Friday, September 21, 2012

Supporting a Cause We Wish Didn't Exist

"Penelope was the strongest life force we have ever felt. She practically glowed. No person was more radiant, beautiful, courageous, or loving. To know her was to have your soul penetrated by pure goodness. Life was her canvas for us to watch her display such joy and beauty; it was a wondrous rainbow of colors, life, determination, energy, intelligence and love."

   --Penelope's Parents, Solving Kids' Cancer

Not every person deserves life. The ones who take away life, or violate it in any way, without a care in the world certainly shouldn't feel blood flowing through their veins. But then there are the ones who aren't even able to have one, as it is taken away at a much too early age. Amazin' Hazen and Penelope, the latter whom I never met, are only two of billions of souls who lived their lives to the fullest for much too short a time. In their memories, and for the sake of children like them, was why so many of us fellow human beings got together on September 9th, 2012, for A Night with Ike Davis. To celebrate life and enhance it with every penny brought in.


My neighbors at The Piano Factory were eating in the courtyard one day when I passed through and was reintroduced to Scott, Hazen's father, whom I hadn't seen in probably 4 years. He told me about what he was doing with Solving Kids' Cancer and the event coming up. I had heard about it; no idea how close to the heart it was. Hell's Kitchen is a tight knit neighborhood, and Hazen and his family were a big part of that. I wanted to help in any way I could.

I left my place in Astoria around 5:45, and was greeted on the NQ platform by some fantastic clouds. The view from the Elevated is so good that it certainly made me ignore the Yankees' version of the Budweiser ads. The best view it provides is coming around the Queensboro Plaza bend. I was happy to let the city greet me from afar before I ventured into the belly of the beast.
My transfer was at Times Square, onto the 1 train for service to Houston Street. I had actually lived there for several months back in the mid-Aughts (I guess that's what we say?) Over on King Street, two blocks away from City Winery, which is at the corner of Van Dam and Verick.

When I got there, Lee Brice's tour bus was parked on the side while some patrons of the evening were waiting till the inside was ready. Being there as staff, I went in to ask for the Solving Kids' Cancer representative, who would give me something to do. She was busy with a million different things, so I just stood off to the side and started clicking away. Evan Roberts of the WFAN Midday Show was getting ready for his Sunday evening MCing job.

Scott arrived, and I said hi, thanking him for the event and seeing if there was anything I could do. He said it was alright right now. So, I just kept clicking away.

And then, before the house was opened, the stars of the evening arrived. The dress code seemed to be plaid.

As they got the rundown of the bartending jobs they would be doing, the doors were opened to the donating patrons, and man, did they get a kick out of the sight they were being let in on.

As everyone settled into the groove, some of the players went behind the bar to prepare for the fun that would be had. Tiffany Simons of SNY, who is doing a great job in her first year of Mets Weekly, laughed it up with Ike before doing an interview for the show. Afterwards, both myself and the crew made their way over to the bar to see how it was being tended.

Several Lovely Ladies, including Miss Verrazano, made their way around the crowd, selling tickets for the later raffle. Just like Ike, whose college buddy died of the disease, Christina Moore has been affected by Sarcoma in her family. She is making it a life goal to raise awareness of the disease as she makes her way up the Pageantry steps. She has also been a Cyclones' Beach Bum, which is pretty awesome.

The same neighbors who reintroduced me to Scott arrived with their son who was ready as ever to get every signature he could. He started off using a felt-tip pen, which a passing patron warned he should not do. "Only use ballpoint pens, otherwise it will rub off!" We followed her advice as I walked around with him helping to lock down some players.

Now that Bobby Parnell was actually in front of me, I found myself feeling bad for giving him crap earlier in the day, or at any point in the season for that matter. He has improved immensely at his job, and can play baseball a lot better than I ever could. He seemed like a fine gentleman and I wish him nothing but the best at doing what I and many others who criticize these guys cannot do. The ball just doesn't roll their way sometimes.

A lot of times, this half, but still. Amazin'.
I noticed Robert Carson earlier, and had congratulated him for making The Show. "Thanks, man, appreciate that." I didn't think The Kid recognized him, though, so I said, "Don't forget Robert Carson," as we walked around before approaching him for a photo. Unsurprisingly for a pitcher, his hands, and fingers especially, are huge.

Jon Rauch looks large on Television. You can only imagine how much he towers over most people when he's standing right next to them. And your eyes are immediately drawn to that neck tattoo.

