HomeInterviewEndy Chávez, the owner of an unforgettable catch

Endy Chávez, the owner of an unforgettable catch

October 19, 2006. Game number seven of the postseason series between the Mets and the St. Louis Cardinals is played at Shea Stadium in New York. The match has remained smooth from the beginning, and when the sixth inning, the shares are tied at one run a side.

Mexican pitcher Oliver Pérez continues to pitch for the Mets. Juan Encarnación, the Cardinals' first batter in this sixth inning, was dominated with a ground ball to first base. And after a tough at-bat, he walked Jim Edmonds. Then, with a runner on first base, it is Scott Rolen's turn to bat, the third baseman of the St. Louis ninth.

After having put Edmonds on base, the left-handed Pérez looks to refocus. He walks around the mound and takes a deep breath to get ready, before facing Rolen. He decides, as his first pitch, to send a fastball close to the body that Rolen connects solidly, BAM! And after the explosion against the wood of the bat, the ball flies over the grass with the intention of leaving the stadium, over the field of the left field.

Endy Chávez, who guards that territory, has seen Pérez's pitch and upon hearing the dry sound of the bat he knows, from all his years of experience, that the ball looks like a home run. He begins to run backwards without taking his eyes off the ball rising above the stands for even a moment. He made 17 strides in a fast and intentional race. In that 17th step, he feels under his right shoe the end of the grass and the beginning of the sand that marks the safety zone. There he tenses his muscles. Then, in a movement that he performs in just a second, he takes his eyes off the sky, looks at the far wall, calculates the distance, takes the last steps, a double step like basketball players do, and takes a huge jump, stretching. the right arm as much as it can.

Runner Edmonds, also at the sound of the hit, has gone out to run the bases. He left the first and crossed the second without realizing that Endy Chávez's black glove had gone more than eight feet from the wall (almost eight feet) and had captured a ball that was already on its way to landing outside the field of play.

Endy Chávez, for his part, doubts whether he caught the ball. He lands from the jump with both legs and the first thing he does is instinctively look at the glove. She discovers that she has the ball and before celebrating the feat, she speeds up his reflexes. He notices that Edmonds is on his way to third base. Then he takes two short steps forward, a brief hop to get hold of his left leg, and throws the ball like a missile to Tony Valentin, who makes the cut and passes it to Carlos Delgado, the Mets first baseman, who He knows immediately that the play is historic. Delgado receives the ball, always touching first base... and the goal is made. double play He then raises his fist in victory. The television cameras focus on the Mexican pitcher who has followed the play with a face of absolute perplexity.

The play will be known from that moment and forever as “The Catch”, and the photo that freezes the moment for history is Endy Chávez with his body flying towards the wall where a sign has been painted that says: The strength to be there (The strength to be there).

Relive the play

When the Mets open their new stadium, the City Field from New York, will leave the Venezuelan's play immortalized with a commemorative plaque.

“I had to run full speed to the wall,” Endy says when he tells me that play, “double step and jump to catch the ball. At the same time crash into the wall. I think it is the most difficult and satisfying play I have made in my entire career.”

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Endy Chávez is a name familiar to almost all Venezuelans. His sporting life appears in thousands and thousands of notes that circulate on the Internet, and which give an account of his 13 years of experience in the Major Leagues and 19 in Venezuelan baseball.

At 46 years old, Endy Chávez works as coach in the Tecolotes de los Dos Laredos team, of the Mexican baseball league.

We reached Endy, thanks to the intermediation of a mutual friend and using technology, to talk to him about baseball, which is the same as talking about his life.

So, with all of you, Endy Chávez…

Thank you very much for serving me -I tell him.

—Thank you for the interview.

Well, start...

As in other sports, to reach the highest level you start from a very young age, in baseball from the “compote” category. What things did you have to sacrifice to be able to reach the Major Leagues?

In my case I had to leave my home. I had to leave my family to go alone to another country for the first time in my life! I have always thought that leaving the family home was the biggest sacrifice I had to make when I was taking the first steps in my professional career.

Endy, look at this: Baseball in Venezuela, just like soccer for other countries in the region, means a possibility of social advancement. The question is, how did it help your family that you were successful in baseball?

—Let's see, I can tell you that, mainly, I was able to help my family financially. We had a very good foundation in terms of values, education, and morals. So I think the only thing we needed was a little economic stability, and this sport was what helped me achieve it.

“I really enjoy the approach of people.”

Your promotion to the Major Leagues also gave you great public exposure. Do you enjoy being a celebrity or do you strive to protect your family's privacy?

