HARPER HOMERS

The All-Star Game will have a tough act to follow.

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Bryce Harper won the Home Run Derby at Nationals Park on Monday night with an unforgettable performance; he smashed nine home runs in less than a minute to tie Kyle Schwarber, and then sent his hometown crowd into a frenzy with a bonus time blast to take trophy home.

“It’s unbelievable,” Harper told reporters after the game. “I think just having the crowd out there and really feeding off them. We have some of the best fans in all of baseball, and to be able to that with my family out there, that’s an incredible moment, not only for me but for the organization and the Nationals fans, and I’m very blessed and humbled.”

Even with Harper as the hometown hero, the atmosphere was somewhat unexpectedly electric given a perceived overall lack of star power in the event.  But, in what could be his last big moment in a Nationals uniform, Harper, decked out in red, white and blue from head to toe, captured the crowd with a dramatic display in which he closed an 18-9 deficit in under a minute.ASG2

He then sent them into a frenzy with his bonus time blast, with his homer and subsequent celebratory bat flip electrifying an event that can sometimes fall flat in person.

Making it even better?  Harper’s dad, Ron, was the one throwing to him.

“I mean, I couldn’t be more fortunate than to have him throwing for me and just so blessed, and, I mean, I don’t know, I’ve got one of the best families in all the world and just so happy to be able to share that moment with them and with my family and this crowd and these fans,” Bryce Harper said. “Man, they did a great job.”

Nationals fans will have plenty to cheer about as well on Tuesday with Max Scherzer set to get the nod as the National League’s starting pitcher for the second consecutive year.

“When (manager) Dave (Roberts) told me that he was going to give me the nod, so many emotions (come out) when you know that you’re pitching in your home park,” Scherzer told reporters at a Monday afternoon press conference.

“This is such an honor for the All-Star Game to be here.  In previous experiences of being in the All-Star Games, you know, seeing the hometown players and how the fans get behind the hometown players, it’s always been a special moment just watching that from afar and being on the other side.  So, I can only imagine what it’s going to be like to have the Nats fans here supporting all of us, Bryce and (Sean) Doolittle, as well. It’s just an honor to be able to have that recognition and go out there and start this thing again, because this is just a dream come true.”

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FROM FAN TO FOE – BACK TO THE BRONX

Growing up on Staten Island, NY you are a fan of either the Yankees or Mets. No, seriously, I do not know anyone from Staten Island that is not either a Yankees or a Mets fan. For me, I grew up a diehard Yankees fan. I was always watching games on TV and even went to a few games each year. Those games were always exciting to watch, not only because they were winners, but the team had an incredible rivalry with the Red Sox. As a child watching the the “Core Four” (Jeter, Rivera, Posada, and Pettitte) was astounding. My love for the Yankees even motivated my family to name our dog “Jeter”.

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Born in 1992, it was a perfect time to be a Yankees fan, especially having an older brother who loved sports. His love for baseball influenced my love for the Yankees. There was a lot of winning and a lot of role models to look up to at that time. Going to games was my favorite thing to do. Since the age of five, all I ever wanted to do was play baseball. My family and I would go to games and sit right behind home plate. I remember one game, we were so close to home plate that Paul O’Neill fouled a ball straight back and I thought it was going to hit me in the face. Luckily, they had a net right there because it would have hit me square in the face (which wouldn’t have ended well for me). The guy behind me was no lucky as but not so lucky, as I had a big soda in my hand and when the ball was coming my direction, I flinched and spilt my drink all over that him. (Whoops)

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As I got a little older my brother and I would go to games via public transportation and sit in the bleachers. We would take the train to the ferry, ferry to Manhattan, then walk to the subway and take the 4 train to Yankee stadium. We would bring food with us, well because “Bleacher Creatures” were allowed to do that (haha). I remember it was the second to last game in the old Yankee stadium and I would run up to the bullpen every inning trying to get a ball. It was about to be the last inning and Mariano Rivera was warming up, so obviously there were a lot of people around watching him throw. I remember he threw his last warmup pitch and the music came on, “Enter Sandman” by Metallica. The crowd started to go crazy, as he’s leaving the bullpen and everyone is watching him, I see the bullpen catcher toss the ball up into the stands and while everyone is watching Mariano run out to the field. I’m the only one who sees this ball coming my way. Of course I catch it and immediately run to my brother speechless. I remember how happy I was. I just caught a ball that Mariano Rivera threw. I mean, what are the chances, right? My brother didn’t even believe me a first. It was one of the coolest moments I ever had being a Yankees fan.

