Saturday, August 1, 2015

Wilmer Flores Makes Me Proud To Be A Mets Fan

As a lifelong Mets fan living in a Yankees town you get used to taking grief from fellow sports fans. The Mets have a way of breaking their fans' hearts on a regular basis and causing frustration, depression and downright angst. However, when you're a true fan you stick with your team through all the misery with the hope that one day they'll turn it around and you'll finally taste victory.

Sports is a business, however, and players come and go. Generally they are looking out for themselves and are out for the biggest paycheck. The days of player loyalty to an organization are pretty much gone and, to be fair, I can understand the concept of looking out for number one. When you look at it from a fans perspective, however, it feels like betrayal when a player you've supported and cheered for leaves your team and suddenly changes allegiance to a new club and set of fans.

That's why a player like David Wright is a favorite among Mets fans. When he had the chance to leave the Mets for greener pastures (or at least a team with a winning record) he sat down with Mets management and declared that he wanted to stay a Met. He signed a contract that would keep him with the only professional organization he had ever been with through 2020 when he will be 37. He wanted to be part of the solution in helping make the Mets a winner instead of taking the easy way out and joining an already stacked team.

Then there's Wilmer Flores. While not yet a superstar like David Wright, Flores has been with the Mets organization since he was 16 years old and has yet to really establish himself as an everyday player. He's had a number of ups and downs this season as he's finally getting the chance to play everyday. Flores has been questioned by fans and has at times looked shaky in the field. Yet, the player has kept his mouth shut, never complained publicly and has continued to conduct himself like a professional and go out everyday and try to improve his game and help the Mets win.

Wilmer Flores is no longer an unknown ballplayer. That's not because he's suddenly become a superstar, it's because he showed something that is rarely seen in sports these days...real human emotion and loyalty.

With the trade deadline approaching and the Mets in need of a strong bat to keep any hope of making a playoff run alive, reports started circulating on reputable websites and then Twitter. It was reported that the Mets had traded pitcher Dan Wheeler and Flores to the Milwaukee Brewers in return for former Met Carlos Gomez. Even the MLB website had the story posted.

News of the trade spread and Flores was informed of the trade during a home game versus the Padres at Citi Field.  Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling discussed the trade during the broadcast and even questioned why Flores was still in the lineup after being traded.

As Flores went to play the field in the top of the 8th it was apparent that he had been crying. He did his best to wipe his eyes with his sleeve but he couldn't hide the fact that the news of the "trade" had come to his attention and it was obvious that he was not happy about it.

When Manager Terry Collins was alerted to the fact that Flores was upset and had been crying he had no idea why. When he asked why, he was told that Flores had been traded.

Collins response was, "To who? For what"

It was only after the game had ended that the real story emerged. Apparently a deal had been in place, but in the end it did not go through. In post game interviews General Manager Sandy Alderson made it clear that there was no trade.

Whatever the reason was, the trade never became official. Reporters had jumped the gun in reporting the story and social media had rapidly spread the news to fans. Everyone seemed to know that Wilmer Flores had been traded...except for the fact that he hadn't been.

After the dust had settled, Flores explained that he had become emotional as he did not want to leave the Mets organization. He had signed for the club when he was 16 and news that he would be moving on truly upset him.

Flores became a lead news story on sports shows and even the major television network news programs. He was lauded for showing human emotion that is rarely seen by professional athletes.

That was on Wednesday.

On Friday, the story took another turn and Wilmer Flores became a true cult hero.

After making a great play in the field, Flores received a standing ovation from the fans at Citi Field. The same happened every time he came to the plate and when he drove in the Mets first run with a single.

Then came the bottom of the 12th inning in a must win game versus the Mets' division rivals, the Washington Nationals. Hollywood could not even have scripted what happened next. Flores came to the plate and cracked a long game winning home run over the center field fence.

Flores was mobbed by his teammates, cheered by the fans and became a worldwide trending topic on Twitter.

In an age when all news seems to be horrible and tragic, it's great to see a feel good story fueled by true emotion being recognized and applauded. Thank you to Wilmer Flores for making us Mets fans proud. Your loyalty and commitment are inspirational and maybe that's what this team needs to FINALLY get a championship team for all of us loyal and committed Mets fans!

Let's Go Mets!

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