When I saw that the San Diego Padres would be at Shea Stadium in mid-July, I snapped up a ticket to the first game of the series. Like many Red Sox fans across the country, I wanted to thank Dave Roberts in person for his contributions to Boston's 2004 championship.
The Padres came to New York today. One of the gates at Shea opens at 4:30 and I was out there when it did. The Mets were taking batting practice. I walked out towards the right field foul pole and watched Pedro Martinez throw in the outfield. I yelled out to Doug Mientkiewicz, but he didn't hear me.
The Padres -- and Roberts, wearing #10 -- came out and stretched and did a little running. Then he grabbed his glove and went out to center field. I had brought a ball, hoping to get Roberts to sign it. I walked down the third base line, thinking that maybe when Roberts came in from the outfield, he might come over and sign. However, he made a straight line towards second base on his way in, then disappeared into the dugout.
By the time I got back to the third base dugout, Roberts was nowhere to be seen. But I noticed that someone on the Padres was signing in a corner of the dugout. While trying to see who it was, I saw Roberts standing in the dugout, talking with a teammate. I yelled out to him and waved my Red Sox cap. A fan beside me also called out -- and Roberts looked over, waved, and walked over.
He signed a few cards and a cap, then took my baseball and pen. "Thank you so much for last year," I said. "I made sure to come out when you were in town to say thanks." He smiled, said "Thanks" and handed my ball back.
I've gotten a few autographs at games before -- Nomar at old Tiger Stadium, Johnny Pesky at spring training a few years ago, Pedro in a parking lot in Fort Myers -- Pedro! -- but I have never been as excited as I was this afternoon. I came out early thinking I might have a decent shot at saying Hi to Roberts, but nothing like that is ever certain. Yet it had been pretty easy. It was all I could do to keep from dancing in the aisle.
Now it was 5:45 and I was wondering why I was there. The game wasn't going to start for more than an hour -- and I had gotten what I came for. I'm one of those rare fans who actually doesn't mind Shea Stadium, but I knew the Sox were also playing at 7:00. (Plus I knew I had to get up on Wednesday at about 5:30 am to rent a car and drive to Boston to see the Sox. Who wanted to be stuck in Queens late at night?) ...
I decided to leave and head home. I got on the 7 train at 6:00 and actually walked into my apartment an hour later (which was amazingly good time!). Plus the Sox were kind enough to delay the start of tonight's game until I got settled in.
Roberts went 0-for-4 with a walk and was caught stealing (by Piazza?!), but made three nice catches in the outfield, for which he was heavily booed. The Mets won 3-1 in 11 innings.