Weather permitting, the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves are going to try to play five games in a four-day span this week, the highlight of which for Mets fans is the scheduled Tuesday doubleheader with Matt Harvey pitching the day game and Zack Wheeler pitching the night game.
I had the opportunity to interview Zack's eldest brother Jacob Wheeler on Monday, and like a true diehard, he not only stuck it out through the rain delay at Turner Field Monday night, but he graciously completed the interview before heading to bed for the night. That is, if he slept at all. Now that's great hustle!
Jacob spoke to me about what it's like being the big brother of a big leaguer, how big the "Team Wheeler" contigent at Turner Field is this week, and what Mets fans can expect from the young right-hander now, and into the future.
Jon Presser: What was the mood like when you first found out that Zack was being dealt to the Mets in July 2011, in a straight one-for-one swap for a guy like Carlos Beltran, who many (including myself) would consider a future Hall of Fame player?
Jacob Wheeler: Initially, I thought less of who he was being traded for, but that he was being traded. [Giants outfield prospect] Gary Brown was the assumed target at the time. When we found out that Zack was the one being traded, I just knew that it was another challenge for him, but he's a competitive guy and always up for a challenge. I can't speak for the family, but there was a sense of pride when the smoke cleared, with Zack being traded for a future Hall of Fame player and All-Star center fielder, and that the Mets organization thought enough of him to make such a trade.
JP: I myself am the big brother in my family, I'm familiar with that feeling of pride in my younger brother. As the eldest Wheeler sibling, what's it been like seeing Adam and Zack get drafted, and now getting to see Zack reach the major leagues at such a young age?
JW: As an older brother, I felt extremely happy for Adam when he got drafted. My parents went through high school spring games and traveled the country during the summers while he played about 80 games a summer. Adam put in a lot of time to get to where he was at. He did not have an easy path to draft day. We are two years apart, so the impact that I had on Adam was just trying to set a good example of commitment and hard work.
When Zack got drafted, it was another proud moment for every one in my family. Neither brother being drafted was sweeter than the other, the love is the same and the appreciation for their experience and opportunity were the same. With Zack being nine years apart, I tried to mold him into a person that didn't let things get to him and understand that you adjust and move on, you don't dwell and regret. Adjusting is what I remember Adam and my dad teaching Zack that stands out the most to me.
JP: With Zack's debut coming in Atlanta near friends and family, just how many people will make up the "Team Wheeler" cheering section at Turner Field this week? Is it a bit strange cheering for the Mets now in Braves country?
JW: Well, I attended the first game of the series tonight and the weather was sketchy, to say the least. I am hoping that the baseball gods are in the mood for dry weather for about a 10-hour window on Tuesday.
There will be around 500+ people at the stadium strictly to see Zack, with a few hundred of them sitting behind the Mets dugout. It'll definitely be loud. It's not weird at all to be cheering for the Mets in Atlanta. My brothers and I have always been fans more of players, not so much teams. However, many of those players happened to be Braves over the years.
JP: Mets fans have heard so much second-hand and third-hand reports about Zack over the past two years, so I've got to ask, as a guy who knows him better than anybody, what should Mets fans expect from Zack going forward?
JW: You can expect someone who will put up or shut up. You're going to get a guy who will make the necessary adjustments between every start, because he wants to squeeze out every last drop of potential from himself.
Zack doesn't talk about it, he is about it.
You can't see that in any news articles, or from word of mouth. Fans will get to see it for themselves, and Zack will embrace the fans just as they are embracing him. I know he's excited to be playing for such a passionate fan base!
Once again, big thanks to Jacob Wheeler for taking the time.
You can follow Jacob on Twitter @DigitalJacob.