"It was in Alaska when I was a part of the California team competing at the Goodwill Games," said Bell, 28, who pitched and played catcher and first base for Tustin (Calif.) High School. "We had an awesome team, but our uniforms were the ugliest thing in the world. Our socks were bright orange, our pants were white with green pinstripes and our hats were orange with a green 'A'."
Bell said the California contingent went undefeated during the two-and-a-half weeks of competition during the summer of 1996, and he had several opportunities to get some at-bats. He caught most of the games, but started and went the distance in two contests.
Bell hit six home runs, four left-handed, throughout the competition. And the surprising thing about Bell's offensive outburst was that he used a wooden bat, while his high school counterparts all used aluminum.
"I knew I had a chance to get drafted and I wanted to get ready for the big leagues, so I used one every time up," said Bell, who graduated in '96 from Tustin and eventually went to Rancho Santiago College, where he was named a freshman All-American in 1997. "I had fiddled around with one in high school but never actually hit with one in a game. I don't know if it was the air up there, but I had some pretty good rips."
Bell did so well at the Games that his coach said he'd have a job when he retired.
"Yeah, it was pretty funny, because he wanted me to take over for him when I got out of college," recalled Bell. "He said I had the job if I wanted it when I finished school. I guess he never thought I had a chance to make it any further."
At Rancho Santiago, he holds the school record for fewest career walks (four walks in 80 innings) and the school record in saves (14). He was signed as a non-drafted free agent by the Mets on June 16, 1998.
This year for the Mets, Bell has appeared in 14 games out of the 'pen and pitched 14 innings with a 2.57 ERA. He's allowed 19 hits and six walks with 14 strikeouts.
The first shall be last: The times they are a-changing -- a little anyway. Beginning with the first game of the 10-game excursion to Los Angeles, Arizona and Philadelphia, the front of the Mets' rotation has taken a back seat to the back end. In the 15-game sequence that began June 5 in L.A. and ran through Tuesday night, Pedro Martinez and Tom Glavine made three starts each. The Mets won four of the six, and the two starters produced a 3-2 record and -- hold on! -- a 6.61 ERA.
In that same 15-game sequence, Trachsel, Orlando Hernandez and Alay Soler started nine games. The Mets won seven of them and the three pitchers combined for a 6-1 record and a 2.47 ERA.
So which was the front and which was the back?
Leaders in their field: The Mets began Wednesday as the lone team in the big leagues with three players with at least 50 RBIs -- David Wright and Carlos Beltran had 55, and Carlos Delgado had 52. ... Julio Franco and David Dellucci of the Phillies were tied for big-league lead in pinch-hits with 11.
Get out the vote: Balloting for the All-Star Game on July 11 in Pittsburgh ends at Shea Stadium on Wednesday night, but fans can continue to vote online through 11:59 p.m. ET on June 29.
This date in Mets history, June 22: Is this when people began to take the '69 Mets seriously? They swept a doubleheader from the Cardinals at Shea on this date, winning 5-1 behind Gary Gentry and 1-0 behind Jerry Koosman. After a day off on June 23, they swept the Phillies in a doubleheader also at Shea, winning 2-1 behind Tom Seaver and 5-0 behind Jim McAndrew. The four starters' combined ERA for the doubleheaders was 0.54.
Anthony Young's record reached 0-9 on this date in 1993 en route to its final 1-16. He allowed six runs -- three earned -- in six innings as the Mets lost to Expos, 6-3, at Shea Stadium. The Mets were in the midst of a numbing 2-17 stretch.
Coming up: Pedro Martinez, who made his first Mets start -- Opening Day last year -- against the Reds, faces them for the second time on Thursday afternoon at 1:10 ET. Eric Milton pitches for Cincinnati.