-- Two of the faithful are getting a tour of Citi Field.
This is some 36 hours after Daniel Murphy sealed the New York Mets' sweep of the Chicago Cubs in the NLCS with an eighth-inning, two-run shot off Fernando Rodney, and some 800 miles east of the dugout to which Murphy returned and told hitting coach Kevin Long, "I don't know how I did that."
But the faithful don't care how. Helen Westervelt and Kathleen Tuite are lifelong Mets fans, and they're thrilled at this opportunity to step onto the field and giddy with anticipation over the Mets' fifth World Series. The tour was set up especially for them because they are both associated with Caldwell University in New Jersey, sponsors of "The Defining Moment" radio spot on WOR 710.
They stop to chat.
"We were here for the third game of the series with the Dodgers, the 13-7 victory," says Westervelt, the former chair of the Caldwell board of trustees. "Oh, the place was rocking."
"I took my mom to Johan Santana's no-hitter in 2012," says Sister Kathleen, vice president for student life at the Catholic university. "The first no-hitter by a Met. We sat in Section 327. A great memory, and now we have a chance for more."
Where was Sister Kathleen when the Mets swept the Cubs on Wednesday night?
"I was watching in the convent with Sister Marge," she says. "She was saying how badly she felt for the Cubs fans. I did, too, but I also know that we as Mets fans have been in their situation before. So I told her it was OK to embrace this moment of joy. Especially with a hero like Daniel Murphy. A man who believes."
That he does. Murphy is the shepherd for the team's baseball chapel services, and he has openly praised the Lord after each of his seven 2015 postseason home runs -- the past six in consecutive games, breaking Carlos Beltran's record of five set for the Houston Astros in 2004.
But those defining moments, as well as the steal of third base in Game 5 of the NLDS, are also a testament to Murphy's belief in himself. Not to mention the belief others had in him, and the faith he put in a total stranger.
Once upon a time, Murphy was a left-handed hitter without a position coming out of non-legendary Jacksonville (Florida) University in his hometown. But a Mets scout named Steve Barningham liked him and talked the brass into making him a 13th-round pick in the 2006 draft. Murphy arrived in New York in 2008 on the strength of his bat and tried left field, first, second, third -- and the patience of the Mets masses. He became the stalking horse for their frustrations. Some of them even started a website called OhMurph to chronicle his misadventures.
But now that website has a whole new meaning. Ever since he homered off Clayton Kershaw in the top of the fourth to open the scoring in a 3-1 victory in Game 1 of the NLDS, he has been on a tear for the ages. Says teammate Curtis Granderson: "I get the chance to tell people I played with Babe Ruth."
In fact, Lou Gehrig is the only other player to have a hit, a run and an RBI in seven straight postseason games. Murphy's .421 postseason batting average, coupled with his slugging percentage of 1.026, give him a mind-blowing OPS of 1.462. If he hits one home run in the World Series, he will tie the postseason record of eight. "Did I see this coming?" says Murphy. "No, sir. I am not a home run hitter."
When a reporter asked him if his performance was "extraordinary," Murphy replied, "You guys get to use all the adjectives you want. That's above my pay grade."
Actually, Murphy's pay grade will be a matter of concern once the postseason ends. He's going to be a free agent at the age of 30, and he'll be looking for a three-year deal worth at least $10 million per. He could accept a potential one-year qualifying offer of $15.8 million, but that's not likely.
For now, Mets fans should just enjoy the ride. Murphy has. On Friday night, he took in an Islanders game with some of his teammates and gave the fans in Brooklyn something to cheer about. They left a little disappointed, though, because he was unable to score a goal in the 5-3 loss to the Bruins.
"It's all been a blur," he says. But the blur is worth rewinding, with a stop at each postseason homer and commentary from various people who are basking in the glow of his streak.
Home Run No. 1
Game 1 of the NLDS, top of the fourth, a 2-0 fastball from Kershaw with no score. As he always does, Murphy pointed into the stands to thank his wife, Tori. Then he gave teammate Travis d'Arnaud a high-ten and disappeared into the dugout.
