Categories
Warehouse Windows

After Baseball

From the time I was 13, I had dreamed of working for the New York Mets. I wanted to be a part of the team, and I wanted to be there when they won a World Series. However, I had always expected it to come later in life. My thoughts were, originally, that I’d be a journalist first and work towards a decent career in baseball journalism, then eventually try to get a job in baseball PR once I had some experience. Eventually, I’d get a job in PR with the New York Mets. Some elements of this plan were revised through the years, but the basics were there. No part or imagining of the plan involved me somehow landing a job in baseball PR when I was 22, and it certainly did not have an addendum on what I would do if I left baseball by the time I was 28.

Writing was a significant part of that plan but got dropped along the way. Baseball and writing are intrinsically tied together for me. You write about what you love, and baseball was my first love. A lot of the stuff I wrote in high school was about baseball. While writing about family and girls and friends and school and my children eventually entered the mix, baseball was consistent throughout.

While in the PR internship with the Orioles, I wrote about baseball a lot. I was responsible for things like the weekly minor league report and a homestand preview insert that went into scorebooks sold inside the stadium. I enjoyed that. I was also really good with computers and saw ways to make the intern’s job easier and far more efficient using them beyond what we had been using them for.

With this combination, I managed to extend a six-month internship into over a year. However, it got to a point where John had to move me…I couldn’t be an intern forever, and there was not a position open for me on his team. Fortunately for me (and probably unfortunately for my writing career), at the time, the Orioles were a bit out in front of other baseball teams with one of the first websites, and they needed someone to help manage it. People noticed my computer skills and offered me that job, so I moved over to help with the very new technology while still being able to help out with the PR department.

A hard truth I had to come to terms with while working for John was that I was never going to make it doing Public Relations in baseball or, really, any field. My problem was that I was an introvert, and in a field that requires you to talk to people, I didn’t cut it. I could get the nerve up in short bursts, but more than 10 to 15 minutes wore me out. I could barely hang out more than a half hour with John at the time before I felt exhausted. My social anxiety would be an exceptionally bad combination with baseball as I was just too intimidated by the baseball players and the bigger-than-life media people (seriously, how was a debilitatingly shy guy like me supposed to tell a guy like Eddie Murray, a future Hall-of-Famer, that he needed to stop avoiding Buster Olney, one of the great baseball journalists of his generation…or stare into the eyes of the crazy beautiful Melissa Stark and get even a single word out?).

So, making the jump to the website was perfect for me. It allowed me to bring together my creativity, my computer skills, and even my PR skills into something that was cutting edge at the time and make an impact. I really enjoyed that, and it still allowed me to contribute and help with the PR team.

Ultimately, it was the second biggest thing to happen that allowed me to capture the big dream I had…the New York Mets. It was painfully obvious that I was never going to get a job with the Mets PR department. I had applied for at least one job there…I think I still have the rejection letter from Jay Horowitz. But the New York media would have just crushed me (there were a couple of guys there that actually messed with me when I first started there, but I don’t think I’ll share those stories). I realized early on that websites were my ticket to the Mets.

To my good fortune, the tech/consulting company that helped the Orioles build and maintain their website managed to secure a contract with the Mets. The Mets needed a website administrator, and the consultants put me up for the job with my boss recommending me.

Getting the interview and traveling up there was a blur to me, and I really wish I could remember more of the details. I do remember that I didn’t tell my parents about who I was interviewing. I stayed with them the night before and told them I was interviewing in Manhattan. I wanted it to be a surprise if I actually got the job. They would know how much that job would mean to me. I remember sitting in the conference room in Shea with my boss, and I remember it being a really gloomy day. However, it pains me that I have almost no memories of that day except the feeling that it had gone well and that I most likely got the job.

Several weeks later, I found out I got the job with the Mets from my boss at the Orioles. It was a very strange day for me as I felt my life get completely flipped upside down. On one hand, I was completely overjoyed to get to capture my dream, but on the other hand, it meant moving away from Andrea just a couple of months after we got engaged. It also was the final nail in any kind of writing career I had hoped for myself.

I loved my time at the Mets. It was very, very different from my experience with the Orioles in terms of environment, culture, and, obviously, ballpark. New York City was such a different place from Baltimore. I’ve struggled for years to try to figure out what was different (aside from the obvious). There were plenty of people I was friendly with in both places, and both places had their share of people that were less than friendly. I want to say that New York had the stereotypical edge to it, which it did, but that wasn’t the whole thing. I think it had to do with me entering the Orioles job as an intern and sort of growing up in that job while entering the Mets with a full-time job with an office, and everything felt like I actually needed to be a grown-up, which I did not feel like I was. At the Orioles, I had some very good friends, and Andrea was right there. At the Mets, while I did have my family near, I felt very alone, and making friends took longer.

Regardless, I loved working at the Mets, but I think I always knew it wasn’t going to be a long-term place for me. I loved and soaked in every moment within the walls of Shea Stadium. However, it (New York) was not going to be a place I felt comfortable living in for a long period of time and starting a family. I know others that did it, including my boss, Tim, there, but living in New York just was not going to be the style for Andrea and me.

Ultimately, it was Major League Baseball that essentially removed any kind of decision for me.

In 2000, the teams voted to consolidate all the club sites under the management of a new company called MLB Advanced Media (MLBAM), and it meant that I would no longer be working directly for the Mets but for this new company.

Originally, I applied for and was hired on as a producer for MLBAM, where I would primarily work out of a central office in Chelsea and spend some time at Shea. The salary that was at least twice as much as I was making and a handful of empty promises had me jumping at it in a heartbeat. It would be something I would later regret. I made some mistakes in my brief time in that role as I realized it was not the right fit for me immediately. I was miserable there.

Sometime in the following January or February, I was at Shea taking care of a few things there, and I ran into the VP of Marketing at the time. He asked me how it was going at MLBAM. I told him it wasn’t going well and that I felt it was a mistake. I distinctly remember him carefully listening to me and then saying, “Then just come back.” He didn’t even wait for me to respond before walking away.

That stuck with me for the rest of the day, and I began to look into it seriously. The Mets-specific site admin job (I forget what it was called) was still open and paid less, but I approached my manager at MLBAM about it. They were extremely generous to me and allowed me to make the move back while keeping the same salary.

I took that job, and it looked like it would be a great fit for me. They wanted the position to basically be a writer and the eyes and ears for MLBAM at Shea. They hired beat writers with lots of journalism experience to cover the team, and I was to support them, write basic game summaries and contribute my own work. I was initially very excited about it. I felt my writing career was back on track.

I hesitate to write this, but the truth is that most of the editorial board I reported to at MLBAM were assholes. My immediate editor was very nice at first, but once the Editor-in-Chief was hired, he turned the screws on everyone, and it became a miserable working environment for me. Again, some of the issues were on my end and mistakes I made, but they created an environment where even the smallest mistake felt like it was fireable.

The combined with the bigger issue, though, which was my own introverted tendencies again. They wanted me to write feature pieces on players and include exclusive quotes in the articles. That was just not something I could get around myself to do, and the pressure my editors applied did not give me any room to try to figure it out. I knew I was doomed.

Looking back, there are things I could have done better, and I wish I had made the best of that tough situation, but I didn’t. Instead, I learned some very difficult and valuable lessons that ultimately helped me out later in life.

