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Mitch Walding gave the second-half Phillies a rare feel-good moment

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Nothing went right for the Phillies after August 5. But one thing, one time, went right for Mitch Walding.

Miami Marlins v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

0-for-1, Strikeout looking

Ugh.

0-for-2, Strikeout swinging

Crap.

0-for-3, Strikeout swinging

All right. You worked the count full that time. Made him throw pitches.

0-for-4, Strikeout looking

Another full count. Just be patient. One of these guys is going to toss you a meatball and you’re gonna be all over it.

0-for-5, Strikeout looking

They’re talking about it now. It’s a thing. 0-for-5, 5 SO in your first five career AB? That’s a post-game footnote, followed by chuckling. What do they want me to do? I’ve tried everything. Swinging. Not swinging. What else is there? You should be able to have more strikes before you strike out; that’s the problem here. “Five strikes and you’re out,” just has a better ring to it. I’ll talk to Gabe after the game when he’s doing his dead sprints on that human-sized hamster wheel in his office.

Maybe six strikes. Or like, eight.

0-for-6, Strikeout swinging

S***.

0-for-7, Strikeout looking

F***.

0-for-7, Walk

All right, I made it. I made it to first base. Coach even said I had a “good eye” when I got here. I do have a good eye, it’s true; always have. I should have been playing like this the whole time. Home runs? Hits? Who needs ‘um. I’ll just be one of those guys who walks all the time, like Carlos Santana. People love and are not always complaining about him.

Next thing you know, 15 years will go by, and people will realize I quietly had the greatest career in baseball history. “I watched Mitch Walding draw a walk once,” they’ll say. “It was a thing of beauty. Not like those awful Rhys Hoskins home runs.”

0-for-8, GIDP

That’s fine. That’s fine. Still riding that good-eye high.

0-for-9, Strikeout swinging

YOU THINK THIS IS EASY? YOU THINK YOU COULD BE A BIG LEAGUE BALL PLAYER?! YOU TRY IT. YOU STAND UP HERE AND TRY TO HIT THE BALL WITH THOUSANDS—WELL, DOZENS—OF PEOPLE WATCHING?!! THIS S*** AIN’T EASY.

0-for-10, Strikeout swinging

I’m worried this s*** might be easier than I’m making it look.

0-for-11, Fly out

I wonder if it’s too late to take Darrel up on that offer to join his energy drink sales team. He did swear it wasn’t a pyramid scheme this time. But he did also say that the last four times, when it certainly was one. Maybe I’ll try one of those sample drinks he gave me before my next at-bat.

0-for-12, Ground out

I KNOW YOU CAN TALK, BASEBALL. I KNOW YOU CAN UNDERSTAND THE WORDS I’M THINKING. WHY DON’T I JUST TELL EVERYONE YOUR LITTLE SECRET, HMM? LET’S SEE HOW HARD YOU ARE TO HIT THEN, WHEN EVERYONE KNOWS HOW YOU MOCK US HUMANS, YOUR SUPERIORS. IT’S ALL JUST A BIG, SICK, JOKE TO YOU; ISN’T IT, BASEBALL?! ONE OF THESE TIMES I’M GOING TO KILL ONE OF YOUR FRIENDS. THEN WE’LL SEE WHOSE LAUGHING.

MY MIND IS O N F I R E

0-for-12, Walk

Okay. Okay. Back to being a walk guy. That’s fine. That’s who I am. And no more of Darrel’s energy drinks. Maybe report Darrel to the Better Business Bureau after the game. And the, like. Cops.

0-for-13, Strikeout looking

You know what? I’m just happy to be here. I’ll tell people “The Major Leagues? Yeah, I played in ‘em.” And if they ask anymore questions, I’ll just shut up. Won’t speak. It’ll be fine. And who is even going to ask me about it when I’m living in a bunker in the Adirondacks?

0-for-14, Ground out

Man, they just have a guy at every spot, don’t they? Just an A+ defender everywhere on the field. Incredible. I guess I’ve never just sat and marveled at how the infield positions make it really hard to get a baseball past the defenders. What an incredible game we play. An incredible, stupid game. I hate this.

1-for-15, Home run

There was so need for the Phillies to score again in a 14-2 win over the Marlins. But even so, everybody wanted Mitch Walding to hit that home run, from John Kruk, to Mitch himself, to the entire Phillies bench, to the twenty or so lost souls at Citizens Bank Park that night, apparently trapped there for eternity by a witch’s curse.

Sift through the back end of the Phillies’ 2018 season and you’ll probably get your hands pretty dirty. Not long after August 5, you’ll be wrist-deep in losses by double digits, have to scrub your mind furiously to forget pathetic, weak-willed at-bats, and you’ll still be finding defensive miscues under your finger nails for weeks.

You’ll be sloshing through the sludge for quite some time before you find a moment that elicited more than an exasperated groan or disgusted silence from the audience. And it wasn’t always Rhys Hoskins or Aaron Nola who gave it to you. In a game that the Phillies won resoundingly, Mitch Walding faced a knuckleball from Bryan Holaday of the Marlins in garbage time, and he didn’t miss it.

The Phillies’ utter incompetence during the season’s last two months was a mess that seeped into everything. Look twice at any stat, look up any player’s numbers, flip over any rock, and you’ll find more specific examples of their fatigued, pathetic flailing. Take Mitch Walding’s first career hit and home run, following 14 frustrating at-bats for the poor guy: The only other player this season to hit their first career MLB home run off a position player was Rockies pitcher German Marquez. Marquez would go onto strike out all eight hitters in the Phillies’ lineup in a row in a 14-0 loss on September 26 when the team was at maximum feebleness.

But that all simply makes Walding’s bomb all the more cathartic, especially since home runs aren’t something that he has struggled to hit in his life. When you’re watching him step in the box, you’re looking at the 2016 Florida State League Home Run Derby champion. He punched through Eastern League pitching in 2017, leading the Fightin’ Phils with 25 homers (Fourth highest in the league), and had 19 home runs for the IronPigs this year, the third most on the team. Of course, after a sporadic 0-for-14 stretch, he would have settled for a trickler, a swinging bunt, a soft line drive that bounced off a bird’s head; anything, if it meant he got on base in the majors.

Well, on September 14, in a game in which the Phillies scored just about 20% of their run total for the month, he got to touch all of the bases, giving one of the more ancillary subplots of the Phillies’ downward spiral into the off-season a satisfying conclusion.

In the grand scheme of baseball, Walding’s blast didn’t seem to matter that much. The Phillies were probably going to win that game against the Marlins anyway. The win did little to stem their downfall in September. Even the Marlins’ season wasn’t impacted by the loss. In fact, so inconsequential was this dinger that MLB didn’t care if you saw it.

A quick search of their Youtube channel brings up the following results:

To baseball, Walding’s home run barely exists; a garbage time roundtripper off a knuckleballing position player they didn’t even bother to put on their Youtube channel. But for some people, it’s not a moment that needs to be preceded by a shaving ad. It was the moment a career minor leaguer who couldn’t stop striking out got to circle the bases before he went back to the bench.