livin’ the dream

April 11, 2008

You really couldn’t have asked for a better game tonight. Nelson Figueroa’s story is well-known to Mets fans by now–a born and raised Mets fan from Brooklyn, drafted by the team in 1995, hadn’t made a major league start since 2004, showed brilliance in Taiwan and Mexico and finally: finally, his very first start with the team he grew up loving, in front of a hundred of his family and friends (and a few thousand other people, give or take).

As the fog rolled in, WFAN’s Howie Rose conjured a lovely, appropriate image for this most improbable of nights: “It looks like a movie, or some kind of dream state.” Because as the fog invaded Shea, Figueroa shut down the Brewers, beginning the game by getting the first fourteen (fourteen!) batters he faced. His only missteps were identical ones in the fifth and sixth: a two-out walk followed by a double, accounting for the only two hits and runs the Brewers would get all night. He’d give up the ball to the bullpen, and it responded with three hitless innings by Joe Smith (just an amazing groundball machine; if not for a sloppy play by David Wright–again! Is Davey trying to sabotage Joey in a battle for my affection?!??! [a guy can dream], it would’ve been a perfect inning), Aaron Heilman (redeeming himself tonight after three consecutive eight inning appearances where he’d surrendered two runs), and Billy Wagner (earning his first save of the season). And thanks to yet another great offensive performance by Angel Pagan, as well as RBIs by Carlos Delgado, Damion Easley, and The Dream’s subplot Raul Casanova (Figgy’s “personal catcher,” and another fellow former draftee of the Mets finally back with the team), Figueroa’s dream becomes a reality.

This is something we as Mets fans–scratch that, as baseball fans, as sports fans, as humans–can admire. This hometown boy is one of us. He represents us. He is the living embodiment of our childhood fantasies. He’s worked hard, taken his lumps, never gave up and now finally he gets to live out his goal. To live out a dream all of us have had and most of us will never achieve. A boy just happy to put on his favorite team’s uniform went out and played like a man. The Man. The Dream.

This is why we love this game. This, my friends, is inspiration.

After the game, Figueroa would comment on the incredible situation he and Casanova were in tonight: “Future batteries of the past.” What a nice turn of phrase. Showing off that fancy Brandeis edumacation, eh Figgy? I hope he’s right. I could get used to seeing this guy every five days.

Now, I hope commenter and #1 Figgy Fan Hdarvick comes by and says “I told ya so.”