By Cathal Coyle
On Monday 7th May, Patrick Joshua ‘PJ’ Conlon, a native of Belfast, had the distinction of becoming the first Irish-born Major League Baseball player since Cork’s Joseph Cleary, who played for the Washington Senators in the mid-1940s.
A left-arm pitcher, Conlon, who hailed from Rockville Street off the Falls Road in west Belfast, made his competitive debut against the Cincinatti Reds.
PJ Conlon was almost two years of age when his family moved from Belfast to Orange County, California in 1996, and began playing baseball just three years later. There is a strong sporting background in his family, his father Patrick is a PE teacher, while his uncle, Eddie Shaw, was a noted boxing coach.
Starting with ‘tee-ball’ – an introduction to baseball for young children to develop ball-game skills – PJ quickly progressed through the grades – making a name for himself at the University of San Diego, where he was recognised as their star pitcher.
He was signed by the New York Mets in 2015 and worked his way through the club’s ‘farm’ system, to the extent that he was named Organisational Pitcher of the Year in 2016. A few weeks ago he answered a call from the team manager Tony DeFrancesco who passed on the exciting news that he was heading to the Major League!