Mets closer Edwin Díaz uplifts South Bronx students with appearance and mental health message

Longwood Prepatory Academy students erupted with cheers when Mets closer Edwin Díaz walked through the door on Thursday, Sept. 15.
Photo Adrian Childress

Amid the spotlight of playing in one of the nation’s biggest markets, athletes of New York City sports teams also know how unforgiving the fans and media can be.

In 2019, Mets closer Edwin Díaz — a legitimate 2022 Cy Young candidate thanks to his unparalleled dominance in high-pressure situations — felt the backlash of the at-times harsh NYC media in his precarious debutant season in Queens.

But times sure have changed since those days.

In the land of the crosstown rival Yankees and entering a Longwood Preparatory Academy classroom on Sept. 15 — a college prep school in the South Bronx — Díaz didn’t need Timmy Trumpet to elicit a roar from the Bronx high schoolers.

Several students in their excitement to meet Díaz, reached over their classmates to snap a photo of the Mets’ 6-foot-3-inch right-hander. Díaz’s visit to Longwood was a part of the “Mindfulness with the New York Mets” program, presented by Empire BlueCross BlueShield, to speak to the students about the importance of staying mentally strong and coping with pressure.

The organization says its program is designed to educate local youth on the importance of managing stress and staying balanced, and participating students engaged in yoga, nutrition, stretching and mindfulness exercises.

After a tough 2019 campaign with the Mets — his first coming over via trade from Seattle — Edwin Díaz has been one of baseball’s top closers in 2022. Photo Adrian Childress

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 37% of students at public and private high schools reported that their mental health was not good most or all of the time during the pandemic, according to a survey fielded from January to June 2021.

In the survey, “poor mental health” includes stress, anxiety and depression. About 3 in 10 high school students (31%) said they experienced poor mental health most or all of the time in the 30 days before the survey.

Baseball also presents high-profile, high-intensity challenges and the life of an MLB relief pitcher includes high stress, high turnover and the ultimate battleground — the ninth inning. 

Among professional athletes, data shows that up to 35% of elite athletes suffer from a mental health crisis that may manifest itself as stress, eating disorders, burnout or depression and anxiety.

Every Longwood Prep student received “Mindfulness with the Mets” stress balls and mini trumpets, and sage advice from one of the city’s top ballplayers about how to deal with mental health struggles: “be legendary.”

And being legendary, Díaz urged students to be comfortable in their vulnerability and rely on others for help when struggling. After a strong three seasons as the Seattle Mariners closer, Díaz joined the Mets and posted a career-worst 5.59 ERA (seventh worst among relievers), allowing 15 homers in 58 innings — Citi Field boos pointed at Díaz quickly became the norm.
But deep down, Díaz knew he had the talent to be the Mets lockdown reliever, and told the Post in an August interview that he made a concerted effort on getting better that following offseason.
New York Mets relief pitcher Edwin Díaz (39) reacts after a strikeout during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Colorado Rockies, Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

He did exactly that over his next two seasons, posting a combined 2.95 ERA and 38 saves in 89 appearances. But in 2022, everything has really come together for Díaz who currently touts a 1.43 ERA,  30 saves, 0.90 WHIP, 1.13 FIP (the best among relievers in baseball), and 107 strikeouts in 56.2 innings pitched.*

A native Spanish speaker who delivered most of his remarks in Spanish while at Longwood, Díaz talked about his adjustments to the U.S. and the English language and how his teammates helped him acclimate through his rough 2019.
“At first I couldn’t say the words very well but my teammates helped me,” Díaz said. “Al principio no podía decir las palabras bien pero los compañeros del equipo me ayudaron.”

Díaz’s now viral Timmy Trumpet-accompanied jog to the bullpen now elicits cheers, not groans, from the CitiField faithful, as he’s 8th in the majors in saves and his 107 strikeouts pace all National League relievers.

Díaz was acquired by the Mets — who stand 93-55 on the season in a razor-thin race for NL East crown with rival Atlanta Braves — in 2018 for a once-touted prospect Jarred Kelenic, former slugger Jay Bruce and three relievers.

Former Yankee Robinson Cano also came over in the Díaz swap, but during an unremarkable Mets stint he was hit with subsequent PED suspensions and a late-career decline in San Diego and Atlanta.

But any metric, Díaz has been worth his weight in gold, and entering the upcoming offseason as one of the baseball’s prime free agents. Baseball analysts suspect the hurler to break the $17.2 million record for closers and become the first to hit a contract worth $20 million annually.

*Statistics are reflective as of Sept. 19.

Reach Robbie Sequeira at [email protected] or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes

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