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In 2013, following my collegiate career at Seton Hall University, I was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 14th round. Flash forward four years through my journey through the minor leagues, and I find myself in the big leagues playing against the New York Yankees. They came to Minnesota to play a big series against us and I had my first two RBI’s against the Yankees and my first Gatorade shower after the game. It did not really hit me that we played the Yankees until we went to Yankee Stadium in September. Walking into the ballpark I got the chills. I grew up here, as a fan, and now I get to play against this team. First thing I did when I got into the clubhouse was walk out and see the field. I walked out to the outfield and just stared at the field. It was a dream come true. I went inside Monument Park and checked out all the legends that came through the organization and it was so special to see. The amount of family and friends that came out to support me made this moment even more unbelievable. It was a great feeling to see all of them there and cheering for me, even though most of my friends still wore Yankees gear.

IMG_7999We end up back in the Bronx for the one game playoff. It was cool playing them in the regular season but now it was business. I did not care that it was the New York Yankees. We wanted to win and they were trying to stop us. We got out to an early lead but gave it back in the next two innings. The way I describe that game is like a boxing match. Every pitch means so much and is so intense for four straight hours. It was an awesome atmosphere and a great experience. I got to go in the game midway through following an injury. It was crazy, I remember running out to center field like a kid in a candy store. I was playing the New York Yankees in the postseason.

I’m playing in a playoff game, is all I kept thinking about. People go their entire careers without making it to the playoffs. I remember getting a hit off Dave Robertson on a cutter that snuck through the “4 hole” and I remember how fast my chest was beating. Getting a hit in a playoff game was as cool as you can imagine. We ended up losing the game and the weirdest part for me was getting in my friend’s car and having him drive me home. We just lost a playoff game to the New York Yankees, my first season in the Major Leagues was over, and just like that, I was already home. No plane ride back to Minnesota, just an hour drive from the Bronx to Staten Island. I’m not going to lie, for the first time ever, it wasn’t cool that the Yankees won. It actually sucked losing to them. I grew up watching them beat so many teams so many times. But this time, it was different. It’s definitely different when you’re the one on the field and not a fan in the stands.  Its crazy how quickly things can change when you put on a Major League uniform. You go from fan to foe real quick. Either way, the best part about baseball is there is always another day and another season to look forward to. And even though I’ll always be a kid form Staten Island who used to cheer, “Lets Go Yankees”, now I’m a guy who plays in Minnesota yelling “Lets Go Twins”

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Digmi  Contributing Author

Zack Granite

“NEVER LOST MY HUSTLE”

What exactly is a constant? Do we see it as a foundation for what we base our lives on? Is it a routine that we acclimate ourselves to through repetition? With so many definitions, one thing that remains true is that a constant will occur continuously through time. With everything else in life shifting, situations that alter decisions we make, something that remains constant in my mind are these words to remind me where I come from, who I am, and what will guide me through all obstacles:

“Never Lose Your Hustle.”

I spent four years as a part of the Seton Hall University Baseball Team. This was my identity. I lived, dreamt, and focused on baseball those four years, and learned to love the game. In addition to falling in love with the game, I learned to embrace the culture of Seton Hall Baseball. The history, the “Seton Hall Way” was learned, and through that I matured into who I am today. “Never Lose Your Hustle” has been a phrase that is more than preached, it’s practiced. You’ll find it posted all throughout the locker room, batting cages and offices of the coaching staff. Ask any SHU Baseball Alum, and they’ll have a story about what those words meant to them. Here’s the story of how “Never Lose Your Hustle” greatly influenced my life.

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2017 had its fair share of twists and turns for me, as life was sure to change. Graduation, dreams of being drafted were getting closer, and my career would end, hopefully with a Big East championship. What I hoped and thought would happen, didn’t.

