Wednesday night at Citi Field had all its tedious regularities, minus fans, that would remind anyone who has followed the New York Mets of any normal August evening.
Jacob deGrom pitched a gem, striking out 14 members of the Miami Marlins in seven innings of work while allowing just a single run only for the bullpen to blow it, allowing three runs in the eighth to ruin the chance at a win for the ace.
They found a way to pull it out in the ninth thanks to Wilson Ramos’ two-out single that scored Billy Hamilton.
But more importantly, Dominic Smith made a statement — with his actions and his words — as he helped continue to advance the national discussion surrounding the injustices experienced by Black Americans.
The 25-year-old kneeled for the national anthem while placing his cap over his heart on the first-base side well away from his teammates before Wednesday’s game.
It was an opportunity to add his support for such an important cause on a day in which sports teams around the country decided not to play as a form of protest after 29-year-old Jacob Blake was shot in the back seven times by Kenosha police in Wisconsin Sunday.
The Milwaukee Bucks sparked the movement, boycotting their NBA playoff game inside the Orlando bubble before all basketball games — both in the NBA and WNBA — were canceled.
Their city neighbors in Major League Baseball, the Milwaukee Brewers, also opted not to play against the Cincinnati Reds along with two other games.
He hadn’t kneeled this season, even at the beginning of the year when teams around the league were kneeling to show support for those fighting against social and societal injustices against Black Americans.
“Just with everything that’s going on in the world, I just decided to just pay a little notice and take a step back to really just see what’s going on. That’s why I chose tonight,” Smith said. “I felt like tonight was a perfect night, especially with other teams canceling their games, especially the NBA.”
“I just wanted to make a stand today and show my support.”
It was there that months, years, a lifetime of frustrations came rushing forward as Smith spoke with the media following the Mets’ 5-4 victory.
“I’ve been very emotional just to see this continuously happen,” he said while fighting through tears. “It was a long day for me. Kind of wasn’t there mentally, but we’ll be alright.”
His performance at the plate — a rare off night during an impressive individual campaign — is trivial compared to the civil unrest that has been sparked in recent months by the killing of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, the shooting of Blake, and the countless war of words between ideologies that have exposed many as indecent people who refuse to make the basic rights of human beings a priority.
“I think the most difficult part is to see that people still don’t care. For this to just continuously happen, it just shows just the hate in people’s heart… That just sucks,” Smith said. “Being a black man in America is not easy. Like I said, I wasn’t there today, but I’ll be back, I’ll be fine.”
While he’s been a notable spokesman in recent months, Smith has committed much of his time to help improve life for kids in inner cities through his charities, helping to spark improvement at the grassroots level.
Not only is he talking the talk, but he’s walked the walk. And it’s his way of helping advance a difficult conversation during such important times.
“I just like to give my time. Money is just material. I didn’t grow up with money, it just doesn’t mean nothing to me. If you can give your time, that’s the thing that matters,” he said. “People get their money and they leave. You can’t do that. You have to be there for the children that come up after us.”
“If you give time, that’s the only way you can bring change.”
We all need to be a little bit more like Dominic Smith.