The Mammoth Shot
by Mike DeNero
Forty years from today, a sixty-seven year-old man will be at a family gathering in Bayamon, Puerto Rico (perhaps a grandson's birthday, perhaps a milestone wedding anniversary, perhaps a relative's graduation) and he'll be asked by some of the attendees at the event - some of whom will be his close family members, some of whom will be significant others of distant cousins - to recall his days of playing Major League Baseball for the Seattle Mariners. While he undoubtedly will wax poetic about his three years worth of brief stints with the big club in Seattle, he will invariably steer the conversation to an at-bat on May 29, 2010 in a packed Triple-A ballpark in Syracuse, New York, because on that night, he hit what he now describes as a “mammoth shot” over right-center field wall in his first at-bat against the best pitcher of the 21st Century, Hall of Famer Stephen Strasburg, who finished his career with an astonishing 310-138 record, a 2.61 ERA, 5,212 strikeouts, seven National League Cy Young Awards, and four World Series titles, all with the team for which he played his entire career, the Washington Nationals.
Some of those in attendance at the family gathering will have heard the old man's story before (several times, in fact), but those witnessing the old man's bravado for the first time will pull out their iPads (measuring 4 inches by 3 inches, weighing 2.1 ounces, and projecting High Definition images onto any surface) and speak into them: “Rene Rivera; home run; video; Google.” Instantaneously, the most oft searched Rivera bomb link appears at the top of the search page and the guest clicks on it and projects the video highlight onto the plastic siding exterior of the McFive Guys Mansion next door (Five Guys, the best hamburger shop in the nation, will have expanded into Puerto Rico by 2015).
There it is. A 99 mph fastball delivered by the twenty-one year-old phenom (who would make his Major League debut just days later) to the twenty-seven year-old journeyman catcher. It leaves Rivera's stunned bat faster than it arrived and, more importantly, via the opposite trajectory. The "mammoth shot" clears the right-center field fence and all 13,000+ Strasburg disciples in attendance fall silent and Strasburg screams violently at himself while covering his face with his gloved left hand – it is the first home run he has surrendered in his minor league career. A couple fans in attendance can be heard booing as Rivera crosses the plate. A couple fans in attendance can be seen grabbing their iPhones to retract the Auction Sniper bids they had placed for the "1 of 1" Bowman Superfractor Stephen Strasburg "rare" rookie card, which would sell later that night for north of $16,000.
After watching the video, those in attendance who are hearing the old man's tale for the first time suddenly act a little differently. They immediately feel more important -- that they are somehow dining with royalty. Their grasp at greatness is in the guise of a balding sixty-seven year-old man with a potbelly, a moustache that is in bad need of trimming, workingman’s hands, and bifocals. He's old beyond his years, but after those at the family event witnessed the video of his "mammoth shot" from Syracuse, New York, 2010, his step is springier, his former athleticism is more apparent, and his bravado is even more exaggerated, if that were even possible.