All-Star Game Starter, Mets Ace Harvey a Connecticut Kid With Big Heart
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“STRIVE FOR THE MOON”
Harvey never got special treatment from his dad when he began playing in high school, and he quickly earned the admiration of those around him.
“He’s got that pit-bull mentality on the mound. He just wants the ball, he wants to compete and that hasn’t changed,” says Marc Peluso, who was an assistant coach at Fitch when Matt played there and took over as head coach after Ed Harvey retired.
“His fingers are just huge. When he grips a baseball it’s like he’s throwing a golf ball,” says Brian McGugan, a close friend who was Harvey’s catcher at Fitch and was the state Player of the Year before he became a helicopter mechanic for the National Guard.
His friends recall that in high school Harvey was always humble, and that hasn’t changed. “He won’t big-league you. He’s still a normal guy; I send him a text and he texts me back,” Peluso says.
During the off-season Harvey hosted an autograph-signing event for McGugan’s son’s local youth baseball team. “He didn’t have to do that but he’s all about where he came from, his family and his friends,” McGugan says.
When Harvey graduated from Fitch, he was expected to sign a Major League contract and enlisted firebrand agent Scott Boras. As the 2007 draft approached, it looked like he might get picked up late in the first round by the New York Yankees, the team he had rooted for growing up, but things didn’t go according to the Hollywood script. The Yankees passed on Harvey and he ultimately fell to the third round, getting drafted by the Los Angeles Angels with the 118th pick. Harvey felt he should’ve been selected earlier, and although the Angels offered him $1 million, he turned it down, instead accepting a scholarship to play at the University of North Carolina.
It was a difficult time for him and his family. “It was tough for him to give up an opportunity to play pro ball,” says Ed Harvey. “Matt had to make an adjustment and I think it took him a while.”
At North Carolina, Harvey had a good freshman year but struggled during his sophomore year and was demoted from starter to relief pitcher. His father was convinced the problem was a change in mechanics. His son had lost the easy pitching motion he’d had as a kid.
“His lower half was fighting his upper half,” Ed says. That summer, while Matt was playing in the prestigious Cape Cod League, Ed drove up to the Cape early one Saturday morning to have Matt pitch to him like he used to do in their backyard in Mystic.
“I took him back to things that we did when he was 10 years old,” he recalls. The rest of the summer his son worked on regaining his old pitching form and bounced back in his junior year. In the spring of 2010, Harvey pitched a 157-pitch complete game and rekindled interest from big-league scouts.
That summer he was selected seventh overall by the Mets and signed for $2.6 million. He made his Major League debut on July 26, 2012, striking out 11 and allowing only three hits into the sixth inning. Ever since, he’s been making highlight reels with his electrifying stuff—his fastball is regularly in the high 90s and sometimes tops the 100-mph mark, and he possesses some devastating secondary pitches including a Bugs Bunny change-up that seems to hang suspended in air.
Through it all, Harvey still remembers the lessons his dad taught him. “The biggest thing he told me was ‘never let anybody tell you you’re not good enough’ and I take that with me every time I do anything,” he says. “He told me ‘keep your head down, keep focused and strive for the moon.’”