By Mark Carpenter –
Courage. Excellence. Persistence. Justice. Teamwork. Commitment. Citizenship. Determination. Integrity. When you enter the Jackie Robinson Rotunda at Citi Field in New York, you will find this set of larger-than-life words, Jackie’s “nine values” etched into a 70-foot archway. For 80 home games of the season, those words are associated with the great Jackie Robinson, but for one home game last Saturday night, those nine values applied to the Captain.
For a baseball game between two bad teams, Citi Field last Saturday night had nothing short of a World Series atmosphere with some 42,000 fans in the park for one reason- to say farewell to a hero, my son’s hero. Yes, I totally overpaid for a weekend trip to the Big Apple but I did something that a parent is supposed to do, I gave my son a lifetime memory. That’s what is was all about, not the hassles of getting around the big city or the crowds or any of the other things that go along with New York City, but a memory.
I knew the whole thing was going to be emotional from the start, at least for me, though Jordan seemed to keep his emotions in check much better than I did. I was in Riverfront Stadium in 1983 for Johnny Bench Night, when Bench gave the crowd what they came to see, a home run to left that turned the place into a madhouse. Those 42,000 in Citi Field on Saturday were also hoping for a magical moment such as that from their own #5, and though he didn’t hit any balls over the fence, David Wright gave us the magic by his presence and the fact that every move he made resulted in a standing ovation.
It had been announced a few weeks ago that Wright’s final start as a major leaguer would be Sept. 29 and those tickets didn’t last long. It was arranged for #5 to play five innings, and he got two at-bats, walking and fouling out to first base, instantly making the Marlins first baseman the most loathed person in the city, which is saying something. In the top of the fifth, the Mets manager walked out on to the field and everyone knew that the dreaded, but anticipated moment had come. David Wright was about to walk off a major league field for the final time, and whatever the cost, my son was there to see it. That was my magic.
Captain America, as he has been deemed in the Big Apple, made his curtain call with the class and grace that he exhibited throughout a 14-year career, a career that will be one of those “what ifs”, as injuries robbed him of basically his final three years. He will still go down as the most popular player in Mets history, and certainly the most popular player in our house. Yes, I loved the Big Red Machine but I never had the opportunity to share that with my own kid, We shared David Wright.
I could regale you with stories of two days of Big Apple adventures, but no matter how exhausted I still am and likely will be for a few more days, this trip was about baseball, about a childhood, about a hero that connected a father and son. It was about making yet another baseball memory for a special young man, and even having his bank card hacked and account wiped out didn’t dim the glow. Gotta love New York!
He will likely never see this but I would thank another #5 for being a part of our baseball lives, just as that other #5 was in my childhood, connecting me with my grandmother who thought he was the greatest. Baseball has its faults these days, but when 42,000 people get together in the same place to say goodbye to one of the classiest acts to ever cross the white lines, baseball is good. On Saturday night, baseball was great.