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Photo by George Napolitano
Photo by George Napolitano
Home Reporter–Spectator News sports reporter Jim Dolan joined two 2011 Brooklyn Cyclone alumni in spring training during a 2016 “Meet and Greet” sponsored by the Port St. Lucie Mets Booster Club - current New York Met first baseman T.J. Rivera (left) and Travis Taijeron.

T.J. Rivera flew under the radar while steadily improving without a lot of fanfare for six seasons coming up through the New York Met minor league system.  But once the 2011 Brooklyn Cyclone alum replaced the injured Neil Walker at second base last season on August 10, the 27-year-old minor leaguer became the catalyst that propelled the Mets to capture the 2016 Wild Card.

Making the team for the opening of the 2017 season, Rivera has again been the sparkplug to bring the Mets out of their offensive doldrums to win six out of their last nine games.  Making the team this season out of spring training as a bench player, Rivera has lately filled in for the injured Lucas Duda at first base to help the 14-16 Mets in their quest to break the .500 mark.

Most recently, Rivera had a signature game on May 5 against the Miami Marlins, going 2 for 4 with one homerun and a double for 3 RBIs.  After the Mets were down 7-3, Rivera’s two run double in the seventh inning tied the game at 7-7 that allowed “the Amazins” to rally for a classic 8-7 comeback win.

Impressed with Rivera’s offensive ability, Mets Manager Terry Collins has said, “All he does for us is keep hitting day after day after day.”

After graduating Troy University in Alabama in 2011, the Bronx born Rivera was fortunate enough to get the endorsement of former New York Mets catcher Mackey Sasser for a free agent signing after Rivera was passed over in the MLB draft.  Splitting his first minor league season in the Rookie League at Kingsport Tennessee and in Short Season-A in Brooklyn, Rivera put up an impressive .326 batting average playing just 15 games for the Cyclones.

Steadily advancing through the next four levels of the Mets farm system between 2011 to 2016, Rivera burst onto the Mets’ prospect list in 2016 when he won the Pacific Coast League batting crown with a .353 average while with Triple-A Las Vegas. Prior to joining the Mets this season for spring training, Rivera received international attention in early March as Puerto Rico’s first baseman in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

When asked back in March of 2016 during spring training at Port St.Lucie what he still had to do to get called up to the Mets, Rivera answered, “Just keep hitting and let the numbers speak for themselves.”  So far that formula has been Rivera’s recipe for success.

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