That August (2001), I walked away from that job without having anything else lined up. It was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. However, it was making me miserable and I figured I had plenty of great website skills and could easily get another job. However, the internet bubble burst right around that same time, and I was left unemployed for months. This would set Andrea and me back financially for years. It was probably the right time to get back on track and pursue some kind of writing career, but I chose a different path.

The experience of being able to optimize some processes at the Orioles using computers lead me to attempt to start my own company, October Turtle Statistical Services. PR departments at clubs did so much manual statistics tracking, and I knew I could make that easier on a computer. I got to work and developed a piece of software for the Orioles to do just that. However, I was an inexperienced programmer, and it had a lot of bugs in it. I continued to work on it, but ultimately it failed when MLB signed an exclusive contract for all clubs with a company that did something similar to what my software did. Any connection I had left to the game, professionally, was gone.

I never did fulfill a career in writing. It got sidetracked a bit, but with the exception of not making more of the opportunity MLBAM gave me, I have no regrets about it. However, I am still searching for my place within this game, still seeking an opportunity of my own that is not attached to the success of someone else. I am looking for my own legacy to leave behind in the game. When my time comes, I want to be remembered as first a great husband and father, second, a decent human being, and third, a writer that had a lifelong romance with baseball.

I was watching Moneyball the other night, and at the end, Brad Pitt as Billy Beane says, “How can you not be romantic about baseball?” And it is so true. When I think about baseball, I feel joy and love and heartbreak and every other range of emotion because baseball is romantic. Without the love of the game and the other emotions that come with it, you just have a list of stats. Any fan’s connection to baseball is a love story, and the game needs people to write those stories.

Confession time…I struggle to watch baseball on TV anymore. After nearly six years of watching nearly every home game from within the stadiums and nearly every road game on TV, I find it difficult to watch games from start to finish. I think maybe I was spoiled in those years, and it just doesn’t have the same feel. I still watch highlights and read about the Mets and try to absorb as much information about them as I can in a hectic life, but I just can’t sit through games on TV.

But I still love baseball, and memories of my time in the game still stirs deeply in me. There are days when I desperately miss it and the friends I made there. The feel of the sun as I ate my lunch in a random seat in an empty stadium when the team was on the road (I once spent an entire lunch hour contemplating how long it would take me to spend some time in each of Shea Stadium’s 55,000+ seats during my lunches.) The way the cold hits you when wandering through the stadium concourses in the dead of winter. Walking through a rowdy clubhouse…walking through a somber clubhouse. Sitting in the press box talking to friends.

When I think about it, it may not be so much the game I miss but the atmosphere around it…the romance of the game.

This book is a love story. Not your traditional love story, but an expression of my love for the game and all the little nuances and theatre and players (not just those on the field) involved in the game. Baseball will always be my first love. While my love for the game has been surpassed at least three times since that ground ball rolled through Buckner’s legs, it will always hold a very special and dear place in my heart because it was my first love. Whether or not it is successful, I also feel this book is my legacy to this game. The 1998 Mets Yearbook will show me as the first “Webmaster” for the New York Mets, but ultimately, I am sure it has already been lost to time the contributions I made. I doubt more than a handful of people will even remember me being at the Mets, and a few more will remember me from the Orioles. However, my hope is that my thoughts and stories, and love of the game will be noticed years after I am gone, and someone will wonder about who I was.

Categories
Warehouse Windows

A Magic Night at Shea

Games four and five of the 2000 NLCS were probably the most fun I had ever had at baseball games. Going into Game four at Shea Stadium the Mets already had a 2-1 lead in the series but had lost game three by a pretty big margin. So, I remember feeling a bit nervous and the crowd at Shea was a bit nervous as game four got underway. I did not have seats for the game, but for some reason found myself in the mezzanine level along the first base side (I may have been in the auxiliary press box). The Cardinals taking a two-run lead in the first did not help with the anxiety within the stadium, but the Mets put up four runs in their half of the inning off of five doubles and the stadium started going bonkers as it started rocking and bouncing.

When Todd Zeile lined a double to score two more runs in the second, I could actually see that stadium shaking. I had never been at a game like that and the place was just going nuts. What followed was seven more innings of just joy and partying at Shea. The Cardinals did threaten a bit, scoring four more times, but the final was 10-6 and it put the Mets on the verge of a National League Championship and a trip to the World Series.

In game five, Andrea came to the game with me and we sat in the centerfield bleachers towards the front. I remember being nervous. I had been with teams playing in League Championship Series three times in the previous four years and none of them were ever this close to a World Series berth. The Mets were 27 outs away with Mike Hampton, their stunning offseason acquisition, delivered the day of the office Christmas Party, coming off a solid season and a fantastic game one performance standing on the mound looking to seal it.

All the worries…all the fear…all the anxiety started to evaporate when the Mets scored a quick three runs in the first. And when Todd Zeile again delivered a double and three more runs in the fourth, the party began in earnest. Hampton was absolutely dominant, shutting out the Cards on three hits while going the distance, striking out eight.

In the past eight months and over the course of my life, I have written a lot about baseball. Writing about my time in the game, proofing and re-writing my novel, and turning my attention back to my beloved Mets. I’ve written about those pivotal moments in my baseball life…Game Six of the 1986 World Series. The Pendelton moment. Getting the job at the Orioles. I have written about all of it.

But this is the first time I have written about those two games that fall of 2000 and I can barely get through it as the emotions from those two days and that absolutely magical fall wash over me. I had always thought of them fondly, but now, nearly 22 years later, I am overwhelmed remembering the pure joy of those games.

With Andrea next to me, I don’t think I have ever been happier in my baseball life than I was at that moment when the Mets clinched, with Shea Stadium bouncing under my feet and the team that had filled up so much of my childhood, celebrating on the field with unadulterated joy. All these years later, I am nearly sobbing as I recall those memories and the moments later that night and the following morning.

In 1986 I watched the Mets celebrate in a champagne soaked locker room. To a certain extent, I had become obsessed with the idea of being in the middle of one of those. It captivated me and I wanted to be a part of one.

In 2000, I had a clubhouse pass around my neck and the opportunity was there for me to live that dream. At the time, I was pretty close with my boss and a couple of guys that worked as interns with me. With Andrea at my side, I decided to skip the clubhouse and celebrate that moment with her and the people I worked most closely with on the team. I remember arriving in the front offices and talking and celebrating with them when I saw the head of my department walk in, soaked in champagne carrying a special bottle of Budweiser the size and shape of a champagne bottle. For a moment, I wondered if I should have headed to the clubhouse. He walked over to us and handed us the bottle, which we shared and I felt that was the perfect way to celebrate.

Like the Orioles, the Mets had postgame parties during the postseason. I don’t remember exactly where it was as the rest of that night was a complete blur. I want to say it was in the normal tent set up behind the centerfield bleachers where those things normally were, but I feel like this was in a different spot than we normally had the parties. Under the scoreboard at Shea, maybe? Anyways, Andrea and I headed to that. We talked with Gary Cohen and Howie Rose. We watched as Mike Piazza and some other players joined the party. We hung out with my coworkers and we celebrated a moment that was just so special.

It was around 3 or 4 in the morning when we headed home to Hoboken through the New York Subway system. I use to know the transfers by heart, but in Manhattan, we transferred from the 7 Line to another train to get to the PATH train.

