Ryan O’Rourke unwittingly became a part of Mets’ history during their run to the Wild Card in 2016 as a member of the Minnesota Twins. The Mets hosted the Twins in September that year and every win was important in the tight race. Ervin Santana, who also became a member of the Mets organization last season, started for Minnesota and shut the Mets out until Yoenis Cespedes tied the game with single against the bullpen. It remained tied until the eleventh when the Twins took the lead on a home run off Hansel Robles. Curtis Granderson countered in the bottom of the inning with a solo shot off Brandon Kintzler and then walked it off an inning later with another home run, this time against O’Rourke. It was the first time in franchise history that a player hit two home runs in extra innings that both tied and won the game.
It had been a long road back for the southpaw after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2017 and had a decent camp with the Mets in 2019. He did not make the team but was called up when Jeurys Familia went on the IL in early May. He made two appearances and did not give up a run in either one. He struck out one and walked three. They were not overly dominant appearances but he got the job done.
He did not appear again in a major league game after May 4 but received another call-up at the end of May when both Robinson Cano and Jeff McNeil landed on the IL. He was optioned one day later when the team signed Aaron Altherr to give themselves some further depth in the outfield with injuries piling up. In hindsight, that might not have been the wisest decision but O’Rourke went back to Triple-A. And that is where his adventures began.
In June while at the stadium in Syracuse, he learned he was designated for assignment by a tweet shown to him by Paul Sewald. He went back home to Massachusetts but as a citizen of Ireland he accepted an invitation to pitch for their national team in Bulgaria. He made two appearances and then returned home and back to the Mets who remained interested in his services.
He stayed in Syracuse until the Mets released him again but this time he jumped from Syracuse to Rochester where he rejoined the Twins organization. All told his season took him to Queens, Syracuse, Bulgaria, and Rochester and the 31-year-old finished the season with a 3.54 ERA and 61 strikeouts in 56 innings between the two teams in Triple-A.
By all accounts he was well liked by his Syracuse teammates and even got a tribute video at the suggestion of Corey Oswalt when he returned as a member of the Twins organization. O’Rourke also had a major hand in the “Fight Like a Girl” campaign the Triple-A team launched to rally around coach Jeremy Accardo’s 8-year-old daughter who was battling cancer.
While O’Rourke had little impact at the major league level this season, his odyssey highlights both the life of a minor league ballplayer and how they can have an impact away from the field.