You’ve read of the path that brought Jeff Hysen to Mets Fantasy Camp this week. And hopefully you’ve noticed the change of clothes he can believe in. Now Jeff tells us what it was like becoming a Met yesterday.
I was greeted by Ed Kranepool, in uniform, as I entered the locker room for the first time. Doug Flynn pitched BP to me. I shook Felix Millan’s hand. And I heard John Stearns tell a great story.
I’ve been looking forward to this for over a year and the first day didn’t disappoint. First, I was a late arrival but the camp had someone waiting for me at the airport (there were buses for those traveling from New York and New Jersey). After checking in, I got to the field for the “optional” workout — and everyone was there. Ed Kranepool wasn’t listed as a coach but he greeted all the campers as they arrived. He was very friendly and it was a thrill to meet him. Then it was off to a “side” field. John Stearns loudly yelled that everyone had to hit. I stepped in against Doug Flynn and, with Joe Pignatano watching from behind the cage, fouled a few off before lining a single. After a few more swings, I was done. Fielding drills followed. We were sent around the infield and when we got to third base, one guy said that there should be a cutoff man at the pitcher’s mound. I went over to Flynn to thank him for throwing BP. He asked me about myself and then took me over to meet Pat Zachry. Flynn said “we’re two of the shits that were traded for Tom Seaver.” (Steve Henderson is here, too, so there’s another.)
The introductory dinner was led by Camp Commissioner Stearns. Before we ate, I walked with another guy to say hello, and the other guy mentioned a game in 1978 in which Stearns blocked the plate on an incoming Dave Parker, causing Parker to break his cheekbone. Stearns told us about the play in detail, including the RF (Joel Youngblood) and the batter (Lee Lacy).
Before dinner, Stearns introduced the coaches with some of the loudest applause for Felix Millan, Ed Kranepool, Ron Swoboda and… Anthony Young! We’ll see if somebody brings up his historic losing streak at the “bull session” later in the week. When Stearns introduced Steve Henderson, he mentioned an AB against Goose Gossage in Henderson’s rookie year. He said that Henderson took a long time to get ready and Gossage didn’t like that so he brushed him back. On the next pitch, Henderson hit a home run.
The campers are very excited and happy to be here. There are around 80 guys here and there were 80 last week. I was told that they usually have between 100 and 120 so I guess you have to chalk it up to the economy. The other guys are strangers to me, but it was easy to talk Mets with them. Tomorrow are the “tryouts”, after which the coaches conduct a draft (behind closed doors, thankfully) and you then join your team. We’ll play five seven-inning games in the next three days.
As I left the dinner, Pat Zachry saw me and said “if you keep [friggin’] smiling, people are gonna think you’re having a good time.”