AP Statistics, Josh Thole, and the 2012 Mets


The 2012 Mets, who went 74-88, will always be special to me.

June 5, 2012; Washington, D.C., USA; New York Mets catcher Josh Thole (30) at bat in the second inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. The Nationals defeated the Mets 7 – 6 in twelve innings. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

It was a weekday night, April 2012, the second or third week of the month. My AP Statistics review book was open on the couch. As I walked to turn off the TV so I could study, I saw that the Mets game was on. I didn’t think much of it then, but I’m still not sure why the game was on. Nobody in my family closely followed the Mets anymore.

Senioritis got the best of me that night, and I ended up watching the rest of the game instead of studying. I had never watched a complete baseball game on TV before—only an occasional West Coast game late at night. I knew some basics of baseball, but nothing more.

The only person I recognized on the team was David Wright, but after each at-bat, each mound visit, and each inning that April night, I became interested in learning more. I checked to see when the Mets would be playing again, and made an appointment with the Mets for the following night at 7:10 p.m. on SNY.

While eating breakfast the next morning, I turned to the MLB standings in the newspaper to see what the Mets’ record was. They’re tied for eighth place. I would soon learn what leagues and divisions were, and the fact that the Mets’ record compared to the other 29 teams didn’t matter.

In the car on the way to school, I asked my dad: “So, a pitcher’s ERA—the higher the better, right? What’s considered a good batting average? What does a batting average even mean? What’s a hit? And what’s a pitch hitter—just someone who hits instead of the pitcher? Oh, pinch hitter? Well, what’s that?”

During my free periods in school I went to the library, and researched all I could about the current team. I figured it was too boring to say David Wright was my favorite Mets player, and so I needed to pick someone different.

I chose Josh Thole. He was batting around .360 when I started following the team and he seemed like a nice guy. So, Josh Thole it was.

Each day I came home from school looking forward to that night’s game. And over the first few weeks I learned about sac flies, what a bullpen was (and the fact that we didn’t have a good one), and who the manager of the team was. I still did the homework I needed to do for school, but most of my attention was now diverted to the Mets.

After watching and learning for a few weeks, I was ready to go to Citi Field. I knew enough about the players and the game to appreciate a game at the ballpark. I had been to a few games at Shea when I was younger, but I absolutely hated it. I would whine and cry to leave after four innings. I couldn’t think of a more boring place in the world.

But on Friday, May 25, I wore my Josh Thole shirt that I had ordered, and was ready to go to my first baseball game at Citi Field. Walking around the ballpark, I knew the players on the advertisements and posters, and the videos on the scoreboard. I couldn’t believe I was seeing the 2012 live on the field in front of me. I even added the middle names all the players as the announcer went through the starting lineup before the game.

That night, the Mets beat the Padres, 6-1, and while leaving the ballpark I was already making plans to go back.

The following Friday, my plans to go to Citi fell through, and so I stayed home to watch. The pregame program emphasized the fact that Carlos Beltran—whoever that was—was returning to Citi Field that night with the Cardinals. Johan Santana was starting. But most importantly, Thole was back in the lineup after suffering a concussion.

I experienced the no-hitter differently than most Mets fans. For one, I didn’t know what a no-hitter was. I didn’t get nervous while watching the game, because I didn’t know what was at stake. By the sixth or seventh inning, I had learned what a no-hitter was, and became slightly more anxious.

In just a little more than a month of being a fan, I was able to experience something Mets fans had waited 50 years for. I’ll always remember the moment Thole ran toward Santana on the mound. The coverage of Santana went on for hours that night, and I watched every second of it. I realized baseball was something special.

The Mets ended the first half of 2012 with a 46-40 record. They were fun to watch, especially during their frequent two-out rallies. Wright was great—so were Daniel Murphy and Ruben Tejada. Even Kirk Nieuwenhuis was making a name for himself early in the season with his great defense. Remember when there was talk of him being Rookie of the Year?

But my favorite storyline of the year was R.A. Dickey.

There’s no way to write about Dickey’s 2012 without sounding like one big cliché, but that’s because clichés derive from truth and Dickey’s story of a journeyman hoping for success and finally achieving it, is 100% true. And to add another cliché—he was a class act. It was fun listening to his post-game interviews to see what SAT-level vocabulary words he would use when describing his night on the mound.

There was also another pretty good pitcher on the team that year.

Matt Harvey made his debut in Arizona in 2012, where Mets fans got a taste of “the future.” It was also the year I got a crash course in the minor league system. I learned what prospects were and why a new pitcher was joining the team halfway through the season.  That was the same series that Ike Davis hit three homers in one game after eating his mom’s matzo ball soup. He would end the year with 32 homers.

The Mets seemed to never win a game in July, August, or September, and I got another crash course in what the last few Mets’ second-halves had been like. But I didn’t devote three months to the team to just stop watching, and so I continued following.  The 2012 Mets had made me a diehard Mets fan, no matter what.

I came to love being at the ballpark with the atmosphere, the crowd, the vendors, the cheers, the scoreboards, and the players. I once got to the ballpark early and headed down to the first few rows of field level during batting practice to trying to get autographs. I saw Thole, yelled “Josh!” and got a response—a quick glance and a wave as he headed into the dugout.

The last special moment of the season was Dickey’s twentieth win. To end a season of beautiful post-game quotes, Dickey wrapped up his season with my favorite one:

“Growing up, you just want to compete, and then once you have the weaponry to compete, you want to be really good, and then when you’re really good, you want to be supernaturally good. For me, there’s been this steady metamorphosis from just surviving, to being a craftsman, and then, ultimately, the hope is to be an artist in what you do. This year is kind of representative of that for me.”

That off-season, Dickey and Thole, my two favorite players, were traded to the Blue Jays, ending a whirlwind of a season for me. I still wear my Josh Thole sweatshirt to games—I bought just a few days before he was traded. And though I get teased for it, and it may be considered a pathetic purchase, that sweatshirt represents the year I discovered baseball.

My discovery got my parents back into the game, and now my parents, brother, and sister go to as many games as we can. We’re ticket-plan holders and have traveled to see other teams play.

But my discovery of the game came just ten months after my grandpa, Da, passed away in 2011. Born a Dodgers fan, the Mets became Da’s favorite team, and Gil Hodges was always his favorite player. I would have loved to be able to talk baseball with Da, but I wear my Hodges jersey to games now, knowing it’s more than just another jersey.

Since 2012, I’ve tried to learn more about the Mets’ history, but there’s still a lot to learn. Just last year, I was offered an opportunity to interview Doc Gooden and John Franco through my internship at a local newspaper. I was also told I would be able to interview Edgardo Alfonzo. First thought: Who is Edgardo Alfonzo? A quick Wikipedia-perusal later, I learned Alfonzo was particularly clutch in the 1999 playoffs. I also learned the Mets were in the 1999 playoffs.

The 2012 season for the New York Mets was full of special moments, though not a good season overall. While still disappointed when the Mets go on losing streaks, I haven’t been waiting years for the team to be good again, and so my whole perception of the team is different as a whole.

Understandably grouped together with the other losing seasons over the past few years, the 2012 season will always be different for me. It made me a real Mets fan. And it all started when I didn’t feel like studying for AP Statistics.