Part 1: Playing the Game
I have always had a mixed relationship with baseball. I grew up playing it. I idolized my father, uncles and cousin who played it. I would sit in the dugout of my cousin’s team during games (my uncle of course coached). I would play catch with my dad and have my mom throw me flyballs for hours on end after school.
But, I quit playing when I was fairly young to pursue other sports. As an 11 year old kid, the game was boring to me. I loved to play the field, but getting a couple balls my way a game wasn’t enough. I loved running the bases, but standing around for hours on end in the middle of the summer was torturous. I needed to be doing something. At that point, I was out.
Part 2: Fandom
I grew up in a Mets household thanks to my mother. I always liked going to games with my family. I can remember sitting through rain delays, and watching Darryl Strawberry hit a home run deep to right field and into the darkness. I remember driving home from games when it was way past my bedtime.
But let’s face facts. The ‘86 team was incredible, but I was 3. Until I turned 16, the Mets were pretty irrelevant. At times they downright stunk. I guess you could say I “grew up” a Mariners fan. I loved Ken Griffey Jr. I had a Mariners hat which I wrote #24 under the brim. I loved the rivalry they had with the Yankees, and how it irked all the old fart Yankee fans that I wore a Mariners hat in NJ.
Part 3: Carlos and the Mets
Full disclosure, I fell back in love with the Mets in 2005, the day they signed Carlos Beltran. Go ahead and call me a bandwagon jumper, fair weather fan, etc. The truth is Carlos Beltran brought me back. He was the symbol of the Mets turning around their franchise. On opening day of the 2005 season, Beltran homered on his debut and I bought his shirt the next day (of course the Mets lost in a walk off HR, reminding me that it’s never going to be easy). I have admired watching him ever since.
Beltran has been the consummate professional. He’s carried expectations of a franchise on his back. He HAS played hurt, he DOES hustle and I believe he truly cares about this team. He’s been a scapegoat and lightning rod for many who blame him for all things wrong with the Mets and he has handled it with class.
Carlos Beltran is my guy. He brought me back to a team that I have come to identify with again. He brought me back to a sport that I had long given up on.
For that I say thank you, Mr. Beltran.
(And for the record, I still like irking old fart Yankee fans.)