My story begins in Queens, New York in October 1952 the year I was born. I assure you the story will skip my formative years! I was destined to become a Mets fan, we lived not far from Flushing and Shea Stadium. The only problem I had getting to a game was, my family moved to Ft. Wayne, Indiana. I watched as much baseball as I could and sometimes the Mets were on T V. I grew up and played little league and high school baseball. I had my heroes, Mickey Mantle, Joe Pepitone, Ernie Banks and Ron Santo but none were Mets.
When October 1969 came around and the Mets were in the World Series I was elated I would be able to watch my Mets. Some will remember the games were played during to day and you could go to the gym and there was a t v set up. I wasn't going to miss an inning. What I didn't realize, I was going to miss the game 5 broadcast.
My Grandfather was the Secretary Treasurer of the Gil Hodges Foundation ( yep really) I was not sure what that was but I knew it was a good thing. I flew to New York and attended game 5 on October 16th with my Grandfather. I was on the bench during pre game sitting next to Yogi Berra, Tom Seaver and Gil Hodges and when I stood up and looked to the visitors dugout I gazed at the likes of Frank Robinson, Mark Belanger and Brooks Robinson. This was a truly life changing experience.
I knew I was an average baseball player and professional baseball was not in the cards, I would coach, yep be a coach Like like Gil Hodges.
I did go to college and played some ball and I became a student of the game. I was fortunate enough to become a high school and then college coach. This is the part of my story where the really good stuff happens. I coached a great team up in Washington State. High school baseball was like football in Texas. Everyone turned out to watch their son or brother play, these were great fans. One of these fans Tommy who was twelve had a brother Richey who played on the team. Tommy came to every game for three years and most practices,even rainouts! to watch his hero Richey play. He knew all the teams stats, He even questioned some of my coaching decisions, but he was the only Mets fan in the entire state, so I had to like him. It just so happens Richey was an All American and was being romanced by many MLB teams Including the Mets. One time I saw Tommy talking to a Mets Scout telling him why his brother Richey would be a great draft Pick.
Tommy would never be a baseball player he had MD and it was getting the best of him, but he was always there for Richey. During the 1992 State Championship Tournament I made Tommy a manager and he was in charge of the lineup. I just wanted him to feel the excitement of being a part of a game called Baseball. We won that year and Richey was the MVP. I had to present the MVP trophy to Richey that year and decided to present another trophy to the other MVP. It just happened I got two autographed baseballs from that 1969 Amazing Mets World Series and and Tommy would get one as an MVP award. Yes it had all those signatures- Seaver, Agee, Harrelson, Grote, Koosman, Ryan, Swaboda and more. I called out Tommy's name ,he came up to the podium and received his award. He was truly an MVP, there wasn't a dry eye in the house.
RIchey was drafted in the 1st round that year by the Cubs, O'Well!! Tommy died in 2000 but in 1999 got to see his hero Richey play In the bigs. By the way Richey was traded in 1999, to the Mets. Tommy and I packed our bags and headed to the Big Apple. There I was again-thirty years later sitting at Shea watching baseball. Tommy was watching his hero and I was sitting next to mine.