Feeling a bit nostalgic on a sunny May day, here’s a look back at one ordinary Mets Fan pitching at the Big League Park – Shea Stadium.
All pitchers will throw one inning. Matt McCarthy will be our starting pitcher.” –Brian Mejias (Greatest Man to Ever Live)
6:10 AM: Wake up before the alarm, look out the window and beg the gray skies to hold their bursting insides until noon, at least.
6:12 AM: Turn on NY1 (local TV news) to get weather report – morning showers likely.
6:15 AM: Bathroom
6:20 AM: Make sure uniforms (Mets uniform included – just in case) are in tact; socks, hats, belts, cup, spikes, catcher’s mitt (only glove I have)
6:30 AM: Ice sore shoulder from previous two nights’ games – caught 6 innings, then pitched 1 on Sunday night, DH’d Monday night.
6:45 AM: Put Harlem Shaskys uniform on (They wanted us dressed and at Press Gate by 8:30 AM)
6:50 AM: Phone ‘Fish’ (Joe Fravola, aka Joey The Fish Guy), whom has been at work (Fulton Fish Market) since 2 AM. Fish is ready.
7:00 AM: Phone ‘Nails’ (Frank D’Angelo). Nails is ready.
7:10 AM: Leave, in uniform, and go to MacDonald’s on 1st Avenue between 53rd & 54th. Order Big Breakfast and Egg McMuffin for me, Egg McMuffin Meal for Fish. Sit and start eating.
7:25 AM: Fish double-parks convertible Jag (roof up) and bops into McDonald’s. We are both smiling broadly.
7:40 AM: We climb in the Jag and head to Shea Stadium.
8:00 AM: Exit of Grand Central and enter Shea parking area. Fish says, “We’re going to work. Imagine doing this for work everyday. Playing baseball everyday for a living.” I look out at the taunting heavy skies knowing it WILL NOT RAIN.
8:04 AM: Parking attendant looks us over and says, “Players… Just follow the sign.” We see an All-Star sign posted on a parking cone.
8:07 AM: Park behind the Press Gate, between Gates B & C. Other players in various uniforms and some fans are gathered. Fish and I join them.
8:20 AM: Nails joins us. We are all smiling.
8:25 AM: Friend Michelle joins us. She’s a huge Mets’ fan.
8:30 AM: We enter Shea through players’ entrance, make a right turn, follow hallway to field entrance just off home plate toward the third base side. Enter 3rd base dugout. (We are the Visitors).
8:35 AM: Put cleats on, grab glove and join players warming up, lined up on left field line throwing to others in left field. Fish and I throw from outfield to Nails and Candy, (on left field line), respectively.
8:40 AM: While we’re still throwing, Fish says to me, “Matt-sta, nothing hurts today.” He is referring to our collective myriad of aches and injuries. He is right. Nothing hurts.
8:50 AM: Manager/DH Brian Mejias (who put this all together and will get my first born) calls us in to dugout to give us basics and starting lineup. Nails is picked to start in Right Field (he’s a 2nd Baseman) and bat 2nd. He is a tad apprehensive about the position choice but stoked, nonetheless. Fish, Candy and Mugsy will go in later. Mejias tells everyone that “All pitchers will throw one inning. Matt McCarthy will be our starting pitcher.”
9:05 AM: The teams lineup along our respective foul lines for the National Anthem. The Shaskys stand together. I’m between Fish and Nails.
9:15 AM: The Long Island All-Stars take the field. Nails waits in the On Deck Circle. We are all on the dugout steps. Joe from the Seminoles just misses one and pops to short. Nails then hits a hard grounder on a 2-2 pitch that the shortstop makes a good play on for the 2nd out. Our 3rd hitter hits a foul home run to deep right (he’s lefty), and then flies out to right to end the inning.
9:23 AM: We take the field. I trot to the mound. The Pitching Rubber is freshly painted white. It does not protrude from the mound. Behind the mound, at its base, is a fixed-in-place cleat cleaner (it looks like stiff broom bristles).
9:24 AM: I throw warm-up pitches to Fish because the starting catcher is not yet ready (not a good sign). The catcher replaces Fish and we deem what the calls for a curve and fastball will be. He is nervous.
9:26 AM: After good luck glove-smacks from infielders, I turn toward the outfield, look at the retired numbers on the left field wall (Stengel, Hodges, Seaver and Robinson), exhale and turn to face the batter. The catcher calls for a fastball. The shoulder is not barking loud enough to drown the adrenaline.
All that’s missing is Bob Murphy calling the play… “He rocks, he deals…”
9:27 AM: I throw a fastball for a strike. The dream is realized; I am pitching at Shea Stadium.
P.s… One dead. No rain.
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