PORT ST. LUCIE — At this time last year, Pete Crow-Armstrong was beginning his senior season at the baseball factory known as Harvard-Westlake High School in Los Angeles.
Now, after a year that was anything but normal in between, he is getting his first taste of big league spring training at the age of 18 while waiting to take his first professional at-bat — even if he didn’t picture himself here when the Mets drafted him with the 19th-overall pick last June.
“I was shocked,” Crow-Armstrong said Saturday after a full-squad workout. “I was in Scottsdale working out and doing my thing over there. I got the call from [executive director of player development] Kevin Howard and it was a good conversation. He made it very clear, he was like, ‘You’re not here to make the team.’ That’s something that everybody knew, right? Crazy year again, but a year that allowed me to be here. So I was surprised but I was also super happy, obviously.
“It’s been a long time coming. I’ve been anticipating getting together with a bigger sample size of Mets people and I’m lucky that it happened this month.”
In a regular year, Crow-Armstrong would have made his pro debut last summer. Instead, after COVID-19 wiped out the minor league season, he spent the months following the draft working out — in the gym six days a week to get his body stronger for his new full-time job and hitting in the batting cage five to seven days a week, he said.
Crow-Armstrong later went to the Mets’ instructional league in October, which was his first real introduction to the organization before spring training. Now, the Mets’ No. 5 prospect, per MLB.com, is trying to soak in the experience while learning from a group that includes Kevin Pillar, Albert Almora Jr. and Mallex Smith.
“Being out here, it’s been way better than I even expected,” Crow-Armstrong said. “I don’t know what I came in here thinking, but in the last week I’ve learned a lot more than I’ve learned in the last year.”
Manager Luis Rojas said he had heard about Crow-Armstrong’s maturity, defense, home-plate discipline and awareness — which has checked out early in camp. Especially his defense.
“I’ve been on his field a few times, and I’ve been throwing BP and I turn around and I see him make an outstanding catch,” Rojas said. “He’s been making diving catches in BP. We have to tell him to take it easy sometimes. But he’s pretty confident out there.”