Earlier this week I made the recommendation that Met fans should root for the Baltimore Orioles in the playoffs this season. Part of the reason was that the O’s sport not one but two former Amazin’s on roster: the human ice cream cone, Endy Chavez, and Mr. Q, Omar Quintanilla. While Omar only played 29 games for the Mets and was gone by the All-Star Break, he played his part to help the team stay afloat. He was dependable, if not always flashy. But for one night, at least, he was flashy as they come. Omar Quintanilla, this was your Glory Day.
Dateline: May 29, 2012. The 27-22 Mets are looking to rebound after opening a home series against the Phillies with a loss. May injuries to Ruben Tejada, Justin Turner, and Ronny Cedeno had decimated the New York infield, so Terry Collins had no choice but dig deep down on the farm. What he dug up was a 30-year-old career .213 hitter who had not seen meaningful major league action since 2009. So stationed at shortstop and hitting in the 8-hole on that Wednesday night was New York’s first-ever player with a last name starting with Q.
Fans looking for a great pitcher’s duel between Jeremy Hefner and Joe Blanton were disappointed early: Hefner let in a run each in the 1st and 2nd, while David Wright and Ike Davis drove in runs in the 1st for the home team. Quintanilla led off the 2nd for the Mets, and on Blanton’s second pitch, he blasted one deep to left center field, narrowly missing a home run but ending up on second base with a surprising double. After Hefner sac-bunted Omar to third, Mike Baxter drove him in with a double up the middle. New York was up again, and this time for good. But Mr. Q’s day was just getting started.
Quintanilla struck out in the 4th but the Mets got a run on a rare Jeremy Hefner solo homer. Then it was deja-vu in the 6th when, on Blanton’s second pitch, Omar laced a line drive to the old Jose Reyes corner in right field, ending up on second with another twin-bagger. His remaining trip around the bases was much more relaxing: Scott Hairston pinch-hit for Hefner and drove one deep into the Flushing night.
Omar padded his stats in the 8th with a line drive single, and after a relatively clean 9th inning from Frank Francisco, the boys from New York had a 6-3 win. A Citi Field crowd of 25,487 were there for Quintanilla’s career night: 3-4, 2 2B, 2 R. The next morning on Baseball-Reference.com, you would have found him with a batting average of .750 and a 2.000 OPS (sure it was one game, but it still makes a cool screenshot).
After his magical night, I labeled Quintanilla as a microcosm of everything that was going right with the Mets under Terry Collins and Sandy Alderson. While things fell apart after the All-Star Break (could it have been his departure?), I still stand by those words. And while he was never as spectacular as he was on opening night, he was on roster for one of the more remarkable weeks in New York Mets history: Friday was the no-hitter, Saturday was the start of R.A. Dickey’s magical June, and Sunday night was John Franco Night and Jon Niese’s masterpiece against St. Louis. Mr. Q was there for all of it.
May 29. A good day for Roy Halladay in 2010 (pitched the 20th perfect game in history) and little brothers everywhere in 1976 (younger Joe Niekro outduels and homers against the elder Phil in an Astros victory over the Braves). Also a good day for Christmas music fanatics in 1942 (Bing Crosby records the best-selling version of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas”). A bad day for Kendrys Morales in 2010 (broke his ankle celebrating a walk-off grand slam; he wouldn’t play again until 2012) and the Byzantine Empire in 1453 (the Ottomans conquer Constantinople, toppling the centuries-old political entity formerly known as the Eastern Roman Empire). A great day for Omar Quintanilla in 2012.