Since he signed with the Mets after leaving the University of North Carolina as a junior, Harvey has not held back when it comes to his talent during the game or his outspoken nature off the field.
Here’s what you need to know about Harvey:
1. He Thinks of Baseball as War
With his over 90 mph fastball and talent for putting on a good show for the crowd, it’s clear Harvey takes the game seriously and can’t help his competitive nature. He told New York Magazine that he views the game as war between the Mets and whoever they are playing.
“When I’m out there on the mound, I’m fighting for my teammates, fighting for the ability to stay in the game for a long time. It’s war. I see the hitter, I think about what I want to do, but it’s a very quick process. Then I attack. It’s almost primal.
He doesn’t focus on the other pitcher in the game, but instead sees his time on the mound as a competition with the batter, according to Men’s Journal.
“I don’t care who’s pitching. Who’s at bat? It’s me versus you. Let’s see who’s going to win, buddy.”
This “baseball is war” attitude attracts quite an audience, some fans even have “Harvey Day” shirts to express their love for him and tweet using #HappyHarveyDay.
Harvey tells the New York Post that he enjoys being in the spotlight and talking to the media.
I’ve always wanted to be in the spotlight. I’ve always wanted to be that guy — and that comes with fans approaching you and media being all over you and paparazzi. At the same time, everybody says how annoying it gets, but I understand it comes with the territory, and I’m not one to shy away from that. I don’t want to be the starting pitcher for the Mets that nobody knows. Being able to put on a uniform that says New York has been a dream come true.
2. He’s Been a Key Part of the Mets’ Dominant Starting Rotation
At 6’4″ and 217 lbs. at the age of 26, there’s no doubt Harvey is a great asset to the Mets, but he has given them a fair share of trouble. From his persistence in making the team in the first place, to his insistence on rehabbing his way after his surgery, to his love of nightlife, women and the spotlight—he’s not always the easiest to deal with.
A Mets team staffer talked to New York Magazine about Harvey’s persistence.
“Matt has always been pushy. His first training camp, he was all over the manager — ‘I want to make the team. How do I make the team?’ There was no way he was gonna make the team. But he kept pushing.”
He’s also known for his social media prescence, which he has toned down due to a few Twitter fights. “At first, I might have put things out there too much. For me, the way I was raised, if there was ever an issue, it was always talked about,” according to New York Magazine.
General manager Sandy Alderson says the Mets are pleased with Harvey, who has created a brand of himself.
When someone transcends the sport and becomes a brand in and of himself, he needs to keep in mind what the foundation of that celebrity is. It’s not a fashion line. He’s a baseball player. But I think he’s smart enough to know that. Matt likes to talk. I don’t mean that in a negative way. He likes to talk things through and take time to absorb what he hears and consider advice. We are not interested in changing his personality or his basic qualities. Because he’s viewed in a positive way.
Harvey is also arbitration-eligible next year and will probably get an increase from his current salary of a little more than $600,000.
3. He Had Tommy John Surgery in October 2013 and Was Out for the 2014 Season
In August 2013 he was diagnosed with a partially torn ligament in his elbow and in October 2013 Harvey had Tommy John surgery, named after Tommy John, pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers who was the first to have the procedure. The surgery involves reconstruction of the ulnar collateral ligament in the elbow by taking a ligament from somewhere else in the body (usually the leg) to repair the ruptured or torn ligament. This elbow injury is typically caused by overuse but is not uncommon. About 25% of Major League pitchers and 15% of Minor League pitchers will have this surgery at some point in their career.
Harvey was not happy about having the surgery or dealing with recovery, which is clear from a picture he posted to Twitter in which he is in a hospital bed post-surgery holding up his middle finger with a grin. The photo has since been removed from his page.
He was not allowed to throw a baseball at all for four months after the surgery and when he began rehab he was only lifting one-pound dumbells and throwing a ball on flat ground, which was not easy for this innately-competitive athlete. Harvey wrote about his experience post-surgery for The Players’ Tribune, a platform founded by Derek Jeter, which gives players a voice and brings them closer to their audience.
Everyone, starting with my surgeon, reminded me that Tommy John has a high success rate. Countless pitchers have bounced back stronger than before — John Smoltz, Adam Wainwright, Jordan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg, A.J. Burnett, and the list goes on. But that didn’t mean it wasn’t a big setback. I had never had an injury. Never missed a game. It was going to be the first time in my adult life that I wasn’t able to throw a baseball for four straight months.
Harvey also has a tattoo on his chest which says, “Ain’t it a shame that a body can’t be where the heart is,” which he thinks symbolizes the mental struggle of dealing with his surgery. “I put my heart into playing, and pitching. My ulnar collateral ligament wasn’t letting me do that,” he told New York Magazine.
There was also a controversy over where Harvey would rehab. Usually players are sent to Port St. Lucie, where the Met’s spring traning complex is, to focus on rehab. Harvey wanted to stay in New York with his team and was able to strike a deal. He rehabbed with his team when they were home, and when they were on the road he went to Florida, according to the NY Daily News.
“I expressed that seven months in Port St. Lucie is a long time. For me, I strongly felt that my best opportunity, and my motivation to come back quicker, stronger, work harder would be to be with the teammates. That’s kind of what I have always said. I have worked so hard to get to the big leagues and be with this team, it just felt like all of a sudden I was shooed to the back.
Overall, Harvey says going through the process of having surgery and recovering was a positive experience for him. “It’s been a huge help, I learned a lot of things about being a teammate and being accountable and it’s been a great experience,” he said to the New York Daily News.
4. As a Teenager, He Was a Diehard Yankee Fan
Harvey grew up rooting for the Yankees. Now he even gets advice from Derek Jeter, who he still admires. He told New York Magazine:
“To have somebody as a kid you looked up to so much give you an open invite to ask him anything — it was extremely kind and generous. The best advice he’s given me is, be myself, have fun, and don’t change.
Harvey says he also strives to have a clean image like Jeter and be a big name is baseball who is known for good reasons, according to the New York Post.
Just the way [Jeter] became Mr. Baseball in New York. The player that he was and the way he played in big games and rose to the occasion and surpassed expectations . . . He was always a class-A superstar, but he was never in the paper for anything bad. He’s always had a great image. He’s always smiling and having fun and joking around with people. That was something I always watched.
In the video below, a 16-year-old Harvey is interviewed by a high school classmate about his future plans and dreams.
5. He’s Dating Polish Model Ania Cywinska
A source for Page Six said in March that Harvey has been dating Polish model Ania Cywinska for a while. “They met through friends while out in New York and have been seeing each other for a few months.”
The two appear to still be dating since she posted a picture on her Instagram just three weeks ago at the Mets game.
Cywinska is pretty famous herself and is signed with the Marilyn Agency.