Joe Suozzi’s fly ball leads to Mets spring training win


It was the kind of game the Mets are known for, one where they look like they’ll win, but then everything goes south. Nail-biter games come second nature to the “Amazin’ Mets,” even in spring training.

Congressman Tom Suozzi was in Florida on March 13 when he realized he was only 25 minutes away from where his son Joe was playing for the Mets against the Houston Astros. He rushed to get there, arriving in the fifth inning.

Joe Suozzi entered the Mets spring training game in the top of the eighth inning, replacing Ji-Man Choi at first base. The Mets took a 5-1 lead over the Astros into the ninth but were unable to protect it. Houston scored four runs in the top of the ninth to tie it, forcing the Mets to bat.

“I was secretly happy because Joe would get to bat,” Tom said. “And I hadn’t seen him since my election. It had been a month.”

In the bottom of the ninth, the Mets loaded the bases with no one out against Astros relief pitcher Cole McDonald, bringing Suozzi to the plate. After taking a strike on the first pitch, he hit a fly ball to center to bring home Rowdey Jordan with the winning run on a sacrificfly.

“I was so proud of him,” Tom said. “I went down to the field, which was really great. Joe always inspires me because he sticks with it. It’s been a long grind since Little League. He’s had a lot of ups and downs.”

Joe Suozzi, 26, was born and raised in Glen Cove, the middle child of Tom and Helene Suozzi. He was named after Tom’s father, Joseph Suozzi, an Italian immigrant who was an attorney and mayor of Glen Cove from 1956 to 1960. And Joe was born on Michael Wrotniak, Helene’s father’s birthday. Wrotniak, who raised his family in Glen Cove, was a businessman who worked at Manhattan-based Great Lakes Carbon Corporation, rising from salesman to senior vice president.

“Both were very hard workers, loyal people,” Helene said. “They cared about people.”

Joe was always easy going, someone who always cared about other people too, Helene said. But he was also very determined.

“He’s really a team player for everyone in the dugout,” she said. “Joe wants everyone to do well and is a good friend to all of his teammates. He works hard, and if he has a bad day at the plate, he gets over it and focuses on the next day.”

Much of Suozzi’s life has been filled with overcoming challenges.

A student at Chaminade High School and a member of the baseball team, Suozzi broke his wrist during his sophomore year. Then when he was a junior, he broke his elbow and was cut from the team. He had been the most valuable player batting over .500 in his freshman year, so being brushed aside was tough. When he played again as a senior, he was named most improved player. But his uneven record in high school did not help him to garner any interest from colleges. 

“And Joe was not a big kid,” Helene said. “He had a growth spirt after his surgery and went from being 131 pounds in high school to 225 pounds. Now he’s over 6 feet tall.”

He decided to go to Boston College and major in economics. But he had not left baseball behind. Determined to play, he tried to walk on as a freshman. But there were no openings.

Boston College baseball coach Michael Gambino let him work out with the team. Impressed by how much he improved, he asked Suozzi to come back in his sophomore year. By the end of that year he was put on the lineup playing right, left and center fields.

But then, two weeks before the end of the fall season he suffered from another injury. Sliding into third base headfirst he dislocated his shoulder and tore his labrum, which required more surgery and rehabilitation.

“He was in the hospital, and they were cutting his shirt and he said, ‘No, don’t cut my shirt I like my shirt.’ He thought he was just practicing with the team because no promises had been made,” Helene said. “The coach said, ‘Joe, you’re getting a new one in the spring.’”

Suozzi started playing again as a junior and then in 2020 the Mets signed six players in its minor league draft and Suozzi was one of them. He signed a minor league contract with the Mets as a free agent. All Suozzi ever wanted was to play baseball, and a Mets fan since he went to his first game when he was 3, it was a dream come true. Last year, Suozzi was a Mets AAA affiliate in Syracuse.

“Every day is surreal for me,” Joe said. “This is going to be my fourth season with the Mets.”

When asked about the challenges Suozzi didn’t pause. “In general, when you play professional baseball, you play every day. If you don’t come with the right mental mindset, it could go south very quickly so you really have to be in control of your emotions,” he said. “You really have to be present. That’s the key.”

Challenges aside, Suozzi said he loves the game of baseball.

“The baseball season is like a rollercoaster with many ups and down,” he said. “The challenge of riding that rollercoaster alongside my teammates is why I love baseball.”

He sees parallels with his father, who ran unsuccessfully for governor of New York twice. Suozzi said his father is his role model.

“We’ve both gone through a lot of defeats in our careers. I follow my Dad’s lead,” Suozzi said. “He always got up and kept on going and tried to do the right thing.”

The lessons go way back, perhaps beginning when he was a child watching the movie “Rocky.”

“I remember how much Dad loved to watch that movie,” Suozzi said. “I fell in love with the movie. It instilled in me a no-quit attitude.”

-Additional reporting by Tony Bellissimo