Mets' righty one of 5 star pitchers raising money for Helmets to Hardhats
By Mark Newman
If you thought Jacob deGrom was part of an elite starting rotation already, then consider the other one he will represent when he makes his second start of the season Monday in the Mets' road opener against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.
deGrom, Chris Sale of the Red Sox, Corey Kluber of the Indians, Felix Hernandez of the Mariners and Michael Fulmer of the Tigers comprise the "Carhartt Starting Rotation" that many people will be tracking through the hashtag #Ks4Vets during the regular season.
For every strikeout recorded by these five pitchers in 2017, Carhartt will donate $100 to Helmets to Hardhats, a national nonprofit program that helps military service members successfully transition back into civilian life by offering them the means to secure a quality career in the building and trade industry.
deGrom struck out six batters in six innings in his first outing of the season Wednesday against the Braves.
"Our veterans do a lot for us, and I think any opportunity that you get to give back in a sense is a special thing," deGrom said. "They donate money for every strikeout ... and the opportunity was presented to me and I thought it was a great call, so I definitely wanted to do it."
The right-hander is off to a good start. In his first start since elbow surgery, deGrom reached 98 mph on his fastball and struck out six Braves batters in six shutout innings on Wednesday at Citi Field. He struck out 205 during his '15 All-Star season, helping the Mets to the World Series, and last year he had 143 K's in 148 innings before missing the last month.
If the five Carhartt starters each match their season-best strikeout totals, then the total donation for individual strikeouts would be $112,800. In addition to deGrom's, those previous bests were 274 by Sale in '15, 269 by Kluber in '14, 248 by Hernandez in '14, and 132 by Fulmer on the way to his American League Rookie of the Year honor last season. Carhartt will donate an additional $25,000 to Helmets to Hardhats if the Carhartt Starting Rotation exceeds the strikeout totals of every other team's top five starting pitchers on the season.
The "rotation" concept is an expansion of what Carhartt, America's leading workwear brand, did last year when it teamed up with Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner to donate $125,500 to Helmets to Hardhats. With that money, the organization helped more than 120 veterans receive training and secure a career in the construction trades. The MLB Players Association supported the expansion of the program to include the five star pitchers, and Carhartt expects more money to be donated this season -- with a healthy deGrom part of that hope.
"The men and women who serve in the Armed Forces and work in the construction trades epitomize the meaning of hard work," said Tony Ambroza, senior vice president of marketing at Dearborn, Mich.-based Carhartt. "That's why we're proud to partner with Helmets to Hardhats in expanding the Strikeouts for Vets program this year. We're confident that we've put together a group of pitchers that will outwork them all, and we look forward to writing a large check in support of Helmets to Hardhats at the end of the season."
Combined, the Carhartt Starting Rotation has 5,068 career strikeouts, 327 wins, 13 All-Star Game appearances, two Cy Young Awards, and two Rookie of the Year Awards.
"Last year's Strikeouts for Vets campaign was a great success," said Darrell Roberts, executive director of Helmets to Hardhats. "Beyond the monetary donation, it increased awareness of building trades apprenticeships and construction career opportunities throughout the United States. We look forward to another year of partnering with Carhartt and the pitchers, whose efforts are going to enable us to change veterans' lives by assisting them in finding and beginning a new career."
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com and a baseball writer since 1990. MLB.com Mets reporter Anthony DiComo contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.