Struble enjoying time in minors
LAKEWOOD—Three months into his third professional season, L.T. Struble is just trying to find his rhythm.
The former Hammonton High School standout is a reserve with the Brooklyn Cyclones, a high Single A affiliate of the New York Mets.
Playing in a six-game series at the Jersey Shore Blue Claws last week, Struble earned a rare start in the opening game of a double header on July 30.
“It’s been tough. I only play once or twice a week, so it’s been hard to get into any type of rhythm at the plate. It’s hard to get a good feel at the plate when you’re only getting a few at bats each week,” Struble said.
Starting in right field against the Blue Claws last week, Struble made the most of his three plate appearances, drawing a pair of walks, stealing a base and scoring two runs in the Cyclones’ 4-0 win.
Struble twice drew leadoff walks, sparking run-scoring rallies in the top of the fifth and seventh innings.
“I’m just trying to make the most of the opportunities I get. Just try to do what I can to help us win and, hopefully, make an impression,” Struble said.
Sitting the bench is a new experience for Struble, but he’s becoming used to the new routine.
“We have a bunch of great players here, so I understand [the lack of playing time]. I just try to find a way to get better every day, whether it’s in the cage or during warmups. It’s not fun sitting, but it’s easy to root for the guys on this team.
Struble took an interesting path to professional baseball, beginning with his stellar career at Hammonton, where he graduated in 2014.
After high school, Struble spent two seasons at Camden County College, where he earned junior college All-American honors and left as the Cougars’ all-time leader in stolen bases.
His success at Camden led to a season at Coastal Carolina, where he unfortunately missed the year with a leg injury.
Struble finally settled in at Felcian University, where he put up strong numbers for two seasons, batting .369 and stealing 70 bases in two seasons.
That performance was good enough to draw the attention of the New York Mets, who drafted Struble in the 29th round in 2019.
“I wasn’t sure if I’d be drafted. We had heard some things and few teams scouted me, but there was a lot of uncertainty, would I be playing baseball or have to get a job sitting behind a desk somewhere. Fortunately, a Mets scout, who isn’t even with the team anymore, Jim Thompson, saw something in me and they drafted me. He [Thompson] gave me the chance and I’ll always be grateful,” Struble said.
After the draft, Struble quickly signed and debuted as a professional in with the Mets’ rookie league team in the Gulf Coast League.
Anticipating a move up the organizational ladder last season, Struble was sidelined for the entire summer when the season was canceled due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
“I don’t think it [not playing] hurt me. I got a year older, but so did everyone. I was able to be home for the first time in a while, which was nice, and I was able to work out and stay in shape,” he said.
When this season began, the Mets assigned Struble to their low-A affiliate in St. Lucie, Florida. He played seven games there before getting called up to Brooklyn in late May, but the stay was short, a few days later, the organization sent Struble to the AAA Syracuse Mets, who were hit hard by COVID-19.
“It was crazy, just moving everywhere. It was cool though, when I came up here [to Brooklyn] these guys were all really excited for me, then I went to Syracuse and the same thing, the guys there were all excited and willing to help me out,” Struble said.
One of Struble’s teammates during his short stint in AAA was former Phillies pitcher Jared Eickhoff.
“He [Eickhoff] helped me out a lot and I just tried to learn all I could while I was there. It definitely helped me out here [playing in Brooklyn],” Struble said.
Once back in Brooklyn, Struble settled into his new routine of playing every few days.
“It’s tough at times, not playing every day because that’s never been something I’ve had to deal with. It can be frustrating and sometimes you kind of ask yourself, ‘why am I doing this?’ But I just think about what else I could be doing instead. So, I just try to enjoy every day and have fun with it. I’m starting to get the hang of it [not playing consistently] and I’m enjoying it more every day,” Struble said.
The routine for Struble includes coming to the ballpark every day prepared to play.
“I always come in thinking that I’m playing that night. And I prepare to play, take batting practice and warm up like I’m playing. Sometimes I play and sometimes I don’t, but I prepare the same either way,” he said.
Life in the minor leagues can be tough, but Struble has kept a positive mindset in spite of the many highs and lows of the last two years.
“It’s tough. You don’t get paid much. They feed you, but it’s not like home-cooked meals. And there’s pressure because you never know if this will be your last day. The Mets could cut you or trade you somewhere else, or you could get hurt and that’s it. I’ve seen guys who can’t handle it and they just walk away,” Struble said.
Unlike those players, Struble has no plans to abandon his pro career.
“The way I look at it is I could be doing plenty of other things and I’d rather be doing this. I’ve worked my whole life for this, so to just enjoy it is my plan for every day. Sometimes just before bed, I’ll ask myself if it’s worth it, and I think it is. If I left, I’d regret it for my whole life,” Struble said.