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Inking a homecoming for Mets' top pick

Inking a homecoming for Mets' top pick

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NEW YORK -- It went down to the wire, but Steven Matz is a New York Met. And the native of East Setauket, N.Y., couldn't be happier.

"It's surreal. It's really starting to set in now," Matz said from the dugout at Citi Field on Tuesday, taking in the scene. "I've never been down this close before."

The Mets waited until the day after the signing deadline to officially announce that they had signed their top pick -- the 72nd overall selection -- in June's First-Year Player Draft. The process lasted a little longer than expected, with the sides finally coming to an agreement "a couple minutes before" midnight, according to general manager Omar Minaya.

The Mets did not announce the terms of the deal, although multiple outlets have reported Matz received a bonus of $895,000 -- more than what's recommended for the 72nd pick.

"We're very pleased and excited to have him here in the fold," said Mets director of amateur scouting Rudy Terrasas. "We're very glad our ownership gave us the opportunity to be able to do this. They stepped up in a big way."

It was a sigh of relief for Matz, who had committed to Coastal Carolina University.

"It took so much weight off my shoulders just to know what I'm doing and go out there and play ball now," Matz said.

Matz will head to Florida on Friday and train there for the foreseeable future. With two weeks left in the Minor League season, it's unlikely he'll see any game action.

In the meantime, Matz has been working out at home on Long Island, long-tossing and preparing himself for what he hopes will be a long professional career. He's also acclimated himself to being in the limelight. After he was drafted, he talked to kids at his local elementary school -- many of whom had worn T-shirts with his name on the back on Draft day.

"When I got drafted, it was pretty cool because we were still in school. Everyone was excited," Matz said. "Tough to get used to [all the attention]."

Matz's parents, Ron and Lori, are ecstatic that their son gets to play for the hometown organization, meaning they should be able to see many of his Minor League games. The Mets' low Class A team is in Brooklyn, the Double-A team in Binghamton, N.Y., and the Triple-A affiliate in Buffalo, N.Y.

"We'll be there," Ron Matz said. "We're glad he's on the East Coast -- everything's doable."

Matz's signing ends what has been a whirlwind year for the 18-year-old and his family. The 6-foot-3, 195-pound Matz was not considered a top Draft prospect until a growth spurt and a subsequent jump in his velocity. Matz entered high school around 5-foot-8 and 140 pounds. He grew during his sophomore and junior years, and by his senior season was throwing 94 mph.

Matz went 6-1 with a 0.47 ERA in seven starts for Ward Melville High School this season, collecting 81 strikeouts in 44 innings. Better yet, he allowed just 11 hits.

The Mets expect him to continue his rapid development playing for the team he grew up rooting for. Matz used to attend games at Shea Stadium, and his late maternal grandmother was a diehard Mets fan.

Pitching in the big leagues has been Matz's dream since the first time he watched the sport on television. Now, he's one giant step closer.

"It's unbelievable," Ron Matz said. "It's a dream come true."

Tim Britton is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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