May 2, 2010


Sweat is a new biweekly series about sports in the NY Times. Today's column is about baseball, and it's a great one. I cut and pasted the article, hope you enjoy it.

Sweat | A Boy’s Dream as a Slugger Moves to Town

DIE-HARD FAN Gabriel Tugendstein, 11, and a fellow Larchmont resident, Jason Bay, right.">Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times; right, Barton Silverman/The New York TimesDIE-HARD FAN Gabriel Tugendstein, 11, and a fellow Larchmont resident, Jason Bay, right.
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Sweat is a new biweekly series about sports. Post a Comment »

There was a certain buzz at the dinner table a few months ago. My sons had heard that the new Mets left fielder, Jason Bay, was considering moving to our town of Larchmont from the Boston area, where he had played for the Red Sox. I barely paid attention, since baseball chatter around our house is constant background noise.

A few days later, they were talking about it again. One son claimed he and his friends walked past Mr. Bay’s house on the way to Hebrew school. But I was still fairly sure this was one of those false rumors that fly around a small community and gather steam as they hit the schools.

Then proof arrived, in the form of a tidbit my husband discovered on the Web site of Major League Baseball, which was then picked up by our local online newspaper, The Larchmont Gazette. Mr. Bay had indeed chosen our town over Connecticut — even though apparently all his friends had urged him to move to Greenwich, the ritzier community up north.

“Larchmont is as far as we wanted to go from the ballpark,” Mr. Bay was quoted as saying.

We were all so proud.

If you thought my sons, especially 11-year-old Gabriel, were excited before, the confirmation ratcheted up the tension. In fact, among local baseball lovers of a certain age — a very wide range as far as I can tell — Mr. Bay’s move here was more thrilling than when Timothy F. Geithner, also a Larchmont resident, was selected by President Obama to become his Treasury secretary.

Gabriel and his friends went into high gear. Every time they passed Mr. Bay’s house, they sought a glimpse of him. Once there was a near miss: they saw him driving off. A friend of Gabriel’s suggested bringing brownies as a welcome present. They also wondered whether Mr. Bay’s two children would play in Little League, and they were not discouraged when they found out he has two little girls. Maybe he would come to one of their games and give hitting tips!

The possibilities seemed endless.

And as time passed, the buzz grew. At dinner parties, adults argued about which house was Mr. Bay’s. (“It’s the green one near the library.” “No, it’s the one with all the windows.”) The village seemed more speckled with Mets shirts than in years past.

For his part, Gabriel decided to write Mr. Bay a letter and wrap it around a baseball. I quote in part: “I am a huge Mets fan (like die-hard even in the years when they weren’t so good!) Here is a baseball. Can you sign it and return it to your mailbox this week between 2:25 and 3:15 (so I can retrieve it).” He was going to put it in the Bays’ mailbox, but it was locked, so he stuck the letter and baseball between boards in their white picket fence.

I found something sweetly old-fashioned about all this. Gabriel wrote the note without any parental interference. He and his friends could walk past the home of a player on their favorite team, and it wasn’t a fancy mansion behind security gates. With the various scandals and multimillion-dollar salaries that sour many people on professional sports, it was redeeming to see their enthusiasm and hopes.

Gabriel went back to Mr. Bay’s house the day after he left the ball in the fence. It was gone. I assumed it had either been taken by someone else or simply tossed out.

The following day he checked again. This time he was wearing his Mets T-shirt with “Bay” on the back and No. 44. Again, no ball. I was rapidly losing interest and figured this would be another one of life’s sad little lessons.

On the third day he and a friend went by — and the ball was in the fence!Signed! Gabriel was overjoyed, and his friend immediately asked if he had another paper and pen, to leave his own message.

“This is the greatest day of my life,” Gabriel told my husband.

I’m sorry, Mr. Bay, if your fence will now look like the Western Wall in Jerusalem, where people leave notes to God. But thank you for answering a little boy’s prayers. And welcome to the neighborhood.

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