Joe Panik and his wife Brittany hosted a family summer barbecue at their Hopewell Junction home Aug. 19. It’s how they can enjoy an off day now with Joe commuting to work as a member of the New York Mets.
Panik, 28, became the eighth former St. John’s University star to play for the Mets, when he signed Aug. 9. In his first 11 games, he hit .343 with nine runs scored to help one of Major League Baseball’s hottest teams compete for a postseason berth.
“The skills are always there, but sometimes it takes a different set of cleats, a new uniform and a fresh mindset. What the Mets are doing right now is clicking for him,” Paul Panik, Joe’s older brother and the head coach of the Iona College baseball team, told CNY.
“They respect what he’s done and been through. This is what he’s prided himself on, to come up big in the big moments. He’s juiced up to go the park and it’s a playoff atmosphere. It brings the best out of you. The players feed a lot off the fans.”
Panik returned to Citi Field, where he played in the stadium’s first game with St. John’s in 2009. As a junior at St. John’s in 2011, Panik earned All-American honors by hitting .398 with 10 home runs and 57 RBI.
Panik was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the first round of the 2011 Major League Baseball Draft and later helped the Giants win a World Series during his rookie year in 2014. The native of Yonkers was an All-Star in 2015 and a Gold Glove winner in 2016.
Panik was hitting .235 when the Giants designated him for assignment Aug. 6 and placed him on waivers the next day. Rumors began swirling of Panik coming to New York because the Mets needed a second baseman to step in for the injured Robinson Cano. The Mets signed Panik Aug. 9, when they were beginning a three-game series with the Washington Nationals that delivered a postseason atmosphere to Citi Field.
“It was thrilling to learn he was coming to the Mets,” said Paul Panik, who played baseball at Canisius College in Buffalo. “You always wanted him close to home. When he was on the West Coast, there were a lot of late nights watching games.
“It’s nice to watch the games in New York and to do it in New York is special. He played at St. John’s and they opened Citi Field. We can go down and see him play more games now.”
Ryan Ruocco, a broadcaster for the YES and ESPN networks, told CNY he and Paul Panik were teammates when the older brother shared stories of his talented younger brother. Ruocco first met Joe Panik when the Mets second baseman was about 10 years old.
“I knew it was time for a change of scenery for him from San Francisco and I knew he’d get a real opportunity with the Mets with Cano out,” said Ruocco, a native of Fishkill and graduate of Fordham University. “Plus, he’d be home. Plus, he’d be in a pennant race and I believe he thrives playing meaningful baseball.
“He fits in incredibly well for these kind of ‘October’ feel games. Joe is a great defender. He’s a tough at-bat. He’s calm under pressure. He’s already thrived on the biggest stage in pressure spots. He’s perfect for this Mets run.”
Panik, a graduate of John Jay High School in Hopewell Junction, will be a free agent at the end of the season, but Paul Panik said his brother told him his only concern right now is winning a World Series.
“He hasn’t thought about next year. He’s living in the moment, and the chips will fall where they fall in the off-season,” Paul said.