PHILADELPHIA -- It wasn't until New York catcher Josh Thole glanced at first-base umpire Alfonso Marquez that he realized something was amiss. Moments earlier, in the second inning of Friday's series opener between the Mets and Phillies, Thole had arrived safely at second base on a sacrifice bunt, then he inexplicably began jogging back to first and noticed Marquez giving him "a weird stare."
"Then I looked back, and the ball was on its way to first," Thole said. "I didn't know what else to do."
He began sprinting, but it was too late. Philadelphia starter Cliff Lee threw the ball to Jimmy Rollins, who relayed it to first base in time to tag out Thole. And with that, Thole cemented his starring role in one of the most comical gaffes of the young baseball season.
"The video is incredible," he said, laughing. "I don't know what I was thinking."
After Thole had singled with one out, New York starter R.A. Dickey successfully advanced him to second base with a bunt. But as Thole ran toward second, Rollins raised his hands in a gesture intended to tell Thole that sliding was unnecessary. Thole saw it and knew what Rollins meant. He also knew that Dickey's bunt, which rolled down the first-base line, was fair.
But Thole turned around and started heading back to whence he came.
"I wasn't even looking until I saw him come running back to first," said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, who recalled Manny Ramirez making a similar mistake early in his career with the Indians. "I thought, 'What in the world is he doing?' Then I saw him get tagged out. And I kind of thought, 'Well, maybe he'd rather be on first than on second.' Whatever."
The Mets were keen to joke about the play after the game, which they won, 5-2, but Thole was sweating his mistake until the final out, knowing that the gaffe could have cost his team a critical run against a difficult opponent.
Afterward he was simply the butt of a joke -- although it was quite not as funny to some. Dickey dropped his head when told that because of Thole's mistake, the official scorer credited him with a double play instead of a sacrifice bunt.
"Well, that's unfortunate for R.A.," Thole said, still laughing. "I don't know if he's going for the batting title. He takes that seriously."