There is something so surreal about the New York/New Jersey transit systems at that time of the morning. I had ridden them often getting home from Shea after games, early in the morning. While there is a touch of fear in riding the trains at that hour, there is something so calming about those usually packed trains filled with the noises of so many people. The quiet always seemed to soothe my soul after chaotic days, even if you were riding the train with a 300-pound drunk man wearing a bunny suit.

Riding on the subway through that city after that game and night, I felt on top of the world and the smooth rocking of the train car mesmerized me into this sublime moment in time that I often think about to this day.

As we settled into our seats on the train with Andrea snuggled up against me, I remember feeling such a great sense of peace. It was the calm after the storm, and I just sank into the moment.

There was a man slunk in his seat across from us and he was looking over at me. After a moment or two, he asked, “Do you work for the Mets?” I was confused for a second before realizing I was still wearing my employee badge. I confirmed that I did and he responded with, “Congratulations. You are going to lose to the Yankees, though.” He then smiled at us, told us he worked at the New York Post, and handed us a copy of the first edition of the paper that just came off the press.

On the front was a black and white picture of Mike Piazza with his arms up celebrating and “AMAZIN!” printed in red over his head. In my somewhat large collection of newspapers commemorating big moments, that one is my favorite and just added to the magic of the night/morning.

About 10 days later, the Yankees did beat us in the World Series at Shea Stadium. I was sitting with my friend and former co-worker from the Orioles and I remember him grabbing my arm in momentary excitement when Mike Piazza drilled a Mariano Rivera pitch with a runner on and down by two in the ninth inning. But as I saw Bernie Williams settle in under it, I sat back down and heard the Yankee fans cheering a Championship, full-throated in my stadium. I refused to look at the field and my friend and I made our way out of the seats and back to my office.

The worst part of that loss was walking through the crowds of cheering Yankees fans. In order to get to my office from the centerfield seats we had to go out of the stadium around centerfield, walk around to about home plate, and back in. At the moment, the sight and the sounds created a hard memory for me and it crushed me. It was in sharp contrast to the NLCS and I was not ready for it.

Through the years I think back to moments in the World Series and I get disappointed and taste the bitterness on my tongue. It hurts sometimes, especially now, almost 22 years later and knowing I’ll never be back there again.

However, I’ll never forget that “Amazin” night when we won the NLCS. It and the 1986 World Series burn in the hearth of my baseball soul, someplace warm I can return to when things get cold (I am looking at you, 2007). In a huge way, 2000 still influences me. In that moment when I returned to my office after winning the NLCS and seeing Andrea and my friends to the left of me and the head of my department to the right soaked in champagne, a weird thought went through my head that was cemented by the World Series loss.

I didn’t want to be in an office or in a clubhouse celebrating someone else’s accomplishments. I needed to not tie my life and emotions and energy to the ups and downs of a group of people that happen to be wearing the same clothes. I needed to find my own success, my own things to cheer about.

Less than a year later, I was out of baseball by my choice. While I obviously still love the game and absolutely treasure my 2000 NL Championship ring, the game just was not right for me anymore, professionally. I needed my own accomplishments to celebrate. While I am largely still chasing that, there is so much I have done in my life that I am proud of. There are times I desperately miss working for baseball teams, I would not change it. Not a single moment of it.

And, honestly, a lot of what happened that fall is what drove me to write this book. However, this post has already gone on too long, so the rest of this story will need to wait until after the final chapter of the book gets published.

Categories
Warehouse Windows

Celebrations

When I think of my time with the Orioles and the Mets, it is the celebrations with my coworkers and friends that I remember the most. However, one of the reasons I wanted to work so badly in baseball was because I wanted to be a part of one of those clubhouse champagne celebrations. That didn’t happen, but the celebrations with my coworker friends still stir joy inside of me all these years later.

In 1996, I was alone in the office, catching up on some work, when the Orioles upset the Indians in the Division Series in Cleveland. I got up from my desk and was celebrating on my own in the middle of the warehouse. My friend and coworker, Kevin, was in Cleveland for the game and he arrived a few hours later, somehow racing by car to beat the team’s plane and bus. We excitedly talked and celebrated as others would trickle in to be a part of the moment and get to work on the next. By the time the team bus arrived, there were hundreds of fans outside the warehouse cheering and celebrating. When the bus arrived, pandemonium erupted and I stood along side my friends cheering and hugging. It was such an awesome moment…I felt like I was in a movie.

Even in losses, there was celebration. For home games during the ALCS, there was a postgame party in the restaurant inside the warehouse for media and VIP’s. When the Yankees beat the Orioles in that year’s ALCS, employees were invited up to the postgame party and we celebrated like we had won. The intensity of the last few weeks of the season, the Alomar situation, and a frustrating ALCS (Jeffrey Maier!!!) were unleashed in a wave of emotion. It was the end of the world, so to speak, and there was no tomorrow. Later that night, a few of us not wanting to let go drove around (we did have a designated driver) looking for an open bar. We never found one, but that quiet time driving around a very quiet city, and talking with friends are moments I will always cherish.

However, perhaps my very favorite moment during my time in baseball, and the inspiration for the latest chapter of my book, came in 1997, back with the Orioles. Despite a better record, they were expected to struggle against the Seattle Mariners in the Division Series mostly because they would have to figure out how to beat Randy Johnson, who finished 2nd in the AL Cy Young vote that year, and shut down the awesome trio of MVP Ken Griffey Jr., Edgar Martinez and Alex Rodrigues.

The Orioles were up to the task and made it seem easy, beating them in four games, with the final game at Oriole Park. It featured two of the best pitchers of that generation, Mike Mussina and Johnson. Honestly, I remember absolutely nothing from the game itself or the immediate postgame work that had to be done, but what followed that was amazing.

The Orioles offices inside that long warehouse featured hallways right down the middle, maybe 10 feet wide. Running along the hallway were low walled, built-in desks where administrative assistants and other staff worked. Behind those desks were staff offices that had windows overlooking either the walkway and field or the road in front of the warehouse.

After the Seattle game, and after our work was done, a few of us were hanging out at the desks along the hallway talking about the game and speculating about the ALCS. Our team had won 98 regular-season games and had just made the mighty Mariners, with at least three Hall of Famers playing for them (Griffey, Johnson and Martinez; Rodrigues probably would have been if he had stayed clean), had been taken down easily. We were reinvigeratorated and excited and felt invincible.

Originally, if I remember correctly, it started out as just my coworkers (and close friends) Kelly and Kevin and myself. Slowly, more and more people would join us there and the excitement and voices grew. Eventually, these rolling ice carts with beer in them showed up, I think courtesy of either John or my manager at the time, Spiro (I had moved from PR to the website before the 1997 season). I can’t be sure, but I think eventually food showed up and all of it was down the middle of that hallway. The production folks broke out some makeshift music system and soon it seemed nearly the entire staff of the Orioles were in that hallway celebrating and laughing and cheering and singing (pretty sure Tubthumping was played more than once). And since it was a late afternoon game, it was still early enough that no one felt the need to go anywhere and late enough that there was no time to do anything else. It really was one of my absolute favorite moments working in baseball.

It was truly a magical moment that still makes me emotional and gives me chills to this day. It would also be the last of so many magical moments I remembered from my time there.

Just over a week later would be one the hardest moments I had in baseball. Coming off that big Division Series win, we were the favorites to beat the Cleveland Indians and advance to the World Series. Through some heartbreaks and another Pendelton moment (Armando Benitez, who would repeatedly break my heart during my baseball career, gave up a three-run home run to Marquis Grissom in the top of the 8th inning of game 2 when it looked for sure that we were about to go up 2 games to none), we found ourselves in a 3-1 hole in the series.

