New York Mets Little Big League
Robby Sabo, ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

Traditional awards are overrated, which is why I am proud to announce a set of new, fictitious awards based on the 1994 baseball classic, “Little Big League.” Let’s see which New York Mets players are taking home hardware.

At its core, baseball is a kids’ game. After all, childhood is where we first develop our love for America’s pastime. With that being said, who better to lead a Major League ball club through the rigors of the regular season than a kid himself. That is precisely the premise of the 1994 baseball classic, Little Big League.

The film stars Luke Edwards as Billy Heywood, a 12-year-old baseball savant who inherits the Minnesota Twins after his grandfather passes away. After opting to fire the team’s manager, Heywood names himself as the skipper of the ball club and I’ll spare you the plot details in case you haven’t seen the movie.

In addition to cameos from Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson, Lou Piniella, Tim Raines, Chris Berman and many more, the movie features an assortment of lovable characters that endear themselves to you along the way. With Opening Day a few weeks away, now seems like a good time to announce the predictions I made regarding a set of fictitious awards based on characters from the film. Here we go.

Mac Macnally Mentorship Award

Every successful manager has their mentor to thank, and for Billy Heywood, no individual was more instrumental in his survival and success than his pitching coach, Mac Macnally. A long-tenured coach in the fictional Twins organization, Macnally (portrayed by John Ashton) took on the role of chief consigliere to Heywood, as well as serving as a quasi-father figure. He even introduced Billy to Mr. October himself, Reggie Jackson.

For a young, first-time manager like Mickey Callaway, his success will be heavily dependent on having the right support system around him. Callaway may not be as young and inexperienced as the 12-year-old Heywood, but there can still be expected to be a learning curve. After all, Callaway made his bones as a pitching coach. Transitioning from pitching coach to manager is by no means unheard of, but still is a tricky adjustment. That is why Dave Eiland should be a lock to take home the Mac Macnally Mentorship Award.

Eiland was a 12-year pro who spent time with the New York Yankees, San Diego Padres, and Tampa Bay Devil Rays. When he hung up his spikes for good, he returned to the Yankees organization as a coach, ascending to the role of pitching coach for the big club in 2008. Eiland would spend the next decade as the pitching coach of the Yankees and Kansas City Royals, grabbing two World Series rings and becoming one of the most reliable stalwarts in the game.

Now, as he takes up a familiar role with the Mets, Eiland will prove to be Callaway’s most trusted advisor in 2018. Callaway may have overseen one of the best rotations in baseball for the past five seasons, but Eiland’s profound experience will by default make him a key mentor to the young manager.

Jim Bowers Off The Beaten Path Award

When you peer into a Major League clubhouse, you will notice that the players take up certain roles. There are leaders, there are followers, and of course, there are pranksters. Portrayed by Jonathan Silverman, Jim Bowers was an absolute scene stealer and left us wanting more every time. Whether it was his fascination with water balloons, imaginary interviews, nonchalant riddle-solving skills, and math expertise, Bowers endeared himself to all of us as a lovable, light-hearted, prankster.

After much deliberation, AJ Ramos is my pick to take home this honor. Spring Training has only been underway for a few brief weeks and we’ve only seen what I believe to be the tip of the iceberg of Ramos’ antics. Stealing an SNY polo shirt? Check. Crashing a Michael Conforto presser? Check. Setting booby traps for a crosstown rival and potential roommate Giancarlo Stanton during the Subway Series? Check. Win or lose, Ramos is poised to make 2018 pretty entertaining.

Jerry Johnson Washed Up Award

When it comes to any professional sport, Father Time is undefeated. Tom Brady and LeBron James are still fighting to prove otherwise, but eventually, they will have to succumb to the pitfalls of aging. That’s just what happened to veteran 1B/DH Jerry Johnson. Once the star of the fictitious Twins, Johnson’s age caught up to him and put his manager in a very awkward position. Johnson was Billy Heywood’s favorite player, but with a pennant race looming, he made the ultimate sacrifice to cut Johnson to make room for a more deserving player. What made it even more agonizing is that the young Heywood tried to console Johnson by saying he would never trade his baseball card no matter the offer.

The Mets brought in Adrian Gonzalez to attempt to solve their first base woes. But in what will be his age-36 season, how much more does he have left to give? Gonzalez was limited to only 71 games with the Dodgers last season due to a slew of injuries and has been largely zapped of his power since shoulder surgery back in 2010 to repair a torn labrum. Surviving the entire season would be an accomplishment in itself for A-Gon, but it would not surprise me if injuries or poor performance precipitated his departure sometime this summer. The acquisition of Gonzalez did pay dividends in lighting a fire under Dominic Smith to get in shape. Maybe Smith will finally improve enough to alleviate the doubt surrounding him in the front office and render Gonzalez useless anyways.

Tucker Kain Sidekick Award

Like his good friend Jim Bowers, Tucker Kain is a prankster at heart. Throughout the film, he always seemed to be involved in whatever mischief is going on at the time. He also proves to be a gifted defensive outfielder willing to sacrifice his body and make exciting and crucial plays. But nevertheless, Kain’s claim to fame is as prankster number two. My prediction for this honor? None other than Noah Syndergaard.

Let’s get this out of the way first. Thor is a sidekick to no one. But because the success of this team hinges so much on his performance, I do not believe he can live up to his prankster potential. We have all enjoyed his comical social media presence, feud with Mr. Met, and recent pseudo-conflict with Robert Gsellman, but when the dog days come, Syndergaard will need to be a stern and serious leader in this clubhouse. Maybe he will prove me otherwise, but for now, I see Syndergaard as a better fit as prankster number two than public enemy number one.

John “Blackout” Gatling Difficult Award

A fireballing reliever and recent acquisition, Blackout Gatling is one of the hotter heads in the Twins clubhouse. Looking past his bizarre haircut or tobacco habits, Gatling seemed to be difficult to deal with at times. Early in the film, he gets into a tiff with Billy Heywood’s predecessor, George O’Farrell (Dennis Farina), over the use of his curveball and later makes a stink when Heywood removes him from a game.

The comparison doesn’t match up one for one, but Jeurys Familia seems to be a fit here. Like Gatling, Familia is an extremely talented late-game reliever. But he has put all Mets fans through a tremendous amount of difficulty at times. Whenever Familia enters a game, as clear as the situation may be, it feels like he always has to muddy the waters before he mops it up. Whether it be surrendering a few hits, or losing his control and giving out free passes to first base, Familia tends to wind up in jams much to the chagrin of all Mets enthusiasts. With that being said he also cost himself part of the season last year with a suspension stemming from a domestic violence incident. Hey Jeurys, do us all a favor and stay out of trouble this year so I don’t have to give you this award at the end of the season.

It wouldn’t be right for me to forget some of the others like Mike McGrevey, Mark Hodges, Lonnie Ritter, Mickey Scales and, of course, Lou Collins. So you will just have to wait until part two for that.

A former disciple of Stan Fischler. IBWAA member. Bylines at Baseball Prospectus Mets, Elite Sports New York, and my own creation: Baseknock MLB. Formerly Amazin' Avenue of SB Nation. Proud UAlbany Alum.