Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Tuesdays with Terry

It was about a year ago I heard the rumor that New York Mets manager Terry Collins spent the seven or so months of baseball season residing in my neighborhood of Long Island City, Queens. While I had no independent verification of this, it would hardly be surprising. Travis d'Arnaud and Ruben Tejada are also names I had heard as possible neighbors of mine and on multiple occasions I have seen Jon Niese and his wife on the subway, while once I had to hide my amusement at seeing how peeved former-Met John Maine was about waiting in a particularly slow line at the local Duane Reade.

This isn't so nuts. I live in a growing, trendy and, as my rent has indicated, increasingly expensive area. In the seven years I've called it home the luxury high rises have sprouted from the Earth and brought with it an influx of wealthy internationals, young corporate families and fewer youthful yuppies than it used to. I'm not so crazy about the older shift in demographics, but the easy access to Manhattan and a direct route to Citi Field have smoothed over that gradual transition.

Also, the restaurants are way better now.

Still, over the past few years I had seen nary a sign of Collins roaming Vernon Blvd or grabbing a late-night deli sandwich at the E&I Grocery. And Tuesday morning as I nursed my bruises and sore muscles from running this year's Brooklyn Half Marathon and then watching the Mets tumble throughout May, I entered the elevator in my apartment building en route to an easy swim at the pool and saw none other than the man who would be manager of the NL East leaders.

Collins leaned on the back of the elevator making eye contact with no one, and I tried to respect his personal space and privacy by not staring or bothering him. The catch with this, however, is that I always use a Mets towel when I go swimming. He must have seen it, and while owning Mets paraphernalia isn't enough to guarantee one could spot the team's manager in casual clothes in an elevator, there was the distinct possibility Collins saw me, saw my towel, and assumed I knew who he was.

Then again, maybe he's used to that.

Considering there were other people in the elevator I decided not to say anything, lurched to the pool and jumped in for 30 minutes of very, very, very slow laps. On my way back, I headed toward the elevator again, this time with the towel wrapped around me in full only to see "Guess Who" standing in the elevator once again.

"How are you doing?" he said to me.
"Oh not bad."

A few awkward seconds passed as I wondered how to bridge the gap from his opening salvo into a real conversation. At the same time, in my head I kept thinking, "Dave, why are you acting so strangely? You work in sports. You worked for Major League Baseball even. You've interviewed dozens of professional athletes and coaches. Sack up."

"Happy it's not a day game today, huh?" I said.
"Oh, I like day games."
"Well, yeah, but I mean after last night."
"Oh, they had it worse than we did. They didn't get into New York until 4 a.m. on Monday."
"Oh? Were they the Sunday night game?"
"Yeah, they were on ESPN."
"Oh ok."

More dead air. What to do? My 21st-floor apartment was still two or three seconds away. I had to fill the gap. But has great philosophers have told me, fortune favors the bold. Chance favors the prepared mind. A real man makes his own luck. And so I decided, if nothing else, I migh as well try to be memorable.

"Oh well, fuck 'em."
"Ha. That's right."

I made him chuckle. This was a victory, right up there with when I made Brian Leetch laugh at a New York Rangers jersey unveiling or it became apparent that Adam Graves actually remembered who I was two years after the 30 seconds I had spent interviewing him at the same jersey unveiling.

I knew it best to pull a Costanza and as fate would have it, I had arrived, luckily, at my floor. As we parted ways I wished him good luck that night (which was apparently of no help), and headed off. This morning on my way to work we shared the elevator again and he informed me that while the Mets aren't leaving for Pittsburgh until Thursday afternoon, it would be easier for him to bring his packed bags with him to the stadium tonight.

Clearly we're best buddies now. If only I could help him with that whole "no longer in sole possession of first place" thing.

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