The staff refused to concede and after winning game 5, we came home needing to win the final two games. We took on a makeshift slogan of “We Believe” and we had a bunch of orange signs printed up and distributed around the ballpark for game six.

Unfortunately, Game 6 was a heartbreaker, 1-0 in 11 innings. It was the second consecutive year that the team failed in the ALCS at home. However, again, a few of us gathered in the hallway to talk a bit and console each other until it was time to go home. In five full seasons working in major league baseball, the team I worked for went deep into the playoffs four times without winning it all and I never got used to that shockwave of a season just suddenly ending. After a month of intensity, of constantly having something to do and working off just pure adrenaline and to have it suddenly being over like flipping off a light switch hits you hard. So we just sat in that hallway, contemplating what to do next. It was a mix of not wanting to go home, but also not wanting to be there anymore.

Eventually, we did head for the exit and as I approached the door that came into our section of the warehouse, I noticed one of the “We Believe” signs taped to it. I went up to it and ripped off the “Be” so that it just read “We lieve” and we walked out with a couple of chuckles.

And that was really the end of those glory days at the Orioles. While I wasn’t there, 1995 had 2131 and 1996 and 1997 had exciting playoff runs. But with that loss to Cleveland, it was over. A lot of my friends, who were mostly seasonal, would leave that fall, and in February, I would leave for my dream job at the Mets. The Orioles would inexplicitly fire the great manager, Davey Johnson during the winter and they would put up 14 straight losing seasons before making it back to the playoffs in 2012. They have only had 4 winning seasons in the 24 seasons since I was there, which is a shame for that fanbase that loves their team more than any other fanbase I have ever seen.

While I never did have that clubhouse champagne celebration, (part of me still feels a tug at having passed up on the opportunity twice) those moments with my friends in the warehouse, even in the losses, are some of my most cherished memories in baseball.

(In my three seasons with the Mets, there was a lot to celebrate like the 2000 NLCS, the Grand Slam Single, Todd Pratt’s Division Series clinching homerun, and so on, but those are stories for another time.)

Categories
Warehouse Windows

Passing on a Passion…or Not

I originally wrote the chapter “Top of the Eighth: Shared Stories” about six or seven years ago. At the time, at least one of my sons was still playing baseball, possibly both. I may have even written this when they were both playing for the Little League team I was coaching at the time, the Mets.

I feel like that is important to mention should my sons one day read my book. As I was re-editing this latest chapter it goes heavy on “The Fan’s” (Abigail) need to have her kids enjoy baseball. It lays heavy her excitement at them becoming fans. It, in fact, goes on so much that one day, my own kids might feel like I am sending some sad message to them, expressing my own disappointment that, as of right now, early in the 2022 baseball season, they are not baseball fans.

The main crisis point with Abigail is that she loves the game, but is alone in that love. Her own father, her primary human connection to the game, is gone and her children don’t like the game, or, more accurately, have good reasons not to like it. However, this was a plot point I developed a long time ago when I first started writing this in 2011. The boys were fans of Thomas the Train then and baseball just wasn’t something they were too familiar with.

In fact, by then, we had been to a number of Lehigh Vally IronPig games and Ben had been to a couple of Mets games and there was a glimmer of hope that they might enjoy those little adventures. And even if they were more interested in the hot dogs and the playground beyond the left field wall at Coca Cola Park (IronPigs), there was a realistic chance at the time I developed this part of the story, that they could be baseball fans.

We introduced them to a few different sports, both playing and watching. They tried soccer, baseball, running and tennis. I had them watch, from time to time, baseball, football and basketball. In the end, they settled on the sports they liked playing, which was not baseball. Aside from the occasional basketball game and big events like the Olympics and the Super Bowl, neither of them really watch sports. Lately, both have started asking more about baseball, but I think they are really just bored by it.

I never wanted to feel like I was forcing my sports and interests on them. Yeah, I dressed them in Mets and Giants stuff and bought them hats, but I never sat them down and told them they had to root for the Mets. The games we attended at stadiums aside, we never forced them to sit and watch a game with us. I would turn it on and they could watch if they wanted and I’d be more than happy to answer any questions they had. However, I felt it was important to never push it on them.

So, as I re-read parts of my story, I wonder if it feels like I am projecting something here, what must they feel like when they read it? I don’t mean to lay down that kind of guilt. At the end of the day, while hugely influenced by my life in and around baseball, I am not bitter or regretful that my sons don’t share this interest with me.

All that said, I feel I need to leave them a very personal and public note: Benjamin and Matthew…you have to trust me, root or don’t root for whoever in whatever sport you want. I care, but I really don’t. Please do not read anything into all of this. At the end of the day, I just want you to be happy, which is probably all the more reason to stay away from baseball…it WILL break your heart. Especially the Mets!

However, one last note, I am not try to guilt either one of you, but I feel I do need to remind you that I will need to figure out who to leave my 2000 New York Mets National League Championship ring to…Just saying.

Categories
Warehouse Windows

The Pendleton Moment

In “Bottom of the Sixth: Pendulum of Baseball”, the character Abigail’s first experience with the moment that momentum changes and swings the other way. I think most baseball fans, or fans of every sport, experience this type of moment, what I call the Pendleton Moment. It is a point in a game or a season when everything seems to be going great for your team; they have the lead and/or momentum, all the breaks are going their way and they just seem unbeatable. And then the Pendleton Moment happens, where something goes wrong, sometimes subtle, sometimes huge, and everything changes. Everything has swung back in the other direction and never returns.

You may be reading this and thinking that I have the wrong word and I mean to say “pendulum moment”. I am not. I intentionally call it the “Pendleton Moment”…Let me explain.

I fell in love with the New York Mets in 1986 when they won the World Series in such dramatic fashion. I had not followed them for a full season, however, until 1987 (yes, initially, I was a bandwagoner). And 1987 was a rollercoaster that started with Dwight Gooden in drug rehab and not pitching until June, saw the Mets drop to 10.5 games behind the Cardinals by July 10, rallying and chasing through the late Summer to find themselves 1.5 games behind St. Louis on September 11 with a three game series against them at Shea Stadium.

And just as I remember the details around the moment that I fell in love with the New York Mets, I remember the moment I experienced my first baseball heartbreak. While there were still 20 games after this set for the Mets to catch the Cards, this series was huge and held a playoff like atmosphere to it. A sweep puts them up 1.5 games up and a simple win of the series puts them just a half game behind.

I had a Youth Group gathering the night of the first game, but someone had a radio that we would listen to from time to time. We heard the Mets get a 4-1 lead early in the game and it felt like they were assured of a win. It got to the 9th inning and Roger McDowell walked the first guy but then got the next two outs. The Mets were one out away from getting within a half game of the Cards with Dwight Gooden (who had a strong season after rehab) pitching the next day with the possibility of putting them in first place for the first time since April 25th. That scenario almost seemed poetic and would quickly become a fantasy.

Willie McGee singled in a run bringing up Terry Pendleton, the pendulum.

The radio was sitting on a chair next to an open side door of the St. Jude Parish Center where we had been playing basketball. It was a nice fall evening and we took a break to listen to the 9th inning and cool off. I remember the color of the carpet around the edge of the wood floor. I remember the color of the door frame. I can even picture the cars sitting in the parking lot just beyond the open door. I remember all of it as the voice of Bob Murphy broke my heart calling the home run to deep center that Pendleton would hit.

