Signing a minor league contract with the New York Mets as a free agent on Monday night was a dream come true for Joe Suozzi, who said he’s been a fan since he was four years old. Now 22 years old, the 2020 Boston College graduate and recent captain of the Eagles’ baseball team was ranked the No. 65 college outfield prospect in the 2020 MLB Draft. But Suozzi said his love of baseball did not start in college. It goes way back to when he grew up in Glen Cove.
“Joe has focused on succeeding and has put in hard work his entire life,” said his father, U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi. “From throwing the ball against the wall as a little boy to swinging the bat tens of thousands of times, to overcoming several serious injuries Joe has persevered where most would have given up.”
A student at Chaminade High School and a member of the baseball team, Suozzi broke his wrist 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, Suozzi said. 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.
He decided to go to Boston College and major in economics. Determined to play baseball there, he tried to walk on as a freshman. But there were no openings, so he played on a softball league, Tom said, and life guarded that summer.
Boston College baseball coach Michael Gambino remembers Suozzi as someone who kept getting better and better. “I loved being around the kid. He’s an unbelievable kid,” he said. “When I told him to come back next fall when he would be a sophomore Joe said, ‘I’m going to work my butt off’ and he said he believed that good things would happen.”
Good things did. Suozzi earned his way onto the team. “I had to fight really hard to get on the lineup,” Suozzi said. “Once I started playing, I was pretty good. At the end of sophomore year, I got on the lineup playing right, left and center fields.”
Gambino said Suozzi was playing great and the team loved him. Then two weeks before the end of the fall season he had another injury, sliding into third base headfirst. He dislocated his shoulder and tore his labrum, which required more surgery and rehabilitation.
“I remember when that happened the very next day Joe came to practice wearing a sling,” Gambino said.
Suozzi’s teammates and coaches honored him with a number “8” on his jersey. The accolade goes to someone that is a hard worker and has integrity, someone who best represents the values of the team. A former Eagles captain, Peter “Sonny” Nictakis, who died of Hodgkin’s disease once wore that number.
He started playing again as a junior. That’s when scouts from major league ballclubs began talking about him, Gambino said.
Suozzi ended the 2019 season by earning a spot on the ACC All-Tournament Team. He went 7-for-12 with a homer, double and two RBIs in BC’s three tournament games.
Then this year, named a captain, he progressed even further, hitting fourth in the lineup. “I was batting .414 till the virus ended everything,” Suozzi said. “We were hoping to win a national championship.”
The draft was reduced this year from 40 rounds to five because of the coronavirus. Gambino said that if Suozzi had been able to finish the season he would have gotten drafted in the major leagues. The Mets signed six players in its minor league draft and Suozzi was one of them.
“Joe’s a guy everyone really likes,” Gambino said. “He can run and has a chance for major league power. His best days are ahead of him.”
He remains impressed by Suozzi’s tremendous work ethic and said he was the best leader. “Joe’s character and integrity are through the roof,” Gambino said. “He’s so well respected by everyone.”
Tom said he admires his son’s fortitude. “Not many dad’s get to say they see their son as a role model,” Tom said, “But I can truly say our son Joe is an inspiration.”
Suozzi said what has happened is still a surreal moment. For now, he is waiting for the call, he said, to head to Florida for spring training or wherever the Mets want him to go. He is ready.