Yeah, that's Shoppach as well. At some point, way later on in the evening, I passed Kelly and said, "Welcome to the Mets Family, man," slapping him on the back in the process. He said back with complete sincerity, "Hey, Thanks, man. I appreciate that."

When we approached Dillon Gee, he said, "Sure," and the hand holding his drink slightly flinched. "Can you hold this, man? I don't want to ask the kid to hold it, ya know?" he said as he laughed. I laughed as well as I held his drink for a second. He signed the ball, then posed as I clicked.

Both David Wright and Josh Thole arrived at the same time a little later, and both were very gracious when approached. I thought in that moment, though, more than at any other time the whole night, how strange of a world the public one is. Imagine arriving at an event being thrown by your good friend and teammate and it takes you 20 minutes to get to him because you can't get passed the front table. They were both in no way frazzled by this. Every single player there that evening handled every single request smoothly, naturally and without bitterness. And yes, I was one of the culprits creating a wall at the front of the venue, but it still got me thinkin'. It is an awesome but straaange world.
That's a David Wright Rookie Card right there. The Kid might have close to 10,000 cards, a story we will get to at a later date.
He and I split up at some point and I just made my way around taking pictures and watching the fun people were having. Ike passed me on his way to tend the bar, and I stopped him real quick to get some words in.

"We actually met in Colorado when you signed my girlfriend's jersey. I really appreciate your work with Scott. I knew Hazen, so this really means a lot." 

"Thank you, it's my pleasure."

"I'm also a huuge Mets Fan."

"Even better, man!" he said with a big smile on his face.
(I failed to tell him that we're both half-jew southpaws, though I'm sure he would have gotten a kick out of it.)

I made my way across the floor to the VIP section, where other Mets were bartending. I took a photo of Justin Turner back there, and a guy crossed in front that turned into a funny pose in the picture. I told him how funny it was, and he said he always finds himself accidentally in photos. Turned out he is the Fire Marshal of the City of New York, who investigates the cause of fires. He's actually cousins with Brian Cashman. We talked baseball, Brooklyn and a little bit of movies. He's good people, and does an important job very well for this City. 

Jay from Bergino Baseball Clubhouse and his wife, Marci, found us and joined into the conversation. He also told me not to "get a drink from Daniel Murphy. He's a terrible bartender! Look how much whiskey he put into this rocks drink?" He said, while laughing. "Sounds like the best bartender to me! Hey-oh!!!" He asked if I could take a photo of him and Murph, and I said sure, so we made our way into the VIP section and got a pic with the bartender/2nd baseman.

Marci insisted I get into the pic. So, I handed her my camera, showed her how to operate it, and made an appearance in the only photo of myself all night.

I try not to be that much of a fan around these guys, and even when I do, I try to do it as one fellow human being appreciating the other's work. Murph, though, along with Shoppach, Ike and Rauch, was one of those moments where I was a fanboy.

Me: "I've wanted to get your road jersey."
Murph: "Thanks."

Me: "Great job this year, man. I hope you sign with us again."
Rauch: "Thanks, I appreciate it."

But after telling Murph about my different Metsian fashion ideas (don't worry, the above was where I stopped), I said, "Jay says to watch out for your bartending."

"Hahahah, I never know how much to put in those rocks drinks."

"Can I get one?"

"Sure. What do you want?"

"I'll keep with the whiskey."

And for some reason, it felt appropriate to drink American Whiskey.

"I gotta stay American. What do you have?" I saw the Jack bottle. "I guess Jack will suffice."

"We've got Bourbon."

"Well, everything else is off the table."

He walked to the other side of the bar and came back with Knob Creek.

"Now, we're talkin'."

Murph grabbed a glass of ice, poured the Creek in, stopping a little over halfway up, a solid glass of Knob Creek on the Rocks.

"Thanks, man."

"You got it."

Before the men of the hour took the stage, Evan Roberts and the Raffle Ladies gave out the first prize, a Signed Hank Aaron Fishing Poster. Then, Ike Davis, Scott Kennedy and Penelope's father, John London, took to the stage to talk about the cause.
They wrapped up by telling us to go get drinks from the players, and to get ready for Lee Brice. We obliged and gave them a hand.

As Jay won a sign and greet with Dwight Gooden, he and Harvey crossed paths. The Bergino Man himself made sure to express how awesome and refreshing his composure has been for everyone. He probably didn't put it exactly like that, but you get my drift. Meanwhile, Justin Turner had borrowed the photographer's camera, and was now capturing every corner of the event.