I felt the air escape my lungs. I felt my heart drop into my stomach. I felt hope fighting to leave my young baseball soul. The momentum of the game and the season, in that instant, swung the other way. In some ways, you could argue, it was the moment the whole franchise changed and swung in a direction that they have yet to recover from..

The Mets managed to get a bit of a rally in the bottom of the ninth, putting two runners on, but Keith Hernandez would ground out to end the rally. The Cards scored twice in the tenth to nail down the game and, for all intents and purposes, the NL East.

The Mets were 2-1/2 games out when Gooden took the mound the next afternoon and promptly gave up five runs in the first and they dropped to 3-½ games back. They won on Sunday, but you could feel the team had just lost all their momentum…they had given it to the Cardinals.

They would get back to 1.5 games, but they went 11-9 in the final 20 games to finish 3 games behind. I don’t remember when they actually got eliminated (I looked it up…September 30 with a loss just before a final three game set in St. Louis), but it felt like they got eliminated with Pendleton’s home run. I held out hope as all good fans of the game do. I’ve always been an ultra-optimistic fan(born in the forge of the greatest World Series comeback in history will do that), but deep down inside me, I knew they were done that Friday night.

Since then, those moments when everything swings back the other way have been known as Pendelton moments to me and it might be 20/20 hindsight, but I feel like I always know it the moment it happens. Like one of those pendulum rides at an amusement park when it hits that highest point and then stops for a second. You know exactly what is about to happen next and in that next second, the air rushes out of your lungs.

Mike Scioscia’s 9th inning home run in game 4 of the 1988 NLCS. Jeffrey Maier’s interference in game 1 of the 1996 ALCS. Marquis Grissom’s three run home run in the 8th inning of game 1 of the 1997 ALCS. Timo Perez being thrown out at home in the 6th inning of game 1 of the 2000 World Series. Greg Dobb’s sixth-inning grand slam in the middle game of the September Phillies series at Shea Stadium in 2007. Alcides Escobar’s leadoff inside the park home run of game 1 of the 2015 World Series.

These are all moments that did not immediately decide games or season’s. Some Pendleton moments don’t even change the score. However, they are moments when you feel like everything has changed, momentum is lost and the wind is taken out of the sails of a team. They are key moments, sometimes huge, sometimes subtle, that seem to remove a team from contention.

I imagine for a player, there is a psychological factor that is involved. In the case of the Mets and Cardinals, the Mets were ready to celebrate and they were knocked to the ground while the Cardinals were filled with elation. As a fan, I know that mentally you just get crushed by some of these moments. For a player who is in the thick of it and has worked so hard to get to that point and have one moment hit you like that, it can be nearly devastating to you mentally, making it difficult to recover in time.

And you don’t always feel it right away, but in all those moments listed above, I remember them bringing a strong sense of foreboding…somewhere, deep down inside me, despite my unending optimism, I knew my team was done in that moment. I still held out hope. I still rooted and even prayed, but somehow, I just knew that the pendulum of momentum had just swung the other way. These Pendelton moment’s are painful for fans and sometimes hang with you for the lifetime of your fandom to recover.

As I contemplate all the Pendelton moments I have encountered in my life as a Mets fan, I wonder if they all go away if and when the Mets win the World Series again. I hope it doesn’t take too long to find out.

And the more I think about all of this, I can’t help but wonder if it was the wild pitch or Bill Buckner’s error that was the Pendelton moment for the 1986 Red Sox.

And I remember that the pendulum swings both ways.

Categories
Warehouse Windows

My Longest Day in Baseball

I was drinking a beer, sitting with friends at Murph’s Study Hall in York PA. I can’t remember who exactly I was sitting with (probably my future wife Andrea was next to me) because I was intently watching the TV. Specifically, I was watching the Baltimore Orioles play in Toronto against the Blue Jays. It was September 27, 1996. I doubt many Orioles fans actually remember that date, but I’d be willing to guess that they clearly remember the events of that night.

The setup was that the Orioles held a 2.5 game lead in the Wild Card race with three games to play. A win by them and a loss by the Mariners locked up their first trip to the playoffs in 13 years as the American League Wild Card team. It was a tense and important game to the team, obviously.

Anyone that knows me knows how locked in and intense I get around these games and this may have been the worst as I was coming up on the end of my first season in Major League Baseball and the playoffs were on the line.

Ahead of me was a long weekend. I was an intern in the Orioles Public Relations department and we had the postseason media guide to work on, would need to head into the office on Saturday. Since we would need the final stats from Sunday’s game before we could wrap up the media guide, I knew at least a 24-hour stretch likey lay ahead of me and the rest of the PR staff starting on Sunday morning. If everything went as planned, the postseason would start the following days. So, I was trying to get one last calm and easy night in before all hell broke loose and, hopefully, before the playoffs began.

It was only the top of the inning and Roberto Alomar, the star second baseman of the Orioles was called out on strikes by home plate umpire John Hirschbeck and an argument between the two broke out. I remember distinctly taking a sip of my beer and looking up at the TV just over the rim of my mug and seeing what looked like Alomar spitting into the face of the home plate umpire. I nearly spit back out my beer. I thought that I must have not seen it correctly, however, the replay quickly confirmed it.

I was dumbfounded and shocked by it and knew it was going to be a big deal as a new wave of anxiety crept in to join forces with the anxiety of will they or won’t they clinch. It was not a good feeling, but I had no idea just how big of a deal it would become.

When I got to work on Saturday, things were pretty normal. The Orioles lost their game but clinched a tie for the Wild Card when the Mariners lost their game. I really don’t remember much of it, but whether the Orioles would clinch that afternoon slightly edged Alomar in the talk of the few people that were in the office that day. I remember a few calls coming in with people complaining about Alomar, but nothing too serious. With the team on the road, there weren’t going to be any media calls coming in, either.

The Orioles did clinch that afternoon, so when I arrived to work on Sunday morning it was with the knowledge that the long day and night ahead to get the media guide out to print by Monday morning would not be in vain. I remember feeling excited and a sense of a new beginning. While the sports shows were all talking about Alomar and whether he would be allowed to play in the Division Series, I had an extremely false sense of security that it would all blow over. That was probably a good thing because we had higher priorities that day.

To provide a bit of context, the Postseason Media Guide was something all playoff teams had to put out in time for their first playoff series. It had updated stats and information on all the players as well as highlights and notes from the season. I believe we started working on it in August on the chance that we made the playoffs (that was a kickoff meeting that very much holds firm in my memory). It would be an absolutely vital guide for all the media that would be coming in to cover the postseason run. There was absolutely nothing more important that needed to be accomplished in that 24 hours.

There was plenty of work to do that Sunday morning before even beginning with the media guide that Sunday. There was the beginning of the press clipping avalanche around Alomar and the Wildcard clinch that buried me in the newspapers. While there was still some “pre-work” to do with the media guide…basically making the last few changes that did not rely on the last games to be played and proofreading what was already final…clearing the deck of the clippings would allow me to focus more on the stats and other information that would come in after the last out of the season was recorded.

Once that happened, we could get to work in earnest, which we did. The plan, if my memory is serving me right, was that we would work through the night and have the media guide ready for printing first thing in the morning on Monday. Then, I think, we would take turns heading home to freshen up and possibly take a short nap (although, as I type that, it does not sound right) before coming back in.

