Sep 12

Reflecting ….

While September 11 meaning different things to different people, to everyone it was a day of reflection. So, I reflected.

The documentary detailed the times when the terrorists checked in for their flights, about the same time I was hitting the road outside Washington D.C., for New York, following the moving van with my furniture and belongings.

I was covering the Yankees at the time after a long stretch on the Orioles and was moving to Connecticut.

Ten years later, I am still mesmerized by the ungodly sight of the planes ripping into the World Trade Center and the buildings that were supposed to last forever crumbling into dust.

I was on the New Jersey Turnpike when I heard the news. My cell rang shortly after and it was the movers, who were also volunteer NY firemen. They had to leave my stuff at a rest stop and try to make it into the city. I knew they didn’t have much time to reach the George Washington Bridge. By this time, it was evident this was no accident and the airports around the country, as well as the major bridges into New York would be closed.

With the bridges blocked I had to keep driving north before back tracking into Connecticut. What was normally a little over four hours took closer to ten. At one point, I saw a sign with the miles before the Montreal exit.

I listened to the radio the way they used to listen to the news reports during World War II. I didn’t see my first video of the attacks until late the next day when I caught a glimpse on a restaurant television. I could only imagine what they were talking about on the radio.

My thoughts were of rage and anger, and years later those feelings still simmer. They barely diminished with the news of bin Laden’s death. I will never forget, or forgive for what happened. Those who can are better than me.

When baseball resumed, I was in the press box in Baltimore and watched on television when Mike Piazza hit that homer against the Braves. The only other time I saw writers clap in a press box was the night Cal Ripken broke Lou Gehrig’s record.

I’ve watched replays dozens of times and get the same chill. Surfing the coverage Sunday I watched a replay of the pre-game ceremonies from that night. Last night’s ceremony didn’t have the same impact – no way it could – but was simple and poignant the same.

The Mets did a tremendous job then and now.

At the time, the Yankees were also magnanimous in their generosity toward the families of the victims, the fire and police. There was never a competition between the teams on which team gave, or grieved, more.

The emotion in the Yankees clubhouse was just as genuine as it was in Shea.

I felt no fear of flying. I didn’t feel inconvenienced at the security gates and those first few flights were a breeze. Many of the planes flew half empty. I didn’t even mind being searched at the ballpark. For the rest of that summer, it was part of the process. Besides, my inconvenience was nothing compared to others.

Although I didn’t lose anybody at the Towers, I knew people who did and grieved for them. I still do.

The Yankees were going to make the playoffs that year. They always did. But, the games didn’t have the same edge as usual. The buzz returned during the playoffs.

I was inspired at the show of patriotism during the World Series, one of the most compelling sporting events I ever covered. Those three games at Yankee Stadium were as exciting as I’ve ever seen. The Yankees were frequently booed on the road, but the edge was off that fall, as if jeering them was a sign of disrespect for New York.

After awhile, I was tired of the “win it for New York,” sentiment and stories. Every day it was the same thing. I enjoyed the break when Yankees fans chanted for Paul O’Neill when he played his last game at the Stadium during that Series. That was really back to baseball for me.

As the years passed and I reflected on this yesterday, I became more jaded and less trusting. In airports, I look at people and wonder who they are and their intentions.

I didn’t lose anybody, but I’ve been impacted, as all of us. The economy has been on a downward spiral the past decade, which can’t be refuted regardless of your affiliations. I support our military, and have been moved at scenes like at the airport in Atlanta several years ago everybody in that lobby stood and cheered when a company of soldiers marched through.

Even so, those years in Iraq drained us to the point of recession, inflation and unemployment. I thought about that yesterday, too, and wondered when it will end.

My life, as has yours, changed over the last decade.

Politically, I might be more jaded, but I do have a sense of appreciation for the fragility of life that might not have previously existed. Maybe it is about getting older, but part of it was acknowledging my feelings after listening to people talk through their tears yesterday.

People who lost more than I.

May 02

Mets win, NY wins, US wins.

I woke up around 6 , turned on the TV and he was still dead.

The flag endures.

Osama bin Laden is dead, and it will be one of those moments that  you’ll always remember where you were and what you were doing when you heard the news. For those who learned on ESPN last night, it was reminiscent of hearing John Lennon was murdered while watching Monday Football.