April 13th, 2017, Seton Hall vs. Xavier on FS1. The top of the 2nd inning, I felt discomfort in my right hand. As the game went on, this discomfort didn’t go away. By the end of the game, I could barely twist my wrist. I spent hours awake in the hotel, with my hand in and out of an ice bucket to try and relieve some of the swelling until eventually I had fallen asleep in the chair. The next day, I couldn’t play catch. My hand was swollen and I had to sit that game. Later that week, I found out that I had broken my hamate bone.

I had a decision to make. Having broken my hand on a swing during the second week of conference play, I didn’t want to abandon my team and get surgery. I wanted to do everything I could to finish out the season with the boys. I had to try to contribute as much as I could for the remainder of the season. On the flip side, this could really hurt my chances of ever playing professional baseball. Deciding to play through it was my decision.

I was out for what felt like the longest 17 days of my life. Trying different braces to relieve the stress off my hand, different tape wraps to make sure my wrist couldn’t move. The pain level had me believing I would never hit a ball over the fence again. I never gave up on trying to get back on that field.

April 30th, after 17 days figuring out how to make this work, I laced up the spikes, and DH against St Johns. Battling through pain, and discomfort, I would do anything for my teammates. Finishing out the rest of the year, playing 11 more games ended my career as a Seton Hall Pirate.

As time passed, the pain decreased and I was able to perform at a high level again. At the same time, the 2017 MLB First-Year Player Draft had happened and I had not been drafted. I ended up applying for a job outside of playing baseball. Not having a clue about what life after baseball had in store for me. Thinking my days being a ball player were over, I step foot in a familiar place in my hometown of New York.

The Baseball Center was a place I had been to countless times to workout as a ball player, but for the first time, I was going, looking to become a coach. I sat down and spoke with Michael Lombardi, Executive Director of The Baseball Center. After telling him about my injury, and explaining what seemed to be the end of my career, he gave me these words that I’ll never forget: “Play until you can’t anymore, because you can never get this time back.”

I thought to myself, “Maybe I can still play…” Sometimes you just need to be reminded that your time isn’t up yet, that you need to keep fighting for what you believe in.

Sure enough, later that night, I received a call from the Rockland Boulders, inviting me to an open tryout. Excited and inexperienced, I gathered all my strength to remind myself that those words, spoken so frequently the pass four years of my life, “Never Lose Your Hustle,” and do anything in my power to become a professional baseball player. I was selected out of a tryout of 72 guys, and was offered a contract and given the opportunity to further my career as a Rockland Boulder.

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Through all of the ups and downs, keeping that hustle can land you in places you’d never thought possible.

If I had lost my hustle, if I had forgotten the words etched into my DNA, and if it weren’t for being reminded that I determine when my career is over, not my setbacks, I would have never had my first professional hit June 30th 2017, or my first home run, July 12th 2017.

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Maybe the road you’re traveling down is a detour from the path you had set out planned to take, but just like a road trip, staying the course will still get you to your destination. Still on my journey, it is really cool to see how far I’ve come as a ball player since the night I broke my hand. But I truly believe that this detour in my life has made me a better person.

When that time comes, when you’re tested both physically and mentally; when that river you’ve been rowing down turns to a waterfall, you can plunge within the rapids, or you can fight upstream and swim yourself out of danger. We are given the choice, an opportunity, to react to something that is out of our control. The choice you make is what we have control over.

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This is how “Never Lose Your Hustle” has changed this Seton Hall Baseball Alum’s life, to build on this opportunity, remembering the words that have paved the way for me to battle adversity, and consistently keep that one attribute a mainstay in our lives. The word that made it all possible, Hustle.