The first part of the plan was nearly flawless. While I was exhausted by around 1 or 2 in the morning with the take-out Chinese food wreaking havoc on my system, I really enjoyed the work. There were at least six of us working together, as a true team, to get the job done. Each of us knew what we needed to do and it felt great to be a key part of that effort. When the guide was sent out to the printer, there was such a wave of excitement and relief and pride in being part of that. That long night and the even longer day that followed was one of my favorite memories of working in baseball.

However, around the time that we sent off the media guide to the printer on Monday morning, the phones started ringing. One of my jobs as an intern was to answer the calls from media members, like Buster Olney and Ken Rosenthal who covered the Orioles back then, other parts of the organization and fans. While I would do my best to answer media questions and the organization, they were often directed to others higher up. The calls from the fans, however, were all for us interns. So, I had grown accustomed to busy days on the phone, but nothing prepared me for that day. As talk around baseball heightened with the debate on whether Robbie Alomar should be suspended during the Division Series against the Cleveland Indians, more and more media calls started coming in.

However, mixed in with the calls from media came more and more calls from fans. These were people that followed the Orioles their whole lives, respected the team, and thought them to be a class organization. The shock of what had happened on Friday night manifested itself as anger, disappointment, and hatred for Alomar from the Baltimore faithful.

Some would be yelling before I even said hello, screaming angry and sometimes vile words at me while others would be more gentle as they seemed honestly confused as to what was going on with their team. The last time they witnessed a postseason game, Cal Ripken Jr. was catching an easy liner to clinch the World Series Championship 13 years before. It was an extremely long 13 years for this city that loved this team, but instead of excitement as they headed in, fans felt this mix of emotion regarding Alomar. And through the course of that long, slow blur of a day, I had heard every one of those emotions expressed to me on the phone.

While most people were angry, what they wanted varied. Some wanted to just be heard. Some wanted to know what the Orioles were going to do about it, insisting that the team sacrifice winning for discipline and suspend Alomar. Some wanted the Orioles to do nothing and let the league handle it. My job was simple…to just sit on the phone and, unless they were extremely belligerent, listen. Make no promises. Express no opinions of my own. Say very little and just listen.

Added to the tension of the day was what would Major League Baseball do about it. We already know the team wasn’t going to suspend him for the division series, so we were waiting anxiously to find out what the league was going to do. Ultimately, they would hand down a five-game suspension to be served at the start of the next season and Alomar would go on to play hero against the Cleveland Indians in the Division Series.

Towards the end of the day, I received one call where the guy on the other line had a very calm voice. He started telling me how he was a fan of this team his whole life and how much he loved them. He talked about how excited he was to have the team in the playoffs and how proud of them he was. He talked about how he was disappointed in Alomar’s actions and felt he should be punished but expressed the sentiment that we all make mistakes. We need to move on from them. He was so calm and so unlike most of the calls I answered that day. It brought a certain peace. This was my inspiration for the Middle of the Sixth chapter and I think about this often.

It was about 36 hours after I had first come into the office when the phone finally stopped ringing. I found myself alone in the office (different people had other responsibilities around the stadium) finally able to catch my breath. I can’t remember the logistics of how I got clean clothes or anything like that for the next day, but John eventually came back to the office, took one look at me, and insisted that the team put me and the other intern up in a hotel for the night. I don’t remember much after that and my next memory was of waking up in the hotel the next morning, taking a shower, and heading back to the office.

However, despite the nightmare that day was, as I mentioned earlier, I recall the day with fondness. It was a day that pushed me to my mental limits…exhausted, emotionally drained, angry, happy, excited…and I survived and was able to do what I needed to do. It taught me a bit about myself and what I could accomplish. And I was proud to have been a part of that IT team for how we handled what was a public relations nightmare. I’ll always remember that day and that team (in the PR office) fondly.

This is a bit of a tangent from the story above, but talk about this in the novel and feel this belongs here. In the warehouse at Oriole Park, on the sixth floor (if I am remembering correctly), was a storage room. I can’t remember if it was actually called the attic or if that was just what I started calling it. However, it contained nearly every bit of newsprint about the Orioles ever written, every boxscore was meticulously kept in binders, stat books (giant binders full of notes about every run, hit, home run, strikeout, and probably every single pitch was kept) for every season, and media guides. It also contained promotional items given out in past seasons, banners that were used, and memorabilia from the old stadium. It was an unorganized museum of probably every moment in the history of the Orioles.

As a lover of baseball history, I enjoyed going up there. Fo me, it was a sort of magical world where you just got absorbed into the game itself. Surrounded by all that history was just absolutely mesmerizing.

When I had some free time I would find myself up there looking through the clippings and boxscores and memorabilia. It was quiet up there and I really enjoyed the escape that it provided. It was one of my favorite places in the stadium.

I am not sure if the Mets had the equivalent at Shea Stadium. I assume they did. I can’t remember if I ever went looking for it, but I wasn’t part of the PR team there. As I look back, exploring that possibility is one of my very few regrets while working in baseball.

It is also strange for me to realize that another nearly 25 years of history would have been added to that place since I was last there. I would love to go back and visit, but sadly, I doubt I will ever have that chance again.

Categories
Warehouse Windows

Opening Day > Christmas Day

It felt a bit weird to be publishing the chapters about Opening Day around Christmas and New Year. Dodging snow, bundling up to head outside, and stocking the fireplace all could not be any further than the ideal pristine thoughts of the perfect Opening Day. Warmth. Sunshine. Perfection.

However, the more I thought about it, the more it feels. Christmas and New Year are about hope and new beginnings. It is about possibilities, starting over, and joy. For those of us that love baseball, oftentimes there is more excitement around Opening Day than Christmas for all the same reasons, plus the fact that if everything goes right, you get to feel that excitement every day for more than six months.

When I was younger, I was always so excited for Opening Day. In my book, it was a holiday. Anything is possible for your team, even if the pundits tell you winning is impossible for your team. It starts a long stretch where, nearly any day, anything can happen. On any pitch, the little things like an impossible diving catch, a bunt that stays just inside the third baseline, or a ridiculous pitch that leaves the batter frozen are always possibilities and have their own excitement about them. On any day, the big things can happen like a perfect game or someone hitting for the cycle. And it all begins on Opening Day in the warmth of a hopefully beautiful sunny day and doesn’t end until a cold brisk autumn night. How could someone not be excited about that?

In more recent years, Opening Day has snuck up on me. Whether it is lost faith in the Mets or just being busy, baseball comes upon me like quickly and unexpectedly (not unlike Christmas these days). However, Opening Day always feels special. I get introspective and recall Opening Days of the past. Darryl Strawberries long home run into the roof in Montreal, Gary Carter’s game-winner in his first game as a Met and Alberto Castillo’s 14th inning game-winner in my first game working for the Mets all come to mind.

When it came to Opening Day in the novel, I wanted to show three sides of it. More importantly, for the Player I wanted to show that even the most hardened beat down individuals will still hold an air of hope around Opening Day. Regardless of what is ahead and what is behind, I like to think that even the grizzled veterans enjoy and welcome opening day…that it is a special day for them, as well. I don’t know if that is actually true, but I like to think it is.

In the current climate, however, it is frustrating with the lockout. Right now, March 31 is the scheduled Opening Day, but who knows if that actually happens. However, regardless of when “Play Ball” is shouted, it will feel like Christmas morning.

