Discover more from Just Mets
Mets begin rounding out the coaching staff, and a special moment at Mets Fantasy Camp
The Mets also made a small signing to help create pitching depth
What’s Up with the Mets? 🍎
The Mets signed RHP Cole Sulser to a minor league deal with an invite to major league spring training
José Rosado appears poised to be named the club’s bullpen coach (New York Post)
The Mets are considering former Angels manager Phil Nevin to be Carlos Mendoza’s bench coach (New York Post)
Danny Barnes will return to the Mets coaching staff as their information coach (New York Post)
Glenn Sherlock is a candidate to return to the Mets coaching staff (SNY)
Francisco Lindor finally bought Jeff McNeil the car he promised for winning the NL Batting Title in 2022 (Newsday)
Mets Fantasy Camp - Part 1 ✍️
As many of you know (and some were with me), I attended Mets Fantasy Camp at the Mets spring training complex in Port St. Lucie, Florida last week.
I plan to get into the day-to-day story of Fantasy Camp over the coming days, but I wanted to open today with a very special moment that occurred right out of the gate at Fantasy Camp on Sunday, November 12.
But before I do that, it’s worth mentioning I nearly didn’t make it to Fantasy Camp for a second straight year. On Saturday, November 4, I began developing a very bad staff infection which I likely got at my daughter’s softball tournament in Larchmont that weekend. I ended up being admitted to the hospital with a very high fever on Sunday night, November 5 with intense swelling and pain in my right elbow and subsequent blistering in that area as well. It wasn’t until Thursday, November 9 - 48 hours before I was supposed to leave for Port St. Lucie - when I was officially cleared to play, although I was far from 100% and my arm was still very inflamed and blistered.
I will get into how the Mets and their training staff handled that and managed my care tomorrow.
Back to the original story for today…
The Mets held a welcome dinner at Tradition Town Hall for all of the campers on Sunday, November 12. It’s a catered event but an opportunity for Fantasy Camp commissioner, Doug Flynn, to welcome everyone to the event and for all of the coaches to announce the teams for the week.
The event is a “sit anywhere you want” type of thing, and the pros typically do the same. I happened to be sitting at a table that included Wally Backman and Rafael Santana. I had met Wally a few times over the years when I was in my prime covering the Mets (and interviewed once while I was writing for MLB, I believe) but never Rafael. We had some fun and interesting conversations about life, baseball, the past and the future, their philosophies and mindsets on playing in their time, and of course, the ‘86 Mets because you can’t sit there with those two guys and not talk about 1986, right?
But that wasn’t the amazing part of the night.
There comes a point during the welcome dinner when Mr. Flynn (who, if you recall, the Mets acquired as part of the Tom Seaver deal on June 15, 1977) asks all of the “rookies” in camp to stand up in front of the mic, say their name and offer their favorite Mets memory.
Nelson Figueroa, who has become a staple at Mets Fantasy Camp, finally handed the mic to me (my table was all the way in the back of the room). So, I stood up, gave my name, said where I was from, and started in on my favorite Mets memory.
Mind you, most people will get into 1969, 1986, 1999, 2000, 2015, ie the most vivid, recognizable and relatable moments in Mets history. And I get it - it’s those years which define us as Met fans and why we bleed the orange and blue.
But that’s not what I offered as my favorite Mets memory.
The first thing I did was look towards Rafael and Wally and say, “guys, 1986 will always be near and dear to my heart, but with all due respect, that is not my favorite Mets memory.” They smiled, albeit in a puzzled manner, clearly not having any idea where this was going.
I then started in on an unknown sunny day at Shea Stadium, either in 1987 or 1988. I couldn’t really remember which year it was but I am pretty sure it was one of those. My dad had taken me to the ballpark early because I wanted to see the Mets take batting practice and as most of you know, the home team gets out there nearly three hours before to start their routine. We had a box in 472A which if you recall, was the first set of seats in fair territory above the Newsday sign in the Loge section at Shea.
Dwight Gooden was out in left field shagging balls. I had my glove and of course nothing would’ve pleased me more than Doc tossing me a ball. I had never gotten a ball at a game to that point, so what would be better than getting the first one from Doc who was obviously my favorite pitcher as a youth.
My dad and I kept yelling out to Doc asking for a ball, and he turned to us and said something to the effect of, ‘once I get one out here, I’ll toss it up.’
Finally, whoever was in the cage hit one out to Doc. So, as promised he turned and threw the ball up to me.
However, it didn’t go as planned.
Someone cut in front of me and intercepted the ball a split second before it hit my glove. I guess I gave this guy too much runway in front of the railing to cut in. He was obviously anticipating and expecting this souvenir to come into the stands just as much as I was.
Doc then yelled up to the stands at this guy and said something like, “if you don’t give that kid the ball, I am going to…”
The kid split, batting practice was over, and Doc went inside. I never got my ball.
Even so, it was my favorite Mets memory, and I shared this story with Doc and the entire room of about 175 people.
A few minutes later, Doc asked for the mic before another camper could tell their story. He turned to me and said, “I just want you to know now that I finally have your ball,” and he tossed it to me like he did that day at Shea.
This time, nobody cut in front of me.
Doc had signed it and inscribed it for me:
Now, I didn’t tell the story because I wanted anything from Doc. I didn’t ask for a single autograph from anyone during my week at Fantasy Camp. In fact, I went up to Doc after the dinner and told him this wasn’t at all necessary. All I wanted was for Doc and the audience to hear the story. For Doc, I wanted him to know that even though I didn’t get a ball from him that day, I remembered what had happened and that he did what he could do to fix what this guy had done to me. I wanted him to know I knew he had a big and kind heart, and I wanted the audience to know the same.
What he did for me last Sunday further demonstrates his character and how kind he is, and anyone who reads this should know that this is what Dwight Eugene Gooden is truly made of.
Later in the week, we took a picture together in the clubhouse. I asked him if it was ok if we honored his former catcher, Gary Carter in the photo. He said, “wow that would be so cool!” So, I put on my Carter jersey and we shared yet another special moment.
Of all the magical moments of the week, my short time with Dwight Gooden will be the time I cherish the most. He is a special human being and one day, I hope to return the favor in whatever way I can.
That might be impossible, because only someone like Dwight has a magic wand like this.
If you are interested in being a part of Mets Fantasy Camp, contact Doug Dickey: DDickey@nymets.com.
Hot Stove 🔥
The Braves signed Reynaldo López to a three-year, $30 million contract
The Cardinals landed RHP Lance Lynn on a one-year, $10 million contract (ESPN)
The Yankees and Giants are expected to pursue South Korean free agent Jung Hoo Lee (MLB Network)
The Tigers are showing interest in signing former Met Seth Lugo as a starting pitcher (MLB Network)
Zach Britton is retiring from baseball (Athletic)