At the moment David Freese flailed at a last changeup, Mike Baxter was in the bowels of Citi Field, not alone but not with his team, resting on a training-room table and watching on television as the Mets mobbed Johan Santana on the field above.
That was eight years ago, on June 1, 2012, when Santana pitched the first no-hitter in the Mets’ 51 seasons of existence. Baxter provided a critical assist: a hit-robbing, body-risking catch in the seventh inning. His reward? A displaced right collarbone and fractured rib cartilage — and missing the initial celebration.
“I probably don’t regret that,” Baxter, laughing, said by phone in a recent interview with Newsday. “I wasn’t in great shape. I didn’t particularly want to be running into a dogpile.”
Baxter then was a Queens native lighting it up for his hometown team, a 27-year-old rookie finally getting an extended chance in the majors. He now is the hitting coach and recruiting coordinator for Vanderbilt, his alma mater, living in Nashville with his wife and their children.