Bats Boom

Mets 5, Phillies 2. Quadruple homers! We got a #DudaSmash from Luke (his first of the season), one from Neil Walker, and two from The Captain. Cespedes also pulled off a stand-up triple and scored a run, and Thor was as dominant as ever. The bats are waking up for spring!


 

The Quitter

 

I was eight or nine, taking ground balls

outside my school in the hot sun,

and a bad hop smacked me in the jaw

and knocked me down, so I took a seat

 

on the bench. As soon as my father pulled up

in his truck, I ran and climbed in and he asked

what I was doing, and I said I wanted to quit,

showing him the red splotch that would grow

 

into a bruise, and he shook his head

and said nothing as we drove home.

Three years later, after my big league hero

broke records and my favorite team

 

was in the playoffs, I sat in as catcher

for the junior high team and tried,

for three innings, to snap up fastballs

from a kid who could hurl like a pro,

 

but each hit to the chest or mask,

each dropped ball, each failed throw

to second to get the runner out made me sweat

and shake. Soon, the coach benched me,

 

and after the game I asked how I was doing

and he asked if I wanted him to be nice

or to be honest, and he was honest,

and the other kids ignored me,

 

and I quit again. My father always said

not to be afraid of the ball, but the dull hot pain

of each thump was like a deadening punch

a bully would deliver. And next season,

 

about to go into high school,

I went to tell him that I’d never play again

but he gave me a mask, a chest pad,

and a pair of black, steel-toed cleats.

 

He taught me how to call balls and strikes,

how a curveball can paint the black edge

of the plate, how you listen for the click of the bat

to call a foul-tip, how to use all of your senses.

 

All that summer, we worked

as a two-man team for the little leagues,

and he’d watch from second base

with his chin raised and his hands on his knees

 

when he knew I was calling a fair game.

Mets Win, Losing Streak Ends

We won! Mets 2, Marlins 1. The four-game skid is over.

I was asked to write about reliever Hansel Robles in today’s poem, since manager Terry Collins put him in a bases loaded, none out situation. Robles, a righty, struck out two before lefty Dee Gordon (a legit threat) came up to the plate. Collins took out Robles and put in our left-handed specialist Blevins, who got the out with a shallow fly ball that Cespedes caught on the run, although Gary Cohen on SNY was so excited for the out that he said it was Conforto, not Cespedes. Either way, I’m sure Robles wanted that out more after those first two Ks.

The New York Post even wrote about Collins’s “full-throttle” bullpen strategy for this game and his effort to end the losing streak. GM Sandy Alderson said that it’s not something we’ll likely see again.


 

The Tenth Mind on the Field

 

World Series, game five, ninth inning, and Harvey

wants to finish the shutout. No way!

Harvey says to Collins, no way am I coming out!

So Collins lets him back in, and Harvey

sprints to the mound, the crowd cheers

and chants his name, and then he walks one

and gives up a double. Collins throws

his lineup pad, storms into the corner

of the dugout to swear off-camera.

It’s a choice he’ll wish he never made–

he could’ve lost his job because they lost.

He should’ve brought in the closer, Familia,

‘cause Harvey was gassed. So, next season

Collins goes full-throttle, rifling through his bullpen

after days of short rest and high pitch counts

and tired arms, just to win one game,

to not make the same mistake again.

Robles came in, bases loaded and none out

and struck out two, then Collins

yanked him and put in the lefty reliever

to face the lefty batter. He got a close out,

shallow fly to left where the fielder caught it

on the run, but Robles deserved

that third K, and Collins is stuck between heart

and brain and gut. He’s the tenth mind on the field,

the one that sees everything, that has to choose

who stays in, who gets yanked, and who

has the best chance to win.

Yo Knows Beisbol

“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.

this_cespedes_launches_nlds_home_run_into_the_night


 

Yo’s Homer

 

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.