Dec 28, 2018

2000 N.L. Champion Mets Outfielder: Benny Agbayani (1998-2001)

Benny Peter Agbayani was born on December 28, 1971 in Honolulu Hawaii. He was born to Filipino and Samoan parents, growing up to attended Hawaii Pacific University, as well as the Oregon Institute of Technology.

He was originally selected by the California Angels in 1992 but did not sign. The six foot right handed hitting outfielder, was later selected in the 30th round of the 1993 draft by the New York Mets. During the Baseball strike of 1995 he crossed the picket line and played during spring training. As a result, he could not join the Players Union when he finally made it to the majors.

Agbayani was always a popular player, he first became a local star with the AAA Norfolk Tides, batting .310 with 11 HRs & 29 stolen bases in 1997. That season he even got married at home plate in Norfolk during the AAA All Star game.

He got called up to the Mets in June 1998, and got his first MLB hit on June 19 against the Florida Marlins, at Shea Stadium. The call up didn’t last too long, after he hit only .133 in 11 games he was sent back down. Bobby Valentine took a liking to Agbayani and was able to make him play to the best of his ability if not better.

Benny became known as Hawaii Punch around Shea Stadium and the public address announcer would play Elton John’s “Benny & the Jets” when he came to bat. Benny wasn’t a star but played hard, had a great personality, & won over the Shea Faithful. He wore the number 50, just like fellow Hawaiian Mets star, Sid Fernandez, in honor of their native Hawaii, a nod to the old TV show; Hawaii Five-O.

In 1999 he spent April at AAA Norfolk, & hit .356 in 28 games, getting called back up to New York in early May. In his first game that year he hit a HR in Colorado. On May 20th in the first game of a double header at Shea Stadium, he hit a pair of HRs against the Milwaukee Brewers while driving in four runs. At the end of May he homered in three straight games, the first against the Pirates in Pittsburgh & two at home against the Arizona Diamond Backs. After only 66 at bats he was hitting .409 with six HRs.

He would finish the month of May batting .442 with ten runs driven in, in 18 games that first month. He really won over the fans in early June, driving in three runs at a Subway Series matchup in the Bronx in a Mets 7-2 win over Roger Clemens.

The next day he hit a pair of HRs in the Mets 8-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays. Later that week he hit HRs in back to back Mets wins against the Boston Red Sox at Shea Stadium.

On July 23d he hit a 6th inning triple at Shea Stadium, scoring John Olerud & Edgardo Alfonzo tying up a game with the Chicago Cubs. The hits came off former Mets prospect Kevin Tapani. Mike Piazza won the game with a 7th inning RBI single. He kept his average up near .300 through July but slumped a bit in August dropping off to .280.

In mid September he hit HRs in three straight games while driving in seven runs over a four game span. Overall he got to see action in 101 games, 80 games in the outfield behind Brian McRae, Roger Cedeno & Rickey Henderson. He would slowly end up taking over a regular outfield position as he out hit most of those other guys.

By the next season he would be the only guy from that bunch remaining on the club. Benny hit a quality .286, with 14 HRs, 18 doubles and 46 RBIs in only .286 at bats. He hit for a .525 slugging %, third best on the club, posting a .363 on base %. He had a hot September stretch getting 10 hits & hitting 3 HRs with 8 RBIs in the first two weeks, helping the Mets chase the Wild Card title.

1999 Post Season: NLDS: He went hitless (0-4) in Game #1 of the NLDS against the Arizona Diamondbacks. He was then unsuccessful as a pinch hitter in Game #2.

In Game #3 he had two hits & scored a run in the Mets 9-2 win over the Diamondbacks. In Game #4 he broke a 1-1 tie in the 6th inning with a double to right field off Brian Anderson, scoring Rickey Henderson with the go ahead run. Overall he hit an even .300 vs. Arizona in series.

In the NLCS he struggled against the Atlanta Braves batting only .143 playing in four of six games.

In 2000 he came out of Spring Training as the team’s primary left fielder. That year the season opened up in Japan as the Mets played the Chicago Cubs at the Tokyo Dome. In the second game of the season, Agbayani hit a dramatic game winning pinch hit grand slam, HR in the top of the 11th inning off Danny Young, leading the Mets to a 5-1 win.

After that, he didn’t hit another HR until June, but then he hit a pair on June 14th, against the same Cubs at Wrigley Field. The first HR came in the 7th inning off Matt Karchner & the second off Tim Worrell in the 9th as an insurance run in the 10-8 Mets win.

He hit another HR the bext day in Milwaukee as well. On June 26th he hit aother pair of HRs against the Florida Marlins in a 10-5 Mets win at Shea Stadium. He had a good June overall hitting six HRs while driving in 16 runs, finishing the month batting at .298. That same month he had an embarrassing moment that will forever make the blooper highlights.

