Yesterday, the daily chatter got kind of serious around baseball as many of us debated Cole Hamels throwing a pitch at Bryce Harper in Sunday night's game between the Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Nationals.
That led to arguments over such topics as whether intentionally throwing at batters was part of the game, what sort of retaliation was justified, how such actions should be disciplined by MLB and if the five-game suspension that Hamels was eventually handed was suitable punishment.
It was all so serious. (And it probably will continue to be for fans of the Phillies and Nats.) I don't know about you, but I was eager for some good ol' baseball to be played after all that uproar.
Then on Monday night, Jordany Valdespin reminded us why watching baseball can be so much fun.
The Phillies and New York Mets were tied 2-2 in the ninth inning when Mike Nickeas (subbing for Josh Thole, who was taken out after a collision at home plate) doubled off Jonathan Papelbon to put runners on second and third with two outs.
Mets manager Terry Collins sent in Valdespin, fresh off the plane from Class AAA Buffalo, to pinch-hit for reliever Tim Byrdak. On his second pitch, Papelbon hung a split-finger pitch down the middle and Valdespin smacked it into the right field seats for a three-run homer.
There couldn't have been a more unexpected hero. Several Mets reporters recalled Omir Santos' homer off Papelbon in 2009 at Fenway Park.
Valdespin (whose name sounds like a Harry Potter character) was called up from the minors earlier in the day to replace Ruben Tejada, who was placed on the disabled list with a quad strain. He hadn't made much of an impression in his first stint with the big league club, going hitless in his first six at bats.
Valdespin showed some pop in the minors, hitting 17 homers between Class AA and AAA last season. But breaking out the boomstick against an established closer like Papelbon was a shocker.
(Not getting any work for five days probably didn't help Papelbon, as Phillies manager Charlie Manuel continues to struggle with his new, big-money closer.)
Valdespin's jubilation as he circled the bases following his first major league home run washed away the bluster and outrage from earlier in the day over the Hamels-Harper incident. This was a pure moment of joy (well, maybe not for Phillies fans), the kind of moment every ballplayer surely dreams about experiencing.
Such a moment occurring against a division rival likely made it just a little sweeter.
At the risk of channeling Tim Kurkjian, isn't this the sort of thing that reminds us why we love baseball in the first place? You just never know who's going to be a hero.
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