Sports

There Is Crying in Baseball, After All

Wilmer Flores
Wilmer Flores (Photo by Jim Mancari)

 

Baseball movie aficionados of course remember the scene from “A League of Their Own.”

Rockford Peaches’ right fielder Evelyn Gardner throws a ball home when the team has a two-run lead, which eventually leads to the tying run to score. When she gets back to the dugout, manager Jimmy Dugan, played by Tom Hanks, is waiting and not happy.

When Gardner begins to cry, Dugan utters the famous phrase: “There’s no crying in baseball!”

Surely, this scene was Hollywood at its best. The team rallied around that moment and made it all the way to the World Series.

If you’ve followed this sports column over the last few years, you’ve likely figured out two things about me: I love baseball, and I love the New York Mets.

And I don’t just love the Mets. I LOVE the Mets! Cut me open, and I bleed orange and blue.

To give some examples, when the team lost to the New York Yankees – the Evil Empire – in the 2000 Subway Series World Series, I begged not to go to school the next day.

In 2006 when what appeared to be a team of destiny was eliminated by the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series, I literally went into hiding for several days.

So a few weeks ago right around baseball’s trade deadline, that scene from “A League of Their Own” took on a whole new meaning for me.

During the July 29 Mets game, rumors began to swirl in the middle innings that the team was about to acquire star Milwaukee Brewers’ center fielder Carlos Gómez. In return, the Mets would send talented pitching prospect Zack Wheeler and infielder Wilmer Flores to the Brewers.

Wheeler had been on the disabled list since the start of the season, but Flores had been a key contributor to the Mets’ season. But also, Flores had been with the organization since signing as an amateur free agent in 2007 at the age of 16.

Bleeds Orange and Blue

 

Like myself and probably on a much bigger scale, Flores bleeds orange and blue.

In the top of the eighth inning of that game – when it seemed like the entire stadium knew the trade would be happening – Flores must have found out somehow, since he could then be seen visibly crying on the field.

Of course, the TV cameras zoomed right in on this 23-year-old man, whose world was about to be turned upside down. It’s difficult for any player to deal with a trade but especially one who has only known a single organization for his entire professional career.

But hold on just one second. After the game, Mets’ manager Terry Collins was perplexed, since he had spoken with general manager Sandy Alderson who said the trade was off. Wheeler and Flores would remain with the Mets.

Newspaper headlines all over the nation ran with the phrase: “There’s no crying in baseball!” But just like in the movie, the way the team has responded to the moment has the makings of a Hollywood script.

Since that night, the Mets have been on fire and playing meaningful baseball this late in a season for the first time in what seems like an eternity. The games are fun to watch, and – fingers crossed – I hope there are plenty more fun games ahead in the near future.

A Second Chance

 

In the aftermath of the crying incident, Flores has become some sort of a folk hero both at home and on the road, getting huge ovations whenever he comes to the plate. And he has certainly made the most of what seems like a second chance.

His walk-off home run on July 31 in the 12th inning against the division-rival Washington Nationals sent goosebumps down the spine of baseball diehards everywhere.

How quickly tears of despair evolved into tears of joy.

“I thank God. I just love being in New York,” Flores told SNY when being interviewed after the win.

Well Wilmer, we love having you! We love having a guy that is so passionate about being a New York Met that he is willing to endure the brunt of humiliation experienced after cameras captured him crying on the field during a game.

With the acquisitions of veterans Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson and the emergence of Ruben Tejada, Flores has seen his playing time diminish slightly as the Mets gear up for a playoff push. But there’s no doubt that he will again be called upon down the stretch.

The conclusion of this fairy-tale season for Flores has yet to be written.

We all know that the good Lord is a baseball fan, but seeing how this saga has played out the last few weeks, all signs would indicate that God is also a Mets’ fan.

There is still plenty of season to go, and as Mets’ fans know from 2007, no lead in the division is safe until the team has clinched and the champagne bottles have been popped.

But let’s hope a few more big moments from Flores – and some divine intervention – are waiting on the horizon.

Because if there truly is crying in baseball, boy do I hope to be shedding some tears of joy in late October.


Contact Jim Mancari via email at jmmanc@gmail.com.

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