NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — From the minors to the major leagues, a baseball player from New Jersey has been afforded the opportunity to live his dream.
As CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown reported, the sun was shining bright at Citi Field on Monday evening as the Mets prepared to take on the Atlanta Braves. But it was actually a second baseman from the Braves who was standing in the spotlight.
“It’s an awesome feeling to be back here,” said the Braves’ Tommy La Stella.
La Stella grew up in Closter, in Bergen County. After attending St. John’s and Coastal Carolina universities, he bounced around the minor leagues for a few years before getting a surprise call-up to the majors March 28.
And he has made quite an impression. A defensive play recently won landed La Stella in ESPN’s top 10 plays of the week.
He also got a big hit to tie a game last week against the Mets.
“You always think about that opportunity to come back and play in front of your family and friends, and it’s finally happening for me now,” La Stella said.
Tommy La Stella’s dad, Phil La Stella, talked with CBS 2 about his baseball star son.
“He’s relentless … . He’s just driven. He’s always been driven,” Phil La Stella said.
Phil La Stella showed CBS 2 the ball-scarred basement room where the sizzling hot new major leaguer learned to swing a bat.
“We set up two machines – one for fastball, one for curveballs. He stayed on the machine until he consistently hit it with a thin training bat,” Phil La Stella said. “The balls would come this way, smack the wall. I knew we were in trouble when they started breaking the brick up along the top there.”
Watching Tommy La Stella play little league, people knew he was special and had talent. But getting into the pros, he was not a first-round draft or even a second.
In fact, he was 266th overall.
“He put in the effort. He put in the time, and it was a lot of work for him. It was a long road,” said Tommy La Stella’s brother, Mike La Stella. “But this is a really exciting time for everyone right now.”
Mike La Stella is older than his brother by three years. Both boys are baseball players at heart.
“His success is in no small measure with the effort that his older brother put into beating him,” said Phil La Stella.
Before Tommy’s big debut at Citi Field, he spent the night at home with his family.
“Shooting the breeze, reminiscing about old times when we were … little kids doing dumb stuff,” said Mike La Stella.
On Monday night, Tommy La Stella was set to take the field.
“Playing in front of everybody is going to be a little overwhelming,” he said. “There’s going to be a lot of people here over the next few days, but it’s going to be fun.”
And the rookie was focused and fresh as he lived every little leaguer’s biggest dream.
The Mets beat the Braves 4-3 in 11 innings Monday night.
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