PORT ST. LUCIE — When Grant Hartwig walked off the mound in a loss to Ball State on May 29, 2021, the Miami of Ohio right-hander thought his baseball career was over.
The Redhawks weren’t going to make the postseason and Hartwig’s college career had been hindered by Tommy John surgery in April 2018 that cost him all of 2019, followed by COVID’s impact on the 2020 season.
“I was thinking I was done with baseball,’’ Hartwig said. “It seemed less and less possible that anything would happen.”
Hartwig said no scouts talked to him before the 2021 draft, so he wasn’t surprised he wasn’t taken.
“I loved playing in college and if that was it, I would have been OK with it,’’ Hartwig said. “I made sure I cherished my senior year.”
The right-hander was so confident that he was done with baseball that after majoring in pre-med and microbiology, Hartwig signed up for the MCAT, with the idea of applying for medical school the following year.
But a few days after the 20-round MLB amateur draft ended, Hartwig got an unexpected call.
“The Mets reached out to me and I’d never heard from them before that,’’ Hartwig said.
And even though his mind told him he was OK being done with baseball, Hartwig soon reconsidered.
“I was on the edge of whether to do it or not,” Hartwig said. “I’d spent five years invested in trying to go to med school, hundreds and hundreds of hours studying. That’s tough to walk away from.”
But between the end of his college season and the call from the Mets, Hartwig made a realization.
“After I stopped playing, nothing was really filling that competitive void,’’ Hartwig said. “I needed something more. The Mets calling got me to do it.”
General manager Billy Eppler said the Mets signed Hartwig based in part of the evaluation of area scout Chris Heidt.
“We saw elements in his game that got our interest,’’ Eppler said. “He was a target of ours after the draft.”
So instead of preparing for medical school, where Hartwig intended to become an orthopedic surgeon — in part due to the importance of the elbow surgery that extended his own career — Hartwig signed with the Mets and was sent to Port St. Lucie to finish out the year.
Last year, the 6-foot-5, 235-pound Hartwig got all the way to Triple-A Syracuse and could be in play to pitch out of the bullpen in Queens at some point this season.
As for a possible medical career down the road, the 25-year-old Hartwig said he’s locked in on pitching for now.
“When I was thinking of med school, I wanted to be able to help guys keep their career going and give back what was given to me,’’ Hartwig said. “But whatever I’m doing, I’m really focused on. And that’s baseball now.”
So far this spring, Hartwig has pitched two scoreless innings in a pair of Grapefruit League appearances and his arm has impressed Buck Showalter, as well as Eppler.
“He’s stood out at every level,’’ Eppler said. “Hitters will tell you if someone can pitch or not and hitters are telling us that Grant Hartwig can pitch.”