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SportsColumnistsAnthony Rieber

Wilmer Flores' tears turned into a magic moment

Wilmer Flores of the New York Mets in

Wilmer Flores of the New York Mets in the dugout in the ninth inning duirng the game against the San Diego Padres at Citi Field on July 29, 2015. Credit: Getty Images

Terry Collins opened his July 29 postgame news conference at Citi Field with one of his most entertaining riffs of the season. It involved Wilmer Flores.

Collins said he had this exchange in the dugout during the game when "someone'' told him Wilmer Flores was crying while playing shortstop.

Collins: "Wilmer's crying? Why?''

Someone: "He's been traded!''

Collins: "To who? For what?''

Among the memorable moments in this remarkable Mets season, it's hard to top the night we all learned there is crying in baseball. It also was the night Flores became a folk hero in Flushing and beyond.

It was two days before the non-waiver trade deadline. Reports surfaced on social media during the game against San Diego that the Mets had agreed to trade Flores and injured pitcher Zack Wheeler to the Brewers for centerfielder Carlos Gomez.

Usually, when a trade is consummated but not announced, the players involved are pulled from the game lest they get hurt. Physically, that is. It's only been in the last few years that the emotional hurt has to be factored in because everyone in the ballpark can see what is happening on Twitter in real time.

Flores was told by fans near the Mets' dugout that he had been traded to the Brewers. It's not that Flores has anything against beer, brats, cheese or the polka. But he had been a member of the Mets' organization since signing as a 16-year-old in 2007 and didn't want to leave just when the team appeared to be getting good.

So he cried. On the field. For a while. It was a huge part of the TV broadcast, as people began to criticize the Mets for not removing Flores from the game.

"During the game, I heard I was getting traded and got all emotional,'' Flores said.

Collins finally did remove Flores for a pinch hitter in the ninth inning of the 7-3 loss to the Padres.

But then a funny thing happened on the way to Milwaukee . . .

"When I came in, they told me there was no trade,'' Flores said.

Turns out the Mets and Brewers had agreed to the trade pending the exchange of medical reports, which is standard practice. The Mets backed out because of concerns about a hip condition affecting Gomez (he later was traded to Houston and hit a home run in the Astros' 3-0 win over the Yankees in the AL wild-card game on Tuesday night).

If the story ended there, it certainly would have been interesting. But fans at Citi Field began serenading Flores with chants of "Wil-mer Flor-es'' during his at-bats on July 29 and kept it up the next day after the trade was scuttled.

It only grew from there.

Two nights later, Flores hit a walk-off home run in the 12th inning to give the Mets a 2-1 victory in the opener of an important series against the Nationals. Coming hours after the deadline acquisition of Yoenis Cespedes from the Tigers, the victory moved the Mets to within two games of Washington in the NL East.

Flores was a cult hero. He was serenaded in Queens and when the Mets went on the road. It took weeks to die down. But the good feelings around the Mets did not die down as they swept the Nationals after Flores' walk-off homer and never looked back.

"I don't know if it was the No. 1 [moment],'' Collins said on the final day of the regular season. "I think it was a huge piece of what this whole season was about. To have him come back two days later to hit the home run right after that was a huge point in this season. But there's been so many things that you can turn to as keys, and that was one of them.

"I mean, it got our fans really on our side. They saw that these guys are not robots. That they have human emotions and they express them. And he became 'The Guy,' one of the faces of this team and what we're all about.

"I think it was big for everybody, including Wilmer, to show the fans that, 'Hey, look, we have people who want to play here, and be here, and be a part of this whole thing.' I think it got everybody on the same page -- the fans along with the players.''

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