New York • Neither John Buck nor Brandon "Boo" Lyon can remember who brought it up first back in their Taylorsville neighborhood in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but both vividly recall the topic being discussed.
Wouldn’t it be great, the lifelong pals imagined from their sleeping bags in their parents’ backyards as 9-, 10- and 11-year-old Little Leaguers, if someday they could both not only play professional baseball, but do it on the same team?
Buddies for life
John Buck in 2013 (through April 10 games)
AB Runs Hits RBIs BB SO Avg.
32 7 12 15 1 5 .375
Brandon Lyon in 2013 (through April 10 games)
W L ERA SV IP H ER BB SO
1 0 0.00 0 3.1 1 0 0 4
"We would have sleepovers when we were little, and we would talk about it," Buck said. "That’s literally all we would talk about — making the big leagues, playing together. To have it come true, that just doesn’t happen, but somehow it happened to us."
A catcher, Buck, 32, is in his 10th major league season. A relief pitcher, Lyon, 33, is in his 12th. The former Taylorsville High teammates’ magical moment came last week.
In the New York Mets’ 11-2 win over San Diego on April 1, Lyon entered the game in the seventh inning in relief of Jonathan Niese. The first batter he faced reached on an error and the second guy grounded out to end the inning, all with Buck calling pitches behind home plate at Citi Field.
"Talk about a cool moment," Lyon said. "That’s got to be pretty rare — best friends growing up, now in the same battery in the big leagues, in the Big Apple. I can’t tell you how great it has been to be in the same clubhouse with John. Just a dream come true."
Although Lyon has played for six different teams since being picked by Toronto in the 14th round of the 1999 draft and Buck has played for four teams after he went to Houston in the seventh round of the 1998 draft, the players always figured there was no way they would be reunited after last playing together on Taylorsville’s 1997 team — Lyon was a senior, Buck a junior — that was eliminated by Jordan early in the 5A baseball playoffs. The twosome led T-ville to the title in 1996; in 1998, Buck helped the Warriors win the 5A championship after Lyon had moved on to Dixie State College.
This past offseason, however, the pieces fell into place. Buck played for the Marlins the past two seasons, then was shipped to Toronto as the Marlins dumped veteran players and big salaries in the latest Miami fire sale. He was then part of the mega-trade when Toronto acquired Mets ace R.A. Dickey in November in exchange for Buck and a couple young prospects, including fast-rising catcher Travis d’Arnaud.
Lyon pitched for Houston and Toronto last season, posting a 3.10 earned run average in 67 relief appearances. He became a free agent in the offseason, and signed with the Mets in February partly, he said, so he could play with Buck.
"There were some opportunities before when we thought it might happen, but didn’t work out," Lyon said. "This time, when it was presented to me, and the opportunity was there to do it, I jumped at it and said, ‘Hey, let’s do this.’ It’s a good feeling to be on the same team."
Buck said he started getting text messages and emails from mutual friends back in Utah about the possibility of Lyon joining the Mets, so he gave his childhood friend a call.
"He goes, ‘Well, it would be fun to play with you.’ And I was like, ‘Dude, let’s do it. This might be our only chance,’ " Buck said. "He goes, ‘Yeah, but it is New York. Us being Utah boys, it is a little different than where we are from.’ I was like, ‘Dude, we can live by each other. Our kids can play together, like we did. It will be fun.’ "
So Lyon signed a one-year deal that pays him a base salary of $750,000 with the chance to earn up to $2.3 million in incentives. Buck is scheduled to make $6 million in the final year of the three-year contract he signed with the Marlins.
"It is kind of cool to have one-sixth of my Little League team [which won the AAU national championship for 12-year-olds] here in New York," Lyon said. "We had 12 of us that we basically grew up together in baseball with, and did everything together. We still keep in touch with a lot of those guys we played with. In a way, they are part of this, too."
Utahns in the Big Apple
Buck married his high school sweetheart, the former Brooke Noble, who was also a standout athlete at Taylorsville. Their twin sons Cooper and Brody were born 12 weeks premature in Kansas City in 2008 but are now doing well, Buck said.
Lyon met his wife, Sara, at Dixie State College, and they two sons and a daughter.
When it came time to choose a place to live, the teammates decided they wanted to live in bustling Manhattan. They reside within a few minutes’ cab ride of each other on Manhattan’s upper east side, near Central Park, where there is plenty of green space to teach their kids the game.Next Page >
Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.