Nelson Figueroa (Figgy) tossed a gem down in Venezuela, beating the Mexican team 7-1. Complete game, eight strikeouts and more of what I have come to expect from Figgy. He then went on to celebrate winning the Caribbean series with fellow Met Fernando Martinez. Congrats to both of them!
I have a special place in my orange and blue heart for Figgy. I remember meeting him at Spring Training last year and getting his autograph and remembering how he stayed the whole time to make sure every fan got an autograph. I can’t say the same for any other Mets player last year, except maybe for Ollie, but we know why he stayed out to sign.
And I know what you’re thinking, so what. Well, I love the game of baseball as a whole and I am a true fan. I dig reading books about the game. I love watching classic games and figuring why certain moves were made during the course of the match up. I love watching kids react to getting their favorite player’s autograph and I too still am a kid at heart when it comes to the game. I enjoyed meeting all of the players last year, except for the more popular ones, they hardly ever signed.
Figgy stood there and signed almost everyday and did not stop until every fan had what they wanted. That to me meant the world because he hadn’t lost sight of what it means to be a ballplayer. He hadn’t lost sight of how lucky he is that he gets paid to play a game. He knows that if it weren’t for us fans, he would probably be swinging a hammer instead of throwing a baseball.
I read stories of how the Brooklyn Dodgers lived in the neighborhood and rode trolleys to Ebbets Field with fans. Worked in the same places with them during the off season and even shared a drink or two at the local watering hole. That’s one of the reasons why I wish I could have lived between 1947 and 1957. To be close with the game and its players. To have a more intimate connection with baseball. To realize that even though they brought me joy and sorrow, they were still regular people like you and me.
Nelson Figueroa brought me back to those times, if even just for a minute. He gave you the time of day and made you happy and excited to meet a real ballplayer. Why can’t they all do that?