In Game 1 of the National League playoff series, Kevin McReynolds was forced to do something he hates more than anything else in the world to do--call attention to himself.
He had no choice. There was Mike Scioscia, the Dodger catcher, as usual, blocking the plate without the ball. McReynolds knew he had to knock him down, bowl him over. You see, McReynolds was carrying, as usual, the winning run plateward.
Compassion for catcher Scioscia? Reluctance to bruise a fellow player?
Hardly. What McReynolds knew was that the play was going to bring hordes with microphones, notepads, cameras, autograph books, clamors for interviews.
Kevin McReynolds has the attitude toward publicity of a CIA operative in Moscow.
Kevin Who?! you say. Who's he and what's he doing rounding third and heading for home? What's he do for a living?
Everyone knows who the New York Mets are. They're Doctor K or Dwight Gooden, The Kid alias Gary Carter, Keith as in Keith Hernandez, Straw as in Darryl Strawberry, Mookie as in Wilson, HoJo as in Howard Johnson. Celebrities. Somebodies. Every time they win 10 games they each write a book. They're on subway cards, the 11 o'clock news, the networks, cable TV and every magazine cover in the business. The Mets are Broadway, baby, Fifth Avenue. Madison Avenue, too. The big time. Every headwaiter in town knows them.
Kevin McReynolds might as well play in a mask or with a hood over his head. Playing on the Mets is like riding with the Pope. Everyone wants to know what you're doing there. McReynolds is on the Mets but not of them. McReynolds prefers to be like the guy who comes to fix the plumbing. He's a lunch-pail, hard-hat Met. He's Hey, you! What's-his-name? in left field.
That's why the last thing in the world he wanted to do was come crashing into your living rooms and onto your front pages Tuesday night. McReynolds probably wishes Mike Scioscia just stepped aside and let him score quietly and unobtrusively. So he could get his shower quickly and go home and watch cowboy movies. Get a pizza.
Kevin McReynolds gets paid to score winning runs. That's what they hired him for. What's the big deal?
That was the 83rd run Kevin McReynolds had scored this year. A lot of them were game-winners. He drove in the second-most game-winning runs in the league this year, too.
Kevin McReynolds might be the invisible man to the composing rooms but he's no secret to the rest of the Mets. He's one of the ones who keep them in headlines and on the bookstalls. He may be last in the league in headlines and page-one photos but he's 5th in home runs, 6th in runs-batted-in, 2nd in game-winning hits and 7th in total bases. He may be the team's MVP if not the league's.
The Mets should probably be prosecuted for several of the great embezzlements they pulled on the trading market--Keith Hernandez for Neil Allen, Sid Fernandez for Bob Bailor and Carlos Diaz, David Cone for Ed Hearn, and Gary Carter for a packet of journeymen. But what should really have brought the SEC or the Better Business Bureau down on them was getting Kevin McReynolds for three other Kevins (Mitchell, Armstrong and Brown) and a player named Shawn (Abner). Kevin McReynolds has hit 56 home runs and driven in 194 runs for them in 2 years. He has batted .276 and .288. In any other uniform, he'd be "Old Reliable," as dependable as a butler.
It's not that New York intimidates him. The big city. For him, Tulsa is a big city. Or his native Little Rock. Nor is he a "Yup," "Nope" type. Kevin will talk, but you better hurry. Your best bet is on the way to the shower. He holds the team record for in and out after a game. If you want an interview, he'll be the one with the towel wrapped around him.
He wouldn't look bad on a magazine cover. He's a pleasant-looking young man with the map of Arkansas on his plain but honest face. He looks like a guy who would know how to plow straight and strip-milk. He makes a bee line for the Ozarks once the season is over in case the fish are jumping and the deer are getting careless or the turkeys slow. Kevin gets enough neon in the summer.
Kevin managed to keep himself out of the headlines in Game 2 of the playoffs Wednesday. But so did the rest of the gaudy Met lineup.
Kevin had his chance in the 9th when he came up, representing the tying run in a 6-3 game with 2 men on. But he cleverly kept himself off the 11 o'clock news by popping up to the third baseman.
Kevin is not hostile. He's not anti-publicity, he's just not pro-publicity. "I talk," he explains. "I just don't hang around."
It's not likely the Mets would be where they are this year of Our Lord without their silent partner, their humble servant. Kevin won Game 1 for them, leaving first base on the 2-out junk hit to center by Gary Carter, continuing to run when he saw the ball trickling away from the center fielder and scoring through Scioscia, the baseball equivalent of a CHP roadblock.
It's not likely McReynolds won't make more wirephotos before this tournament is over. Sometimes, just doing your job gets other people all excited. Kevin just puts up with it. It's part of the job. And if there's one thing Kevin McReynolds does, it's his job.