Darryl Strawberry Visits Uptown, “The Kid” Remembered…

If you know me, you know I grew up a huge New York Mets fan. Being born in Brooklyn, NY in 1981 — why not? Both of my grandfathers were Mets fans. My dad was a Mets fan. We were a Mets family. 12079663_10153289642553406_2110055952117081269_n

Being that I was born on January 8, my favorite number was 8. Then, I saw Gary Carter wear #8, and I instantly became a Gary Carter fan.

I wore #8 in Little League. I was a catcher. I may have even curled my hair like “The Kid”.

In fact, I wore #8 for my entire baseball career. It’s the only number I have ever known!386940_10150365098298406_1935850257_n

At my very first Mets game with my dad, we lucked out and had a chance to get an autograph from Gary Carter at Shea Stadium. We had box seats right behind home plate and I remember yelling to Gary as a kid to sign my program — and he did. Wow. That was awesome!

Throughout the years, I loved seeing Gary Carter (from afar) when we visited Shea Stadium. He was always my favorite. He still is today. I think about him on his birthday every year on April 8. I remember him every year on the day he died, too (February 16). He was an icon, a hero, a person I looked up to. I still do. tumblr_n3q7xqXybd1qm9rypo1_1280

And, I’m not alone.

When Gary Carter passed away, I’ll never forget some of the words that his teammates had to say about him.

“The baseball community has lost a Hall of Fame player and a Hall of Fame person,” former teammate and current Mets third-base coach Tim Teufel said in a statement. “He was a good man and will be missed terribly.”

“We’re all older now, said Ron Darling. “We see things differently. We see things as our parents saw them. The ’60s happened before we got to the big leagues. The ’70s happens, values changed. But Gary was from ‘Leave It To Beaver’ and ‘Pleasantville.’ He was, when we played together, what most of our parents had wanted us to be. And now we see value in it. And that makes this all the sadder. I’m not saying he deserves a reward for living his life the way he did. But 57 … that’s early.”

Then, there were these  words, “I wish I could’ve lived my life like him.”

Those words were powerful. They were touching. They came from Darryl Strawberry.

I grew up rooting for Darryl Strawberry, too. In the good times and the bad. I wanted him to succeed both on and off-the-field and  I wanted him to get past his struggles. And, why not. He was so talented. Even with all of his ups and downs.
Me & Darryl
Still, I knew he was someone I wanted to meet someday to talk about how he was able to rise up through all of those struggles.

Last year at the Triple-A Baseball All-Star Game in Omaha, NE, I met Darryl. It was brief. He was busy. But I knew it wouldn’t be the last time. At least, I hoped it wasn’t.

This past offseason, I had a great opportunity to bring Darryl to BB&T Ballpark — and tried my hardest to make that happen. And, it did.

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Darryl Strawberry signed hundreds of autographs at BB&T Ballpark on April 19. Photo credit: Laura Wolff

The day was planned for Thursday, April 19th at BB&T Ballpark. Darryl was to meet fans and sign pre-game autographs. One of my best friends, Joey C., who grew up a huge Darryl Strawberry fan, made the trek to Uptown Charlotte to meet his hero. He did.

For me, I spent a few hours with Darryl. It was a real thrill for me. I even interviewed him on the Sonic Automotive Pre-Game show on the concourse in front of so many fans.

Much like the time I interviewed Wally Backman — which came just a few months after Gary Carter passed away in 2012 — I asked Darryl about his memories of “The Kid”. I’m glad I did.

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Here’s that video interview in its entirety with Darryl. Although there were some microphone issues, you can still make most of it out!

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