Starting pitcher Matt Harvey remembers every moment of the time last July when he faced his first batter as a new member of the Mets. He quickly got ahead of the leadoff hitter, Arizona Diamondback Gerardo Parra, by firing off two quick strikes with a powerful fastball and curveball, before he threw a twisting off-speed pitch that dove beneath the hitter’s swing. After the strikeout, third baseman David Wright gave Harvey a knowing look. “It was a little head nod,” Harvey recalls. Wright seemed to say, “All right. You’re the real deal.”

So began the professional career of Matt Harvey, the 6’4” Connecticut native and rising star of the Mets’ pitching rotation. That first day, he went on to strike out 10 more batters, setting a franchise record for a debut pitcher and picking up his first major league career win in the process. With nearly 60 innings between July and September, Harvey struck out more than one batter each inning, with an earned-run average that would have tied for the fourth-best in baseball had he appeared in enough games to qualify.

At times during his rookie season Harvey found himself crashing on first baseman Ike Davis’s couch, but now he is living full time in Manhattan and adjusting quickly to a high-profile city life. During the offseason, he became good friends with New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, and at a recent Rangers game he found himself the center of attention in Madison Square Garden. “I was sitting next to John McEnroe,” Harvey explains. “And a couple minutes later I was up on the Jumbotron.”

Lundqvist, an accomplished guitarist, has also brought out Harvey’s hidden musical talents. “We were hanging out one night, and he was jamming out pretty well,” Harvey remembers. “I mixed in a couple of singing lines, and he actually asked me into the studio [to record] with him, so hopefully we can make that happen.”

But in season, Harvey is focused on lifting the fortunes of a franchise that has missed the playoffs each of the past six seasons. He points to the team’s growing young core—infielders like Davis and Daniel Murphy and fellow arms like Jon Niese—as reasons for optimism. “I think we’re going to shock a lot of people,” he predicts gamely. “If people stay healthy and everybody does their job, I think we’ve got a real shot at competing, playing into October, and making a real run at it.”

Whatever the case, Harvey knows that the spotlight shines brightest in his new home. “Obviously playing in New York adds more spark to the fire of wanting to win,” he says. “New York is big on winning, and we’re here to win.”

ABOVE: Met Matt Harvey set a franchise record for debut pitching last season.

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