By John Perrotto
Francisco Lindor’s first thought after being traded to the New York Mets from the Cleveland Indians was not about baseball.
“Pizza,” the star shortstop said in his introductory Zoom call with the New York media following the trade in early January. “I was thinking I was going to be playing in a city with great pizza.”
Perhaps it is fitting that Lindor loves pizza. After all, he plays baseball with a lot of pizzazz.
A wide smile never seems to leave the 27-year-old’s face whether he is on the field, in the clubhouse or signing autographs for fans. In fact, Lindor gained the nickname “Mr. Smile” during his time in the Indians’ organization.
“I’m living my dream. I’m living the life I always wanted, so I don’t see not,” Lindor said when asked why he is always smiling.
Lindor should give Mets’ fans plenty to smile following six standout seasons with the Indians Cleveland choose him in the first round of the 2011 amateur draft with the eighth overall pick from Montverde Academy in suburban Orlando.
The native of Caguas, Puerto Rico was selected to the All-Star Game in each of his first four full seasons in the major leagues from 2016-19. He did not have a chance to extend that streak in 2020 because the Midsummer Classic was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lindor won two American League Gold Glove awards and two Silver Sluggers during his time with the Indians while helping them capture three AL Central titles in a row from 2016-18. Cleveland advanced to the World Series in 2016, where it lost to the Chicago Cubs in seven games, falling just short of the franchise’s first championship since 1948.
In six seasons with the Indians, Lindor batted .285 with 138 home runs and 99 stolen bases.
Lindor is eligible for free agency at the end of this season and time will tell where he winds up in 2022. However, the Mets believe he can help to the postseason this year for the first time since 2016.
Lindor made a charitable splash during spring training when he donated $1 million to Montverde Academy for a building that will bear his name.
Lindor Hall will be a middle school facility with 38,894 square feet of academic space, 14 classrooms, three science laboratories, a technology laboratory, conference room, study hall and teacher's lounge. It was designed for 203 students and has an attached 12,711 square-foot gymnasium.
John Perrotto, a freelance writer based in Pittsburgh, has covered Major League Baseball since 1988. He is a Hall of Fame voter and has written for such publications as USA Today, Baseball Digest and Baseball America. You can follow him on Twitter @JPerrotto.