Super-Hero Madness

This summer is going to be jam packed with super-hero movies.  I can’t wait!!!  They may not win all those fancy awards, but they sure are entertaining.

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Meeting Your Baseball Hero: Guest Blogger James Ryan of Sports Locker

Meeting Your Baseball Hero

There are more nerve racking moments in life (health scares, getting married, and having children), but finally meeting your baseball hero must be on the list. My favorite team is the New York Mets and my childhood baseball hero is Gary Carter.

I became a Gary Carter fan after watching a game with some school friends on April 9, 1985. It was Gary Carter’s first game with the Mets and he cracked a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 10th inning to beat the St. Louis Cardinals. What a debut! I was also a catcher (for my little team in Logan Township, New Jersey), so cheering for Carter was easy. My favorite team had a new player who hits home runs on demand, plays the same position I do, and was becoming the main guest on Kiner’s Korner! What’s not to like?

As a kid, having a baseball hero is more than just catching an update on the local news. You need to have the t-shirt with his number, find his baseball cards, check the box scores every day and defend him in the school cafeteria no matter what!

Of course I’ll always have my Game 6 memories. Mookie Wilson and Bill Buckner may have captured the front-page headlines, but I’ll never forget that it was Gary Carter who started the rally with 2 outs in the 9th inning.

I didn’t spend the time to cutout and save box scores or Sports Illustrated issues, but I did begin purchasing the new cards that came. I had his cards from the ‘80s and the new ones later on that had a piece of Gary Carter’s jersey, his bat, and the autograph cards. I even had a card that had a piece of his old Nike shoes!

Eventually I realized that I wanted to expand my collection of Gary Carter memorabilia to more than baseball cards – I wanted to get an in-person autograph. I finally had my opportunity at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Cleveland, Ohio (The National).

At the National

TriStar runs the autograph pavilion at The National and in 2007 their guest list included Hall-of-Fame catcher, Gary Carter. Now in my 30s, and twenty-one years after “Game 6,” I couldn’t believe that I would finally have my chance to meet my baseball hero.

What would I ask Carter to sign? Should I get a jersey? Should I ask him to sign a bat? How would a photo looked signed? I decided to get a couple of All-Star logo baseballs signed. He was the Most Valuable Player of the MLB All-Star game in 1981 and 1984.

Leading up to the National and standing in line on that Saturday, I experienced all the emotions of an elementary school kid getting on the bus for the first time.

  • What should I wear?
  • What should I say?
  • How do I talk?
  • What is my name?

When it was my turn in line, I tried to keep my voice from cracking like Peter Brady’s (when it’s time to change…) and exchanged greetings. I handed over my tickets, baseballs, and shook Gary Carter’s hand! Gary was great. I talked about watching him start the Game 6 rally and he took his time signing the baseballs and talking about the game.

While signing the All-Star game baseballs Gary asked me, “Are you some kind of All-Star game collector?” My response to Gary (without hesitation), “No sir. I’m a Gary Carter collector.”

You can insert your own rim-shot or Gong Show noise here, but I swear it was the first response that popped in my head. Fortunately for me, Gary responded with, “well give your camera to that guy (pointing at the man behind me whom I didn’t know) and come around the table for a few pictures.”

I don’t know who the guy was in line behind me. I never got a chance to say thank you, but his photography skills preserved an awesome moment.

Today, I have the Gary Carter autograph baseballs displayed in my office and I think about the great autograph experience. My collection has come a long way since pinning a 1987 Topps Gary Carter baseball card to my NY Mets pennant.

When I look at the collections kid’s have today, I think:

  • What player will they want to meet 20 years from now?
  • Which player will be as gracious as Gary Carter?
  • Will the heroes of a few years ago like Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, and Barry Bonds create experiences like Gary Carter did for me?
  • Will stars from this year like Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols, or Tim Lincecum follow Carter’s footsteps?

I don’t have the answers, but next time, I hope I’m the guy taking the pictures.

James Ryan runs SportsLocker.blogspot.com

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