Dec 28, 2019

Benny Agbayani: 2000 N.L. Champion Mets Outfielder (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.

Agbayani 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 at 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. 

Trivia: That season he even got married at home plate in Norfolk during the AAA All Star game.

MLB Debut: He got called up to the Mets, debuting June 17th 1998 replacing Butch Huskey in centerfield in a 5-4 Mets loss. On June 19th, he made his first start and got his first MLB hit coming against the Florida Marlins, at Shea Stadium. 

His stay didn’t last too long, he was batting just .133 after 11 games & was sent back down to Norfolk for the rest of the year. There he hit .310 with 24 doubles 11 HRs & 51 RBIs in 127 games.

He began 1999 at AAA Norfolk & hit .356 in the first 28 games. He was back on the Mets big league club by early May. Bobby Valentine immediately  took a liking to Agbayani and was able to make him play to the best of his ability if not better. 

He wasn’t an All Star but always played hard, giving it all with a great personality to go along with it. He won over the Shea Faithful, sometimes called "Hawaiian Punch" & became a fan favorite. 

He wore the number 50, as did former Hawaiian Mets star, Sid Fernandez. The number was in honor of their native Hawaii, the 50th State added to America in 1959. There was also the reference to the classic TV show; Hawaii Five-O. 

Trivia: At Shea Stadium, the public address announcer would play Elton John's "Benny & the Jets" as he came to bat.

In his first game of 1999 he hit a HR in Colorado during a Mets loss. 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 in an exciting 11-10 Mets win. 

At the end of May from the 26th through the 29th, he homered in three straight games. The first against the Pirates in Pittsburgh & two at home against the Arizona Diamond Backs. 

In his first 66 at bats he was hitting .409 with six HRs. He would finish the month of May batting .442 with ten runs driven in 18 games.

In early June, his popularity grew, when on June 6th, he drove in three runs in the Mets 7-2 win over Roger Clemens in the Subway Series matchup in the Bronx.

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, as the Mets took two of three.

On June 25th he had a HR & a pair of hits as the Mets topped the rival Braves 10-2.

He got to the All tar break, batting over .300. 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. 

On June 26th, he drove in three runs in a 7-5 win over the Pirates at She Stadium. 

On August 6th, his sac fly off the Dodgers Chan Ho Park was the difference in the Mets 2-1 win over Los Angeles at Shea Stadium. He would slump a bit in August as his average fell below .300.

In mid September he hit HRs in three straight games while driving in seven runs over a four game span. On September 15th, he hit a two run HR off the Rockies Brian Bohanon putting New York ahead. After the Rockies went tied it, Darryl Hamilton tripled home Robin Ventura to tie the game. 

Agbayani added an RBI sac fly to add an insurance run in Mets win. He hit a HR in a loss to the Phillies the next day & then he hit another in the 11-1 Mets romp over Philadelphia the day after that.

He had a hot start to September, keeping the Mets in the wild card race, getting 10 hits with three HRs & eight RBIs in the first two weeks. Although he slumped in the end, going hitless in the last ten games.

Overall he got to see action in 101 games, 80 games in the outfield behind Brian McRae, Roger Cedeno & Rickey Henderson. As the season went on, he slowly ended up taking over a regular outfield position as he out hit & played better than all the other outfielders. 

By the next season, Agbayani would be the only guy left from that bunch to remain on the NL Championship team.

For the 1999 Mets Wild Card team, Agbayani 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 %. 

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.

1999 NLCS: In the NLCS he struggled against the Atlanta Braves batting only .143 playing in four of six games.

2000 NL Championship Season: 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, walk off pinch hit grand slam HR. It came in the top of the 11th inning, off pitcher Danny Young, leading the Mets to a 5-1 win.

In an April 22nd double header with the Cubs, he drove in four runs in the two games as the Mets swept the twin bill at Wrigley Field.

After an April where he batted .320, he slumped & fell to .268 by June. After his Opening Series walk off grand slam, he didn’t hit another HR until June. On June 14th, he hit two HRs against the Cubs in a 10-8 Mets win at Wrigley Field. The first HR came in the 7th inning off Matt Karchner & the second off Tim Worrell, in the 9th inning, as an insurance run.

He hit another HR the next day in Milwaukee as the Mets beat the Brewers 7-1. On June 26th, he hit another a 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.  During a streak where he hit in 24 of 30 games, he had a four hit game on July 27th. That day he drove in three runs in the first game of a double header in a 9-8 Mets win at Montreal, against the Expos.

Trivia: On August 12th, 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. The 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 in the end. After the game, Agbayani gave the kid a new ball as a souvenir.

At the plate in August, he was back over .300 & kept himself around .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, bringing centerfieldmaz who was in attendance, & 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.

After the Pennant: 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 shut 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 to the Colorado Rockies, along with Todd Zeile as part of a three team deal that landed Jeremy Burnitz & Jeff D’Amico in New York. 

Mets Career: In his four year Mets career he played 322 games batting .282 with 35 HRs 51 doubles 6 triples & 129 RBIs, walking 123 times striking out 206 times with a .372 on base %.

Post Mets Career: 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 traded to the Boston Red Sox. In 13 games down the stretch he batted .297 with 8 RBIs.

In his five year MLB career, Agbayani hit .274 with 299 hits 39 HRs 57 doubles 6 triples 156 RBIs & 139 walks with a .362 on base %. He played 333 games in the outfield, 282 in left, 66 inn right & 10 in center.

He left the major leagues in 2003 & he went to play baseball in Japan under his old Mets skipper, Bobby Valentine.

Japan: In 2005 their team won the Japan Series and the Asian Series defeating Korea, Taiwan & China. Agbayani won the Series MVP award. 

Overall in his five year MLB career he batted .274 with 299 hits 39 HRs 57 doubles 6 triples 139 walks 246 strike outs & 156 RBIs with a .362 on base percentage.

Honors: He is one of only six players in MLB history to be of Philippine heritage. In 1999 he was also elected to the Hawaiian Hall of Honor.

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 said he was relaxing with his wife raising their three children.

Quotes- Benny Agbayani: "I hope Met fans always remember me as a great ballplayer, someone who gave his all, was always there in the clutch."

He & his family currently live in North Amityville on Long Island. 

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