Author’s Note: In recognition of the N.Y. Mets acquiring Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco today in exchange for Amed Rosario, Andres Gimenez, Josh Wulf, and Isaiah Greene, here we reprint an excerpt from “Six More Wins: A Team, A Town, and a Rebound,” which chronicled the 2014 Eastern League Championship season of the Binghamton Mets (now the Binghamton Rumble Ponies). The following excerpt is from an April 5, 2014 game between Akron and Binghamton.
By Jim Maggiore
On Saturday the sun did not make an appearance, but neither did rain or snow, so the weather was good enough for the Mets and RubberDucks to get in two games. The B-Mets beat the Akron RubberDucks, 6-3, in the first game, but lost the second, 3-0, giving them a 1-2 record at the season’s start. But the scores of the game are insignificant; this day turns out to be the Francisco Lindor show as the 20-year-old shortstop shows why he is the top-rated prospect for the Indians and ranked the #13 overall prospect in baseball by Major League Baseball. On a day that saw the temperature sitting at 39 degrees in the second inning of the first game, Lindor had the congregation shouting his name in appreciation mid-way through the second game.
In the first game, Lindor hit a two-run homer and in the nightcap he went 2-4, giving him a three-for-eight day with two RBIs, a homer and a run scored, not to mention a .385 batting average to start the season. Lindor’s hitting, however, was not what was most memorable about his day. It was his defensive wizardry in the second game that put an exclamation point on his prospect status. In the bottom of the second, with one out and outfielder Travis Taijeron on first, second baseman Matt Reynolds hit a ground ball up the middle that had Binghamton fans thinking runners on first and third, but Lindor had other ideas. He ranged far to his left, dove behind second, snared the ball and then, with Taijeron bearing down on Akron second baseman Joe Wendle, Lindor somehow managed to flip the ball to Wendle from his glove to get a force out.
Respectful applause concluded this play on an April day that imitated a Saturday afternoon closer to February 5th than April 5th. In the bottom of the sixth, Lindor gave an encore performance, surpassing his earlier fielding gem. Brian Burgamy, the Mets’ first baseman, led off the inning with a hard ground ball up the middle and once again, Lindor was off and running. When he was behind second, Lindor stretched to his limit, gloved the ball, and, as his momentum carried him to right field, he turned and threw to first, nailing Burgamy. As the applause rippled through the stadium, Lindor trotted back to short, letting a small smile ruin his stoic face. His play led to a 1-2-3 inning for the RubberDucks and the Mets could not be blamed for thinking it’s hard to come back when anything hit up the middle turns into a 6-3 putout!
Dave Wilson, the play-by-play announcer for the RubberDucks, became an immediate believer in Lindor’s ability almost as soon as he saw him play.
“Every day you see him play, he brings to the table that he may show you something you have never seen before,” gushed Wilson in an interview with B-Mets announcer Tim Heiman. “He has the mindset that there is no ball he cannot get to; it’s unfair to compare him to the all-time greats, but you see him up the middle and you think of Ozzie Smith or Dave Concepcion.”
When Lindor came up to hit in the seventh, shouts of “Way to go Francisco” were heard from about a dozen fans sitting behind home. If one didn’t know better, one would have thought the Francisco Lindor fan club was visiting NYSEG Stadium.
Lindor’s sense of humor and accommodating nature were evident after the game as his post-game actions might have even outshone his accomplishments on the diamond. For starters, when he entered the dugout after the win, he remained in the corner of the dugout and signed autographs for the twenty or so fans gathered at the corner. One seventy-five year-old fan even climbed over three rows of seats and scrambled onto the dugout roof so he could hand a card to Lindor to sign!
Sure enough, about 45 minutes later, when Lindor popped out of the visitor’s clubhouse, he had an encore performance. As a dozen or so fans approached him, he turned from the clubhouse door, broke into a semi-sprint, ducking behind three or four of his teammates. He looked like a running back looking for a hole in the line of scrimmage.
The autograph hounds stopped in their tracks, thinking Lindor had had enough of them for one day. Almost as soon as he started to run, however, Lindor stopped and walked back to his fans with a big smile on his face. One by one, the fans formed a line for Lindor’s autograph. Francisco smiled and signed everything put in front of him. When someone asked him what he thought of his fans yelling out his name in encouragement, he said “I loved it!”
Encouraged by his acknowledgement, the fans continued to engage in small conversation.
“Nice game today, Francisco!”
“What did you enjoy more, hitting a homer or making those fielding gems?”
Lindor’s lips formed a resplendent smile as he succinctly responded, “home run.” He walked with a bounce back to the bus, knowing he had put in an almost perfect day, both inside and outside the diamond’s white lines.