Digmi Contributing Author 

Mikael Mogues 

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My Second Super Bowl

MINNEAPOLIS – I’ve been doing this a long time now. 16 years, all over the country, covering events big and small…I thought I’d seen it all. On the smaller end, I’ve worked minor league and college events with a few dozen people in the stands. At the bigger end of the spectrum? I’ve got the last five World Series, last six Stanley Cup Finals, the Daytona 500, a bunch of big UFC events and a lot of other big games under my belt since I started this career at the ripe old age of 20. It’s hard for me to find new experiences, it’s simply now working hard to get to repeat the old ones in a new setting. So, I’m not sure I was quite prepared for this week, when I flew into Minneapolis to work my second Super Bowl, and discovered that the media center was set up in a shopping mall. Of course, it isn’t just any mall, it’s the Mall of America, a 4.2 million square foot retail palace that takes the better part of a day to walk through. But still, seeing “radio row” set up in the middle of the food court was a bit jarring to say the least. For example, last year, the media center in Houston was in a convention center, and it made for a far more intimate setting even if there were still plenty of fans around. Here? Between the crush of people shopping at the mall who don’t care about football and the thousands of media who have descended into town for the event, it’s been difficult to make your away around sometimes. With that said, this has been an amazing week. Growing up back home in New Jersey, I never thought I’d go to a Super Bowl. When I started my career, I never thought I’d get to cover one. So, to now be working my second straight means a lot…in my opinion, with the possible exception of the Olympics, there’s nothing bigger you can do in this profession than work this game – and the week leading up to it, of course – and it’s all a nice reminder that all of the hard work it took to get here was worth it.

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Celebrity sightings? I’ve heard about far more than I’ve actually seen myself. My Uber driver met Kevin Hart. I’ll have to settle for waiting outside the mall next to Cleveland Browns offensive lineman Joe Thomas. While there are plenty of events and parties that go with the game itself, I’ve kept myself focused on work; I covered the Minnesota Wild game Friday night and will work the Minnesota Timberwolves game on Saturday night. There’s certainly plenty of fun to be had – I made it a point to find the original “Jucy Lucy” burger while I was up here – but this isn’t the time of year where work should just stop.

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Keeping your eyes on the prize is important for everyone involved. Of course, the grind continues for the two teams here, the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles made it to Minnesota in somewhat improbable fashion, recovering from the devastating loss of Carson Wentz to rally behind Nick Foles in getting to the big game; they defeated the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship Game, preventing the first ever “home game” at the Super Bowl…so much for a “purple reign,” although there are rumors of halftime performer Justin Timberlake having a Prince hologram next to him on stage. As for New England…well, of course they made it. Tom Brady led the Patriots to the AFC Championship Game for an incredible seventh straight season, and they came back to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars to advance to the Super Bowl for the 8th time in the “Brady Era” and tenth appearance overall. The Patriots have been here before, and it shows. From the demands of the week with media requests, tickets and the extra week of preparation to the actual game itself, New England showed a cool, calm and collected approach throughout the week. While much has been made of the Eagles defense, it’s hard to bet against TB12 and company this time of year, with their first-hand knowledge of what it takes to succeed. I expect a close game, but I’ll take Brady and the Patriots in a 27-17 win over the Eagles on Sunday.

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“Same CITI, Different SHEA”

