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Catching up with Endy Chavez, who has found a home in the Atlantic League

SHEA STADIUM, NY - THURSDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2006:

SHEA STADIUM, NY - THURSDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2006: Mets' leftfielder, Endy Chavez leaps up against the outfield wall to snag and catch a fly ball hit by Cardinals' Scott Rolen to save two runs in the 6th ining. New York Mets vs.the St. Louis Cardinals, Game 7, National League Championship Series. Newsday Photo / Kathy Kmonicek Credit: Newsday Staff/Kathy Kmonicek

Endy Chavez gets asked about “The Catch’’ every single day. And, really, how could he not? If Yadier Molina had not broken hearts with his ninth-inning home run in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS, Chavez might have been singlehandedly responsible for getting the Mets back to the World Series.

Chavez’s snow-cone catch in the top of the sixth inning robbed Scott Rolen of a home run and kept the score tied at 1. It ended up not mattering, but Chavez was that close to baseball sainthood in Queens.

And he still remembers every second of it.

“It’s [over] 11 years already and I remember like it was yesterday,” said Chavez, 40, a 13-year MLB veteran.

So do Mets fans. As fast as Rolen rocketed Oliver Perez’s pitch over the leftfield wall, Chavez was there to pull it back with a perfectly timed leap. He then doubled up Jim Edmonds at first base for an inning-ending double play as Perez and Carlos Delgado pumped their fists in excitement. Chavez jogged back to the dugout as Joe Buck asked, “Have you ever seen better?”

Nearly 12 years after slamming into the Shea Stadium wall and coming down with the ever-fragile and always temporary hopes of Mets fans everywhere, Chavez still is kicking around the game. He’s carved out a life in New Jersey, living in Emerson and playing for the Somerset Patriots of the independent Atlantic League.

The Patriots happen to be the chief rival of the Long Island Ducks, but Chavez hardly is the villain when he enters the visitors’ dugout at Bethpage Ballpark in Central Islip. He was there early last week.

“I feel a lot of love every time I come here to Long Island,” Chavez said. “All the fans say that they appreciate the things I did with the Mets. Even now, they scream that the Mets need me right now.”

Chavez, who is in his second season in the Atlantic League, entered Saturday hitting .260 with two home runs and 25 RBIs in 58 games.

Chavez played for the Mets from 2006-08, modern-day “glory years’’ for the franchise, even if they all ended in disappointment. The Mets were in the hunt in each of those seasons, winning 97 games in 2006 and being eliminated from playoff contention on the last day of the season in 2007 and 2008. He hit .306 in 133 games in 2006, one of only two seasons in which he hit over .300 and the only season that he hit over .300 and played in more than 83 games.

He hit .288 with six home runs and 71 RBIs in three seasons with the Mets. He also played for the Expos/Nationals, Mariners, Royals, Rangers, Phillies and Orioles.

Chavez, who was signed by the Mets as an amateur free agent in 1996, made his major-league debut with the Royals in 2001 and then played for Montreal from 2002-04. He played with Vladimir Guerrero, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame last weekend, in 2002 and 2003.

Chavez, who doesn’t keep in touch with Guerrero but does follow him on Instagram, said he was very proud to have played with the Hall of Famer.

“When I played with him, I was a rookie and he treated me pretty good,” Chavez said. “I had no complaints and I’m happy for him right now. To reach the Hall of Fame is a big step. It’s huge stuff, especially in Latin countries. I’m very proud to be next to him and to have worn the same uniform when I was coming up in my career.”

Chavez said Guerrero instilled a bulldog-type attitude in him.

“He never wanted to be out of the lineup if he was doing bad,” Chavez said. “He’d say, ‘I come to play baseball and that’s what I’m going to do. So nobody pull me out of the lineup.’ It’s a positive thing to see when you’re starting your career, watching guys like Vladdy doing stuff like that . . . He always played hard and that’s the way I learned to play, too.”

Now Chavez is imparting that kind of wisdom to his Somerset teammates. With a touch of gray in his beard and no real desire to stop playing anytime soon, Chavez is defying his age and still getting in the lineup, one catch at a time.

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