I was home channel surfing when I heard. I called a few friends and became mesmerized by the images on the screen. Just like when watching the Japan earthquake, Katrina, Columbine, and, of course, September 11. There is no script to history. It just relentless attacks us and grabs us by the scruff of the neck and shakes. It shook me to about 4 in the morning.

Flipping back to the Mets game, where it was tied in the ninth, 1-1 — 9-1-1. You don’t find irony or symbolism like that too often. It was  inspiring to hear the crowd spontaneously chanting, U-S-A, U-S-A. Sometimes the chant sounds forced and cliche. Not last night.

“I don’t like to give Philadelphia fans too much credit. But they got this one right,” said David Wright when asked about the chanting.

Yes, the Mets won, but the crowd reaction is what we’ll remember and take with us, much as we do the images of that day.

I was covering the Yankees at the time and took the weekend off to move to New York from Maryland. I was on the Jersey Turnpike just north of the Philadelphia exit when the planes hit the towers. Because all the bridges were closed what was normally a five-hour trip became 11. My movers were volunteer firefighters. My furniture didn’t arrive for several more days.

That week was spent covering workouts at Yankee Stadium and watching the Shea Stadium parking lot used for a staging ground for the EMS workers. It was inspiring to see Bobby Valentine and his Mets, in uniform, help the workers load trucks.

And, when the games finally resumed, we witnessed one of the most memorable home runs in New York history, Mike Piazza’s drive that beat the Braves. The Mets and Braves were mortal enemies at the time, and their display of unity that night was another memory. It was another example of how sports can be unifying.

So much has happened in the ten years since, and we’ve changed personally and as a nation in so many ways, and for a baseball writer it goes well beyond the joys of traveling, from the pat downs to the long lines to the general uneasiness of strangers.

I live in a small town in Connecticut, and the fallout hits here, too.

What small town doesn’t have a 9-1-1 Memorial? Who among us doesn’t know someone lost in the attacks and the subsequent military actions in the Middle East? The failing economy is a byproduct of that day, and with it the foreclosure signs, layoffs and stress of trying to make ends meet. Who among us doesn’t cringe when filling up our tanks and wonder when things will ever get back to normal.

Or, is this normal?

I hope you’ll share with us what you were doing that day.

Jan 26

Heilman: Takes high road when asked about NY.

HEILMAN: Change of scenery.

HEILMAN: Change of scenery.

Aaron Heilman could have ripped the Mets, but took the high road when asked about his time in New York when questioned by The Seattle Times.

“Playing in New York is the only existence I’ve known and I think you get used to it,” Heilman said. “You learn to accept the fact that you are dealing with a very passionate, very knowledgeable fan base. … New York’s one of those markets where unless you win the World Series, it’s not a good year.”

Clearly, Heilman wanted to start, but the Mets valued him in the bullpen. It was always presumed he would have left when he became a free agent. However, the Mets beat him to the punch and included him in the J.J. Putz trade.

“I certainly didn’t look at it as I really wanted to get out of New York,” Heilman told the paper. “I was kind of looking forward to going back and showing that last season was an aberration and to get back to what I normally can do.”

When he’s on his game, and he wasn’t for much of last season, he’s capable of getting hitters out from either side of the plate.

Heilman had productive stretches both in 2007 and last season, but didn’t come close to his 2006 effectiveness. Especially, when it came to keeping the ball in the park.

More than a few times he denied he was scarred by giving up the Game 7 homer in the NLCS.

Oct 12

Loose Threads: NFL Edition.

Watching some football until first pitch.

Watching some football until first pitch.

Sunday afternoon. I’ve got ribs in the oven. I figure they’ll be done by the start of the third quarter of the first game. Fall-off-the-bone, of course.

Baseball game doesn’t start until 8:30 tonight. No other comment is necessary.

Ran all my errands and shopped this morning. Plan to watch football this afternoon. New York is absolutely the worst place to watch football because of the blackout and the Jets and Giants are always on at different times and they don’t telecast against the home NY team. Good thing the Giants are on Monday night.

We’ve got the Bengals and Jets and Cowboys and Cardinals this afternoon. Oh boy! Come to think about it, I might not watch much after all. But, if there’s something on your mind, feel free to leave a post.

Of course, I’ll see you tonight for Dodgers-Phils.