My wife tends to ask me on a regular basis, "why do these games matter so much to you?" It has always been so very hard to explain. Tonight changes all of that. Johan Santana, a man who time and time again has been a bulldog and pitched his butt off for the Mets, did just that again tonight.
A no hitter, it is something that every Mets fan has talked about, wondered about, and couldn't imagine ever happening; unless it was against us. Tonight it did, and a wave of emotions flew over my body that I am unable to describe.
I'm 27 years old, I've been a Mets fan since the moment I was born. The Mets won the World Series when I was 2 and that's about all they've done in my lifetime. Yet, year after year I am that eternally hopeful fan, I always think that maybe this is the year, with a few breaks, the Mets will be in the race come September. They typically aren't and I'm typically attempting to bury my sorrows into the Jets, which doesn't help much either.
Tonight, as I do most nights, I was doing some homework and checking the updates on my phone. I saw that he had it going in the 5th, then the 6th, and then the 7th. I texted my father and I sat on my couch, with no intention of moving. Every out was heart wrenching, knowing we've been here before; Seaver, Gooden, Cone, Pedro, and Maine had all come so close. In the 8th he had some trouble but managed to wiggle his way out, of course I still had that flicker of doubt in the back of my mind. When he came out for the 9th, I felt something, I was calm. I've never been calm watching a Mets game in my life. Something felt right tonight, I imagine this is what Yankees fans feel like in October. When Holliday made contact and sent a flair to center, my heart jumped into my throat; after all of it, this is how the bid ends? Then Torres comes into the picture, racing as fast as he can, and he makes it look easy. Allen Craig did the same, a flair to left that Newsie managed to find a way to get to easily. He went to 3 - 0 on Freese, if he walks him, Molina is up next, and we all remember what happened in 2006, that's the last guy I want to see up in that moment. He battles back, gets the first strike, then the second; I'm near tears, then he gets him swinging!
This is what makes it so amazing to me; I didn't think about how I felt, I was excited, but I thought about my family; my uncles, my father, and my grandfather. My grandfather, a Brooklyn Dodgers fan growing up; heartbroken when they left after the 1957 season, adopted the Mets the moment they began play. My uncles and father followed his lead. The Mets have had some terrible seasons, none worse than their first in 1962. They've had some magical years as well, 1969 and 1986, but the no hitter had always eluded Mets pitchers. Seaver came the closest, in 1969, 1 out in the 9th and perfection on the line, he gave up a single Jimmy Qualls. Sever eventually went on to get a no hitter, only with the Reds in 1978. Nolan Ryan, a Met to begin his career, went elsewhere and got 7. Dwight Gooden, David Cone, and even Phil Humber all spent time within the Mets organization and got one. I can honestly say, I never thought it would happen, it just felt out of reach. Tonight changed that.
I called my father first, he was excited, but certainly the more reserved of the two of us. I followed this with a call to one of my uncles who was equally as excited as I was and he just kept saying, "We did it, buddy!" Lastly was a call to my grandfather; I have never heard this level of excitement in his voice about sports. He loves baseball and everything about it. He's a fan of other sports as well, however, like myself, baseball is the most important. The joy I have getting the opportunity to call him and talk about this game and this situation is what will forever make it important to me. Sharing this with the generations ahead of me, and my two young sons (2 and 4 months) when they get a bit older, is what makes it so special.
When my wife asks me in the future why sports mean so much to me, I finally think that I have an answer that makes sense. Sports are so important because of the bonds that I've developed within my family. The love of these games has created an instant connection and at the moment when something amazing happens, all you can think about is the ones you've had the opportunity to share it with. I love the New York Mets, I will forever be a fan, and tonight, that dedication was returned to me and my family. Thank you, Johan!