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Legends On Deck

A Look Back At T.J. Rivera’s Journey To The Big Leagues

Photo by: Gabe Rodriguez/LOD

On October 27, 1986, the New York Mets won Game 7 of the 1986 World Series defeating the Boston Red Sox and bringing a title to Queens for the first time since their miracle season of 1969.

Two years later in the Bronx, NY, Thomas Javier Rivera, better known as T.J. Rivera, was born and at that moment in time, little did his parents know that nearly 28 years later he would be suiting up for the New York Mets in their hometown.

Rivera’s baseball journey started at Herbert H. Lehman High School in the Bronx, when he hit .618 with 26 RBI’s as a junior, .609 as a senior, while also earning MVP honors in his sophomore, junior and senior years. He then moved on to play two seasons at Wallace Community College in Dothan, Alabama, for former Mets catcher Mackey Sasser and hit .396 as a freshman and .345 with 48 RBI as a sophomore.

In 2010, he joined Troy University, and in his first season he batted .295, with eight home runs and 51 RBI’s in 59 games. After batting .303 in his senior year, he signed an un-drafted free agent contract with the Mets and so began his professional baseball career.

In the summer of 2011, he shared time between the Kingsport Mets (Rookie) and Brooklyn Cyclones (Low A) and combined he batted .301, with a home run, and 19 RBI’s in 42 games.

In 2012, Rivera was moved up to the Savannah Sand Gnats (Class-A Full) and played 64 games, batting .333, with 14 doubles, eight home runs and 37 RBI’s. On June 21, 2012, he was promoted to the St. Lucie Mets (Class-A Advanced) and in the same amount of games (64), Rivera batted .306, with 15 doubles, three triples, a home run and 29 RBIs.

The Bronx native remained with St. Lucie for the entire 2013 season batting .289, with a Florida State League leading 145 hits, 23 doubles, two home runs, 51 RBI’s and 34 doubles, in 502 at bats.

After finishing the 2013 season as the top hits winner, one would think that it would earn a player a direct promotion to the next level, but Rivera was once again sent back to St. Lucie and if there was any indication that it bothered him, it never showed as he just continued to do what he does best and just hit.

After raking in Class-A+ with a .341 batting average, 16 doubles, four home runs and 47 RBI’s in 61 games, Rivera received his well-earned promotion to the Double-A Binghamton Mets and in 54 games, he batted .358, with 13 doubles, a home run and 28 RBI’s.

Mets - T.J. Rivera - Puerto Rico

T.J. Rivera (Photo by: Gabe Rodriguez/Legends on Deck)

The hard work earned Rivera an opportunity to start the 2015 season in Double-A and in his first 22 games he batted .318 (27 for 85). Then on May 16th, the Mets sent Rivera to their Triple-A affiliate the Las Vegas 51s and in 54 games, he batted .306, 17 doubles, two home runs and 21 RBI’s, before returning to Binghamton to finish out the season. In total with Binghamton, he batted .341, with five home runs and 48 RBI’s.

The 2016 season would finally bring Rivera even closer to the big club as he was invited to his first full Spring Training with the Mets.

In 18 games, he batted .289, with two doubles, two home runs and nine RBI’s, which impressed many in the organization that he nearly made the big club out of camp.

But once again the 27-year old infielder took it all in stride and went back to work and did he ever as he came out the box scorching hot batting .344 in April. Then in May he took it up a notch batting .373, with five home runs and 31 RBIs.

For the month of June he batted .321, but missed 14 days after pulling his right hamstring running out a single. After his return, Rivera enjoyed a game on the 4th of July where he finished 3 for 5, with a grand slam and six RBIs.

Prior to his promotion on Wednesday, he had a nine game hitting streak, with six multi-hit games in that span, including going 3 for 5, with two runs scored, two doubles, a home run and five RBI’s on August 6th.

Rivera was also leading the Pacific Coast League with a .349 batting average, fourth with 130 hits, and tied for second with 80 RBI’s.

And now a new chapter in his life begins, and no matter how he performs on the big stage, the journey to arrive has been one that has been long overdue, but if you ask Rivera, it was worth the wait.

All New Yorkers stand up and say “Welcome Home T.J.”

Quick Notes on Rivera

He is of Puerto Rican descent. His mother and father are from Aibonito and Ponce, Puerto Rico.

Mets Organizational All-Star in 2012 and 2014.

Selected and played in the mid-season All Star Games for Savannah (2012), St. Lucie (2014), Las Vegas (2016).

Rivera won the Pacific Coast League Player of the month for May, and was named their Player of the Week twice on May 22, 2016 and August 8, 2016.

Rivera also has a goal to play for Team Puerto Rico in the 2017 World Baseball Classic

Note from David Conde:

When I first started writing minor league baseball with MetsMinors.net in 2013, Rivera was my first ever professional interview and since then we have become friends and I have tried my best to utilize my site to show him support as I have done with so many other journeymen and prospects hoping for the opportunity to play in the show. Rivera is a special ball player and it doesn’t matter his age, or the fact that no one else thought to pick him up, all that matters now is that Mets fans give him a chance, be patient and don’t expect him to be the savior, but once he gets his feet wet and really gets going he will play the game the way its supposed to be played. It’s great for baseball that a guy like Rivera finally gets his opportunity and in his own backyard. Lets Go Mets! Lets Go T.J.!

TJ Rivera - First Interview

My first professional baseball interview thanks to T.J. Rivera

Me and TJ

Visiting with T.J. Rivera during his first full Mets Spring Training in 2016.

 

David Conde

David Conde

Co-Founder/Executive Editor at Legends On Deck®
David is the Founder and Executive Editor of Legends On Deck®. He was a Senior Editor for MetsMerizedOnline, MetsMinors.net and Contributor for Hardballchat.com. David's idea forLegends on Deck is to be a site where passionate fans of the game have a place to read about their favorite baseball teams. The site is also for people who had a talent to write or even take photographs and have the platform to share. The passion of following the Minor Leagues can be seen all over the site as the players journey's are what what drives the LOD team to share their content. David's passion is making available a site that people can have fun sharing and reading.

You can also reach out to David at daconde@legendsondeck.com
David Conde