After a crazy busy weekend in which I was a groomsmen in my friend’s wedding, I feel compelled to weigh in on one of the best nights I can remember as a Met fan. Everyone has their own unique story of where they were watching and who they watched with. I find it fascinating and I want to hear these individual spins to Mets history.
Personally, my story begins with how I became I die hard Met fan. I had no choice really, I was born into it. My father was a die hard from the early 60s. He taught me the history of the team from an early age. At times he seemed to me like a walking Mets encyclopedia. We bonded watching the Mets on TV and going to games. Once I went away to school, and then after school lived on my own, we texted or called to discuss basically every game. Almost two years ago on July 4th he went on a bike ride and never came home. He fell and suffered fatal head injuries and passed away later that day. Not a day goes by I don’t miss him. And not a Met game goes by where I don’t want to call or text him about the game. Most of my emotions, as I watched the no-hitter unfold, were closely intertwined with the loss I feel everyday.
Friday night, I was playing in a softball game in Central Park. After my game ended I checked my phone and saw that Johan was through 5 hitless innings. Pretty cool, certainly not uncharted territory, but I made sure to rush home anyway. I got home in the bottom of the sixth in time to catch Duda’s three run homer. My girlfriend was asleep in the next room. She is a new Met fan, and I decided if we got through seven, I would wake her.
In the top of the seventh Mike Baxter entered cult status making a catch that will live forever in Met lore. I rank his catch third all time, taking into consideration the catch itself as well as the situation occurring at the time. The Endy Chavez catch would be number one and Ron Swoboda’s horizontal dive in Game 4 of the ’69 series would be number two. Baxter’s catch really emphasized the pulse of this 2012 team, who seem willing to run through walls for each other for the success of the team.
I really wanted to believe after Baxter’s catch that this no-hitter could actually happen, but as a lifelong Met fan, I had been conditioned to know that a no-hitter was not feasible. It would never happen. Even so, I was excited, but I felt like it was only a matter of time until it was broken up. It seemed like the deck was particularly stacked against us, between Johan’s high pitch count and the impending rain, I was sure that the heavens would open over Citi Field and created a long rain delay.
I woke my girlfriend for the eighth inning. Although she is a big fan of the current team, she is a bit short on the history of the club. She was excited, but did not quite understand the magnitude of the situation. “When was the last Mets no-hitter, like 1960 something?,” she asked. I tried to explain to her that they never had one, and she understood that much, but how can one really come to understand 8,019 games without a no hitter? It is unfathomable. You cannot understand years of counting games without a no hitter. You cannot understand holding our collective breaths until the first opponent hit and remarking, “not tonight,” unless you have lived and breathed it. Even then it is difficult to grasp, but it has forever been a part of being a fan of the Mets.
The top of the eighth inning flew by as I was perched on the edge of my couch and leaping up each time the ball was hit. Oh my God! Three more outs! This could actually happen! To lead off the ninth, Matt Holliday hit a blooper that, off the bat, seemed destined to find a patch of grass, but in raced Andres Torres and the ball found some leather instead. One Out! Two to go! The excitement was palpable. Allen Craig also hit a blooper that for a split second caused my heart to sink until Nieuwenhuis came racing in to make the grab. ONE MORE!
But the one was World Series MVP David Freese and Johan seemed to be some combination of nervous and tired as he quickly fell behind 3-0. I was thinking, maybe they would be better off walking him. But then I remembered that Met killer and all around foe Yadier Molina awaited in the on deck circle, so let’s get this guy. Johan’s 134th pitch of the night was a 3-2 changeup that Freese swung over for the final out. “IT HAS HAPPENED!” Gary Cohen declared. I was utterly speechless and overcome with emotion. Chaos was occurring inside as I wanted to share the moment with my father. I hoped that somewhere he was able to watch and enjoy what felt like a championship victory. Sure it was just a no-hitter and there are no-hitters pitched every year, but this was our no-hitter. It was our first and it took until season number 51, but it was oh so sweet. It was our Holy Grail and Johan Santana had achieved the impossible.