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Benny Agbayani

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Benny Agbayani
Agbayani made his major league debut with the New York Mets on June 17, 1998, as part of an 8th inning double-switch in which he defensively replaced right fielder Butch Huskey during a 5-4 loss to the Montreal Expos. He made his first start and picked up his first big league hit on June 19. Agbayani led off the bottom of the first inning by singling to second base off Florida Marlins pitcher Brian Meadows.

On August 12, 2000 while a member of the Mets, Agbayani was involved in a particularly memorable play. In the fourth inning, with the Mets leading 1-0, the Giants loaded the bases after a double, an error, and a hit batsman. With one out, Giants catcher Bobby Estalella hit a fly pop to Agbayani in left field. Agbayani, thinking that the catch made three outs, gave the ball to a child in the stands and began to trot toward the dugout. It took him a moment to realize his mistake, but once he did, he sprinted back to the stands, pulled the ball from the hands of the young fan he had given it to, and fired a throw toward home plate. Unfortunately for Agbayani, once the ball left the field, the play was dead, and all three runners were awarded two bases -- causing Jeff Kent and Ellis Burks to score, and the Giants to take the lead, 2-1. The Mets went on to win the game, 3-2, and Agbayani gave another ball to the fan who had given the previous one back.[2]

Agbayani is also fondly remembered by Mets fans for two clutch home runs hit during the 2000 season. On March 30, his 11th inning Grand Slam against the Chicago Cubs gave the Mets their first win of the season, and a split in the two game series the Mets and Cubs had played in Tokyo, Japan. Later that year, on October 7, he hit a game-winning home run in the 13th inning of Game 3 of the National League Division Series against Aaron Fultz of the Giants. Agbayani also drove in the winning run in the only game the Mets won in the 2000 World Series.

Agbayani is one of five known players in Major League Baseball history from the Philippines, either by birth, citizenship, or heritage. The other four are: Bobby Balcena (1956 Cincinnati Reds), Bobby Chouinard (1996 Oakland Athletics, 1998 Milwaukee Brewers, 1998-1999 Arizona Diamondbacks, 2000-2001 Colorado Rockies), Chris Aguila (2004-2006 Florida Marlins), and Geno Espineli (2008-present San Francisco Giants).
Appeared on the Howard Stern radio show around the time the New York Mets faced the Yankees in the 2000 World Series. He predicted the Mets would win the series in 5 games, which they did not. The Yankees, however, did win in five games.
Went by the nickname of Hawaiian Punch during his tenure with the Mets.
He is a 1989 inductee of Hawaii's athletic Hall of Honor. Despite having only limited and occasional success in the Major Leagues, Agbayani was a popular figure with fans, particular in New York, where his successes were often met with "Benny, Benny!" chants as well as "Benny and the Mets", a parody of Elton John's Benny and the Jets.
Agbayni is banned from joining the MLBPA as a result of his participation in 1995 spring training.

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Michael Westbay
(aka westbaystars)

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