—I really enjoy the approach of people. I enjoy when they come and ask me for a photo or an autograph, because I feel that this request from a fan is like a response or a thank you or because they like the way I have done my job. I have never felt that this represents a problem and that I should be aware of my family or especially aware of their privacy. People look for me in stadiums, or in some public place, they are not chasing me in my house or in any private space I go to. But I want to repeat that I do enjoy the sympathy of the people who supported me as a player and now in my time as a coach.

Already installed in the Major Leagues, You wore the jersey of six teams, in addition to your time in the minor leagues, What did you learn from touring different teams in the United States?

—You learn many things, I gained experience at a sporting level, regardless of the team I was playing for. I can tell you that each year I played gave me details about how the league worked, that allowed me to mature my performance as a baseball player, all those years.

“I started thinking about retirement two years before I did.”

I understand… but as Héctor Lavoe sang “everything has its end…” How long did it take you to decide it was time to retire from baseball as an active player?

—I think the idea started two years before. I thought I would go year by year, so I could see how my body behaved. When the 2018-2019 season arrived, I told myself “this will be my last season.” And the truth is that I was already trying very hard in each game. I felt the physical pain more, I also got mentally tired, because I had to work extra... That was the moment when I decided, together with my family, that it would be my last year as an active player.

What has your life transition been like after baseball?

—The only difference is that I am no longer a player, but rather a coach. Because when I retired from baseball in Venezuela, I immediately started working on the spring training in the United States, with the New York Mets, so without pause I started as a coach.

…Y Did you know before you retired that you would still be involved in baseball?

—Yes! I knew that. And, look, after retiring as an active player, I began my role as a coach with the New York Mets.

Endy, andWhat things are you passionate about outside of the field of play?

-Several. I can mention that I am very passionate about, for example, the time I can spend with my family. I am also passionate about music, since I usually play the timpani, there are others, but those are the two things that I enjoy the most in my personal life.

“All my personal projects that have crossed my mind are linked to baseball.”

Has it never crossed your mind do something different than baseball?

—I have always thought about things, I have proposed personal projects, but in general terms all those projects that have crossed my mind, in one way or another, are linked to baseball.

With all your accumulated experience and seeing from a distance, it occurs to me to ask you, If you could change one thing about your career as a professional player, what would it be?

—Honestly, I don't think I would change anything. Although if I think about it a little I would dare to say that the physique. I think that if I had had a better physique during my career, I would have gone much further.

I'm going with something more recent, what did it mean for a player, who played the bulk of his career with the Navegantes del Magallanes team, to have won the Caribbean champion with Los Tiburones de la Guaira?

—It seems to me that the time I played with Navegantes del Magallanes has nothing to do with it. At that time I was not working in Venezuela and the Tiburones de La Guaira called me to hire me. I accepted immediately, and thank God we were able to do a good job together, and become champions of the league and also of the Caribbean Series. Both things have great meaning for me, because I was making my debut as a coach in Venezuela, and starting that way in the National League is very satisfying.

Even if you are not a fan of Los Tiburones, it would be mean not to recognize that that team did something exciting. Especially for the 38-year drought without achieving a championship title. Which moment from this last season do you remember most intensely?

—There were many exciting games, but to name one, I would say it was the last game of the regular season against Los Leones del Caracas. For me that was our crucial moment, because we were playing for qualification, and winning that game really relieved us... It was also a very, very good game.

I think they were very tense games, now Endy, How do you experience the pressure and emotions of the game from the coaching position?

—The pressure is experienced differently, because as a player you concentrate on what you are doing on the field, you try to stay focused on the game. Now, it is very different when you assume your role as a coach, since you are not within the two lines. The pressure then consists of expecting the players to do a good job, and to be able to execute the planned things in the moments of greatest pressure. Because all the work that is done as a coach is prior to the game, during practices. In the game you only have to wait, see the fruit of that work. That's the pressure, expecting the players to do the job, to do well.

The one on the stirrup… With your knowledge of this sport, what is your opinion of the changes that have been introduced to current baseball?

—Regarding those changes, I tell you that I have agreed with some and disagreed with others, that is on a personal basis, but I consider that if these changes are made for the evolution of the sport, and so that we do not remain stagnant, welcome. Baseball must continue to move forward, must continue to experiment with new rules, and I think our job is to adapt and continue to innovate along with the changes that are proposed.

Well. Grateful, teacher!

-To you!

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Ernesto J. Navarro is a journalist and writer, author of three collections of poems and the novel Puerto Nuevo. Winner of the 2015 National Journalism Award. RRSS: @ernestojnavarro

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