Local baseball star Elliot Johnstone signs with New York Mets

Elliot Johnstone shot to prominence after being named the Australian Baseball League Rookie of the Year for the 2019-20 season, where he starred out of the Tuatara bullpen. Photo @photosportnz

New Zealand Diamondblacks representative and Auckland Tuatara pitcher Elliot Johnstone has signed a professional contract with the New York Mets last week.

The 22-year-old right-hander signed his contract with the Mets in front of friends and family at the Pakuranga Rugby Club, next to the fields he learned to play the game at with the Howick Pakuranga Baseball Club alongside his two older brothers, both who represented New Zealand.

He is the son of Robert Johnstone, co-owner of Howick Funeral Home.

Johnstone shot to prominence after being named the Australian Baseball League Rookie of the Year for the 2019-20 season, where he starred out of the Tuatara bullpen.

He was close to a deal that off-season with some Major League clubs looking at him just as the Covid-19 pandemic shut the Minor League season down.

By signing today with the Mets, he joins fellow Kiwi pitchers Kyle Glogoski (Philadelphia Phillies – ex-Howick College) and Ben Thompson (Atlanta Braves) currently playing in the minor leagues.

“I am very grateful to the New York Mets for the opportunity that they have given me and I will do everything I can to succeed,” Johnstone said.

“It has been a life-long dream of mine to play professional baseball and it is surreal to think all these years of hard work have led to this moment.

“I want to thank my partner Rayner, my Mum and Dad, brothers and the rest of my family, the Howick Hawks, Auckland Tuatara and Baseball New Zealand for all the help over the years that have led to me living out my dream.”

Mets scout Conor Brooks was responsible for signing Johnstone having received a glowing endorsement from former Mets player DJ Carrasco, who has coached the Kiwi both with New Zealand national sides and as pitching coach for the Auckland Tuatara.

“I think Elliot has a strong head on his shoulders. He is a mature kid with a good physical build,” Brooks said.

“He has somewhat of a unique delivery, that creates deception and he has natural late life on all his pitches.

“There is a lot to work with and he should be able to help us very soon.”

Baseball New Zealand chief executive John Fellet, who coached Johnstone in his formative years, was delighted to see him earn a contract with such a world-renowned ball club.

“Elliot’s whole life has been baseball and I am absolutely thrilled he has got this opportunity to play professionally in the United States.

“The New York Mets are one of the most well-known sporting organisations on the planet and it will be great for the sport back here to follow one of our own.

“We wish Elliot all the best in the next stage of his career.”

Johnstone will fly out to the United States when his visa comes through and will link up with his Mets’ rookie ball team, where he will spend the next few months.