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Queens Chronicle

St. John’s star is back with the Mets

Former All-Star, Gold Glove winner Joe Panik returns to Queens

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Posted: Thursday, August 15, 2019 10:30 am

Joe Panik is back in Queens.

So the St. John’s graduate may have actually grown up with Derek Jeter as his idol but Mets fans have quickly accepted the second baseman as one of their own.

And Panik is not new to Citi Field. He played in the first game in the stadium’s history, a 2009 meeting between St. John’s and Georgetown.

Panik was an All-Star with the San Francisco Giants in 2015 but struggled before the team let him go last week.

“I think the young man needs a change of scenery,” said Ed Blankmeyer, who coached Panik at St. John’s from 2009 to 2011. “I’m extremely happy he’s back home.”

Blankmeyer, who has coached the Red Storm since the 1996 season, said he’s been in touch with Panik but hasn’t been to Citi Field to see him play.

“Everybody’s looking to spend time with you and stuff like that,” he said. “You need your space. So I give him his space.”

The coach called Panik “extremely” easy to coach, saying the infielder is a “hard-worker, had great aptitude, outstanding instinct. That’s why he is where he is now. He’s got those elements which you really can’t measure.”

Blankmeyer also said Panik is the type of player a fan has to watch, a player who knows how to win and deliver in the clutch.

“We get enamored by the raw skills but in this game of baseball, regular season, it’s a day-to-day grind of a game,” he said.

The coach said he was impressed during Panik’s junior year when college baseball began using toned down bats but the second baseman’s power increased.

“You just could see that he was trending in the right direction,” Blankmeyer said.

The Giants drafted Panik in 2011 and he made it to the majors in 2014. The timing was good. He joined San Francisco in time to help the team win its third World Series title in five seasons.

Panik homered in the pennant-clinching game and made a diving play to start a double play in Game 7 of the World Series.

He made the All-Star team in 2015 and won a Gold Glove in 2016 but struggled, hitting .254 in 2018 and .235 this season before the Giants cut ties.

Blankmeyer believes some struggles had to do with injuries and some of it had to do with the Giants playing in a pitcher-friendly ballpark.

“It’s still there offensively,” he said. “He just has to figure out. I know San Francisco’s a tough park to hit in but Joe’s a much better hitter than he’s showing.”

The coach added that Panik doesn’t strike out often.

“I just think he’s got to find the swing,” Blankmeyer said. “He’s searching for it.”

The Mets signed Panik minutes after he became available last Friday.

Similar to 2014, Panik joins a team on a serious push for the postseason.

The coach knows that the Mets added a solid player.

“He’s all about the team and winning,” Blankmeyer said. “That’s what you need when you’re in this type of environment now ... professional baseball, everybody’s on their own island.”

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