In the 1960 World Series, the man who hit the walk-off home run for the Pirates would become known by a simple nickname – Maz. Bill Mazeroski would propel the Pirates over the Yankees in the series and become a legend in the city of Pittsburgh. Fast forward over 50 years later and there is a similar name that can be seen and heard at PNC Park. Instead of Maz, this time it’s Mes. And instead of being the Pittsburgh black and gold, they are Cincinnati Reds No. 39 shirts that with the name on the back.
Devin Mesoraco, a Punxsutawney native, was selected by the Reds No. 13 in the first round after being named the Pennsylvania Gatorade Player of the Year in 2007 and helped the Chucks of Punxsutawney High School win the PIAA Class AAA State Championship. When he tells people where he’s from, he said the response is the same all the time.
“Everybody relates it to the movie and thinks it’s like the movie,” Mesoraco said of his hometowns portrayal in the movie Groundhogs Day. ”It’s cool to be from a somewhat famous town where everyone asks you questions. People make it out to be a bigger deal than what it is. It’s just a small town with a cool little tradition. At least everyone can pronounce it.”
Mesoraco is in town for the Reds second time this season, and his third time in his career. He said while it’s just another game, he always enjoys coming back home to Pittsburgh.
“It’s a good feeling that I’m close to home here and I have a lot of family and friends to see here when we come to Pittsburgh,” Mesoraco said. ”It’s nice to come home and play in a park where I went to a lot when I was growing up.”
While Mesoraco is in town, he said he is able to find plenty of time to spend time with his family.
“After the game today, I’ll go home and be able to get a good rest in my bed back home,” Mesoraco joked. ”It’s pretty special. It kind of gives you a little break because you get to see people from home.”
At the beginning of the year, many pegged Mesoraco as the Reds starting catcher, but thus far, he has split time with Ryan Hanigan. So far on the season, his first full season in the big leagues, Mesoraco has a .215/.307/.385 line with three home runs and eight RBIs in just 22 games. If you ask Mes however, he said he’s right where he wants to be.
“After getting drafted, it was my goal to be in the big leagues in my fourth year,” Mesoraco explained. ”I wanted to move up a level a year and now that I’m here, I’m very happy. We have a good ball club and our starting catcher Ryan Hanigan is solid and a good guy for me to learn from.”
Mesoraco said as long as the team is winning, that’s what matters to him.
“It’s been a fun process working with the pitchers and the main thing is we’re winning,” Mesoraco said. ”I think that makes everybody happy and everybody’s life a little easier. As long as that continues, I couldn’t be any happier.”
Mesoraco isn’t the only one happy with his development. Reds Manager Dusty Baker is thrilled with his young catcher.
“He’s at a position that requires a lot of knowledge at a very young age,” Baker said. ”He loves to learn and asks intelligent questions. We’re bringing him along with him and Hanigan as a very good tandem. He works hard and he’s a fine young man.”
Baker said while they are bringing Mes along slowly, he has no doubt that he’ll be a future star.
“Devin is going to be an All-Star someday,” Baker said. ”We know he’s going to hit and someday he’s going to be the everyday catcher. For a young catcher, especially as a young offensive catcher, he responds more to how the pitchers respond to him, the score of the game and his personal ERA. He takes pride in that because he doesn’t like to give up anything. I can see how upset he gets when they get a home run or anything because he takes it personal. I’m telling you, he will be an All-Star someday.”
Mesoraco said he’s working on some things each day to continue his development.
“I’m trying to improve everyday,” Mesoraco said. ”That’s my goal for the year. I look to keep improving and keep getting better. I want to go out there and just help the team win some games.”
With the good head on his shoulders as well as the talent on the field, Mesoraco is looking to live up to Baker’s All-Star prediction. Who knows, maybe one day he too will be known by a simple nickname – Mes.
Photo credits: Associated Press