Lets get right down to it. I was born on Long Island in 1986. The New York Mets owned the Big Apple at that time. I mean, how could I not fall in love with the boys from Queens, right?  As a young kid, I watched highlights of that World Series Championship team over and over. It got to a point that I was able to recite most of the announcers in those video clips. Man, what a team. The Kid, Doc, Straw, Mex, Nails and HoJo.
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 I became a Mets fan primarily because I was born into it. My grandparents were fans, as were my parents. My Dad and grandfather went to a 1969 World Series game between the Baltimore Orioles and Mets, where they and thousands of other fans ran on the field after the game. The history of Mets players started to grow on me at a young age, especially my uniform number, #14. All I knew was the #14. My Dad wore it. I wore it. My younger brother wore it. The story goes, my Dad’s favorite player was Ron Swaboda, who wore #14 in the 60’s. In 1968, when former Brooklyn Dodgers legendary first baseman Gil Hodges, who wore #14 in his playing days, came to manage the lovable losers in Queens, Swaboda switched his jersey number to #4 and gave Gil #14. Hodges’ #14 is one of four Mets numbers retired by the organization, along with Manager Casey Stengel (#37), pitcher Tom Seaver (#41), and catcher Mike Piazza (#31).
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Shea Stadium; the big ballpark in Queens. My home away from home. For a kid on Long Island there was nothing like walking up to Shea and hearing the song “Meet the Mets” blare throughout the old speaker system outside the entrances. Or walking up those long ramps to your seats before the games, and following a big win, walking down the ramps with a raucous pumped up crowd. I enjoyed listening to the 660 the FAN, WFAN to and from the games in the car. How could you not have spent many a game in the red Upper Level seats? We all did. It was cool when a “fake uncle” would let me know, “Hey after the third inning go down the first base line in the Field Level and find Tony the usher. He will hook you up!” And sure as hell, he did. Tons of games were watched down the first base line, just passed the infield. My fondest memories of Shea, however, is walking through the tunnel, whatever level you were at, and laying eyes on the greenest and most manicured grass I ever saw. It made my eyes light up. This is the Big Leagues. This is Shea Stadium.
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I’ve been lucky enough to have been at some historic moments in the history of Shea. During the NLCS of 1999, my grandparents, dad, and myself sat in the Upper Deck, down the first base line, where you could see the Mets bullpen and beyond the outfield fence wall. That was the walk-off “Grand Slam Single” by Robin Ventura; the ball was a no-doubter soaring through the rain beyond the right center field fence. This walk-off was most notable because of catcher Todd Pratt running to the second base line and hoisting Ventura up in his arms before he could touch second base; hence the Grand Slam Single. That night I thought the Upper Deck was going to collapse. The Stadium was rocking so much. I had visions of looking at the third base line loge and seeing it bounce up and down. “Rock Like Shea” began to be used in the normal language of Mets fans.
Other than Piazza, players that I drifted to growing up were, Todd Hundley (a catcher before Piazza), Jay Payton, and David Wright. I always watched videos of Gary Carter in the ’80s, and then fast forward to 2009; he was my manager with the Long Island Ducks; surreal to listen and learn from a Hall of Fame catcher and World Series Champion. Also, spending four seasons with the Ducks from ’09-’12, Buddy Harrelson was and still is a coach and owner. For you Mets fans, a little trivia, Buddy is the only man in Mets history to be in uniform for both World Series Championships. He was the short stop of the 1969 Miracle Mets and the third base coach for the 1986 squad.
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9/21/01. The first sporting event in New York since the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01. I was not at this game, although, I wish I was. To see New Yorkers unite together is always a thing of beauty. The Amazin’s were down 2-1 in the 8th of a flat, erie game to the division rival Braves, when Piazza walked up to face Queens native, Steve Karsay. Piazza drove a pitch to deep dead center, which bounced off the TV camera station, and Shea erupted with immense emotion of happiness; something New Yorker’s had not experienced for ten days prior. The Mets won the game and that historic home run in America’s Pastime, helped start the healing process for New Yorkers.
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In July of 2008, Billy Joel played two concerts at Shea, donned, “The Last Play at Shea”. This was the final performances of the big blue ballpark. My family and I, along with a few friends went to the second of the two shows, the real last play. Billy had notable musicians help him close the Stadium down including Garth Brooks, Roger Daltrey, Steven Tyler, Tony Bennett, and Sir Paul McCartney. An unbelievable experience with a few combined passions of mine; family, Billy Joel, Mets baseball, and Shea Stadium.
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Once the Mets were eliminated from playoff contention, on the final day of the regular season in 2008, and the crains were awaiting to start demolition of Shea for the new shiny Citi Field in the background, I felt a part of me was gone; part of my childhood, and part of my college days, as I played college ball at Queens College down the road from Shea. We went to so many games those years as well. A family friend was head of security at Shea and I randomly texted him that I was sitting in my car right in front of the Shea Stadium sign entrance. He told me to meet him behind the plate and took me in. The day before was their final out, and they were already tearing it down, but I got a few keepsakes; a few great photos of myself in the dugout, on the pitchers mound, and behind home plate.
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I never was able to attend a Mets World Series game. In 2000, watched the fall classic from home. But in 2015, in part of hustling with Digmi, we were able to attend Game 3 at Citi Field; the game when David Wright hit a 3 run homer and 4 had RBIs. That game at Citi felt like the old days at Shea. You see, when Citi Field first opened, you would have had no idea that it was the home of the Mets. It had no murals of any past history of the organization and rarely any blue and orange. It looked like it was a neutral ballpark, not too intimate for Mets fans. But over the years, the Mets took notice to the fan base and their desire to bring tradition back. The outfield fence is now blue with orange trim, there are Mets greats plastered all over the walls of the concourse, the original Home Run Apple, is not hidden back behind the bullpens like the first year, and now is out in from of the Citi Field entrance; a great spot for fans to meet prior to the games and a perfect photo op.
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I’ve been hustling with Digmi since 2009 and to watch the ever growing list of Big Leaguers wear the line is amazin’ to see. From Mets believers early on such as Jose Reyes, Dillon Gee, Eric Young, Jr., and Rene Rivera to Noah Syndergaard, Jacob DeGrom, Travis D’arnau, Curtis Grandson, and Yoenis Cespedes to name a few. The steam Digmi has received the past few years after the public seeing these Big Leaguers wearing the brand is still rolling and extremely fulfilling.
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The 7 Line has helped invigorate Citi Field over the years. Not only has it been the pulse of the Mets fan base, but they have done an amazing job setting up 7Line Army outings at visiting ballparks across the Country. The Digmi team has taken a few of these outings in, a couple at Citi Field, and one on the road in Washington, D.C. The energy that this group of die-hards bring is off the charts. You can never go wrong with attending a Mets game at Citi Field in which the 7 Line is having an outing, posted up in centerfield, just to the right of the Home Run Apple.
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Citi Field has its own identity now and Shea is still there in spirit; The Shea Bridge and the original Home Run Apple, the city skyline from Shea’s scoreboard, sure do make it feel like home. Year after year, the Flushing Faithful is coming out to Meet the Mets, along with the more winning baseball on the horizon, the times and teams may change, but it is becoming the Same Citi, Different Shea.

