January 9, 2013
New York Mets pitcher Jon Niese signed a five year $25.5 million deal with his team at the beginning of last season.
That means the former Defiance high school baseball standout can afford to buy a house anywhere in the world.
He bought one in Oregon.
It is on a lake, though.
But, in Ohio.
And this time of year, Ohio is not good weather-wise.
“I’ll always call Ohio my home,” he tells me.
Oregon also happens to be the home of his girlfriend, and soon to be wife.
Niese is getting married Saturday.
It has been a remarkable nine months for the 26-year-old Niese.
After a decent 2011, in which he finished 11-11 with an ERA of 4.40, the Mets were determined to lock up the young lefthander for the next several years.
“I was always open to it. I am glad the Mets put their trust in me,” he told me on Sportstalk with Koza.
The Mets got immediate dividends for their investment.
On June 3, Niese struck out a career high 10 against the Cardinals to put New York in a three-way tie for first place.
The Mets faded, but not Niese, who completed his final game of the season with seven innings of one run ball against the playoff-bound Atlanta Braves. He finished the year with a record of 13-9 and an ERA of just 3.40, exactly one run better than the year before.
“We were a young team (Mets), and I don’t think people expected us to be good. But I think we are heading in the right direction."
And the Mets got a lot younger in the offseason when they traded their Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey to Toronto for several prospects.
Niese says the big money contract was no extra pressure on him, and the good season he had, shows that.
“Being in New York there are always expectations to perform. I just tried to be consistent on what I have been taught all my life.”
He doesn’t forget where he is from either.
Niese keeps in touch with his former high school baseball coach Tom Held.
“I learned from the best (Held) and what a great program at Defiance.”
Also Niese spent the holidays at home and participated in a Northwest Ohio Baseball Day with the Pros at Defiance College on Dec. 27. Held said the event went so well they plan on making it an annual get together.
After the wedding Saturday, it’s a honeymoon for Niese, then time to get ready for spring training, which begins in early February.
He is currently penciled in as the Mets number two starter behind Johan Santana.
“We will see what happens in spring training. Sometimes where you sit in the rotation affects pitching matchups, but I don’t look at the pitcher I’m facing but the lineup I am facing.”
In his three full seasons of pitching in the major leagues, he has already put together a list of the toughest hitters he’s had to face.
“Brandon Phillips (Reds), Andrew McCutchen (Pirates) and Todd Helton (Rockies), “ he rattled off.
Wait a minute, I said. Helton is left handed and you’re left handed.
“Yeah, but he is the toughest lefthander facing lefties around.”
Niese says the team he “hates” the most? The St. Louis Cardinals.
“They have tough hitters from one to nine, even their pitchers can hit,” he laughed.
Niese also looks forward to taking on the Reds.
“I always look forward to facing teams that I struggle with. Good chance to see if I am getting better.”
Based on the past year, Niese is getting better — and only 26 years young.
Got a multi-year contract. Got a new house.
Saturday he has a new addition to the house: A wife.
Good luck to the Niese’s and their wedding Saturday.
(You can comment to Koza: firstname.lastname@example.org)