Heels in the Pros: Can Matt Harvey Make the Mets Contenders Again?

For the past couple of weeks many Tar Heel fans have been immersed in the NBA playoffs watching former Tar Heel greats Harrison Barnes, Raymond Felton and Danny Green show their stuff. Former Tar Heel hoopsters have done well in the playoffs this year especially in the case of Barnes who had a veritable coming-out party against the San Antonio Spurs despite the losing effort. What you may not have noticed this Spring is another former Tar Heel who has become the talk of Major League baseball and who might just be the long awaited answer to New York Mets fans’ prayers. His name is Matt Harvey, and yes, he is a Tar Heel.

May 22, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Matt Harvey (33) pitches against the Cincinnati Reds during the second inning of a game at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

I’m not sure if a former Tar Heel baseball player has ever landed on the cover of Sports Illustrated but that is exactly what happened when Harvey graced the cover of the magazine’s May 20th edition. He’s not just a pitching ace. He’s also a hitter. Many have compared him to Dr. K himself (without the cocaine problem). Originally from Connecticut, Harvey was coached in high school by his father, Ed, and he was initially drafted in the 3rd round in 2007. Right out of high school, Harvey surprisingly declined the seven figure contract and instead ventured south to Chapel Hill and play baseball for the Tar Heels.

Harvey threw for three seasons at Carolina, and I think his numbers speak for themselves:

YEAR

W

L

ERA

G

GS

IP

R

H

HR

BB

SO

2008

7

2

2.79

19

16

67.2

31

52

1

47

80

2009

7

2

5.40

21

13

75.0

52

88

8

42

81

2010

7

3

3.10

13

13

90.0

40

76

6

32

93

 

The Heels made it to Omaha in two of the three seasons that Harvey was on the roster as they failed to make it to the CWS in his final season. Harvey was known for his signature fastball which usually clocked in around the low to mid 90s. That sort of fire power as well as his versatility led SI writer, Tom Verducci, to dub him, “the most fascinating young power arm in baseball.” Despite only pitching three seasons for the Diamond Heels, Harvey finished 9th among Tar Heels all time in strikeouts and 10th in total wins. So, it was hardly a surprise when Harvey went 7th overall to the New York Mets in the 2010 MLB draft.

Like most prospects Harvey spent the first couple of years in the Mets’ farm system where he bounced around from Binghamton to Florida and finally back to a Triple-A Buffalo team in 2012 where he continued to work on precision and execution. Harvey finally made it to “The Show” in July of 2012 when he made his pitching debut against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Harvey finished out the 2012 season with a mediocre 3-5 record.

However, the 2013 season so far has belonged to Matt Harvey who currently enjoys a 1.55 ERA after starting ten games. The Mets are also hoping they have found a true, hot commodity in baseball, a pitcher who can also connect with the bat. Last week, Harvey punished the Chicago Cubs atop the mound and at the plate. He allowed only two Cubs’ runs while pitching, but perhaps more importantly he drove in the game-winning run for the Mets. Harvey’s ability to be everywhere at once has earned him the moniker, “The Dark Knight of Gotham.” Mets’ fans certainly hope this is just a preview of perhaps the second coming of Tom Seaver. Jesse Hahn, one of Harvey’s high school teammates, was quoted in the New York Daily News, “To this day, I’m not sure if any hitter I’ve seen in pro ball has a hit a ball harder than the balls Matt would hit.”

All of this is great news for New York Mets who have, are and always will be the other baseball team in New York City. While the Chicago Cubs are “The Loveable Losers,” many refer to the boys who play at Shea as simply, “The Mutts.” Perhaps they have finally found a rare breed in the pitching and hitting power of Harvey, but they’re going to need much more help if they want to have a dog in the fight come September. As a Chicago Cubs fan, I cannot root for the New York Mets, but I can wish nothing but success for Matt Harvey. Once a Tar Heel, always a Tar Heel.

Topics: Matt Harvey, New York Mets, North Carolina Tar Heels

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