Baxter in familiar territory after being called up

Baxter in familiar territory after being called up

Baxter in familiar territory after being called up
NEW YORK -- The last time Mets outfielder Mike Baxter visited the corner of Roosevelt and 126th in Queens, the Whitestone native was playing shortstop for Archbishop Molloy High School in the 2002 NYC Catholic High School Athletic Association's 2002 city championship game at Shea Stadium.

Baxter returned Monday as the Mets' newest callup after being claimed off waivers from the Padres on July 22, and marked his debut with the club with a pinch-hit RBI double off the glove of retreating San Diego left fielder Kyle Blanks.

"It's just a crazy day," Baxter said. "The fact that I'm back, that I got called up and the fact that we're playing the Padres is pretty wild."

Baxter's double was crucial to the Mets' comeback against the organization he'd spent his career with up until a little over two weeks ago. The hit cut the Padres' lead to 8-5 and helped push the Mets to their eventual walk-off victory.

"I'm really excited for Mike," manager Terry Collins said. "He was thrilled to death to be here, he's thrilled to death to be a Met, and I thought it was real cool when he came in today for the first time."

Baxter came back to his locker in the Mets clubhouse to 22 text messages wishing him congratulations. Though he no longer resides in Queens during the offseason, Baxter estimated that somewhere between 50 and 80 friends and family members were in attendance for his Mets debut.

Prior to his appearance in the 2002 high school championship game, Baxter was a frequent visitor to Shea, where he cheered on shortstop Rey Ordoñez and the turn-of-the-millennium Mets.

"We were always coming to Shea," Baxter said. "My family would take me, my aunt would take me every year, we'd always pick out the best promotion and come."

After leaving Molloy, Baxter attended Columbia University for a year before transferring to Vanderbilt, where he was selected by the Padres in the fourth round of the 2005 Draft. Baxter had surgery to repair ligaments in his left thumb in March and was on the 60-day disabled list when the Mets scooped him up off waivers.

The 26-year-old played in nine games for the Padres in 2010, and was batting .256 with a .341 on-base percentage and a .436 slugging percentage in 11 games in Buffalo before being called up at the recommendation of Mets vice president of player development Paul DePodesta, a former Padres front office assistant. In 2010, Baxter batted .301 with a .382 on-base percentage and a .517 slugging percentage in 136 games for Triple-A Portland.

"Some of the players told us, 'Look, this guy can really swing the bat,'" Collins said. "It was a big hit for us."