Thanks Doc!

I’ve been a Philadelphia Phillies fan since I was a little kid. I blame my dad for that, haha. My dad grew up in Massapequa, Long Island, and at that time, he said that the house he lived in only got one channel that aired baseball games; and it only had Phillies games. He used to tell me that most of the seasons, the team really wasn’t that good, but there was something he liked about them. He said he always felt like the team gave it their all, and always respected the game and their fans. And just like that, the Phillies had its newest fan…Me.

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From the beginning, I fell in love with the team colors, the iconic Liberty Bell and the entire of city of Philadelphia. It is such a special place. So much history to take in. I was always excited to make trips from my home on Long Island down to “The City of Brotherly Love” to catch a ball game with my pops. The Phillies teams that I grew up with were similar to ones my father had cheered on. They weren’t the most competitive, but seemed to give their all for 9 innings. And they did have some exciting players to watch. They had “J-Roll” Jimmy Rollins who went on to win an MVP award. “Pat the Bat” Pat Burrell, and a hot-shot new infielder named Chase Utley. Before you knew it, these three along with some other quality players had the Phillies making moves and winning some ball games. So much in fact, that they shocked the baseball world in 2007 when they caught the New York Mets and won the National League East title. After all these years, my team had arrived.

This was the beginning of my finest run as a Philadelphia Phillies fan. The years 2007 to 2012 were incredible. My “Phils” ruled the NL East. So many exciting games and moments that kept adding up. One of my favorite baseball moments ever was being at the last home game for the New York Mets at Shea Stadium in 2008. Jamie Moyer pitched and Tom Gordon closed out the game. Distant names for this generation of fans, but not to me. Those were my guys. I was only 13 years old at the time, but I remember it like it was yesterday.

The Phillies went on to win the World Series that season, and I probably wore a Phillies shirt to school everyday of 8th grade. As you can guess, it’s not easy being a Philadelphia Phillies fan in the the New City York area. Everyone else is a Yankees or Mets fans, and they always seemed to want to fight me because I wore my teams colors so proudly. I was heckled quite a bit back then, but I would do my best to laugh it off. Sometimes, I would enjoy the attention and embrace it by blowing kisses at them to get them more riled up. Maybe not the smartest thing to do to a bunch of New Yorkers, but hey, it made it all more fun.

