The evening of July 29th, 2015, the New York Mets were hosting the San Diego Padres.
It was a night game in which we witnessed not only the Mets fall short of defeating the Padres at Citi Field, but also a game-changing, hero-making, team-shaping chain of events.
Speculating buzz surfaced via multiple sources on the Internet that the Mets and the Milwaukee Brewers were in trade talks. What started out as talks turned into a confirmed trade that would send SS Wilmer Flores and SP Zack Wheeler to the Brewers for CF Carlos Gomez.
With today’s technology and social media, news of this trade spread like wildfire. The fans cheered for Wilmer as if to thank him for what he has done and gave him a happy send-off.
Before long, even manager Terry Collins got wind of this in the dugout. In the middle of a baseball game, the players had the awkward experience of trying to discuss this with Flores.
Team Captain David Wright even brought Flores into the tunnel in an attempt to calm him down.
It was the bottom of the 7th inning that Wilmer came up to bat; a loud roar from the crowd greeted him. Flores grounded out to short. As he returned to the dugout, he received a standing ovation of appreciation from all the fans in attendance.
At that moment, the unfortunate truth of being traded from the only ball club you have ever known must have sunk in.
When Flores returned to the field in the 8th inning, his feelings were evident. He could no longer keep his emotions in check. We witnessed a unique moment in baseball, a humanizing moment for sports in general.
These athletes are put onto pedestals and held to a higher standard as if they were a different breed altogether.
To witness an instant when a player lets the world in on such a vulnerable moment is once in a lifetime. It may have been at this very moment that Wilmer Flores secured a special spot in the heart of every Mets fan.
Fast-forward to the post-game interview: looking out across the room, Flores pointed and said: “These guys are the reason I cried. I’ve been here with them every day. You spend more time with them than you do your family.” Flores said that he believed he’d “be a Met for life” after signing with the team at age 16.
When asked if he believed he’d been traded, Flores said that he’d been told there was no deal and until he is told otherwise he was going to show up to the ballpark to do his job. Alderson also apologized to Flores for the events of that emotional night.
The very next morning on July 30th, due to conflicting player medical reports, the trade was deemed dead.
Both sides pointed fingers at the other. Carlos Gomez’s hip was in question, as was Zack Wheeler’s arm after his recovery from Tommy John surgery.
The truth as to what really happened was never uncovered. Coincidentally, on July 31st, Carlos Gomez was traded to the Houston Astros without incident.
Two nights later and still a New York Met, Wilmer Flores came up to bat in the bottom of the 12th in a tie ballgame against the hated division rival Washington Nationals.
The count was one ball and one strike.
On the next pitch, Wilmer Flores launched a no-doubt, walk-off home run to deep left center field over the Party City deck for his 11th home run of the year.
The eruption of the crowd and his teammates was explosive; Citi Field shook the Earth that night.
This didn’t seem like baseball but something that could only have been scripted in the movies. The part of the hero to be played by a man who only a few nights before was thought to be leaving the team.
Yet there he was, coming through in such a clutch moment in a pivotal division game. There is a reason the Mets are called the Amazin’s and that was one right here.
“I’m so thankful that I am still here,’’ Flores told The Post in a post-game interview.
Fans began to support Wilmer when he showed how much he truly wanted to be a New York Met. When Flores delivered in that game, it just reaffirmed the connection.
Wilmer was batting .249 up to the “trade” debacle and batted .296 after it. It seems the fans have grown attached to Flores, a relationship that sprouted from an honest human moment.
It was a very surreal moment – uncharacteristic of major league athletes – that created this cult-like following that cheers his name from start to finish of every game.
Flores can strike out, get a hit, or make a play in the field, and he still receives an ovation from the Mets faithful.