Results tagged ‘ Wally Backman ’
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here’s that video interview in its entirety with Darryl. Although there were some microphone issues, you can still make most of it out!
On January 6, 2015, the National Baseball Hall of Fame welcomed four new members — Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, John Smoltz, and Craig Biggio. Those four players will be enshrined at Cooperstown in July with all-time greats such as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ty Cobb, Cy Young, and many others.
For me, Hall of Fame election day brings back many fond memories of my all-time favorite player, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2003 — his sixth year on the ballot. So, who was that player?
Growing up in Brooklyn, NY — and growing up a diehard Mets fan in the 1980’s — there was only one player for me — Gary Carter.
He wore #8, which was my favorite number. We were both born on the 8th day of a month (me in January, him in April). There were many other reasons too — and if you saw him play, you know those reasons.
He had heart. He had class. He worked hard. He was loved by many. He never gave up. He played to win. He succeeded. He was the final piece of the Mets championship puzzle. He always smiled. He was my baseball idol.
At my first-ever game at Shea Stadium as a kid with my dad, “the Kid” signed my program. He made me want to be a catcher in Little League — and I did for awhile — until I learned that I can pitch.
I followed him throughout his career (well, from his Mets days on) and I continued to follow him in his retirement. I always thought he should manage the Mets someday. You know what they say — catchers make the best managers. He would have been a very good Major League manager, too.
For six years, I remember waiting patiently on Hall of Fame day to see if he would finally get that much-deserved call. To me, he was a first ballot Hall of Famer. He was finally elected on January 7, 2003 — a day before my 22nd birthday. Not a bad birthday present!
Sadly, Gary passed away on February 16, 2012 at the age of 57. The Mets wore a patch on their uniforms that season in honor of him. I remember thinking that it was going to be my goal one day to interview former players to learn more about my baseball idol. I did that later that year when Wally Backman’s Buffalo Bisons visited Knights Stadium to face the Charlotte Knights.
For many reasons, January 7, 2003 was a memorable baseball day for me. It’s up there with the first Mets game I ever attended, the time I struck-out 17 batters in Little League, my first game working in baseball, and Opening Day in Uptown Charlotte last season.
All and all, sitting here in the Charlotte Knights press box today thinking about Gary Carter reminds me of so many great times watching and talking baseball with my dad and grandfathers. It reminds me of my early life when my family and I were living in Brooklyn and I could cheer on Gary Carter and the Mets.
My goal in 2015 will be to pick up where I left off in 2012 and continue to learn more about Gary Carter. Stay tuned for interviews later this year.
Here’s looking at you, “Kid”.