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Bat Men


I’d been eager for a view of Sahlen Field, the highest-capacity Triple-A park in the U.S., which a generation ago was talked up as a ready-made big-league park for expansion. (It was also the first park built by the now-ubiquitous HOK, since renamed Populous.) Expansion never happened, but Sahlen is now a big-league park as the temporary home of the COVID-relocated Toronto Blue Jays.

Sahlen Field has a tangential link to the Mets, having been home to their Triple-A affiliate from 2009 through 2012. I don’t recall them ever playing an exhibition game there, not that it would have been televised in a summer in less desperate need of novelty than this one.

I didn’t get my view of Sahlen for a simple reason: I was driving. Friday was the day my kid restarted school in Massachusetts, complete with mandatory COVID test, lots and lots of health-awareness signs and a two-week quarantine to kick things off. We’ll see how that goes; for now, I spent the day hauling boxes out of storage and helping set up a dorm room. Driving back, I forgot the schedule and so tuned in to find the Mets down 1-0.

Typical, I thought, trying to remember which bad starting pitcher to invoke as lead-in to being mad at Brodie Van Wagenen and the Wilpons, father and failson.

But no, that run had actually been given up by Jacob deGrom [1], it was the top of the third, and the Mets were trying to make up the difference. Which they did within minutes, thanks to a drive to center from Michael Conforto [2]. That made it 3-1, often enough for deGrom to perform his magic in relative safety, but the Blue Jays had arrived with their gloves on the wrong hands, and promptly gifted the Mets another run.

Next inning came the deluge — a 10-run inning, highlighted by Dominic Smith [3]‘s grand slam, more Blue Jays fielding malfeasance, and a parade of hits. After that the only questions were if deGrom would be bothered by the half-hour breaks (no) or if a Blue Jay would actually injure himself not fielding a ball (also no, though it was a near thing).

Oh, and Erasmo Ramirez [4] came in with a 15-run 13-run lead and recorded a save, because baseball. (It was just barely the most ridiculous such save of the week — the Braves’ Bryse Wilson [5] came in with a 14-run lead on Wednesday and got one too.)

Before I moved to New York I drove fairly regularly, and baseball was always a welcome companion in the car, at least when radio reception allowed it to be one in the pre-digital era. (I used to spend weekend afternoons parked on the Virginia side of the Potomac River because I’d discovered that the water boosted WFAN’s signal enough to be heard during the day in D.C.) But of course you’re dependent on what kind of game you’re getting. I’ve driven through sloggy games in which the Mets can’t get out of their own way, and the effect can be to make you feel even more confined, like a Watchmen outtake in which it’s not clear who’s locked in with whom.

This was the opposite: I was late reporting for duty, the Mets apparently had been politely waiting for me, and once I arrived they delivered a (nighttime) daydream of insta-offense [6]. Seriously, the 10-run inning began shortly before I pulled into a Sonic Drive-In and was still going on when I finished my burger and departed, and I realized with a start that Dom Smith’s grand slam had been part of that same doomed Blue Jays quest to get three outs, and not something that had happened during some previous hour or week.

It’s not always going to be like that, of course — you take your laughers when you can get them, and exponential laughers like Friday’s are strange visitations from the baseball gods that can only be marveled at. But as driving companions, I’ll take 18 runs and an almost-complete absence of peril any night the Mets feel like delivering those things. The miles shrank as the runs mounted; if only it were always so.

Though seriously guys — wouldn’t it have been better to score 18 runs behind one of the bad pitchers?