(Neil Miller / Sportsday Wire)
Steven Matz was the latest Mets star to carry on the tradition of playing Santa Claus at the team’s holiday party to bring cheer to around 135 kids from Queens schools at Citi Field’s Acela Club.
On if he ever played Santa before, Matz said, “I played Santa one time for my cousin’s little son,” and if he got the gig because of previous experience, he said laughing, “probably.”
This was not too long after Matz pitched in the World Series, capping off a memorable run in his rookie year with the Mets.
Matz was an instant sensation, as he pitched very well in his debut on June 28th against Cincinnati. He allowed just two hits in 7 2/3 innings that day, but the thing that wowed people was the fact that he had three hits and four RBI at the plate.
After another great start in Los Angeles against the Dodgers, he was sidelined until September with an injury.
In September, he made four starts, including a gutty outing against the Yankees in which he allowed just one run in six innings in a 5-1 Mets win.
Matz finished the regular season with a 4-0 record and a sterling 2.27 ERA.
In the playoffs, he gave the Mets three quality outings against the Dodgers, Cubs, and in the World Series against the Royals, when he allowed just two runs and seven hits in five innings in Game Four.
Matz said of the experience he had in 2015 and carrying that into next season, “Whenever you do something you can have confidence that you can be successful. there It helps you carry that into the next season. So that’s what it did, just kind of been there. You’re not going to pitch in a bigger game than the World Series, so I think that all helps.”
When Mets Manager Terry Collins was asked what the key for Matz in 2016 will be, he emphatically said, “Health. Health. Strictly.”
Collins continued, “This guy, if you can get him out there, let’s just say 28 times, he’s going to win a lot of games. I’ve talked to a number of people who have seen him in the minor leagues and there are those guys who think as he gets better, as he gets a little more under his belt, that he’ll be as good as anybody else on this staff. Those are big statements.”
Matz said of his offseason routine, “I took a few weeks off, went down to Nashville, it’s where my girlfriend lives, just hanging out, went on that trip to Honduras, came back and, pretty much after Thanksgiving, I’ve just been training and stuff, getting back into the swing of things.”
Matz said of the motivation for going to Honduras, “We hung out with kids in orphanages and stuff and that group has previously built up some stuff there, so we’re just going there to kind of build relationships.
“The whole season, we focus on ourselves so much, so during the offseason, it’s just nice to give back to people,” said Matz.
Matz was part of a group of around a dozen people who worked in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, from November 18 to 22. The mission was organized by his agency, Icon Sports, which partnered with Hearts to Honduras starting in 2014. They built a three-room learning center, which is made of concrete and far stronger than the thin vinyl covering common in building construction in Honduras.
On if playing in a World Series sunk in over the last month, Matz said, “Yeah, it definitely sank in, just the thought of playing a World Series and just reflecting on that whole time, I did a little of that. Now, I’m just looking forward here, I know for me, I’m going to be even more hungry to win the World Series this year having had a taste of that postseason.”
Matz said of looking forward to pitching an entire season in the majors for the first time, “Yeah, I’m really excited. I got my feet wet this year, I would say a little more than wet with the playoffs and stuff, but I’m really excited to get this year started now. That first month off (of the offseason) was nice, but I’m getting the itch again.”
Matz said of the Mets’ new acquisitions, Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera, “I’ve never played against those guys, but I’ve seen them play and they seem like great players, so I’m excited to see what they can do to help the team.”