New York Mets prospects T.J. Rivera and Michael Fulmer grew up almost 1,500 miles and five years apart. They might as well have been a world apart.
Rivera hailed from the Bronx, a 45-minute subway ride from Yankee Stadium; Fulmer spent his middle years in Oklahoma City, a 45-minute flight from Arlington, Texas, the home of his nearest big league team. Rivera turns 26 this year and was signed as a undrafted free agent in 2011; Fulmer celebrated his 21st birthday last month and was taken in the first round of the 2011 Draft.
Despite taking different roads to get there, both players are now on the same path and both hope that journey ends at Citi Field.
Rivera went 4-for-5 with a homer and three RBIs and right-hander Fulmer (1-1) allowed just two hits over six innings to earn his first win of the season as the Class A Advanced St. Lucie Mets routed the Bradenton Marauders, 11-0, on Thursday.
"I think it helps me out," Fulmer said about sharing a clubhouse with players from across the country and the Caribbean. "There are different games everywhere you go. Guys play the game a different way, some are more conservative and some are more aggressive, but they all play it hard. I take it as an opportunity to learn from everybody.
"[Outfielder] Brandon Nimmo is from Wyoming and so you hear stories about [American] Legion ball. Rivera is from the Bronx, so he tells you about all the talent up there. [Shortstop] Phillip Evans and [pitcher] Beck Wheeler are both from California. It's important to learn from all those guys."
Rivera singled in the first and fifth innings, doubled home a run in the sixth and added a two-run long ball in the eighth.
He finished a triple shy of the cycle and lifted his average to a league-best .408, but he's more focused on extending his hot start throughout May than dwelling on what he did in April.
"I'm just trying to go out there and battle," Rivera said. "I've been working on some things to get back into a good hitter's position. Today I was able to get a couple balls through the holes early and then drive a couple balls to the outfield later."
The second baseman, who served as St. Lucie's designated hitter Thursday, has hit safely in nine of his past 10 games and in 14 of his previous 16. He has multiple hits in 14 of 24 contests, including seven appearances with at least three hits.
"Growing up in the Bronx, you see just one kind of personality, the 'New Yorker' type," said Rivera, who grew up a die-hard Yankee fan with most of his friends and family dressed in pinstripes. "But you have so many interesting personalities on this one team. We're in such a small place all year round, but it's an awesome experience. You get to see how other people live, it's pretty cool."
Fulmer carried a no-hit bid into the fourth and retired the final seven batters he faced to extend his scoreless streak to 11 innings.
Selected by the Mets 44th overall in the supplemental round of the 2011 Draft, Fulmer -- who grew up idolizing Curt Schilling and watching Rangers and Cardinals games -- appears to be back on track after an inconsistent start to the season.
He allowed 16 runs over 13 innings in his first three outings, but he tossed five scoreless innings against the Marauders on Friday. This is the first time in his four-year Minor League career that the Mets' No. 16 prospect has not allowed a run in consecutive appearances.
"I felt good," said Fulmer, who was born and raised in Lafayette, Louisiana, before moving to Tulsa in sixth grade, and two years later, Oklahoma City. "My four-seam and two-seam were both working and I was mixing them up and I got inside quite a lot. My slider was pretty decent and my changeup and curve got over for a lot of strikes.
"Me and [pitching coach] Phil Regan have been working on a few things, and last outing, it really showed. I carried it over to this outing. It was pretty hot and humid tonight and the ball was slippery, but I fell into a groove as the game went on."
There were no shortages of other star performances either.
First baseman Jairo Perez homered twice, doubled, plated five runs and scored twice out of the cleanup spot, leadoff hitter Dilson Herrera collected three hits and a pair of runs and catcher Cam Maron blasted a three-run homer, his first in the Florida State League.
On the mound, Paul Sewald fanned five Marauders over two innings of relief to lower his ERA to 0.66 and Jake Kuebler worked around a walk in the ninth to seal the shutout.
"There is so much talent throughout the whole lineup," Fulmer said. "It was a laser show tonight. I'm so proud of those guys. Everybody found the barrel of the bat. Perez hit two titanic bombs and Rivera and Cam hit one too."
Rivera knows the outing keeps him on track to one day play back in the city where his baseball journey began.
"It would mean a lot," he said. "To be back in New York would be something that everybody dreams about. Just making the big leagues would be great, but to do it in your hometown where you could give back to people would be awesome. Hopefully one day I will get the chance to prove myself there and play the game in front of the friends and family I grew up with."
Bradenton's Chad Kuhl (3-2) allowed eight runs on eight hits and a walk while striking out three batters over five innings.