IV

My New Jacob deGrom Ornament

Every family has their holiday traditions. One of our family traditions has been going to Hallmark and pick out our Christmas ornament.

There are many reasons why this tradition came to bear. Mostly, it was trying to create a tradition and memories stemming from my mother being orphaned as a child.

In some ways, that made our Christmas tree an album or time capsule. Each ornament was a representation of what we liked each year of our lives. It reminded us of who we were.

It was a tradition I was eager and happy to start with my boys. The tree has Thomas and Lightning McQueen. In recent years, it’s given way to Harry Potter.

One of the fun things is my boys actively look for ornaments they think dad will like. This year, well, they did a great job even if the timing was less than impeccable.

Exactly one day after Jacob deGrom signed with the Texas Rangers, I received by deGrom ornament. Admittedly, it was just about the last thing I expected to see.

It honestly took me aback.

It wasn’t just deGrom leaving the Mets. For that, I will always have the memories of his greatness. Fortunately, I got to share some of that with my older son. Unfortunately, my younger son is not yet able to appreciate it.

The ability to share those moments is gone because deGrom is gone. There will certainly be other moments, but there may never be another deGrom.

And yet, there was still this moment. This moment meant more than any of the deGrom moments.

My boys picked out a deGrom ornament just for me. My youngest was thrilled because he knows just how much I love the Mets.

My oldest explained how important it was to have that ornament. To him, it mattered that deGrom was a great Met. He will always be a Met. We needed to remember that.

And with that, he understood the tradition better than anyone ever could.

At first, the ornament simultaneously represented how deGrom just left and how my sons picked out this great ornament for me. Now, it represents how much my sons understand why we have this tradition in the first place.

That tear in my eye wasn’t deGrom leaving. It was pride and love.

Now, every year after we’ll take out the ornament to hang on the tree. Certainly, it’ll remind me of deGrom leaving the day prior. It’ll remind me of all of deGrom’s great moments with the Mets.

Mostly, it’ll remind me of this special moment and just how lucky I am.

Best 2022 Kids Baseball Training

When our kid loves a sport like baseball, the question is how can I help my child improve? What is the gadget or new training tool?

There are infomercials and commercials. There are incessant ads across social media. We’re reminded of Fred McGriff from our youth.

It’s not always about being a crazy dad trying to have your child make it when you couldn’t. For the most part, it’s just about investing in your child and letting them be better at what they love.

There are a number of different devices which can actually help. Of course, it’s difficult to know which device can specifically help your child.

There is good news. There is something universal which can help your child improve in baseball. I

It’s you.

Look, life gets in the way all the time. There are countless things to do at work and home which always get in the way. We all know you’re not being selfish by handling those things or the myriad of other things which always get in the way.

And it’s not just you. There are practices, birthdays, and play dates. There’s homework and projects. There’s rain and snow.

Still, in any week, there’s always time to be found.

So long as you have a glove and ball, you can have a catch with your child. There is literally nothing more you can do to help foster your child’s love of the sport and help grow your relationship than that.

Grab a chair and Whiffle ball. Throw all those crazy pitches to your kid. It works on their hand eye coordination and ability to see the ball. Mostly, it’s just really fun.

There are other things you can do like grab a tee and net. You can watch videos and hit the batting cage. They’re all great tools, but it’s no substitute for you.

So, as you see all these Black Friday deals, and you question what you can do, you already have the answer. The answer is you and has always been you.

Mets No-Hitter Mattered

Baseball is different today than it was 20 or even five years ago. There was a time barring real injury risk a pitcher was never pulled with a no-hitter.

Now, there’s a premium put on pitcher health and the longevity of their career. Teams are looking to protect their investments.

That’s why Tylor Megill gets pulled after 88 pitches even though he held the Philadelphia Phillies to no hits over five innings. To some, it tarnishes the no-hitter saying it’s not the same, or it doesn’t count.

Honestly, if Johan Santana didn’t happen, there would’ve been some disappointment in it not being one pitcher. If it was another franchise, the excitement would not be at the same level. There, Jerry Blevins is right.

However, this is the New York Mets, and because of that, it just means so much more.

For me, it was memories of growing up. My dad would always allow me to stay up until the Mets gave up a hit because he didn’t want me (or him) to miss the first ever no-hitter.

