PHOENIX, AZ - AUGUST 13: Catcher Ronny Paulino #9 of the New York Mets during the Major League Baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on August 13, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Diamondbacks defeated the Mets 6-4.
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Ronny Paulino last saw MLB action in 2012, but somehow, the New York Mets still have ties to the long-forgotten catcher.

It’s a Saturday night in 2006 when Ronny Paulino first enters the consciousness of a nine-year-old New York Mets fan. It’s Sept. 16, and the Mets’ magic number is one. They’re playing the Pirates, and they go to the ninth tied 2-2. The Mets put two men on in the top of the ninth, but Paul Lo Duca flies out to deep center and the Pirates come to bat. The young fan has a friend sleeping over, a Yankee fan. He’s trying to get to sleep. Listening to the game on the radio, the young fan will have none of it.

Aaron Heilman pitches the bottom of the ninth. He strikes out Jason Bay before Xavier Nady grounds out to second. But with two outs, he walks Joe Randa. Ronny Paulino comes up.

Paulino is having a solid season. He’s batting .321, elite for a catcher, and although he doesn’t hit for much power, his OBP is .372. He’s 25, playing his first full season.

Paulino swings at Heilman’s second pitch and gets almost all of it. It’s a deep fly ball to left-center that lands between Carlos Beltrán and Cliff Floyd. Randa scores, and the Pirates win. The Mets will have to wait another day to clinch. The young fan turns off the radio and goes to bed.

Now it’s December 2010, and the joy of the 2006 division clincher has long since dissipated. The young fan is four years older, but still listens to games on the radio. He barely notices when the Mets sign Ronny Paulino to a one-year contract.

Paulino is on the disabled list to start the 2011 season. He rejoins the Mets on April 29: he pinch-hits in the ninth inning of a 10-3 loss to the Phillies and grounds out. Three days later, on May 1, he gets his first start of the season behind home plate.

He singles in the second. Grounds out in the fourth and singles in the sixth. Singles again in the eighth. Singles in the 10th. Pops out in the 13th. The game is still tied at one.

In the ninth, meanwhile, news spreads through the crowd at Citizens Bank Park. President Obama has made an announcement. Osama Bin Laden is dead.

“USA!” the crowd chants. “USA! USA!”

No one can really focus on the field anymore, but the game continues. It’s tied 1-1, and one inning passes after another…Taylor Buchholz strikes out Dane Sardinha to end the 13th, and the Mets come up again. Buchholz was a pitcher in the 2011 Mets bullpen, and Dane Sardinha appeared in 15 games for the 2011 Phillies, made-up as the two names may seem.

David Wright leads off the top of the 14th with a single. With one out, Jason Bay, who used to bat two spots ahead of Ronny Paulino in Pittsburgh, singles too. Ike Davis flies out. Paulino, 4-for-6 on the day, comes up. He swings at the first pitch, drives it to deep left…too deep. Wright scores; Bay goes to third. The Mets can’t add on; Buchholz, forced to bat for himself, grounds out softly. But they have the lead.

Buchholz does his job in the bottom of the inning. Pete Orr pops out to short; Cole Hamels, pinch-hitting for Kyle Kendrick, grounds to second. Now Buchholz pitches to John Mayberry. He strikes him out. The Mets win.

“This is a good win for us,” Terry Collins says later, “and obviously a huge win for America tonight.”

Ronny Paulino proves it: We’re all connected, in baseball and in life. John Mayberry Jr. struck out to end his five-hit game; Mayberry later played for the Mets. In Mayberry’s first start as a Met in 2015, Eric Young Jr. pinch-hit for the Braves. Later that year, the Mets brought Young back. On Sept. 1, Young came in the eighth against the Phillies as a defensive replacement. Former Met Jeff Francoeur was playing right field for the Phillies; brief former Met Aaron Harang was pitching. Aaron Altherr was playing left.

Years later, Altherr came to the Mets too. He debuted against the Tigers on May 24, 2019. The Mets’ right fielder that day was Rajai Davis who made his MLB debut as a young Pittsburgh Pirate on August 14, 2006. Ronny Paulino was the Pirates’ catcher.

And a month later, as a young Mets fan sat in his bedroom listening to the radio, hoping the Mets would win the division that night, Rajai Davis entered as a pinch-runner in the seventh.

The young Mets fan sat in his bedroom, annoyed that the Mets had lost but certain they would win their next game. Fourteen years later, he realized that the 2019 Mets had direct ties to Ronny Paulino, seven seasons after his last MLB action. We’re all connected. Baseball proves it.

I have followed New York sports passionately for almost my entire life, since I went to Shea Stadium in 2004 and saw Jae Seo lose 8-1 to the Pirates. At journalism school, I once missed covering a Land Use Committee meeting to write about Jacob deGrom's last start of the year.