He caught a fly ball near the stands which he thought was the third out of the inning. In a good gesture he reached over & gave the ball to a kid in the stands. Problem was, it was only the second out of the inning, and the bases were loaded.

When he realized how many outs there were, he grabbed it back from the kid, and threw the ball in to home plate. The runners were awarded two bases each, putting the Mets behind 2-1. The Mets did go on to win the game & Benny gave the kid a new ball afterwards.

On July 27th he had a four hit game, driving in three runs in the first game of a double header in a 9-8 Mets win at Montreal against the Expos. In August he kept his average up near .310 most of the month, driving in 15 runs with five multi RBI games.

Benny had another strong September, getting 13 hits, with three HRs & 9 RBIs over 18 games, helping the Mets to another post season berth. He hit three HRs in a four game stretch in mid September but fell off in the final weeks of the season.

Overall he finished with another fine season, batting .289 with a .391 on base percentage, third on the club behind only Edgardo Alfonzo & Mike Piazza. Benny posted career highs in HRs (15) hits (101) doubles (20) and RBIs (60). He also led the team in getting hit by pitches with seven & drew 54 walks.

2000 Post Season: NLDS In the 2000 NLDS Agbayani secured his place in Mets history with one of the most dramatic HRs in Shea Stadium history.

In the bottom of the 13th inning of Game #3 against the San Francisco Giants, Agbayani came to bat in a 1-1 tie & one out against Aaron Fultz. He blasted a walk off game winning HR over the left center field fence, bring myself & the rest of the 56,000 Shea Faithful to their feet in a frenzy. Agbayani hit .333 overall in the Series (5-15).

2000 NLCS: In the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals he batted .353 with two extra base hits while driving in three runs. In Game #2 he sacrificed Robin Ventura over to second base in the top of the 9th inning, setting him up to score when Jay Payton singled in the next at bat.

In Game #4 at Shea Stadium he doubled in the first inning driving in two runs putting the Mets ahead 4-2. In the Game #5 clincher he went 1-2 with three walks. He enjoyed his popularity in New York, even getting to appear on the Howard Stern show before the World Series. 

2000 World Series: In the World Series he had another important hit coming in Game #3 breaking a 2-2 tie. In the bottom of the 8th inning he doubled off Orlando Hernandez driving home Robin Ventura in what turned out to be the game winning run. He then scored an insurance run on Bubba Trammell’s base hit two at bats later. Agbayani had hit safely in every post season game up to that point, a streak that ended the next day.

Overall he batted .320 in the 2000 post season with 1 HR 5 doubles & 5 RBIs. Benny batted .299 in his post season career.

In 2001 he saw less action as the Mets shuffled around Timo Perez & Tsuyoshi Shinjo. He had a hot six game hit streak stretch where he had four straight multi hit games at the start of May. In the subway series match up on June 17th at Shea Stadium, the Mets enjoyed a six run home 8th inning. Agbayani was in the middle of it with the bases loaded base hit, bringing in Joe McEwing & Desi Relaford. Mike Piazza capped off the innning with a two run HR.

On July 28th his two run HR off Omar Dahl, led the Mets to a 4-3 win over the Philadelphia Phillies in the first of a twin bill at Shea Stadium. On August 18th he broke a 4-4 tie with a sac fly off the Dodgers Mike Trombley leading the Mets to a 5-4 victory. Agbayani was set down with injury at the start of September ending his season, overall he played in 91 games batting .277 with only 6 HRs 14 doubles & 27 RBIs.

That winter he was traded along with Todd Zeile to the Colorado Rockies as part of a three team deal that landed Jeremy Burnitz & Jeff D’Amico in New York.

The Rocky Mountain air didn’t help Benny too much, as he only hit 4 HRs with a .205 average after 48 games when he was shipped to Boston. He finished the season there and went to play baseball in Japan under Bobby Valentine.

In his five year MLB career, Agbayani hit .274 with 299 hits 39 HRs 57 doubles 6 triples 156 RBIs & a .362 on base % with 139 walks as well. As a Met he batted .282 with a .372 on base %.

Japan: In 2005 their team won the Japan Series and the Asian Series defeating Korea, Taiwan & China. Agbayani won the Series MVP award. In his five year MLB career he batted .274 with 299 hits 39 HRs 57 doubles 156 RBIs and a .362 on base percentage.

Honors: He is one of only six players in MLB history to be of Philipino heritage. He was been elected to the Hawaiian Hall of Honor in 1999.

After the 2000 post season he published his autobiography, Big League Survivor. In 2010 he started a new job as an educational assistant at Mililani High School on Oahu, Hawaii working in classrooms with teachers counseling kids. The rest of the time, he says, he spends relaxing with his wife and three children.

Agbayani hopes he's remembered in New York for something else: "I hope Met fans always remember me as a great ballplayer, someone who gave his all, was always there in the clutch."

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