To this day, I remember my mom urging my dad to send me to bed while David Cone had a no-hitter going. The fact the St. Louis Cardinals spoiled his bids twice makes me hate them all the more, and I’ll never forgive Felix Jose.

With Cone, we always rooted for him. We stopped everything to watch his perfect game. We did the same for Dwight Gooden‘s no-hitter. While they weren’t Mets at the time, they are forever Mets, and their heroics were worth celebrating.

The same goes for Tom Seaver‘s no-hitter. That glorious one came against the Cardinals.

For the Mets, they were defined by not getting the no-hitter. At times, you wondered if it was a curse emanating from them trading away Nolan Ryan.

But, then it finally happened. To some degree, because we’re Mets fans, we’re almost conditioned to believe it would never happen again. After all, how is it Jacob deGrom hasn’t come close to one?

For me, I got to experience this no-hitter in a completely different way. This time, I was the dad letting my kid stay up late. I was the one regaling him of stories of Mets greats and misses.

Of course, I was on the phone with my dad. First, calling him to make sure he had the game on. Next, to just share that moment only for it to be hijacked by his also wanting to share it with his overexcited grandson.

In a word, the moment was perfect.

That’s why I don’t care if Megill had to share the feat with Drew Smith, Joely Rodriguez, Seth Lugo, and Edwin Diaz. All that mattered was the moment happened.

It brought back fond memories of my youth and why I became a Mets fan in the first place. I got to share it with my son who will forever have this memory. In the end, it was three generations of Mets fans celebrating a moment no one expected.

In the end, not only did that no-hitter count as a no-hitter, but it also mattered to Mets fans. It mattered more than anyone will ever know.

Sticks Out For Teddy . . . And Stricter Protective Gear Mandates

On January 6, 2022, high school sophomore Teddy Balkind suffered a fatal injury. During a collision, a skate sliced his neck causing him to bleed to death.

At this point, we don’t know if he was wearing a neck guard or not. What we do know is two things: (1) they’re designed to prevent tragedies like this one; and (2) they’re not mandated by USA Hockey.

The second point is a massive problem. When you don’t mandate it, you allow children (and sometimes parents) to get lax with pieces of safety equipment. Moreover, when you don’t introduce it and/or enforce it with young players, they become less inclined to wear it as they age.

It’s more than that. There needs to be appropriate minimum standards. If you’ve seen hockey necks guards, they run the gamut. There’s the it’s a neck guard to say you have a neck guard to actual Kevlar.

Governing bodies need to not only set standards, they need to lead studies. More than that, they need to inform.

Most parents are decades removed from playing the sport. That’s even if they played the sport. Parents are only guessing what’s the correct and most up to date equipment.

In addition to neck guards, there are hockey wrist guards too. In baseball, there are chest protector shirts, and former New York Mets LF Cliff Floyd introduced protective cap liners to the market.

There is equipment out there. However, most parents don’t know about it, and worse yet, it’s not mandated. All of this needs to change. Teddy shouldn’t have died, and we can’t sit around and wait for the next tragedy.

NJ Hockey Parents Should Be Able To Attend Games

Imagine this situation.

Your seven year old doesn’t just love hockey. He lives and breathes it. He practices and practices, and he gets so good, he gets an incredible opportunity.

Despite being a younger seven year old, he gets called up to play a Squirt game. There’s this little boy on the ice with 10 year olds. They just tower over him.

Undaunted, he steals the puck, goes the length of the ice. Despite getting knocked down by a larger kid, he gets the shot off, and he scores. He’s beyond excited, and just like he’s done since his first ever game, he looks to the crowd to look for his family cheering and giving him a thumbs up.

Except, they’re not there. Instead, it’s 19 degrees outside, and dad is sitting in a car desperately trying to get WiFi so he can watch this game.

Now, imagine finding out in another part of the state, parents were huddled together getting to watch their children on the ice. They got to see their children skating, but your child didn’t get to see his smiling and cheering family because of what now appears to be a completely arbitrary and capricious decision.

Well, that was my Sunday.

In that boondoggle that is the American Dream mall, parents were permitted to stand and watch their children skate. However, if that was a hockey game, they would’ve been cleared out because no spectators are permitted for youth hockey games.

