WATERTOWN - Throughout his entire life, Justin Guerrera had approached baseball as fun; sure he had aspirations of one day having a shot at taking his game to highest levels.
Now he has that shot, and baseball, while still fun has taken on a while new meaning for the former Watertown High School All-State shortstop.
“It’s now his job, my living,” said Guerrera at his family home in Watertown on the eve of his departure to St. Lucie, FL to report to his new employer, the New York Mets.
Guerrera, coming off an outstanding junior season at Fairfield University and with two seasons of eligibility left (due to losing his sophomore season to the pandemic), was selected in the 20th round of last week’s Major League Baseball draft by the Amazin’s, joining his former Indians’ teammate Nick Mondak, who was picked in the 18th round by the Los Angeles Angels.
“It was nerve-wracking,” for sure, said Guerrera, who helped lead Fairfield to the NCAA Tournament, then continued his hot hitting with the Newport Gulls of the NECBL where he led the league in home runs with nine in only 20 games.
Guerrera tied the program’s single season record with 13 home runs this spring, capped off by a mammoth three-run go-ahead homer against Arizona State University in the NCAA Regionals.
Guerrera was chosen as a First Team All-MAAC player after leading the conference in homers (13), RBI (45), runs scored (45), and slugging percentage (.685).
“I knew I had eligibility left and could’ve gone back to school and seen what happens,” said Guerrera, at ease while chatting, texting and looking towards his future.
“But I feel I’m ready to take this opportunity, have been working towards it, and I was laying on my couch when everything just blew up on my phone, and I knew then,” said Guerrera. “The feed I was watching was a little bit behind everyone else’s, but that was okay,” he said with a smile.
Guerrera’s father, Joe, wasn’t as calm, but who would expect a father to be when his son was on the precipice of realizing his dream?
“Oh, man I was beside myself wondering what was going on,” said Joe Guerrera. “I knew Justin was ready, and I was just hoping, hoping, hoping, and then the call came.”
Despite being a 20th round pick, Guerrera was pleased by the offer he and he his agents received from the Mets, which included a bonus and money to continue his education, which he plans to do this fall if he doesn’t play Instructional League ball.
“It’s a more-than-fair package,” said Guerrera, who knew he had the option of going back to school and waiting for the 2022 draft, but there were motivating factors.
“There’s no way to know what could happen,” said Guerrera, who showed he is up on his baseball labor relations by pointing out that the next Collective Bargaining Agreement (the current one expires on December 1) could significantly alter the landscape...and not in his favor.
“The draft system could look entirely different, so the opportunity presented itself this year aqnd I got a good deal, so now is the time,” said Guerrera, who was told that he might not have received such treatment under the former Mets’ owners, the Wilpon Family.
“Perhaps, but everything now looks first-rate under teve Cohen and they’ve been great to me,” said Guerrera, who explained what he next few weeks will look like.
“I’ll report to the facility in St. Lucie, officially sign my contract, get settled in and they’ll begin evaluations with drills, workouts, all that stuff.
“From there, I’ll either stay with the A-ball team in St. Lucie, or Advanced-A with the Brooklyn Cyclones,” said Guerrera.
Guerrera and teammate Trey McLoughlin were the first Fairfield players ever chosen by the Mets, but he and his dad knoiw the franchise’s history with Connecticut.
“Rico (Brogna), Jimmy Piersall, Mo Vaughn, Matt Harvey, Bobby Valentine, Darren Bragg, Tim Teufel, (pitching coach) Dave Wallace,” all came quickly to mind.
Guerrera is more than happy to have the opportunity to someday have his name mentioned along with those stars.
Guerrera’s coach at Fairfield, where his coach, Bill Currier, had an understandably hard time keeping his emotions in check.
“Justin was truly one of the most valuable players on our team during the amazing run of our team this spring,” Coach Currier said.
“He was a tremendous leader as a junior for our team the entire year. We are all very proud of his accomplishments while here at Fairfield during his short time. Justin is one of the best all-round athletes I have coached.
“Our coaching staff is very grateful for his contribution to our program over his three years.
“The Mets thinking enough of him to take him in the 20th round is a sure tribute to his work ethic and athletic skills,” Currier added.
“The initial thought (after being drafted) was everything paid off and everything happened for a reason,” Guerrera said. “But then you immediately come back to reality and know there’s a lot more work ahead and the ultimate goal is to make it all the way to the top and being a professional baseball player in the major leagues.”