In late November 2021, with the baseball lockout looming, agent Joe Longo and Mets general manager Billy Eppler arranged a dinner to talk about Jeff McNeil. It would be an important first step in a process that officially ended on Tuesday, when McNeil stood on the dais at Citi Field, smiling for the cameras, celebrating a four-year, $50 million extension.
The relationship between Longo and Eppler stretches back to the early 2000s when the latter worked in the Rockies’ scouting department. Both share California roots. So soon after Eppler was named GM of the Mets, Longo reached out to offer his congratulations. But the conversation soon shifted to McNeil, one of Longo’s clients at Paragon Sports International.
“I love that he’s a Long Beach State Dirtbag,” Longo recalled Eppler saying. “I want to make the Mets the ‘Dirtbags’ of MLB.”
“That would be really cool,” Longo replied. “Jeff would love to hear that.”
The two then ventured into planning mode, scrambling to figure out how Eppler could meet with McNeil before the work stoppage was set to begin in just a few weeks. The original plan was for all three men to convene in Los Angeles. But because Longo and Eppler already had shared history, the agent made a suggestion to the GM: “Why don’t you just go to dinner with Jeff and you two talk?”
So McNeil drove down from just north of Santa Barbara. Eppler drove up from southern Orange County. They met near LAX for dinner, making McNeil the first Mets player that Eppler sat down with as the new GM.