Those people are masked, and the groups appear six feet apart. According to every COVID protocol we know, there’s nothing wrong with that. As hockey parents, that’s all we want.

But, we can’t. Believe it or not, we’re not even permitted to attend outdoor games. For some reason, that’s also not allowed.

Over the course of this season, kids have scored goals or made great saves. They’ve fallen and gotten hurt. They’ve had big wins and tough losses.

When those kids needed a reassuring face or a hug, there’s no one there. They just need to hope the WiFi was working so you could see the moment, and/or know they have to now try to convince someone at the arena they need to be allowed to enter.

Again, if this was an open skate or a skating lesson in a mall, this wouldn’t be an issue.

All hockey parents want is to see their children play. They’re happy and willing to do the temperature checks, fill out the waivers, wear as many masks as required, and stay as far away from everyone else as is required.

If it’s alright for a mall, it should be alright for a rink who has far less traffic and is better able to sanitize between games and events.

This isn’t pretending there isn’t a pandemic. It’s also not pretending there isn’t a need for safety measures. Making those counter-arguments purposefully misses the point.

Rather, this is about fairness. It’s about families and children.

So long as social distancing measures can be accomplished in an arena, and it can by marking off seats six feet apart like they do in restaurants where people eat unmasked, at least one parent per child should be permitted inside to watch their child play a game.

Really, this isn’t too much to ask.

We want to be there to celebrate. We don’t want to miss seeing them do what they love more than anything. Mostly, we want to be there to give them a hug to celebrate or to let them know it’s going to be alright.

Sadly, we can’t do that. Instead, we sit in idling cars in freezing temperatures hoping to get a glimpse. We hope not to miss anything, and we hope some day, someone will not punish our children and families because our kids are playing hockey.

Until then, we will all do what we need to do to permit our children to be able to play just like we’ve done all year. We’ll wait until we’re treated the same as that person eating in a restaurant, shopping in a crowded mall, or watching their child participate in a non-hockey ice event.

MLB Needs Weekly Nickelodeon Or Disney Game

By and large, the NFL having a playoff game on Nickelodeon was a massive success. When you looked at it, there really wasn’t anyone with a true negative thing to say about the game.

At my house, my son wasn’t as enamored with the graphics. As he put it, “It’s not really slime; it’s graphics.” However, he loved how great a job Nate Burleson did teaching the game.

Specifically, he said he thought Burleson did a great job explaining the red zone. With the fun graphics, he got a better understanding of the sport there. He also had fun with the other kid friendly things like the NVP.

Like me, he was also disappointed there was no slime. It seemed like a big missed opportunity, but based on what we saw, it should happen next year.

And it should happen again. As a parent, I liked being able to put my kid in front of a sporting event and not have to worry about the commercials. I also really thought they did an extraordinary job explaining the game while not pandering or condescending to the kids.

On another important note, I’m not a special needs parent, but seeing the reaction on social media, it was a success for those families as well:

What the NFL did yesterday was truly remarkable. They need to be commended, and if you’re another league, they need to be replicated.

That goes double for baseball. We hear time and again people lament how kids aren’t following the game like their parents and grandparents. We hear about their difficulties attracting newer and younger fans.

Well, the NFL just gave it to them. They now have their template.

If you’re MLB, you should be more daring. This shouldn’t just be a single postseason game. Instead, they should have a game of the week with a children’s network.

Yesterday, we saw Nickelodeon could handle it. We also know MLB has a relationship with Disney by and through ESPN. It makes you wonder if they could instead opt to have a game on the Disney Channel.

As an aside, we know MLB and ESPN agreed to cancel the weekday games on Monday and Wednesday. Those are two days available right there to have the games.

Now, this is where people clamor for afternoon weekend games. That’s a mistake waiting to happen. At that time, parents are out with kids running to practice, games, recitals, birthday parties, and much more. The weekend afternoon is when kids are not at home.

And if they are home, they’re outside playing with their friends. They aren’t going to be cooped up in their living rooms when they can be outside playing or swimming.

No, the best time to do this is the weekday afternoon games. They could make the game start around 5:00 or 6:00 to make it a little more kid friendly. They could also do 7:00.

