Update: Here’s video. (And a Febreze ad, oh boy.)
The Mets, as various wags noted, manage to lose twice by one run yesterday, dropping split-squad decisions to the Astros and Nationals. The team continues to maintain a huffy silence amid no shortage of evidence that its owners are in dire financial difficulty. Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez are still on the roster. Frankie Rodriguez’s ridiculous vesting option continues to hover out there as a grim inevitability. Oh, and now Carlos Beltran isn’t going to play for the next four or five days because of tendinitis in his left knee — the one that wasn’t surgically repaired.
But he’s fine. Really he is.
Uh-huh. We all know Carlos Beltran is about as fine as the Wilpons are financially stable.
It wasn’t the greatest day to be a Mets fan — and yet, I enjoyed my one dip into fandom rather thoroughly.
I was typing away in my office with the TV on behind me and one earbud plugged in, halfheartedly monitoring the game except when the earbud would pull free of my apparently misshapen ear canal. Every so often I’d pick it up off the floor to listen to an at-bat, or turn to see what was going on there down in Port St. Lucie, shaking my head at the sight of the Mets wearing their regular-season white uniforms and the stadium people pumping up the get-psyched music and canned taunts like the sunbirds were at little Citi Field. (Seriously — why? It’s March in the middle of an anonymous tract of Florida scrub. Wear the blue mesh tops and let some old biddy play a rinky-dink organ. Spring training doesn’t need to be such a freaking production.)
Anyway, it was late in the afternoon, time for nameless players with uniform numbers in the 90s to get their licks, when something caught my eye. It was a big kid with a quiet stance at the plate. He was somehow familiar and I fumbled for the earbud, trying to figure out who he was. My knowledge of Mets prospects is somewhat less than encyclopedic, but I was pretty sure I’d seen him before.
The kid put a perfect swing on a ball thrown by a National with the you-need-a-nickname-honey moniker of Atahualpa Severino. (I will now declare with some confidence that this is the lone player to share a name with our WordPress theme.) Balls fly out to left in Port St. Lucie anyway, but this one might have been out even without the jet stream. It was socked, and I applauded quietly but happily as No. Ninetysomething cruised around the bases trying not to look as happy as he was.
And then they identified him, and I remembered: It was Cory Vaughn.
Last summer Vaughn was the star slugger for the Brooklyn Cyclones, and Joshua and Emily and I saw him several times down on Coney Island — a big kid with a cannon arm and the kind of bat that produces a sound that makes you look up at the hot dog stand, asking “Who was that?”
Vaughn isn’t a can’t-miss prospect, largely because there’s too much swing-and-miss in his game. But there’s potential there, and the kind of pedigree (Greg Vaughn is his dad) that will ensure he gets every possible shot to climb the minor-league ladder.
Will Cory Vaughn patrol the outfield at Citi Field one day? I have no idea — he might not make the majors in any capacity. But not so long ago, he was warming up in the Coney Island outfield while kids from Bay Ridge and Mill Basin competed in dizzy-bat races in front of the dugouts. And yesterday, even if it was just because half the team was on a bus somewhere, there he was wearing a Mets uniform, putting a gorgeous swing on a ball and touching them all.
Such moments are the raw material of spring-training dreams and brief office reveries, and the antidote to thoughts about clawback suits and contract options and tendinitis. Thanks, kid — I needed that. We all did.