What Wilmer Flores Can Teach Our Children About Sports

by John Sucich
Originally Published: 

“There’s no crying in baseball!”

In the summer of 1992, when A League Of Their Own hit theaters, there might have been no bigger catchphrase.

Recently, 23 years after it was first made popular, the quote has had a bit of a rebirth…with a twist.

If you followed baseball at the trading deadline this year, you heard—and saw—the story of Wilmer Flores laid bare on TV and social media.

The infielder for the New York Mets was reportedly traded the Wednesday night before the deadline. He was part of a trade with Milwaukee that would bring a more talented player to New York to infuse the Mets with a much-needed offensive boost. Reports confirming the deal that night were all over Twitter, on the game broadcast, and eventually word spread through the crowd at Citi Field.

Flores, though, was still playing, and he got the message as the crowd gave him a standing ovation in what they thought would be his final at-bat in a Mets uniform.

Cameras showed the 23-year-old Flores taking his position at shortstop, wiping tears from his eyes and overcome with emotion at the thought of leaving the team that signed him as a 16-year-old from Venezuela, the teammates with whom he had great chemistry, and the fans who had just given him such a touching tribute.

It turned out the reports were premature. There was no deal. Wilmer Flores was still a member of the New York Mets. The Mets would end up getting the hitter they needed at the trading deadline, but the day came and went with Flores still on the team.

Not everyone is going to learn from the experience. Don’t expect members of the media to change their practices. The next big story that comes along, everyone will jump at the chance to report it first, and facts will be treated as accessories to the story that may or may not be necessary.

But maybe fans can look at those reports differently. Wilmer Flores wasn’t pouting. He wasn’t throwing a tantrum. He was upset after hearing some life-changing news he heard about in a less than ideal way. How many times has that happened to one of us? Who can’t relate to that?

And for all of the times we’ve seen ballplayers not look like they care about a strikeout or a loss that affects us as fans so much, isn’t it nice to see a player who cares? I think often about my aunt, seeing me upset about a football game I watched. “Do you think he cares about you?!” she asked me about the starting quarterback. She was right. I’m sure he didn’t. But maybe, if she asked me again about Wilmer Flores, I could answer differently.

So maybe there is crying in baseball. Just like maybe, sometimes, there’s crying in the office. It’s just that for Wilmer Flores his desk isn’t in a cubicle, but on a field in front of more than 30,000 people in attendance and hundreds of thousands more on video.

My daughters watched more than their fair share of baseball with me over the weekend. They saw over and over in the highlights that a professional baseball player cried. They didn’t care. Well, not in the way others in our culture might.

They didn’t think, “Men aren’t supposed to cry!” or, “Professional athletes are supposed to be tougher than that!” or even, “I thought Daddy was the only person affiliated with the Mets who cried!” They watched the highlights, asked what was wrong, and then didn’t bring it up again until Flores made an outstanding defensive play in that Friday night’s game. “That’s the first time in a while I’ve seen Flores smile,” said my 6-year-old.

Mets fans certainly responded well to Flores’s reaction. When he came to bat for the first time after the trading deadline, he was given another standing ovation. This time, the fans weren’t saying, “Good luck, thanks for being here.” It was, “We’re glad you’re here.”

How good must that have felt? How could that story get any better?

Oh, here’s how: he then hit an extra-inning, game-winning home run for the Mets.

It’s enough to bring tears of joy to my eyes.

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