Whatever weekday time they choose, they need to find a way to make it work with a kid’s channel like Nickelodeon or Disney. They need to find broadcasters like Noah Eagle and Nate Burleson who do a great job explaining the game to kids.

We’re all aware of what a success the game was yesterday. Now, it’s up to MLB to make it a success for them and to grow the game.

Thank You Colin Cosell

Mets fans are a truly blessed to be a great community. That includes regular fans like myself as well as people like Mets PA Announcer Colin Cosell.

Cosell, for no reason other than he’s a great person, offered to prepare walk-up music and introductions for Mets fans for free. He stepped up and gave Mets fans a free Christmas gift they can cherish forever.

I reached out, and I requested one for each of my boys. They absolutely loved it. It wasn’t just them either. My entire family did as well, especially my father who probably got more of a kick out of it than anyone.

That’s what Cosell did. He gave a gift not just to my kids, but also my entire family. That is something truly special, and I cannot begin to thank him. Honestly, in addition to my private notes is to publicize how great a person he is for doing something like this.

So again, thank you for this truly wonderful gift. Words cannot express how wonderful it was.

If You Give A Met a Cookie

If you give a Met a cookie, he’s going to ask for a glass of 2% milk,
When you give him the milk, he is getting ready to hit like Straw,
When the Met is done eating his cookie,
He’ll want another and another and another.

He will go outside to get an Insomnia Cookie.
When he is outside he will see the Home Run Apple,
Seeing the apple will make him want to crush baseballs.

The pitcher will have to pitch a ball,
The outfielders ready with their gloves.
To the pitcher, he’ll look strong like a Polar Bear with his bat.

The pitcher will throw a pitch,
He’ll hit a HOME RUN!

He’ll do a bat flip and dance like a Squirrel to celebrate.

When he starts to dance, the press will want to take his picture.
When he sees his smiling face, he’ll want to text the picture to all of his friends.

When they get the text, they’ll want to know the story.
So he’ll tell them the story of how he scooted around the bases.
He’ll get so excited telling the story, he’ll want to talk to his teammates.

When talking, they’ll talk about how to play the game the Wright way.
They’ll talk about scouting reports, camaraderie, and giving the extra 2% on the field.
Talking about the extra 2% will remind them they’re thirsty.
So, they’ll get a glass of milk.

And chances are . . .
If they gets themselves a glass of milk, they’re going to want a cookie to go with it.

Adapted from Laura Numeroff books, “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” “If You Give a Moose a Muffin” “If You Give a Dog a Donut” “If You Give a Pig a Pancake

All Time Is Quality Time

In his Medium article, Ryan Holiday writes about how the eternal search for quality time leads to disappointment. In reality, it’s that search which not only builds up these moments to live up to impossible lofty expectations, but it also has you missing the everyday magic.

It is an article well worth the time. In it, he discusses Jerry Seinfeld’s love of the mundane and how Holiday has loved his time just waiting.

Reading it brought me back to different moments. There are those times I’m driving in my car, and my son innocently begins a conversation by saying, “Daddy?” in that one tone where I know he has something important he wants to say.

It’s those moments my youngest just randomly starts singing a song and gets all excited when you start singing with him.

Honestly, Holiday is right. With your family, the best things happen everyday, and the moments don’t need to be manufactured. They’re already there, and they’re coming when you least expect it.

For example, yesterday, I was making macaroni and cheese for lunch. Next thing I know, my oldest wants to help. So while the pasta is boiling, I have him measuring out the milk and butter.

As is usually the case, when my oldest is doing something, the youngest needs to do it too. Suddenly, after I drain the pasta, the two of them, not me, are stirring the ingredients together.

This was a completely organic moment which happened for no other reason than the family was spending time together. To me, this was Holiday’s point. From the seemingly mundane came the real magic.

Happy Birthday

Six years ago, I was up for literally awake for 21 hours straight, and I was scared out of my mind as I rushed to the NICU. In short order, I went from the most scared I’ve ever been to the happiest I’ve ever been.

In those moments, I never knew you’d throw out a first pitch at a baseball game. You’d be playing in a hockey tournament, or that you’d have the highest test scores of anyone in town.

To my buddy, the smartest, most handsome, warmest, nicest,and special person I know, Happy Birthday!