Sunday, March 8, 2015

Put Me in Coach... March 8: Slice of Life Challenge

I woke up this morning with my head spinning. I'd spent the evening at a table with  Bobby Valentine, who, despite his many varied career iterations, remains, one of the more colorful coaches in the game.

I wasn't always a Mets fan, honestly. And the switch didn't come all at once.

My dad was a die-hard Red Sox fan, because in some irrational way, Boston, to my dad, was an Irish town. My brother was a Yankee fan, and he was none too quiet about it at home. When I was seven, my big, hotshot seventeen year old brother...with a crazy crew of friends took me to Yankee Stadium and bought me a brand-new Yankee hat. But that hat, as the story goes, lifted up and flew right out of his friend Ronnie's convertible.

With the hat went my fleeting loyalty to the Yankees. Yeah, I loved Mickey Mantle, who didn't, but my real all-time fave was good old number 9, Roger Maris. If he'd only looked my way that day, all of this might be a different story.

It was Mr. Ripley, my best friend's dad, who planted the New York Metropolitan seed in my brain. It was the era of the Grande Orange, Rusty Staub. Mr. Ripley, a Mets fan, taught us a few things about baseball, about pitching and catching and about the Mets roster back then. So while they were just about duking it out at my house, and fighting to make me a fan, Mr. Ripley was scrubbing off the repair shop grease, tossing us balls and setting up games in the yard. We talked about pitchers and catchers and we even traded baseball cards.

So last night, as I sat there, listening to Bobby V holding court, I couldn't help think about his high jinx on the field. I had a million questions for him, but decided to sit back and listen to the countless stories he had to tell. In a way, I couldn't believe that the man I was seeing was the same guy that donned that mustache years ago. He got tossed for arguing an interference call on Mike Piazza in the twelfth inning of a Toronto Blue Jay game.

Bobby left the dug-out for an inning, but soon returned with shades and a fake mustache. I so wanted to know about that mustache. Did he have it hanging around in his bottom drawer, because of his history of ejections? You just gotta love a guy with that kind of creative spirit on and off the field.

What I realized after my time with Bobby last night, was that he is one of those gifted storytellers/entertainers you rarely find in your day-to-day circle of friends. My circle is far from boring, and there is, in that circle many a great storyteller for sure.  Bobby's experienced a lifetime of stories. And he's rubbed elbows with people living a life of fame. But Bobby, is the real deal. He came to raise money for our kids in Newtown, which is really small potatoes for him. He made a splash, but then hung out to engage in a night of back and forth conversation with us. If you didn't know anything about him, from afar, you'd think he was just one of our gang.

But as with everything in life, there is a downside here. Because while he regaled us in story, and made big bucks as an auctioneer, he revealed his true loyalty in baseball. And sure if he isn't one more of those darn Bronx Bomber fans! The good news...with fingers crossed he said he thinks this really is going to be the New York Mets' miracle year!

Go Mets!

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