’s become a real prospect. This kid’s a prospect, and he’s got a chance to move in that system.”
Signing with his hometown team is the realization of a lifelong dream, but when Suozzi stepped foot on campus in 2017, it didn’t seem like he would have a shot. After an injury-plagued career at Chaminade High School, he hadn’t been recruited and had no scholarship offers.
He tried out for the Boston College team as a freshman, and Gambino liked what he saw from Suozzi through five weeks of fall ball, but there was just no room on the roster to keep him. So in the summer of 2017, while most of the Boston College team was scattered across the country playing in summer baseball leagues, Suozzi was working out on his own in between shifts as a lifeguard and those slow-pitch softball games.
“I remember saying to him [when he got cut], ‘I want to be around you for the next four years,” Gamboni said. “He’s that type of kid, with the character, the integrity, the work ethic. He plays and competes so hard, and you can just pick up on that.”
When he returned to The Heights in the fall, Suozzi tried out for the team again. This time, he made it. Gamboni remembers the moment he tossed Suozzi a practice jersey, officially welcoming him onto the squad. The team erupted in cheers.
Heading into his junior season, Suozzi was selected by his teammates and staff to wear No. 8 in honor of the late Peter “Sonny” Nictakis, who died of Hodgkin’s disease in 2000. In 2011, Gambino, who was roommates with Nictakis at BC, began the tradition of awarding his former teammate’s jersey number to a current player who embodies his spirit and dedication to the team.
Gambino was the one who urged Suozzi to take the jump and sign with the Mets when the outfielder received a call from them on Sunday. Suozzi was driving when his phone rang, and pulled over in tears. He wanted to tell his family the news in person, so Gambino was his first call.
“Leading up to it, it was a really tough decision,” Suozzi said. “I kind of had an idea it was going to happen, or [happen] with another team …When Coach Gambino said that he thought it was the best decision for me, I really respected that and thought it was the best thing to do.”
Suozzi, the son of New York Congressman Tom Suozzi, grew up 20 miles away from Citi Field. In his basement are the old Shea Stadium seats he sat in when he watched the Mets fall in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series, and lining his bedroom walls are Mets posters. When he told his family he received a call from the team, his mother pulled out a photo of a younger Suozzi with the team’s mascot, Mr. Met, at a game, clutching a stuffed version of the mascot and wearing baseball pants.
Years after the photo, the Mets obsession remains. So does the competitive drive that helped Suozzi earn a spot with the Eagles, one that he hopes will help him succeed at the next level.
“I’m really excited about this opportunity,” Suozzi said. “When I walked on to the Boston College baseball team, I wasn’t satisfied just being a walk-on, and I really wanted to play. I have that same attitude, but it’s kind of amplified now. I don’t just want to say that I’m part of of the Mets organization. I want to rise my way up through the organization, and I feel like I can do that.”
Northeastern’s Sam Jacobsak signs with the Phillies
Milton’s Sam Jacobsak had a plan heading into his junior year at Northeastern.
After two seasons spent primarily coming out of the bullpen, the 6-foot-5-inch, 200-pound right-hander wanted to throw 100 innings as a weekend starter for the Huskies. Then he’d be selected in the MLB Draft, hopefully with a three-figure signing bonus and a Colonial Athletic Association championship ring on his finger.
His 2-1 performance through four starts had all the makings of a breakout, and he finished third in the CAA with 25 strikeouts through 24.2 innings to follow up a solid summer with the Newport Gulls of the New England Collegiate Baseball League.
“We see it a lot, as kids mature physically, mentally and everything they learn a lot about pitching and what it takes,” said Northeastern coach Mike Glavine. “He did a great job. He was off to an awesome start, and I think he was going to have a huge year. He did a very nice job of getting better and better each year.”
But as Jacobsak has learned this year, plans change. After the five-round draft, he signed with the Philadelphia Phillies as an undrafted free agent on Sunday, with a $20,000 signing bonus, no CAA championship ring and little fanfare. In making his decision, the 21-year-old immediately re-shifted his focus to the fact that realizing his dream, one he had thought about since he began pitching at the age of eight, was now even closer.
“I talked to a lot of people,” he said. “It’s like, are you chasing the money or are you chasing the dream? I just wanted to get myself into a system that really cared about me, into an organization that really cared about me, and the Phillies were that.
“There weren’t a lot of teams I was going to sign in free agency with, but the Phillies were definitely my number one choice.”