Former Yankees, Mets pitcher Al Leiter reflects on dream of playing at home

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(PIX11)-- He was just a kid from Toms River, New Jersey with big dreams of pitching for his hometown team.

Al Leiter was a huge Mets fan growing up, largely because of his father.

"He didn't like the mighty Yanks," Leiter said. "He wanted the underdog."

However, his first professional opportunity came from the same team his father loathed, the Bronx Bombers in 1984, when they drafted him.

"A guy said 'You were just drafted in the second round by the New York Yankees'," Leiter, who was still in high school at the time, recalled.

A few short years later, he pitched his first major league game in 1987 against the Milwaukee Brewers.

"Anytime that you make it," Leiter said. "You never forget that [moment]."

After two shoulder surgeries, stints with the Blue Jays and Marlins and a couple of World Series rings, Leiter returned to New York.

Marlins General Manager Dave Dombroski asked Leiter how he would feel about playing for the Mets.

"I said are you kidding me?," Leiter said. "Dave, I grew up a Mets fan. This would be awesome for me."

Leiter's time with the Mets was nothing short of amazing.

In 1999, Leiter led the Mets into the playoffs for the first time in 11 years after pitching a 2-hit shutout over the Cincinnati Reds.

"Mets fans still thank me for that game," Leiter said.

In 2000, the Mets would go all the way to the World Series and play against the Yankees, where they lost in five games.

"I'm telling you if we would have won Game 1, I don't know if we would have won but that sucker is going all the way to Game 7," Leiter said.

Leiter says playing in the Subway Series was still one of his best memories as a professional pitcher.

"Even though the 2000 World Series didn't turn out the way we wanted it, playing Game 1 at Yankee Stadium was so exciting," Leiter said.

After a short return to the Marlins, Yankees picked up Leiter to help add depth to an injured pitching staff.

Leiter thought he was headed to the minor league team in Columbus but instead got the call to play at Boston against the Red Sox.

"I went from having to work on stuff to starting on ESPN at Fenway Park" Leiter said. "I nailed it and we won."

The Yankees ended up winning the division title that year by one game.