“A Cespedes for the rest of us.” That was Jerry Seinfeld’s proclamation during the latter half of last season, when the Mets broke Major League Baseball by trading two minor league pitchers for Yoenis Cespedes, one of the best sluggers on the market, who then carried us to the postseason.
Cespedes has yet to prove his $27 million price tag, but he smacked his first home run of the season in a 5-2 loss against the Phillies yesterday afternoon. It reminded me of the most epic home run I had ever seen in my life, save perhaps for Piazza’s post-9/11 homer. It was Game 3 of the NLDS against the Dodgers, and my father and I went to Citi Field for the game.
It was a straight-up gladiator fight in there, especially after the Utley slide and Tejada’s broken leg, and Mets fans were out for blood. Cespedes gave it to them when he belted a three-run blast over the left field fence to put the game beyond reach for the Dodgers. In that moment, the stadium was so loud that you couldn’t hear the announcer or the jetliners overhead taking off from LaGuardia. Cespedes also gave the most epic bat flip to date.
But I could hear my father screaming for joy, his face a toothy grin that I’d only seen in childhood pictures of him. I don’t know if I’d ever seen him that happy.
That, my friends, is the mythic stuff of baseball legend that you might only see once in a lifetime.
Apple, apple, we’re gonna see an apple!
the guy sitting behind me in the stands
said to his little boy, referring to the home run
apple that pops up out of the black top hat
beyond the Mets’ centerfield fence,
and Yo steps into the box, digs his left toe
down into the clay, stares down
at the mound and here comes the pitch
and crack! it’s a frozen rope over our heads
and in the ecstasy of fandom I thought
I could hear the wind rippling off the stitches
of the ball as it sliced through the cold
October night air and pegged into the stands
just above the rising apple, and I turned to the guy
and shouted you called it! you called it!
and my father screamed in joy, his fists
in the air, his smile wide and toothy as if he were five
and through the grey goatee and wrinkles
I could see the young redhead kid
who grew up a few blocks away,
who probably chased those home run balls
through the parking lot,
and the guy behind me raised his little boy
to his shoulders and he watched grown men
melt into their boyhood selves,
loosened into tears of joy by beer
and the age-old home run wish
they finally got.