To understand the magic of Javy Baez—the disbelief-suspending stabs and skids; the gravity-mocking freeze-frame moments in which, levitated, he still throws with force, just as he does from his knees, his backside, his stomach; the tags, quick as a close-up card trick, snapped down at the precise spot where a runner’s outstretched hand gropes vainly for the bag—look not to his plays on the field but to a dugout scene, caught on camera, that has nothing to do with baseball and everything to do with a set of reflexes no one other than a higher power could bestow.
The moment involved bubble gum. Sitting on the bench during a playoff game this past magical season, Baez had attempted to tuck the candy into his mouth. Instead, the little green gumball fell out. Instinctually, he reached below his knee with his left hand and swatted the gum up before it plunged any further. He then tried to grab it but wound up batting it again. Finally, he ended the juggling act by snaring the gum with his right hand, like a chameleon stabbing a fly out of the air. All of this in the span of about two seconds.
What happened next made it all the more memorable. He cut a glance to his right, noticed the TV camera trained on him, pointed at it—at us—and grinned his million-watt grin. Anything, it seemed, was possible for this guy.