All-Star Game Starter, Mets Ace Harvey a Connecticut Kid With Big Heart
AP Photo/Paul J. Bereswill
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Standing in front of his locker facing a crush of reporters and a porcupine-like array of microphones, Matt Harvey isn’t happy as questions fly at him faster than his 98-mph fastball.
“Are you hurt, Matt?”
“Has this happened before?”
Harvey answers politely but wearily. At 6-foot-4-inches tall, he towers over the media masses assembled before him. The light from a TV crew basks him in an iconic glow—fitting for the Mystic native whose dominant pitching for the New York Mets this season has warranted comparisons to all-time greats.
He’s flirted with a no-hitter four times, has been among the league leaders in strikeouts and earned run average (ERA) and was voted to the All-Star Game. He’s been compared to legendary Mets pitchers Dwight Gooden and Tom Seaver, actually logging better statistics than either did at the start of their careers. He was featured on the May 20 cover of Sports Illustrated, which hailed him as the game’s most promising young pitcher and dubbed him “Gotham’s Dark Knight.” In addition, the 24-year-old right-hander has accomplished a task that would be a challenge even for Batman—when Harvey pitches, he makes watching an otherwise dismal Mets team enjoyable.
But today isn’t one of the good days for the rising superstar. Today, the Dark Knight is brooding.
The Mets have just lost an epic 20-inning, six-hour-and-25-minute battle. Harvey started the game what seems like ages ago, but in the eighth inning a cloud fell over Gotham, Mystic and Mets fans everywhere when Harvey had to leave the game because of tightness in his lower back.
The injury is minor and the pain in his back goes away after a chiropractic alignment, but the perfectionist isn’t happy about his performance or having to leave the game early. Harvey also isn’t happy that after 20 innings, all his team has to show for the day is a loss.
“Obviously I’m frustrated to give up a run, because if I didn’t, the game would have been over a long time ago,” he says.
Harvey seems taller in person than he appears on TV. His build is trim but powerful; he has dark, slightly wild hair that looks slicker when not topped by a baseball cap. This is the Matt Harvey who strikes out baseball’s best hitters and reportedly dates swimsuit supermodel Anne Sergeyevna Vyalitsyna. But he’s also the quiet, amiable small-town Connecticut boy who loves to play golf and fish in the waters around Mystic—the kid who friends say worked his tail off to get where he is, but who has never let his success go to his head.
As the media circus at his locker disperses, I ask Harvey about growing up in Connecticut. The young pitcher is approachable and his mood instantly brightens as he talks about the way state residents have rallied behind him.
“It’s been awesome—the support that everybody’s been giving, through the tweets and at the local bar in Mystic (The Harp and Hound) that my dad goes to. It’s exciting and I’m trying to make Connecticut as proud as possible,” he says. He speaks longingly of the maritime moorings of his home. “I love water, love boats and miss being around those settings. The water was always a big part of my life.”
This is the Bruce Wayne part of Harvey talking; it’s his laid-back, affable side. He earned the Dark Knight nickname for the fierce competitiveness he shows every time he steps on the pitcher’s mound, treating each game into his own personal crusade.
“I hate to lose,” he says, simply stating something that has been apparent to those close to him since the day he first stepped on the T-ball field as a 6-year-old in Mystic.