NEW YORK -- Camaraderie may never have been in short supply last season for the Mets, but it never hurts to have a little more. To that end, one of the team's newest acquisitions, Antonio Bastardo, has baseball roots intersecting with those of closer Jeurys Familia.
The two first met as teammates for the Gigantes del Cibao in the Dominican Winter League in 2010, shortly after Bastardo broke into the big leagues. Throughout that offseason, Bastardo helped the 20-year-old Familia transition to professional baseball.
"He was one of the first people that approached me," Familia said through an interpreter at Tuesday's 36th annual Thurman Munson Awards in Manhattan. "He was really there for me just to give me advice, to help me out. He's just a really special person for me because he was always there for me. Part of who I am now as a pitcher is because of him."
Familia will report in the coming days to Port St. Lucie, Fla., where Bastardo has already been working out with some of his new teammates. But first, the Mets' closer received one last offseason honor Tuesday alongside the Yankees' Andrew Miller and Brian McCann, former Yankee Jim Abbott and former Met Jesse Orosco -- the latter of whom will take part in the club's 1986 World Series anniversary celebration this summer. The Munson Awards honor the late Yankees catcher and captain, while benefiting the AHRC New York City Foundation's work with disabled adults and children. They are presented for success and inspiration on the fields of play, and community outreach off the field.
Over the past weeks and months, Familia has spent time reflecting on the World Series, including the saves he blew in Games 1, 4 and 5. Though it would be easy to enter 2016 with that specter looming over him, Familia insists he views it only as a positive.
"Early on in my career, to have that experience, I feel like that's really prepared me," he said. "I think from that experience, you just learn about pressure -- really learning to stay calm under pressure, how to pitch and keep your emotions under control under pressure. Just living that experience really teaches you so much."
On paper, the Mets have every chance to return to postseason play this year, with Familia back as closer, Bastardo one of his setup men and a fortified bullpen around those two. Tack on a Yoenis Cespedes-led lineup and perhaps the game's best rotation, and Familia believes the Mets are stocked with potential for another memorable season.
"I think all the moves that they've made for us have been really good moves," the closer said. "They're really setting us up to do what we did last year, but do it even better this time around."