Having grown up in Whitestone as a Mets fan, Mike Baxter knows probably better than anyone else on the club just how much it meant for the franchise to finally get a no-hitter Friday night. Surely, no one felt it more Saturday.
Baxter's daredevil catch before running into the leftfield wall helped preserve Johan Santana's historic no-hitter, but it also cost Baxter a big chunk of his productive season. Doctors told him he will miss the next six weeks because of the injuries from that play: a displaced right collarbone next to the sternum and fractured rib cartilage.
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"It's always tough to get hurt, especially the way the team was playing, more so the way I was playing," the 27-year-old outfielder said. "It's just so much fun to be a part of what's going on right now. To watch what R.A. [Dickey] was doing out there today, you just want to be out there in any capacity. You do have to realize that sometimes these things happen in baseball. I'll be fine. I'll try to get ready to help."
He had been more helpful than the Mets had imagined when they claimed him off waivers from the Padres last July 22 after he came off a thumb injury. Baxter is batting .323 with 10 runs batted in through only 65 at-bats. Through his play and his work, he forced his way on to the team as a pinch hitter, then forced his way into the lineup frequently. Last week, Terry Collins said, "Mike Baxter has been truly amazing."
Baxter's teammates, including Santana, used similar superlatives after his catch on a liner to left by Yadier Molina on Friday night. Highlights of the no-hitter included the scene: He was moving rapidly as he approached the fence. He was able to turn a little but could not brace himself.
"I knew I got it good," Baxter said. "I think watching the replay kind of helped us figure out what happened, what part of my body hit the wall first and how that corresponded throughout the rest of my chest. I think that gave us answers to what is physiologically wrong."
He still was in pain Saturday, with tightness in his back and chest. Doctors told him it could have been worse, but he knows the next six weeks will seem like a long time.
"Now my job is to heal and be ready for any capacity they want me in down the road," he said.
A Queens guy knows how long 50 years seemed before that first no-hitter -- and how good it was to help end that drought.
"It was a huge night," he said. "Everybody in the clubhouse was just thrilled to be a part of it. As a fan, I was excited, and as a teammate I was even happier. I think it means a lot. For whatever reason, it was a story for the Mets for a long time. And now it's not."