Sitting with Tori in the stands at Dodger Stadium were other members of the Murphy entourage, including Daniel's brother, Jonathan, and his wife, Camille.
"That home run stands out to me for two reasons," says Jonathan, a former Twins minor leaguer who now works for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. "One, because Kershaw carved him up in the first at-bat, and it was looking like it was going to be a long day. Two, because we're going nuts, and all these Dodger fans are looking at us.
"We're surprised, of course, but not all that surprised. Daniel has always risen to the occasion. I remember in college he had a torn knee ligament so he couldn't run or play a position. But he did hobble up to the plate and got a walk-off hit. He's always been like that. Now he's just on a much bigger stage."
Home Run No. 2
The Dodgers had a 3-0 lead in the fourth inning of Game 4 at Citi Field when Murphy came up with nobody on and one out. He hit an 0-1 cutter from Kershaw over the fence in left center. The celebration was subdued because the Mets were still trailing, but it was a signal that they would not go off quietly to L.A. for Game 5. And it kicked off Murphy's historic streak.
In the seats watching with the family was Barningham, the scout who signed him and became a close friend. "I probably shouldn't be revealing this," he says, "but Tori was telling us before the game how Daniel came back to the hotel after Game 1 and was like a little boy, saying, 'I got him. I got Kershaw.' Well, he got him again."
Barningham saw something like this from Murphy once before. "In the spring of 2006, his team was visiting North Florida. I asked him if he could turn on some pitches during batting practice just so I could check off some boxes on his report -- he only had seven homers in college. He hit like nine of the next 10 pitches over the fence.
"But that was BP, not the major league postseason. The case I presented to the Mets was that he was a kid who lived and died hitting. He couldn't run fast, he couldn't throw hard, but he might just be the next Wade Boggs. What I didn't know was that he would become the Babe."
Home Run No. 3
The Mets and Dodgers were tied 2-2 in the sixth inning of the deciding Game 5 in L.A., and the bases were empty with two outs when Murphy stepped in to face Zack Greinke. The count went to 3-and-2 and . . .
"This is the one I remember most vividly," says Murphy. "Zack is so tough, with so many pitches. But there was one pitch I was looking for, a fastball I could pull, and I was able to work the count to 3-2, and then I got it and hit the ball down the right-field line. I couldn't get too excited after the home run because we had a few innings to play, but it was definitely a thrill to give us the lead off one of the best pitchers in the game."
Home Run No. 4
In Game 1 at Citi Field, Murphy got the NLCS party started when he hit a 1-1 Jon Lester fastball to deep right field for a 1-0 lead against the Cubs, circled the bases and again high-tenned d'Arnaud.
Sister Kathleen wasn't there. She was at the convent she shares with the other Dominican sisters at Caldwell. But if you think she leads a cloistered life, think again. After she watched the ball go out, she immediately texted "DANIEL! DANIEL! DANIEL!" to her message group of 12, then "LGM" -- Let's Go Mets.
"It's just so great to see him in that zone," she says. "He's always been one of my favorites, and not just because he's so open about his faith. He hustles all the time, he's confident without being arrogant, and he's a devoted family man. . . .
"Do you know what I see when I watch Daniel play now? I see someone using his gift to bring joy to others. I see that goodness begets goodness."
Home Run No. 5
With one run already in against Chicago's Jake Arrieta in the first inning of Game 2 of the NLCS, Murphy went down and got a 1-2 curveball and sent it into the Queens night for a 3-0 lead.
Greeting him first was David Wright, who has been playing with Murphy since 2008. Wright watched as Murphy was mobbed by teammates, then called out of the dugout by the fans.
"I'm not sure Daniel has ever had one of those curtain calls," says Wright. "A coach had to push him out of there. Those things can be a little awkward -- you want to be out there long enough to acknowledge the fans, but not too long or people might take it the wrong way.