And then, it was Lee Brice's Turn. They set up, got ready and introduced themselves to the crowd. Ike had gotten him to perform, and the players knew the artist well. I must admit I was unaware of the guy, for I do not listen all that much to modern country. I'm an outlaw country man myself. And the 50's. And I will tell you what: I am willing to give every country artist a shot, as long as they sound like Lee Brice. The Man and His Band flat-out rocked.

Closest sound to outlaw I've personally heard in modern country, at least in their live show. Great musicians, the man's got some pipes, I'll tell you what. Great performers, each and every one of them. They. Rocked.

AND THEN they did Red House.

Now, if any of you have not heard the Jimi Hendrix version (and I don't know how you've made it this far in life without hearing it, but hey, I'm not to judge. I still haven't seen One Flew Over the Coocoo's Nest) please do yourself a favor and go listen to the Jimi Jam. Since I was so flabbergasted, astounded, and flat out spellbound by their performance I unfortunately did not take video, and there is none from the event on YouTube. Robert Carson loved it so much he went back and forth dancing in front of the stage.

The Fire Marshal remembered he had Mets hat in his car and went to get them. A young lady passed them out to the band as each sported the Orange and Blue for the remainder of the concert. Then, when you didn't think they could top what they had already done, they pulled out one of those Outlaw Jiggies from the Son himself, Hank Jr, and his Family Traditions. If you haven't heard his version please do so up there. Then, listen to Brice and his band rock out here. Again, I did not take a moving picture of any performance. I got so into the concert I just kept clicking away periodically before rocking out with everyone else. Those guys on that stage flat out had a heck of a time. Josh Thole loved it. And The Niese was mesmerized.

After everybody gave the band their proper due, the buzz held while the place started to wrap it up. I went up to Gee and said, "Man, he rocked. AND THEN they did Red House." "Yeah, they're great. He actually played a county fair last spring training and we all went out there to see him." "A county fair? That's awesome." 

As I made my way around the dissolving room, I met a couple whose names escape me. I do remember, at least, that he was a fireman. The lady asked me if I was doing a story on all this. For a second, I thought about my slightly newfound position in this world, and said, "Uh, yes. Yes I am."

"Make sure you let everybody know how amazing Ike is. We met him when he was a Cyclone and our daughter had cancer."

"Is she ok now?"

"Oh, yes, thank God, but he couldn't have been more amazing. And he recognized us his rookie year when we were in the field level before a game, and he came over and said hi. And said, he actually said this to us, he said, 'Now that I'm famous, I need to make a difference.' Ike is incredible. Make sure everyone knows that."

"I will."

This is what Ike Davis as a New York Met has done. This is the kind of connection he has made with the People of This Town. He has touched people's lives, and does not take his lucky position of playing the game he loves, and in New York City, lightly.

We made our way to the exits, where the fireman got his picture taken with Turner. Lee Brice's bus was still parked, and running. The Utility Man talked to a couple more people, and I stood there wondering whether my night had come to an end, whether it was time to go home.

But then I decided it wasn't.

When Turner was done with his conversation, I said, "Hey man, I gotta tell Lee Brice how much he rocked. You mind if I tag along?"

He shrugged, "Sure."

And we walked towards the bus, got on, and I ended up hanging out with The New York Mets.

And also got to tell Lee Brice how much he rocked.

"AND THEN you played Red House."

It all felt-- rather normal.


All of a sudden, these players are no longer older than me. They're my age. And they're all real cool dudes. They just happen to play baseball for a living.

It was one of the greatest experiences of my life. And they were able to raise close to $100,000.00 for both charities.

And I can't help but think, in a cosmic sense, Hazen and Penelope gave their lives to enhance others.

I had an amazing childhood and it was great and now I'm in my late-20's, and I was given the opportunity to have an experience like that. Why am I one of the lucky ones?

No one should have to die for either myself or anybody at that event to have a life experience like that.

And I can never do enough to make sure more are given the chance.

The night was about enhancing lives.

Especially those who have yet to live theirs.

Thanks to everybody who made it possible.

Great time, guys.
Now, let's celebrate like that with a World Championship.

If you haven't donated yet at either organization, please do so here, and down below.

Long Live Penelope and Hazen, and every soul taken away too soon.

Life. Whoa. 



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  1. Sam, this is outstanding. An enduring record and well put together

  2. Thank you, Scott, that means a lot. Thank you again for all the work you do and for giving me a chance to make a record of the evening.