Cecil Fielder/New York City. What's not to like?
Litchfield County Sports was on hand on Saturday as former MLB star, Cecil Fielder signed autographs and gave an exclusive interview to Rick Wilson. (Pictured) Litchfield County Sports.com owner Tim Gaffney and Mr. Fielder.
Torrington: When the offer came in to do two things I love, go to New York City and spend some quality time with a former Major League Baseball player, it wasn’t a hard decision.
What time do we leave?
I am one of those crazed people that loves to drive in “The Big Apple.”
Fear? Heck no, put me behind the wheel of anything an sit back and enjoy the ride!
Well that’s the circumstance I found myself in on Saturday, April 28, 2012 when I was asked by Torrington Titans General Manager, Sander Stotland, to give none other then Cecil Fielder a ride to Manhattan.
Fielder, who spent 13-years in the big leagues, was in Torrington for the First Annual Card and Memorabilia Show at the Armory on South Main.
The former slugger, who hit 319 lifetime home runs in his career, had gone to see his son, Prince, who plays for the Detroit Tigers, the night before when the Tigers played the New York Yankees.
After the show on Saturday, he was heading back to the city to have dinner with his son later that night.
While I was all for doing all of this, including an exclusive interview with Fielder before the card show for Litchfield County Sports.com, fitting the entire day into 24 hours looked a little daunting from afar.
Here was the plan.
Get up at about 4:30 a.m. and head down to Waterbury and pick up my truck from Frito so I could get to my first stop by 6 a.m.
We had arranged to interview Fielder at about 9:30 a.m. so I had until about nine to get to Thomaston where I not only had a grand opening of an Adams Supermarket but also had to meet my friend Rick Wilson for a ride to Torrington.
But wait, go back to the planning the night before.
What do I have to bring?The camera, the camcorder, a change of clothes, shoes, a note pad, just far too much stuff.
I often tell my wife Deb that I can’t wait until the day when all I have to do is get up, drink coffee and go do just ONE job.
August of 2013 can’t come soon enough.
Alright so I manage to get up on time and get all the way to the Thomaston portion of our program.
After making a delivery, it’s time to find a phone booth (in this case a bathroom will have to do) and get changed to dress clothes for the interview.
Mr. Wilson and the rock star Jonathan meet me for breakfast at “Patties Place” for a fast bacon egg and cheese juice run and it’s of to the Armory.
We make our way to Torrington and a little while later (after a terrific breakfast at the Nutmeg Grill, great choice) Mr. Fielder is in the building.
Gracious, tall and looking in great shape, Fielder remembers talking to me on our Sunday morning “Titans in 60: program on WAPJ.
We get about 15-minutes to conduct a video interview before the ex-Yankee World Champion makes his way to the front table to start the signing.
It’s also time for Rick and I to split and get me back to Thomaston so I can finish my workday before getting set to head south.
I tire of the phone booth changing so I do my last two stops as the best dressed Frito guy in history.
It’s about two o’clock and plans call for leaving Torrington at four when the show ends but a text from Stotland asks if I can move my time up to 3-3:30 p.m.
I try to adjust on the fly as well as anyone and after a fast stop home and a phone call to Mrs. Gaffney, it’s time to get the big guy out of Torrington.
At this point, the ride we take to the city becomes the story.
A very new, Chevy 4x4, 2500 HD monster is sitting in the Armory parking lot and after getting help from Samantha Stotland on how to hook up the GPS, it’s time to get some gas and hit the road.
Wait, that’s one huge tank. Does Cumberland Farms have enough gas?
Half tank= $75.00.
We hit Route 8 and start heading south. Fielder has had one long 24-hour stretch by now after coming up from Georgia on Friday, hitting the Stadium that night then signing autographs for nearly four hours.
While I have millions questions to ask, it’s time to let this guy rest.He does marvel though at how beautiful it is up here in the hills, compared to the city he spent his later years in.
“I wish I had known how nice the suburbs are around here,” Fielder said. “If was staying in the city on say the 33rd floor and the noise in the morning was terrible.”
He loves this ride and tells me of his own back in Georgia.“We pack the kids in the back seat, gear in the back and get going.” Fielder says. “The heavier my truck gets, the better it rides. Your going to like this truck.”
It was kinda cool being way up high in this monster, it would get even better later in the trip.
The truck had some juice to it for sure, getting by anything was easy and it road nice too.
Fielder and I spoke of his two youngest kids, ages 7 and 4 and how much energy he needs to keep up with them.
“If it get’s too much, I just go to my room and close the door.”He is all about family, that comes out early during our interview at the armory.
Asked by Wilson if he likes doing this kind of thing, Fielder replies, “No I don’t. I’d rather be at home. But when a good friend like Chris Carminucci (Titans owner) calls and says he needs a favor, I’m there.”
Spending so much time on the road is one of the things retired players don’t miss and that fits Fielder to a “T”.
The Yankees/Tigers game comes on at four so we tune in. Yeah, it was very unique when Prince Fielder came to bat and his father was sitting a foot away from me.
Does he feel nervous or proud when he hears his son announced on the radio?
“No, it’s just his job.” Fielder says as he tries to catch a few minutes of sleep.
As we get closer to the city, Fielder perks up. He feels at home whenever he is in New York. Even though he spent far more time in Detroit and Toronto, New York feels the most like home.
Might have something to do with the 1996 World Championship team he was on.
I asked him what it felt like when the Stadium was packed full like it is during the series and as he answered, a huge smile flashed across his face.
“Oh man, sixty-two thousand flashes going off at the same time as Charlie (Hayes) made that catch that won it all for us. It is the greatest feeling. I still get chills thinking about it.”
We make our way down the FDR to lower Manhattan. “Exit 11” I’m reminded by a man who does not forget this place.
Ten minutes later after a stop at a Chase Bank, we arrive on Lexington Avenue by 49th street and Fielder gets ready to get out after one last story.
“The first time I took a cab when I got here.” Fielder said. “I opened the door fast without looking and a guy on a bike slammed right into the door.”
“I got out and told him how sorry I was but he just said “F-You, a-hole.”
That was his welcome to New York moment.
Fielder got out of the truck, looking behind him first though, and went to check in.
I started back out of the city after making one last stop to make sure Fielder was checked in alright and the last leg of my long journey was underway.
What I had noticed and loved all during the time in the city was how cars, even cabs, got out of my way.
Oh, I like this power!
I debated with a couple of Frito folks as to whether I should take a 5-hour energy drink or an “Amp” energy drink or the ride back but ended up riding the high of a remarkable day all to way back to Torrington.
I always say, I love having the worlds biggest playground just two-hours away and get to come back to the beautiful Northwest Hills.
Don’t believe their beautiful?
Just ask on Cecil Fielder who hope to be back this way again later this summer.