My favorite New York Mets gift came almost on accident. It was not bought for me. All it took was running into an old baseball coach, and it gave me some of my best memories.
Back in 2015, my junior year of high school, I was playing a baseball tournament in Florida for Spring Break that was in the Port St. Lucie area. The tournament was from Thursday-Sunday, and all kinds of people would show up to the fields to watch us play.
In the middle of the game, I see my dad talking to a man that I had never seen before. It turns out, that man was the old coach at my high school, and he had moved down to Florida after he retired from teaching.
Better than that though, he was working security at the Mets Spring Training facility at the time. My dad being a die hard Mets fan of course, he got to talking to him about his experience working there and the team in general. One thing leads to another, and he invited my dad and me to tour the facility with him the next day!
The first thing we saw were the young Mets aces
The following day we wake up early and drive right to the facility and meet the coach in the parking lot. He took us in a golf cart and drove us all around. The first place we went to was the fields where the pitchers were throwing.
From behind the fence, I was able to see a young Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom getting their long toss work in. They’re both big dudes, but seeing them on television doesn’t do justice to their size. Syndergaard in person looks like he could be an NFL tight end, and deGrom might have some of the longest arms I’ve ever seen on a pitcher.
Not too far from there was Matt Harvey throwing one of his rehab bullpen sessions. Even though he was throwing around 75-80% at the time, the ball jumped out of his hand. It was effortless velocity; he wasn’t even trying and the ball was coming out at 90+ mph.
Mind you, again, this was 2015 at the time. Little did I know the absolute brilliance I was bound to see that upcoming season from those three guys. I couldn’t imagine at the time I was going to watch those three pitch in the World Series.
Then came the best part of my day: David Wright
As everyone knows, David Wright was struggling with his comeback from his spinal stenosis diagnosis around this time. I knew he was probably in Florida, but I just assumed he would be in the training room doing some rehab work, or stuck privately on the back fields doing some live hitting work.
So we continue to drive around the facility in the golf cart, and I’m looking around in awe of what I’m seeing. Then, the cart stops and coach points over toward the batting cages, and there he was. David Wright, my favorite baseball player of all time, with his wife and who I believe was either his trainer or agent, I couldn’t tell.
He then hops in a golf cart and starts driving in our direction. Coach pulls right up to the cart he’s driving and says hello. David then looks at me and my dad and says hello. He’s got a big smile on his face and asks us how we’re doing.
I couldn’t speak, I was completely star-struck. I’ve met a good amount of celebrities and pro athletes since then, and it is still to this day the only time I’ve ever been truly star-struck in my life. All I could do in that moment was wave and smile back.
He was the reason I wore the number 5 as a kid. He inspired me to try to play 3rd base, and I even tried modeling my swing after him. And now there he was, right in front of my eyes.
I went from playing a random baseball tournament down in Florida, to meeting my childhood sports idol all in the same weekend. None of it would’ve happened if my dad didn’t strike up a conversation with a guy that I had never met before. A guy who used to coach at my high school led me to my hero.
It is still one of the coolest moments of my life.