By Mark Grote–
(CBS) It was the most important catch the Cubs’ Mike Baxter has ever made in his baseball career and the most painful one, too.
“There was a process of regaining strength at the end of that season,” Baxter said. “This one was different, because it was kind of unique for baseball.”
It was June 1, 2012, when Baxter was playing left field for his hometown team, the New York Mets, in a game against the St. Louis Cardinals. Baxter made a turning, twisting, wall-crashing catch on a Yadier Molina drive in the seventh inning.
It just happened to be the defining defensive play in Johan Santana’s no-hitter that day, the first no-no in Mets history.
Baxter suffered a separated collarbone and fractured rib cartilage from the impact with the wall, and he would spend the next two months of the season on the disabled list because of it.
“More importantly, thankfully, Johan finished it off, or we wouldn’t be talking about it,” Baxter remembered this week, as the Cubs visited the Mets for a three-game series.
Santana was immediately appreciative, according to Baxter.
“He ran back into the clubhouse at the end of that half of the seventh inning, and I was already in the training room,” Baxter said. “He was like, ‘Thank you! Thank you! That was awesome!’”
While Santana was in the clubhouse, the Mets fans at Citi Field grew suspicious, Baxter said.
“He was actually a little bit late to out on the deck in the bottom of the seventh, and his pitch count was high,” Baxter said, referring to how Santana finished with 134 pitches. “And people were like, ‘What’s (Mets manager) Terry (Collins) going to do?!’”
Santana would emerge with a bat much to the relief of the crowd, and Baxter was never more impressed with a teammate than he was at that moment.
“He’s an excellent guy and an awesome teammate,” Baxter said.
But Santana has never been the same pitcher since that historic day. He re-tore his shoulder capsule early in 2013, blew out his Achilles tendon in 2014 and is currently attempting a comeback under a minor league contract with the Toronto Blue Jays.
As for Baxter, he’s been greeted with smiles and “feel-good” attention from media and fans this week during the Cubs’ stop at Citi Field.
“There was some buzz after the no-hitter, being a part of it and me being a local,” Baxter said. “But generally, I can walk around the city pretty freely.”
Mark Grote is the Cubs pregame and postgame host on WBBM. Follow him on Twitter @markgrotesports.