Being a Phillies fan has made me appreciate the good teams when they come around. And as any sports fan knows, the good teams don’t come around that often, and when they do, you need to enjoy every minute of the ride. The same can be said about certain players. There are thousands who play America’s pastime, but only a handful of them make an unforgettable impact on us. One of those special players just happened to play for the team I have loved my entire childhood. His name was Roy, but most of his friends called him “Doc”.

Just like the rest of the baseball world, I was shocked and saddened to hear of the passing of the former Major League star, Roy Halladay this past Tuesday. As a Phillies fan, it really hit home. One of my idols, a player who I cheered for and looked up to, was no longer with us. The first thing I did when I got home after hearing the tragic news was go into a box where I keep my old jerseys. There it was, my #34 Roy Halladay Philadelphia Phillies jersey. Those that know me well know that I don’t buy many jerseys. I only have a few of them. And the few that I have are of guys that I have a great deal of pride representing; guys like Pete Rose, Roberto Clemente, Bryce Harper, Chase Utley and of course, the late Roy Halladay. The other item I grabbed was a copy of the New York Post from the day after Halladay threw his post season no-hitter. Remember that? What a game!

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Roy Halladay only spent 4 seasons with my favorite team but instantly became an idol and hero of mine. When my friends and I would play pick-up baseball down at the park, my nick-name would always be “Doc Hils” in honor of my admiration for “Doc Halladay”. Many of my friends reached out to me this week to send their condolences knowing just how much Roy meant to me.

Roy Halladay was the definition of a professional. One of my other favorite players, Chase Utley, who doesn’t say much to the media, put out a statement earlier this week about “Doc”. Chase explained how he arrived at spring training early one day and saw Roy, who dripping in sweat and eating breakfast. Chase asked him if it had rained outside and Roy told him no, that he just got done with his workout before grabbing a bite. That was Roy. An unmatched work ethic respected by his teammates and opponents alike.

I was honored to root for Roy during his final 4 seasons of his career pitching in Philadelphia. During his career, Halladay won 203 games and along with 67 complete games. Thats right, 67 complete games. In an era where we are lucky to see the starting pitcher get through 5 innings, this guy was committed to finishing his job. He was a player who honed his craft day in and day out. Someone who many of his colleagues looked up to. I know I did.

Roy Halladay got his nickname from “Doc” Holliday, the famous wild west gunslinger. The nick name seemed appropriate as Halladay would stand on the rubber, take in his sign, draw his weapon (his arm) and fire strikes across the plate. Some could say that “Doc” was appropriate because of his precision of his pitches, similar to that of doctors diagnosis. Accurate and to the point. That was my idol “Doc” Halladay. Whether fans were thinking of the gunslinger or the doctor, Halladay was admired by all. When he took the mound, all eyes were on Roy. A current Major League player was quoted this week saying “Roy Halladay was your favorite player’s favorite player”.

Roy Halladay had that blue collar mentality of lets go to work and not leave until the job was done. He was a rarity. An exception to the rule. A player who was loved and respected by fans and foes. A player who may one day be enshrined in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.  But beyond his talents on the mound, Roy was a great man, husband and father. He was the kind of man that fans like me could look up to.

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I never did get a chance to meet Roy. I sure would’ve loved that. I’ve asked myself a few times what exactly I might have said to him if I did get that chance. Would I say something about his no-hitter in the playoffs? Would I tell him that I proudly wear his jersey? Or maybe that he was one of my heroes? I’m not really sure. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized, if I did get that chance, I would only have one thing to say…

“Thanks Doc…for everything!”

 

– Walt Hilsenbeck

Digmi Contributing Author

More about the author: Walt Hilsenbeck is die hard baseball fan who attends more than 75 professional games each season. Walt is the founder of HilsFilms, a YouTube channel that features candid player interviews and game content. Walt’s material has been featured on media platforms such as MLB Network and Univision.

