Adiba Nelson’s tale of when a sassy seven-year-old Mets fan met Yankee legends, Don Mattingly and Ron Guidry.
This post is part of our series, From the Front Lines . . . of Sports, where readers share personal stories of their experiences attending live sports events. These essays can explore aspects of the game itself, the feeling of being there, of spending time with family or friends, or anything else connected to the experience. And it can be any type of sports event, big or small, from the NCAA Basketball tourney with buddies, the SuperBowl with friends, on a baseball trip with your kid, or to a minor league baseball game with the family.
The remainder of this post shares contributor, Adiba Nelson’s story:
If you grew up in New York City, odds are you spent many a summer day at one of two places: Shea Stadium, or Yankee Stadium. Which means you were one of two things: A Yankees fan, or a Mets fan. You didn’t trade teams, you didn’t sell out, and you only crossed the bridge for the Subway Series. Me? I was a Queens girl through and through. Flushing, Bayside, Fresh Meadows – that was me. Acid washed jeans, Madonna, and of course, THE METS. I wore my Blue and Orange with mass amounts of pride. I lived for Banner Day, lost my voice screaming “MOOOOOOOOKIEEEEEEEEE”, and was the best damn seven year old ump heckler in the whole place. The Mets were better than Barbie. Gary (Carter), Darryl (Strawberry), and Doc were my G.I. Joe’s. And then there were….the OTHER guys. The guys with the silly wannabe Al Capone uniforms. The Bronx Boys. THEM. Ron (Guidry), Don (Mattingly), and Dave (Winfield). Excuse me while I puke. Never, ever, EVER have I been a Yankees girl. Not even at age seven. And my seven year old self wasn’t afraid to let you know it, no matter who you were. Not even if you were THE Ron or THE Don, of the ridiculously obnoxious New York Yankees. Yes. You read that right. At age seven, I had the opportunity to meet Ron Guidry AND Don Mattingly AT THE SAME TIME. Any normal seven year old baseball fanatic would have lost their minds with excitement, because let’s face it, Ron and Don were kind of a big deal in the 80’s. But not me. Not little Miss SassyPants from Queens. It was my one chance to let them know that I.WAS NOT. AMUSED. I took the opportunity and ran with it. It went kind of like this:
Don: “Hey there!” Me: “Hey.” Ron: “You look pretty sad.” Me: “I don’t wanna be here. My dad made me come. I hate the Yankees. I think you guys suck. I’m a Mets fan.” Ron and Don (laughing): “Oh man! Well then you REALLY don’t like us! Well…Do you want us to sign your visor anyway?” Me: “No. But my dad probably does, so here.” Ron and Don both sweetly obliged, handed me back my visor and said: “Here ya go! Enjoy the game!”, to which I muttered back, “Yeah. I hope you lose.”
Looking back, they were both ridiculously sweet to a salty mouthed seven year old kid who was calling down every hex from heaven on them. Ron could have walked away, and Don could have skipped over me. But they didn’t. My seething hatred for the Yankees wanted me to hate them, but the truth of the matter was that in my most secret of secret thoughts, I was geeking out. I knew who these guys were. I knew their stats. You couldn’t watch channel 7 news without hearing Don Mattingly’s name said over and over (and over) again. I had just experienced something pretty major, and I knew it, even if I was NEVER going to admit it.
So, as I look back on that day, and read the news that Mattingly was not inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this year, I feel a little sad for the guy. His career ended way before it could really get started. We never got to really see what he could do. But a certain seven year old sassafrass from Queens got the opportunity to see what Mattingly was all about, and it’s too bad he can’t get in on account of congeniality. He’d be in – not questions asked. Because, next to Gary Carter, he was one of the nicest athletes I ever met. Just don’t tell anyone I said that. ___ Photo Credit: Douglas Pizac/Associated Press ___