While I know many will say that Johan Santana’s no-hitter, the first in New York Mets‘ history, was the greatest day that Citi Field has seen, I believe that R.A. Dickey getting his 20th win of the season in the last home game of the year yesterday against the Pittsburgh Pirates is leaps and bounds beyond Santana’s night.
When a fan goes to the ballpark, he doesn’t expect to see a no-hitter. The people at the stadium don’t get invested into that notion in a serious manner until it’s happening, and even then it really starts in about the 7th inning. Granted those last six to nine outs are intense and grueling, and the final result causes a sense of relief, pride, and satisfaction. But that’s 27 outs, 9 innings, one night, then it’s over.
20 wins is a season long journey. And Dickey took not only Mets fans, but the entire baseball world on it with him.
With the release of his book earlier this year, we learned of the struggles that he had as a child and an adult. He instantly became a feel good story. Not only was he overcoming his past, but he was showing people that they could overcome theirs as well.
With every interview I saw, I fell more and more in love with this man. And I know there are plenty of others out there, both men and women, who could say the same. Baseball aside, he has to be one of the nicest guys on the planet. Always humble, always appreciative, never complaining, never making excuses, he had everyone rooting for him.
And he climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro for crying out loud. I don’t even like to walk through the Kilimanjaro section of Disney World because it’s too hot, raining, or I’m getting dirt on my flip flops.
R.A.’s first half of the season was incredible. A 12-1 record, 2.40 ERA, 123 strikeouts, he was just untouchable, which is why his spot on the All Star Game roster was guaranteed. Although the Mets as a team collapsed tremendously in the second half, Dickey was the one reason to still believe in Mets baseball.
And it all led up to yesterday.
It was a weekday afternoon game. The morning had been rainy and dreary. The Mets season had long been over. And yet over 31,000 fans came to the stadium. The last time the Mets had over 31,000 fans at Citi Field was July 25, when Stephen Strausburg from the Washington Nationals was the opposing pitcher.
The excitement and the pressure of this game were palpable from the second you walked through the gates. All you could think was “My God, I hope the Mets win this for Dickey.” The crowd was loud for the first time in months. They cheered every move R.A. made. And he deserved it.
Besides a few mistakes, which led to three runs for Pittsburgh, Dickey was dominant, striking out 13 batters on the day. With each batter that went down, and the closer to the victory he got, you could feel your body becoming more and more ready to burst with excitement over the last out.
The Mets bats showed up yesterday. Ike Davis hit a solo shot to bring the Mets within one, David Wright hit a 3-run homerun to give the Mets the lead, and Daniel Murphy and Scott Hairston had RBI’s to add to the lead.
Which of course, in true Mets fashion, the bullpen would need.
Terry Collins pulled R.A. in the 7th, as he was already at 128 pitches. With one man on, Jon Rauch took what seemed like an eternity to walk to the mound and take over. I almost didn’t even want to watch. Rauch delivered the first pitch and a second later I heard the loudest crack of a bat ever. The ball was moving in slow motion as it made its way to the outfield. You could have heard a pin drop. The second the ball landed in the outfielder’s glove, 31,000 collective sighs of relief were breathed.
However, the 9th inning wouldn’t go so smoothly. Rauch walked the first batter, struck out the next, and then yielded a 2-run homerun to Alex Presley. This ball, unlike the one the inning before, seemed to move at the speed of reality. And as Mets fans were reminded of their bullpen woes, excitement turned to anger, and Rauch was made aware of how the fans felt as he walked off the field.
Bobby Parnell was then called upon for the two final outs. A groundout then a fly out, and it was finally over. Fans’ bodies released the tension as the exhilaration took over.
30,000+ were on their feet as the team celebrated the victory. And as he participated in a post-game interview on the field, chants of “Cy Young” and “R.A. Dickey” overpowered what R.A. was saying.
But you could see it in his eyes. The gratitude he had for both his teammates and the fans that helped him reach this mark was written all over his face.
I have been lucky enough to witness many games at Citi Field. Honestly, I have become somewhat jaded, as it takes a lot to make me feel any emotion at the stadium, no matter what the outcome of the game is. But this day was special. I was enthralled with every fiber of my being. Dickey brought out the young girl who would get excited about going to the ball park, who was sitting on the edge of her seat, who was looking around the stadium wide-eyed to see the reactions of the other fans, who was biting her nails until the last out was made.
And while all season long he has been thanking the fans, it is my turn to say thank you, R.A. Dickey, for reminding me why I fell in love with this sport to begin with.
There’s only one thing left to say: Cy Young.
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