Bobby V and my New York Mets memories.
TORRINGTON: As a lifelong New York Mets fan, remembering back to the late 90s and the early years of 2000-2002 was a good time for us fans of the orange and blue.
We won some games, usually many more than we lost and had a team that you found easy to root for.
The man at the helm during that seven-year stretch will be in the Torrington area on Saturday night as guest speaker at the Torrington Titans Hot Stove Dinner, which is being held at the Cornucopia Banquet Facility in Torrington starting at 7 p.m.
Bobby Valentine, now the Athletic Director at Sacred Heart University, will be on hand to talk to those who feel like taking a break from this up and down weather by talking June baseball.
This marks the second year the Titans, members of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League, have held a late winter get together. A year ago, former Boston Red Sox legend Rico Petrocelli entertained baseball fans with stories from yesteryear at the Winvian Resort in Morris.
As I got ready to talk with Bobby V, I looked back at his record on the bench as manager and was pleasantly surprised by what I saw.
You see, as Met fan since the early 1960s, we have seen our share of misery with a touch of winning sprinkled very conservatively on our plate. Just enough to keep us hungry, just enough to keep us enlightened each season until at least early May.
I always say, I have not had to worry about staying up late during October when the playoffs roll around.
I figure since Carlos Beltran looked at that Adam Wainwright curve back in 2006 (we actually won 97 games!) and things went downhill every year after, I have plenty of time to write about everything else but my own team.
Valentine’s run made me remember that we used to have a good team, once upon a time.
It just seems as if it has been forever.
During his tenure with New York, Valentine posted a 536-467 record with five years that saw his teams finish over .500.
His seven-year stint matches the longest period that any one man had captained the Metropolitans' ship. Only Davey Johnson has managed more games that Valentine (1012-1003) and posted more wins (595).
You have the guy credit for sticking it out so long in NYC, not the easiest place to manage, especially with the dreaded big brother (The Yankees) over from Queens in the Bronx.
It was a time he remembers fondly.
“When I came to New York, we were basically a laughingstock franchise.” Valentine said. “I helped turn that around and we built a pretty good team. To see the team come alive was one of the best highlights of my life.”
During those years, the Mets could never seem to get past the Atlanta Braves, who owned the National League East.
“The Braves had a dynasty at the time.” Valentine said. “We could never seem to get ahead of them but had some epic battles.”
In 2000, the Met’s made their run after finishing second to Bobby Cox and company but made their noise in the playoffs with wins over the Giants (3-1) in the Division Series and Cardinals (4-1) in the National League Championship Series.
Okay, we would get smoked by the big boys from the Bronx in the World Series (4-1) but it was one heck of a way to start the new century.
We can say we were in the first series of the century. Hoping we get back their before the next century? Sorry, that was too easy.
I always remember seeing Valentine and his team in the parking lot at Shea Stadium after the attacks of September 11, 2001 as a country struggled to understand what had just happened.
Shea was a staging site for relief supplies and after must thought, hosted the first game in New York since the attacks.
On September 21, Mike Piazza hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning to give the Mets an eventual 3-2 over the Braves and brought at least a moment of joy to a city that was reeling.
“It was a troubling time.” Valentine said. “There was so much uncertainty in the country at the time. We were just starting to get a little bit of healing in the country at the time.”
Summer baseball is familiar to Valentine, who played in the Cape Cod League during high school as he rose to the pro ranks in a big hurry.
He feels it’s an important part of the development of a player, both on and off the field.
“It’s a holistic approach to baseball.” Valentine said. “It allows the players to play in different parts of the country and become part of that community.”
While scouts look closely at players during the days they play during their college seasons, they can help themselves by getting more repetitions in the summer and maybe even turn the head of a scout at the same time.
Tickets to the event are still available at the Titans web-site, torringtontitans.com.
Just click on the ad on this site as well to get your tickets now to hang out with Bobby V.