SAN DIEGO — The advice was simple, far from a deep revelation. But considering the source, it left a lasting impression on Jeurys Familia.
When the battle-tested veteran Bartolo Colon signed with the Mets in 2014, he sought out Familia, who was at the beginning of what would be a career-altering transition into the bullpen.
“If you’re scared, pack your stuff and go home,” Familia said, relaying his sage teammate’s advice before Tuesday night’s All-Star Game. “Scared people can’t play this game.”
Familia had been no different from most young players in the game, overwhelmed by the enormity of pitching in the major leagues. He had been scared.
“We think that the big leagues are something different,” he said. “We forget that the games are the same.”
But that fear has dissipated as Familia has blossomed into one of the game’s elite closers. In his three seasons as a reliever, Familia has a 2.14 ERA. He has amassed 79 saves since taking over the closer’s role, stepping in for Jenrry Mejia.
“He works really hard, and I know that from just the work we’ve done together,” said Colon, who at 43 is a fellow NL All-Star this season. “It also just helps that he’s getting more and more experience under his belt.”
Familia, 26, leads the National League with 31 saves in 31 chances, a franchise record to begin the season.
“He’s got unbelievable stuff,” said All-Star teammate Noah Syndergaard. “He’s a lot of fun to watch. I don’t know how anybody would want to go up there and step into the box against him. I mean, he throws 98 mph bowling balls at you.”
If the NL squad is presented with a save situation, Familia said manager Terry Collins has informed him that he will be entrusted with the ball.
But even before the game, Familia sought to make the most of his first All-Star Game experience. He brought his entire family from the Dominican Republic, including his young son.
Throughout his career, Familia has never been shy about seeking advice from veteran players. During the festivities, he intended to mine both the NL and AL rosters in hopes of learning something that may help, just as he had once done with Colon.
“That’s why he’s here,” Familia said. “He knows he can get people out here.”