Categories
Warehouse Windows

Orioles or Bust

Middle of the Third, like a few of the “Intern Chapters,” really is more autobiography than anything else. And if it had not happened to me, I would have thought it to be some improbable Disney story … too good to be true, too unrealistic, too much like fiction. However, it is true, and it is one of my favorite stories to tell, although I feel like it has been ages since I’ve told it. To this day, it is one of those things in my life that causes me to believe in miracles.

In the Spring of 1994, I applied for an internship position at the New Jersey Cardinals, a brand new Single-A Short Season team playing in a brand new ballpark about 30 minutes from my parent’s house. I managed to land that internship and worked out an agreement with them that they would let me work games and a couple of times a week to work another job that would help me pay for college.

The experience at the Cardinals was both very memorable and fun and absolutely horrible at the same time. The interns were, effectively, free labor for the Cardinals management that they could have to do whatever they wanted them to do, regardless of whether it had anything to do with our majors. However, without it, I don’t get anywhere else in baseball, and this novel doesn’t exist.

During my senior year in college, I applied for an internship with the Baltimore Orioles. I was in school at York College of Pennsylvania, about 45 – 60 minutes from Oriole Park. I actually got an interview, I want to say sometime in the winter or early Spring, but I don’t have a clear memory of the timing. I went down and talked to the Public Relations director and thought I had a good showing. Unfortunately, I was told, due to the uncertainty of the players’ strike at the time, they weren’t going to bring me on.

So, I graduated college in May of 1995 and stayed in York to be close to Andrea. I managed to get a job at a local bank as a teller and really made some good friends there. While it was a decent job, it wasn’t for me, and job hunting for something in public relations wore me down. I was inexperienced and, on the rare occasion I got an interview, I presented myself horribly. Looking back, I probably would have thrown out my resume as soon as the interview was over if the roles were flipped.

By the time October rolled around, I was not in a good place. I had grown increasingly miserable in the job and felt lost. I had higher – maybe unreasonable – expectations of myself. I had found a lot of college success, and it did not translate into the real world. I think this all bled into my relationship with Andrea as we started to experience some tension between us. It was beginning to look like I needed to move back home to try my luck in the New York area.

My days off from the bank were Sunday and Wednesday (or something like that), and on one Tuesday night, after a bit of a fight with Andrea, I gave myself an ultimatum. I would drive down to Baltimore on the next day and knock on some doors. If I didn’t get a prospect, I would call it quits and move back home. I had no idea what “knock on doors” in Baltimore really meant, but it didn’t matter much as I only had one intention.

So, Wednesday morning, I got up somewhat early, drove down to Timonium, Maryland, jumped on the Light Rail, and headed to the ballpark. While I told Andrea and others that I planned on knocking on a whole bunch of doors, I knew that the only job I had my sights set on was the Baltimore Orioles. I did not have a plan B. With a literal “Hail Mary” on my lips, it was Orioles or bust with what felt like everything at stake.

I don’t remember how I got from the Light Rail to the second-floor reception desk of the Baltimore Orioles. Obviously, I walked…the train was right outside the stadium, but I remember parking my car at the furthest north Light Rail station, and the next thing I knew, I was standing at reception.

The receptionist was very friendly and, with a resume in hand, told her I was looking for a job. I could tell she had seen the likes of me before and told me to give her my resume, and she would give it to someone else, and she was sure they would call me back. Not usually being the bold type, I handed the resume to her and took a step back, ready to leave. However, somewhere inside my head, a voice told me that I shouldn’t go. It told me to speak up, or I would regret it the rest of my life. I had come that far, with everything in my young, naive life at stake. Turning around to leave meant surrendering everything, including my dreams, and giving up. I knew I had to write a new story for myself. I needed a miracle.

And from there, a series of improbable made-for-Hollywood moments happened, and my life, in nearly every sense, changed.

So, I stepped back and told her that I would like to talk to someone (sort of like Rudy in the middle of the night at the gates of Notre Dame). She looked at me quizzically and let out a deep sigh…She had no idea what to do with me at that point.

Then someone to her right caught her attention, and her face lit up. She stood up and stopped the woman trying to make her way through the lobby and explained to her what the situation was. I could see the woman sort of let out her own deep sigh and take my resume from the receptionist. She signaled me over to her and walked me over to a couch in the lobby.

We sat down, and she turned towards me, sort of annoyed (to this day, I don’t blame her…I would be, also). She introduced herself as the director of Human Resources for the Orioles as she glanced down at my resume. She then asked me what kind of job I was looking for, and I told her that I was looking for something in Public Relations/Media Relations.

Her head suddenly snapped up as she made firm eye contact with me. Her attitude towards me took a 180 as she asked me a couple more specific questions before she stood up. She told me to wait there and quickly went back through the door she had just come out.

After a few minutes, she came back out smiling. She told me that right before the receptionist had stopped her, she had been in a meeting with the Director of Media Relations (a different person than I had met previously), John, to discuss finding a full-time paid intern to work in the office. She also told me that John would be out to talk to me in a minute. Honestly, she seemed as excited as I was at this point. Whether it was the chance randomness of encountering me at the exact right moment or the fact that I may save her a bunch of work, she genuinely seemed happy.

A moment or two later, John walked out. Instantly, his personality hit me like a freight train. He carried this boisterous energy about him that filled every room he was in, and he seemed to fill that lobby and the entire stadium that was just out the window over my left shoulder. He was smiling, almost laughing as he too recognized the absurdity of me walking into that lobby just moments before the HR director was heading off to start the search for, well, me.

John invited me back to his office and carefully reviewed my resume. In the two years following I would learn that he had this unique ability to go from laughter and joking to complete business in an instant…and then back in the next moment. He wasn’t going to let a little something like serendipity or a miracle mislead him into making the wrong decision.

We talked a bit about my time at the New Jersey Cardinals. Like me, he was from New Jersey as well, so we talked a bit about that. He asked about the things I did at college. And, eventually asked me if I would be interested in a six-month paid internship in his media relations office. He explained a few things I would be doing and how the office worked and then asked me if they should offer me the job when I could start. He mentioned the salary was somewhat low and gave me a figure, about $500 more than I was making at the bank.

I would walk out of Camden Yards a short while later, having basically landed the internship. I needed to send them a couple of things like transcripts, and John had to check a couple of things on his end. However, effectively, the understanding was that the job was mine. I remember waiting for the Light Rail train talking to myself, pacing back and forth, trying to figure out how the hell that just happened. I was over-joyed and beyond excited, bursting at every seam. This was in the days before everyone had a cell phone, and I had no one to share the excitement with, and I was near tears with joy.

October 25, 1995…Nine years after the New York Mets Game Six World Series miracle was the day after my last day of working at the bank and the day before my first day at the Baltimore Orioles. Somehow, that felt perfect to me.

I would end up extending the six-month internship to 12 months and then to 18 months before I would shift over to help with the Baltimore Orioles website. In February of 1998, I would leave the Orioles to settle into my office at the New York Mets as their first Website Administrator.

I’ll talk about my time with the Mets and Orioles more later. They were such extraordinary times for me and almost wholly fulfilled every dream I ever had as a teenager, even if it wasn’t exactly in the order I expected.

I would work for John for 18 months and, more or less, with him six months after that. He would be one of the most influential people I ever met in my life and taught me so much. His personality was the polar opposite of my own, and there were times where I was completely intimidated by him, but I loved working for him.

