Dom Smith seems like a terrific guy. By all accounts, the Mets outfielder is gregarious, light-hearted, hard-working, energetic, optimistic and kind.
He also happens to be Black.
Sadly, it was this last trait — one over which he has zero control — that had him sobbing in front of a microphone on Wednesday night.
“I mean, I think the most difficult part is to see people still don’t care,” the 25-year-old Los Angeles native said on a video conference call with reporters. “For this to continuously happen, it just shows the hate in people’s hearts. I mean, that just sucks, you know?”
We know. And we also don’t know.
Either way, we ought to be listening.
Smith had knelt for the national anthem earlier that night, for the first time in his career. He’d done so to protest the social injustice that has racked the nation and infiltrated nearly all of professional sports.
And he’d done so alone.
Four other MLB games had been postponed as players refused to take the field. Smith’s Mets were among those who played on, beating the Marlins 5-4 as Smith went 0 for 4 as the cleanup hitter.
“It was a long day for me,” Smith said. “I kind of wasn’t there mentally.”
He paused and choked back a sob.
“But we’ll be all right,” he said.
Lift up those around you. It’s the one thing we can all do. What’s going on in this country is complicated and emotional and not easily fixed. It can seem overwhelming.
But simple kindness is accessible to anybody. And Smith’s teammates proved that the next day.
The NBA took the lead on the striking, of course. That is a league that is about 81% Black. MLB has about 8% Black Americans. In that sense, it is much closer to the percentage of the country as a whole (13.4%).
In other words, it’s potentially a tougher place to find solidarity on issues like this. And there’s a decent chance that a lot of those Mets players don’t have a unified stance on politics or policing or even race relations.
But they love Dom Smith.
“It really touched all of us in the clubhouse,” Mets outfielder Michael Conforto told reporters, referencing Smith’s words from Wednesday. “You know, just to see how powerful his statements were, how emotional he was. Dom, he’s our brother. So we stand behind him.”
On Thursday night, the Mets took the field for their scheduled home game against the Marlins. The pitcher was on the mound, the catcher in full gear, the umpires at the ready. The infielders and outfielders warmed up their arms as normal.
As Marlins leadoff man Lewis Brinson was announced to come to the plate, both teams left their dugouts and stood in line. Players removed their hats and stood in silence for 42 seconds, matching Jackie Robinson’s uniform number.
Then both teams jogged off the field. No game.
Smith held his cap aloft to salute the Marlins. Mets pitcher Michael Wacha put his arm around Smith, and they all disappeared into the clubhouse.
Does this solve racism? Of course not. Does it even have any major influence on a national scale? Maybe not.
But the gesture of togetherness, caring and empathy matters. And it’s one any of us can emulate.
“That’s all you can ask for,” Smith said of the support. “That’s it.”
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