I had to go real bad. Like pains in my side bad. Like, turtle peeking the head out bad.
I dashed out of my cubicle and did my best power walk down the hallway, where I could maximize my speed without drawing any attention to myself.
As I approached the double doors which led to the atrium in my place of employment and the closest bathroom, I subtly looked over my shoulder to see if there was anyone following close behind.
There was one woman a decent distance behind but close enough where holding the door was the right thing to do. I threw her a quick glance, we made eye contact, I grabbed my throbbing side and made the executive decision to not hold the door for her. I couldn’t afford the 5-second delay as I was seconds away from a crime scene.
The woman, we’ll call her Catherine, no doubt observed my decision to pass on being a gentleman. This wasn’t a pretend-I-didn’t-see-you move. I clearly saw her and decided to not lend a hand.
I know Catherine still remembers this to this day. I still see her from time to time and I swear to you, I can see the disdain in her expression towards me. I so want to apologize but it would be brutally awkward and I’m not sure I want to announce that it was all due to my digestive tract.
But here’s the thing, I’m like a really good door holder. Maybe the best in my entire building.
I think it is fair to say that I am a gentleman’s gentleman.
But Catherine would adamantly disagree if you asked her.
For three years running now, we have made the trip to Florida to watch our beloved New York Mets during Spring Training practice. It is an opportunity to watch the players up close and personal in a relaxed setting littered with palm trees and optimism. Just what the doctor ordered during our never ending cold winters here in the Northeast.
A major part of these excursions is the hunt for the autograph. My son has an extensive collection and I love watching him successfully score one and give a fist pump. The thrill of the chase is intoxicating and even though my son is shy and not overly aggressive, he isn’t afraid to move swiftly when the moment calls for it.
I have no interest in collecting signatures myself, but I do carefully observe each player as they navigate the massive crowd of autograph seekers. Some run for the hills and avoid confrontation. Some sign reluctantly and move on quickly. Others embrace it and sign for each and every individual while chatting up the mob.
Matt Harvey, “one-time” superstar pitcher for the Mets who has battled injuries for a few years now, is the worst of the worst. He not only ignores almost all requests for autographs, but also does not engage in an ounce of fan interaction. He avoids high fives with children and seems to treat all fans with at worst disdain, and at best, like they are invisible.
You’d think we’d move on and stop pursuing his inked name on a ball, but it only fuels the desire. The few times we’ve seen him sign is when there conveniently is a camera nearby to capture the few signatures he provides as a means for great PR.
Once that camera is off, so is he.
I’m confident in stating that he truly is an arrogant guy and that is coming from someone who cheers loudly for him during every one of his starts. Yes, we want our team to win, but we also want to be proud of those who got us there.
While I subscribe to that theory to an extent, I can’t help but think back to Catherine. She is convinced that I am an inconsiderate ass yet ask around and you’ll discover that I’m kind of a good dude. One moment in time doesn’t represent who I am.
So as we navigate the rough waters that are autograph seeking, I realized this dad has an opportunity to drop some serious wisdom on his impressionable children.
There are lessons to be learned that we can extend to life outside of the ballpark:
Matt Harvey is … not a kind person.
We’ll get this one out of the way first. There is no sugarcoating it. It’s okay, kids, to judge him for what he is. The arrogance is palpable. We wish him well when performing with a Mets hat on his head, but we won’t cry if he is traded.
There is no need to focus on it any longer. It is a waste of time. It is up to him to evolve and there is nothing we can do about it. Let’s appreciate the good dudes.
Never judge a player from one moment in time.
Resist the temptation to judge. Always give the benefit of the doubt.
When David Wright blows us off, he too could be facing a bathroom emergency.
Sometimes we are Catherine.
While the player may make millions, it doesn’t mean they are comfortable with the attention.
We would all take the money if it was offered. Don’t kid yourself. Money doesn’t necessarily change who you are at the core. We’ve watched Mets first baseman Lucas Duda for years now and he clearly prefers to keep to himself. He has that right and we should honor that.
There is a common theme of unfair judgment here. As the saying goes, don’t judge a player until you round first base in their cleats.
Or something like that.
Attempt to take the player’s perspective from time to time.
Jerky people are part of every crowd and the players are well aware of that. Be respectful and polite and just maybe that will magically be passed along to others.
Respectful is always the right answer.
Remember, it is the process we love, not the results.
Every ball that my son has signed has a story behind it. We relive those stories regularly.
The time we waited alone in the rain when Spring Training practice was canceled for the day. 6 hours later and we hit pay dirt.
That time when Yoenis Cespedes picked you out of a crowd because you were being crushed against the fence.
That time Travis d’Arnaud asked you if you wanted your ball signed.
Those are the memories. That is why you get the signatures, to secure the memory.
Enjoy the journey. Live in that moment. You’ll have stories for days with your kids and your grandchildren.
I cherish each day we can go through this together.
Sometimes life isn’t fair, we deal with it and move on.
My son loves Jacob deGrom, pitcher on the Mets. He has been so close to securing his autograph on multiple occasions but it hasn’t happened to date. This past week it happened again and we witnessed a number of people sneak back into line and get a second autograph.
He was pissed but I implored him to move on, not dwell and know that karma will fall in his favor.
Ten minutes later, this happened.
Mets top prospect Amed Rosario stopped and not only signed a ball but agreed to take this photo.
Feature Photo Credit: Getty Images
All other photos provided by the author.