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To find out where Jacob DeGrom is going, see Where He’s From

To find out where Jacob DeGrom is going, see Where He’s From
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To find out where Jacob DeGrom is going, see Where He’s From

To find out where Jacob DeGrom is going, see Where He’s From

DeLEON SPRINGS, Fla. – In an unspoiled town, where Spanish moss rests on the shores of Spring Garden Lake, a split-rail fence and the ruins of a sugar-mill, Tony DeGrom, a retired cable lineman, awaits the return of his son, Jacob, each fall.

Tony and his wife, Tammy, moved to a rural area decades ago as they wanted to retreat inland from Daytona Beach with family and friends. By the time Jacob was 2 years old, Tony had put a ball in his son’s hands and was watching his green horn grow.

Jacob is now 33 and a two-time Cy Young Award winner for the Mets. But the son still drives down the dirt path to throw his pickup truck into his childhood home with his father.

This is the rite of autumn for regular men.

“The highlight of my days,” said 66-year-old Tony.

Life is slow here for a pitcher throwing at 102 mph.

The city was named after Juan Ponce de León, a 16th-century Spanish explorer who came to Florida in search of healing water, and Fountain of Youth tours are held in a local park, where signs Welcome visitors to “Real Florida”. DeGrom, looking for balance after a season that began with a bunch of fastballs, but was interrupted in July due to a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, was struck by orange trees and cattle farms. The beach is planning to rejuvenate.

“To me, he hasn’t changed a bit,” Tony said of Jacob. “That’s the goofball he’s ever been in.”

Jacob deGrom was always outside as a boy, riding horses and roaming around. One day, he drove his four-wheeler onto the track at Spring Garden Ranch, a 160-acre complex for standard horses that brands itself as “Where Winners Come to Winter.”

“I was never caught, but they chased me away,” DeGrom said.

He opposed all reins. At Calvary Christian Academy, he wore his hair short and always played well against Lighthouse Christian, an opponent. As a senior on the basketball team, he was the county’s top scorer, and Lighthouse Christian’s coach, Robert Maltoni, tried to incorporate DeGrom into a triangle and two or a box and a skillful wing, which The dunk had ended with both hands. To accommodate the largest crowd of 1,000 spectators in the season, Lighthouse Christian rented out the gym at nearby Stetson University. DeGrom scored 39 points in a 69-66 loss.

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“He made me pull my hair,” said Maltoni.

On the Baseball Diamonds, DeGrom helped the American Legion post 6 as a nifty fielder and returned that fall to Stetson 10 miles down Highway 17, starting at third base before turning to shortstop and reluctantly relieving pitcher duties. to handle. His first vehicle was a 1997 Dodge Ram with a single cab, and teammates recalled his trucks – CB radio antenna rear and mud around – rumbled as he came to and from campus. His parents never left any sport at home or outside. In free time, he lit bonfires with friends before being drafted in the ninth round by the Mets after his junior year.

Four months into his professional career, he needed Tommy John surgery. When he reported to the Mets complex for rehabilitation, one of the coaches there, Randy Nieman, noticed his calm meanness, clocked his fastball around 92 mph and noticed unusual commands.

“He went so well in his delivery that I thought, this guy has a real chance,” Neiman said.

Lessons came on and off the field. In 2013, he broke the ring finger of his gloved hand while helping a neighbor to nurse a calf. When his hand was in a cast, he threw bullpen sessions without gloves and tinkered with his mechanics to regain his old form.

DeGrom soon learned what it was like to be a major leaguer. He arrived in New York in 2014 with the coffers of a cocker spaniel, the narrow eyes of a cartoon villain, and the 6-foot-4 silhouette of Sid Finch, the fictional flamethrower. That summer, Derek Jeter prepared to leave Broadway as DeGrom was learning Metro. DeGrom was the National League’s Newest Player of the Year; married Stacey, a local girl he met during the off-season at a rodeo in a rustic barn; World Series next fall; And a hitter throw in 2016, the only hit a pitcher got. He topped 200 innings in a season for the first time in 2017 and claimed his first Cy Young Award in 2018 with a 1.70 ERA.

Two days before signing a $137.5 million extension, he had attended a spring training game against Atlanta at Disney World, and his father took him to Sarasota, Fla., for final negotiations.

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Later that week, they mingled inside the Diplomat Room at the Ritz-Carlton in Arlington, Va., where the Mets stayed for their season opener against the Nationals. Tony estimated that he made $163 per week when he started with Bell South at 23. Jacob never saw his father in the morning because Tony had to go to work until 7 a.m. in September, as his son was nearing his professional peak, Tony retired. A month short of 41 years on the job.

“I think I didn’t have a 17-year-old before I had the flu and missed a few days,” he said.

Even as stardom came into full swing, Jacob took on the look of a casual cowboy himself, slipping in and out of Citi Field wearing a Resistole trucker hat and rainbow sandals. In home games, the Mets refer to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man” when he took the mound. His jersey was number 48, and he wore a pair of brown leather boots, with the number 4 pressed to the back of the left boot and the number 8 to the right.

He won his second Cy Young in 2019, and has shown signs of star status. Both of the New York Police Department’s Lieutenant Benevolent Association, they had two cards on a shelf in their locker so as not to get lost among cans of smokeless tobacco. In the lower right corner of each card, there is a yellow label where the recipient’s name is typed in black. On one hand, he was Jacob deGrom. On the other hand, he was recognized by his rank in the game: Cy Young.

Upon his return to Florida, a tradition unchanged from his fame, DeGrom scoured the veg in Volusia County, ordering a best-selling hillbilly sandwich with pulled pork from a local haunt, and honey holed fish. Her son, Jackson, is 5 years old; Their daughter, Aniston, is 3 years old. When he doesn’t understand a popular-culture context, he says, “two kids, too busy,” and real estate takes up a portion of his time, too. He called his hometown “considerable acreage” and talked about building a “forever home”, which was once an orange grove surrounded by some lakes and dotted with a pond.

“His comfort lies in the middle of the woods with a select few around him,” said Aaron Crittenden, who played with DeGrom at Stetson. “He can be completely satisfied living his days by just doing that.”

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Uncertainty will come home with them this time. When he wasn’t on the mound this season, he was in a magnetic resonance imaging machine seeking answers for injuries ranging from bruises to swelling. Although Mets president Sandy Alderson insisted in September that the ulnar collateral ligament in DeGrom’s right elbow was “fully intact”, the pitcher was officially laid off for the season this week. Charged with moving the balls most days, he occasionally threw with his left hand to keep his mind occupied.

“I’m always testing my hand to see how it feels,” he said. “It’s something I do — always moving it around.”

His powerful right arm gives less mileage than most pitchers of his age because of his multisport upbringing and his late introduction to pitching, but his consistent throwing of 100 mph under the hands of hitters has paid a toll this season. . His father, who personally attended some of his early starts this season, reflected on the importance of rest. He believes that too much expertise is hurting the game.

“I enjoyed watching Jacob being just a kid, have fun,” he said. “Nowadays I talk to dads, and their 9-, 10-year-olds are playing baseball every day of the year. It’s just too much. Come on. Give them a break.”

Each year, at the end of the season, Jacob takes two weeks off completely from throwing and is away from the mound until the following February 1, when he is ready for spring training. In between the shutdown and official restart, Tony grabs his mitt, and Jacob presents the balls. They start out close to each other, but as the winter weeks pass, the father and son step back as the son slowly moves up his schedule. By January, Jacob throws the ball 180 feet. In turn, Tony, battling his aches and pains, bounces the ball as high as he can before letting his boy bounce it a few times.

“You have to be tough to get old,” he said.

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