Former Lion helps Mets pitcher earn no-hitter
As any New York sports fan already knows, Mets pitcher Johan Santana threw the first no-hitter in team history Friday night, breaking a streak of 8,020 games for a franchise often characterized by its celebrated hurlers. The shutdown performance would have been for naught, though, without a spectacular catch by former Lion and Queens native Mike Baxter in the 7th inning that kept a zero in the Cardinals hit column.
Baxter sacrificed his body running full speed into the wall just after the line drive fell into his mitt, injuring his shoulder in the process, but still managed to hold onto the ball as he fell to his back in pain, surely earning a place among the heroic catches in Mets history. Baxter joined the Mets major-league roster last August after being claimed off waivers, and has placed a key role so far this season with left-fielder Jason Bay on the disabled list. He played for Columbia his freshman year before transferring to Vanderbilt.
In just one year with the Lions, Baxter made a lasting impression on a program that has existed for over a hundred. His .368 average puts him fifth all-time in career marks, and the 56 hits he compiled are tied for the 10th most any Columbian has managed in a single season. He also became the first player in program history to be named a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American.
When he wasn’t punishing the Ivy’s best arms up at Baker, Baxter cherished his time 100 blocks south on campus.
“I loved it,” he said. “My time there was incredible. I was living in John Jay my freshman year, taking Lit Hum and all the classes—I really, really valued my time there, and I would recommend it to anyone to go.”
Ron Darling, one name on the long list of great Mets pitchers who never through a no-hitter for the team (and a former Yale Bulldog) had this to say about Baxter:
“Every time he comes up—and this doesn’t happen very often for me in my job now—I’m hoping he gets a hit, and I have never really felt that way before. But when you see a kid that comes from practically running distance from this ballpark and has a chance to live his dream, I think it’s such a great story. He’s such a nice person, and he’s got that nice swagger and toughness of a kid from Queens.”
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