June 1st, 2012 was a magical night for Mets fans, as we watched Johan Santana throw the first no-hitter in franchise history, something we’ve been waiting a long time for; it took the Amazins 50 years and 8,020 games to accomplish, but hey, better late than never. With baseball being America’s favorite pastime, we have turned to the game time and time again to give us comfort in times of need, with Mike Piazza‘s emotional home run after the terror attacks of 9/11 a prime example. For me, Johan’s no-hitter couldn’t have come at a more perfect time.
At that point in the season, the Mets were one of the most pleasant surprises in baseball, exciting us with a 28-23 record. Through the first two months of the season, Johan had showed no ill signs from the injury he spent all of 2011 rehabbing from, and was forming a lethal one-two punch with R.A. Dickey.
With my work schedule and other commitments, I’m usually busy while the Mets are playing, but I’m still able to catch chunks of just about every game. However, on June 1st, I was sitting on my couch at home in Upstate New York to watch the Mets take on the Cardinals with my Mom. While this is normally a perk for me when I visit home for the weekend, I was there for an unfortunate reason; my grandfather had passed away the day before, and we were headed down to southern New Jersey to pay our last respects to a wonderful man.
June 1, 2012; Flushing, NY, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Johan Santana (57) reacts after throwing the first no-hitter in Mets history against the St. Louis Cardinals at Citi Field. Mets won 8-0. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE
From the time I heard the sad news that Thursday morning until I got home the next day, I had a whirlwind of emotions. My family and I all knew this day was coming, but that never helps take the sting out when it becomes a reality. I always enjoy coming home, but words can’t describe how nice it was to be with my family the night before our trip to New Jersey. I was looking forward to the game that night to take my mind off of everything, and I already knew it’d be fun to watch because Johan was on the mound.
As my mother and I watched each inning unfold, we saw Santana get himself into jams, but escape them without allowing a hit. Getting into the 5th and 6th inning, I had noticed he had kept the Cardinals hitless, but also noticed his elevated pitch count and wondered what would happen if this continued. With the game progressing into the 7th and 8th, my mother and I began to squirm with every pitch, hoping and praying that tonight wouldn’t be like all the other nights when it came to the Mets and no-hitters. When Mike Baxter made that tremendous play running into the left field wall, we just gave each other a look, as saying a word was unnecessary.
Once Matt Holliday lined out to Andres Torres to start the top of the 9th, Mom had turned to me and said, “He’s going to do it tonight! This is it.” I could only muster a look of what could only look like pure nerves as my leg continued to shake. Allen Craig was up next, and another line out, which almost gave me a heart attack. So, two outs, and history staring Santana in the face with who else, but last year’s NLCS and World Series MVP, David Freese. As the count ran full, we almost couldn’t contain ourselves in the family room, and then erupted with the rest of the stadium as he swung through Santana’s patented change-up, throwing everyone into a frenzy.
I kept myself as composed as possible, but with all the emotions of the last 48 hours, I couldn’t help but shed a few quiet tears as I watched the Mets jump on Johan liked they had won the World Series. It was a very special moment to watch, and it was fitting that I was able to watch it at home with my mother, something I had done countless times every summer as a kid.
Baseball has always been an escape for me; whether it was me playing or watching others, for that two or three hour period, nothing else ever mattered. While I was grieving the loss of a loved one, Johan Santana not only helped me forget about it for two and a half hours, but he made me smile. He brought tears to my eyes, but they were tears of joy. Then, a small flurry of texts came to my phone from close friends, once again making me emotional, but truly grateful that so many people had thought of me after that last out was recorded.
Working for Rising Apple, it was my job to recap the game, and while I couldn’t wait to sit down at my computer to write about one of the most memorable games in Mets history, I was completely speechless as I stared at my blank screen. I knew what happened, I watched the entire thing, but I was in such disbelief that I needed a few more minutes to bring coherent thoughts to my mind.
This sport is so wonderful in countless ways, but helping bring people joy and smiles at their most vulnerable times is its best attribute. I waited until now to put my feelings about this night on paper because it took me until now to process all of the events from that week, and how it seemed like fate that the Mets would comfort me in the best way they could when I needed it most. I’ve learned many times to never underestimate the power of sport and how it can affect people, but this was the one of the most profound direct experiences I’ve ever had, and one that I will never forget.