Pitcher, 1997 Rail Kings
1997 was probably the best year of my life. I was living my dream come
true getting paid (I use this term loosely) to play professional baseball.
I was signed by then General Manager, Michael Richmond, at an open tryout on Long Island, NY. I can remember it like it was yesterday. Suffering from a hangover the night before, I almost didn't make the tryout. Then, after having spent much of the morning on the sidelines waiting for my turn to pitch, I had all but decided to leave the tryout and was actually putting my turf shoes on when my name was called to take the mound. I signed my contract on the trunk of my beat-up 1983 Buick Skylark, in the hotel parking lot of some local seedy hotel.
The first night in Altoona, I slept on the floor of a 5-bedroom 2-bedroom house in town, which I wound up sharing with SS Karun Jackson, OF Eric Boroughs, IF Steve Langhans and P Chris Baum. The rest of the guys on the team called our place "Hells Kitchen." In part because I was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, but mostly because there always seemed to be players and fans (aka: groupies) gathering at our house at all hours of the night.
I remember spending the long sleepless hours on the bus rides half way across the country to play against teams such as the Will County
Cheetahs and the Tennessee Tomahawks. But my fondest memories stem from the
comradery I shared with my teammates, which was among the very best I've ever had during my baseball career. We were unstoppable during the first half of the season, coming in first place in our division and guaranteeing a play-off berth, in large part because we had one of the best bullpen's in the league. Also among the many highlights of that season for me, was signing autographs for young children after games.
Walt Williams was by far the best coach I'd ever played for. I learned so much about the game of baseball from Walt, not only on the field, but how to carry yourself off the field as well. He would sometimes call pitches from the dugout, and if executed properly, would even call the plays that would result before the ball was pitched. Although Bob Deutschman was our pitching coach, I would find myself picking Walt's brain for pointers most of the time.
I enjoyed close relationships with many players on the team, including
catcher Brian Gehrity, pitcher Ryan Anshoots and catcher Chris Hasty. We stayed in touch for several years following the 1997 season, but we've lost touch with each other over the past couple of years.
There are so many memories and funny stories that I have...One of the funniest was the time that Dave (our clubhouse manager) forgot our uniforms in Altoona en route to Tennessee - the look on his face when we stopped for lunch at a rest stop was priceless. Mike Richmond was pissed because he had to go in his own pocket to buy plain black T-shirts with our numbers on the back for the series. We had to borrow uniforms from a local HS team for a game, until our uniforms arrived a couple of days later.
- September 1, 2006