He taught me that you could have fun working, take time to laugh, and appreciate what is going on around you, but at the same time work as hard as you can to make sure shit gets done. Yes, there was a time to work and a time to play, but there was definitely a grey area between the two, as long as the work got done.

He was always open to new ideas and welcomed innovation. Even though I was quiet, he was always willing to hear what I said. He was the first to pat you on the back for the good things you did and but would also make sure to let you know, in a gentle way, when you screwed up. He had this acute ability to know when it was time to be serious, and the exact moment it was okay to lay down a corny joke.

I often ponder where my life would be right now had I not encountered John that October day in 1995. I wonder if I would have packed my bags and moved home, likely ending any chance Andrea and I had. There is a straight line between getting that job and getting into web work, which would become the career that I have now. (I do wonder, in that regard, if the Orioles derailed any kind of writing career I may have had early on.)

Previously, I mentioned how I believe in miracles. I think they genuinely do happen, and I think there is sometimes an inclination to call a miracle a coincidence. The series of events that occurred that day, for me, is truly a miracle. I have no other explanation for it.

Categories
Warehouse Windows

Faith and Miracles

This last chapter of the novel, as well as the next (and probably a few more from the Interns perspective) really are non-fiction with a bit of embellishment of my first six months out of college. I lived in a small apartment with two other guys. I worked as a bank teller (don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed that job and developed some great friendships at the bank, but I couldn’t see a future there for myself and I couldn’t imagine a job at a bank that would make me happy with my career.)

Most of my dress shirts (yeah, both of them) were tearing at the elbows and really couldn’t be worn without a jacket. Meals were always an adventure as I was forced to come up with some strange combinations(like pork n’ beans and rice). And, sometimes, my car needed a push to start. At the time, it was frustrating and scary, but when I look back at it now, it is a badge of honor. I look at where I am now and humbles me.

I constantly felt frustrated and worried about how I was going to pay bills and where my career was taking me. I was constantly searching the classifieds for a job … or even just an interview … and it was one disappointment after another. In the rare instances that I got an interview, I would blow it because I simply did not know how to do an interview.

A moldy piece of bread really wasn’t what finally stirred me out of my contentment with where I was at that moment. If I recall correctly, it was a small fight with Andrea that I had. I don’t remember what the fight was about, but we had discussed the possibility that I would have to move back home if things didn’t change (she was still in college). At that point, I felt that I had to force the change and make something happen, which is exactly what I did (sorry, but I’ll have to leave that as a cliffhanger…there will be more on that with the next chapter about the intern and my follow up).

As I alluded to in the last post, I carry a very strong faith inside me, but these days I keep it mostly to myself. I still say my prayers every night and when I am facing a difficult time. I also pray when things go right. I have a bible I keep on my nightstand so that it is usually the last thing I see at night and the first thing I see in the morning as I reach for the light. I use to be very involved with organizing youth retreats and youth groups, but over the last 10-15 years, my faith has become more personal and private. However, it was my faith that took me through and out of those dark times and my faith that has helped me to where I am.

That said, I don’t necessarily believe in coincidences, but I do believe in both small miracles that happen every day as well as the big ones that happen from time to time. I don’t believe God comes right out and talks to anyone directly, but He is there, speaking to us as long as you know where to listen.

The events that began with this chapter … the frustration followed by the realization of what I knew I had to do next, along with the events with the next Intern chapter, are mostly real and, in my mind, examples of these little and big miracles.

Sometime in a future post, I am going to talk more about my faith, but I can’t go into it more without giving away a bit of the story, so, again, I am sorry for the cliffhanger.

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Warehouse Windows

Diving in to the Cigar Box

I can’t say that I have every ticket stub to every game I have ever been to. I can’t say that all the ones I do have are neatly collected in the same spot. However, I do have a cigar box with a few old ticket stubs (including Jets, Giants, and NY/NJ Knights football), my 1996 Orioles Employee ID, a couple of media passes, parking passes for Camden Yards, 2000 World Series Pre-Game Party tickets, a business card for October Turtle Statistics Services and a small crucifix that my father gave me at the end of a retreat I went to when I was a junior in high school.

At one point I had one of those old-timey barbershop hats made out of styrofoam with Mets logos on it. I am not sure if it was a giveaway or what, but for a very long time, I would put my ticket stubs in between the hat and paper band around it. I wonder if I still have that hat.

Anyway, I’m not going to lie…there is no special story around the cigar box…I had actually blindly bought it on eBay just a few years back along with a few others after I had written the previous chapter. So, there is no significance to this cigar box.

The tickets in the box include the first Mets game I had ever gone to. Wednesday, May 4, 1988. Mezzanine Section 8, row A seat 12. Before looking at the ticket, the details I remembered were that this game was in May of 1987 against the Astros, was in the Mezzanine in section 8. Sid Fernandez was pitching and Jesse Orosco pitched as well. Howard Johnson hit two home runs and the Mets won by a lot. After looking up the ticket and then the boxscore, I had some details wrong, but mostly, my memory did not let me down. I had the correct section, but the wrong year (I originally thought it was in 1987). Fernandez did pitch 5 innings giving up just one hit but Orosco did not pitch. Terry Leach did. HoJo did not hit two home runs…just one. Tim Teufel hit the other homer. (I still remember the thrill of witnessing my first live home run, but apparently, I don’t remember any of the details because I thought it was HoJo to right field, but it was Teufel to left-center.)

All that said, the contents of the cigar box really strikes an emotional chord with me at the moment. In a big way, it somehow encapsulates what this project…this book is about. My love of baseball is abundantly clear through this, but also lessons in chasing dreams.

October Turtle was a baseball statistics company I attempted to start. I wrote and sold a piece of software to the Orioles as well as some other services. Ultimately it failed. However, my Orioles ID and the Mets tickets show that some dreams do come true, even when others fail, a desperately needed reminder as I embark on this dream.

While baseball first inspired me to write, I was only writing for myself. I didn’t show anybody else what I was writing because I was afraid. I kept my candle under a basket. During my Junior year, I attended a retreat through my high school. That retreat would play a pretty important role in turning my life around. While it is a story for another time, it ultimately resulted in my sharing the things I wrote with my friends and family. The crucifix in the box was given to me on the last day of the retreat at the closing mass by my father who had it from a retreat that he had gone on when he was younger. In giving that cross to me, he revealed a side of himself I had seldom seen and I was deeply touched that he would share that with me. I still remember the moment like it was yesterday and it helped inspire me.

I forget exactly how it came about, but around that time I started using “Michaelangelo” as a goofy name during subsequent retreats and ultimately as a penname during college. I remember that I use to have an “elevator pitch” ready to explain why I used Michaelangelo, but for the life of me, I cannot remember why. I just know it had to do with some metaphor with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.

So, anyway, the strangest part about this trip into the cigar box that I literally just noticed today…the box has the name of the cigars on the side: Michelangelo (yes, spelled differently than the version I used). I don’t ever remember noticing it before. With my memory getting old, it is possible I bought that box just because it said Michelangelo, but I feel like that would be something I would remember, even if I can’t remember what I had for lunch today.

Despite being involved in retreats and church groups in my teens and twenties, these days I mostly keep my faith to myself. However, in the next couple of weeks, my book and these blog posts will delve into that a bit more. However, finding that cigar box and its contents just reaffirms my faith and gives me hope.