"But I was so pumped for him. After all we've been through, after all the hard work he's put in over the years, well, the curtain call just made me very happy. Daniel deserved that moment."
Back at the convent, Sister Kathleen fired off five bonfire emojis plus a photo of Daniel entitled "THE NEW MR. OCTOBER."
Home Run No. 6
With the score tied 1-1 in the top of the third at Wrigley Field in Game 3, Murphy took a Kyle Hendricks fastball for a ride over the ivy in right-center -- and the crowd out of the game. As he got back to the dugout after yet another circuit of the bases, manager Terry Collins gave him a hearty pat on the butt.
"He has been unbelievable," says Collins. "After each homer, guys on the bench just look at each other and go 'Wow!' But it's not just the number of homers, it's the timing of them. Each one of them seems to have come in a huge spot."
Indeed, three of them were tone-setters that came in the first inning, two of them broke ties in the middle innings, and the final one provided the exclamation point.
Collins has an appreciation for Murphy that goes beyond watching him turn the postseason into BP. He has been the manager's best friend this season, playing 69 games at second, 42 at third filling in for the injured Wright, and 17 at first, and he's made some dazzling defensive plays that belie his reputation. When the Mets were still fighting the Nationals for NL East dominance on Aug. 28, he made a game-saver against the Phillies by diving for a ball that had deflected off pitcher Carlos Torres' leg and making a no-look toss to first just as Torres got to the bag.
"With all of the stats and all of the sabermetrics, there's a place in this game for overachievers," says Collins. "And Dan Murphy's an overachiever. He plays to beat you."
Home Run No. 7
The Mets were leading 6-1 in the top of the eighth in Game 4 at Wrigley. With two outs and Wright on base, Murphy faced Rodney, who had struck out the first two batters he faced before walking Wright.
"This is the one I'll always remember," says Long, the hitting coach. "With the count at 1-and-1, Daniel is sitting changeup. Instead, he gets a 97-mile-an-hour fastball, a pitch 17 miles an hour faster than he was expecting. And he knocked it over the wall in center. I was flabbergasted. When he got back to the dugout, he couldn't explain it, either."
Easier to explain is the difference Long has made. Often the shortest man on the field, he becomes the tallest one when he's perched at the back of a batting cage. He was hired as the hitting coach last offseason, shortly after the Yankees let him go after seven fairly successful seasons. He immediately looked at the tapes of all the Mets hitters, so when Murphy texted him in January asking for an analysis, Long was ready.
But he was also nervous because Murphy knew so much about hitting and was supposedly set in his ways. At the time, Long was staying at his uncle's place in Hawaii, and in his email back to Murphy, he suggested that he could hit for more power if he got his front foot down, moved closer to the plate, lowered his hands and used more of his lower body. "Then I paced around the pool waiting for his answer," says Long.
Murphy replied: "Right on."
So the two began retooling his swing in February. It didn't go particularly well at first -- Murphy hit all of .198 in April. But, as Long says: "Sometimes you have to go backwards before you go forwards."
Murphy finished the regular season with a .281 average, 14 homers, 73 RBIs and an OPS of .770 -- nice numbers that didn't exactly foretell what was about to happen. What impressed Long was Murphy's evolving approach to hitting: "He now says, 'I'm not hunting hits anymore. I'm hunting to do damage.' "
And when Murphy damaged the Cubs one last time, the Mets' bench went bananas.
Meanwhile, the nuns at Caldwell University waved their rally towels, and Sister Kathleen shouted: "He did it! He just passed Beltran!"
Long after the game was over, well after the Cubs fans had left Wrigley, the Mets players ventured out onto the field to bask in the moment. There were more than a few Mets fans waiting there to witness the procession, and they began to chant for the man of the hour: "We want Murphy! We want Murphy!" When he finally emerged, holding his son, Noah, they went wild.
Who'd have thought? Seven homers, two curtain calls, one happy tale of redemption.