With both of my parents from the Bronx, my love for the New York Yankees is inherent. At my first game in the old Yankee stadium, my parents say my jaw dropped in awe at the sight of the field and didn’t close until the 7th inning stretch.
Growing up as a lefty baseball fanatic in the 1990s meant my idol was chosen for me. So when I heard Don Mattingly would be at a card show in New Jersey, my father and I jumped at the chance to come face-to-face with the man I imitated in my backyard each and every day.
On the car ride there, my mind was racing. What would I say to him? That I had spent all my birthday presents on his cards and memorabilia? That I played first base in little league? I had so much to say, but knew my time would be limited. My father’s thoughts were very different. His only hope was meeting my idol would live up to my expectations. I guess he didn’t want me to feel the disappointment that comes along when a kid finds out his idol isn’t all he’s cracked up to be.
After a seemingly endless wait on line, we made it to his table. “Hi, I’m Don” he said while reaching out his hand. I shook it while trying to get my name out. “Do you play baseball?” he asked. I couldn’t even respond. My father, who had tried to take a backseat in the conversation but was ultimately forced in because I was tongue tied, interjected. “He’s a lefty first baseman. Any hitting advice you have for him?” “It’s all about the front arm on the swing” he said. My Dad continued on about how much I admired him, even saying my AOL screename is named after him. “So that’s why I couldn’t get that one!” he joked. After signing my baseball and taking a quick picture, we exited the stage, without me ever saying a word.
To this day, my father teases me that I choked under the pressure. I guess I would rather believe the same feeling came over me while meeting him as it did when I first laid eyes on the green grass of Yankee Stadium years before.