 

From Jeter To Judge…Why I’ll Always Wear Pinstripes

Yeah, I know. Today is Game 7 of the World Series between the Dodgers and Astros. Arguably the greatest fall classic of all time. The cities of Houston and Los Angeles have been electric and their fans have shown such passion for their teams. Reminds me of the love and passion I have for my team…

Growing up in Central Jersey, I loved nothing more than the New York Yankees and their rich history. When it was playoff time I was glued to the TV, next to my Mom and Dad, pulling for Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada and Tino Martinez to get that big hit. And guys like Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and El Duque to come through with that big strikeout. And how about the unsung heroes like Scott Brosious or Aaron Boone? These guys gave me unforgettable memories and made me fall in love with the game of baseball.

 To the rest of the world, these guys were better known as the Bronx Bombers.

 As a kid, I remember those World Series in the 90’s and early 2000’s like they were yesterday. They were always special to me because I’d always wake up to my dad either cheering loud on a big play or booing even louder on a bad play (we are Yankee fans, you know how it is). The next morning, my mom or dad would go to tell me the Yanks won or lost. Before they could even get it out, I’d yell “Do not to tell me anything!” I wanted to watch the highlights on SportsCenter , before school, and see them for myself.

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 The only “magic” I knew as a kid was “Yankee Magic”. The magic that made Derek Jeter, “Mr. November”, with his game winning home run at the stroke of midnight; The magic that made Aaron Boone that unsung hero, with his game winning home run off Tim Wakefield in Game 7 of 2003 ALCS. I mean, that is what every little kid dreams of, right? All of these magical moments made me and the rest of the world believe they had what it took to be a ball player too.

 I always would hear “Oh you guys buy championships”, from my bitter friends that were either Red Sox or Mets fans, but to me all I saw were a group of guys that never gave up. They had a lot to do with who I became as a baseball player myself, but I’ll get back to that.  I fell so in love with the Yankees I would try to replicate their exact mannerisms, from the “Jeter Jump Throw” all the way to listening to Mariano’s, “Enter Sandman” (yes its Mariano’s, not Metallica’s haha), as he ran in from the bullpen to close another one of his record breaking saves.

 A day that stuck with me throughout my career was the day the Yankees called me on February 9, 2015, and invited me to come throw at their Spring Training facility in Tampa, Florida, with the opportunity to earn a spot on a roster in their minor league system. Unfortunately, I did not earn that spot, but to have the opportunity to toe the rubber on the same field that many Yankee legends once practiced on and earned their spot, will be something I will treasure for my entire life.

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 After having the privilege to play the game I love for 20 years, all the way from t-ball to Professional Baseball, I hung up my spikes and started to really appreciate the beauty of the game from the outside looking in. On the field, I considered myself one of the most passionate players, and always wore my heart on my sleeve, just like those Yankee greats I got to watch growing up.

 Following playing all those years, I decided to take in my first Yankee playoff game this season. I’ve never been to the Bronx in October before. I went to Game 5 of the ALCS against the Houston Astros. The atmosphere was like no other; absolutely electric every single pitch. Fans from all over meeting at “The House that Jeter Built” to see the Yanks try to even up the ALCS at two games apiece.  Watching every pitch on TV is amazing, but to be at the stadium, watching role call and standing up clapping for every strikeout opportunity cannot be matched. The Yanks came out early and did not disappoint the home crowd, as they forced Dallas Keuchel to an early exit; their toughest rival over the past few years.  After the game all the fans flooded the streets, giving the now famous “thumbs down” sign, while making the transition from Sinatra’s “New York, New York” inside the stadium to Springsteen’s “Born To Run” playing inside Stan’s Sports across the street.

 After all these years, I found that the magic is still there. You see, the “Yankee Magic” actually never left. With guys like Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorious, Luis Severino and Greg Bird, the Yanks are back in business, making their presence known and knocking on the door of another championship.

What unforgettable memories will be made in the Bronx over the next few years? Who will be our next big hero? I’m not sure. But I am sure about this…from Jeter to Judge, I’ll always wear pinstripes! And no matter what, I’ll always believe in magic!

– Carlos Ruiz

Digmi Contributing Author