An Even Warmer “Welcome Back, Veterans”.

Tired from a day of travel and lost in thoughts of the wonderful vacation in San Francisco from which I was returning, I had a real awakening on Monday afternoon while on the mini-bus from the Jet Blue Terminal at JFK to the off-site parking facility where my family and I had parked our car before our trip.

My family were the only passengers on the mini bus until a family of four–a young couple with two children under eight or so–boarded when the bus made an additional stop.  I don’t remember how the conversation got started…maybe it was the Mets shirt my husband was wearing.  Anyway, they were informed that we had just returned from San Francisco where we had seen the Mets play three game and, I told them, it had been MUCH cooler.  I remarked how hot and humid it was in New York, but how it was supposed to be even hotter for the Home Run Derby in Phoenix that night and the All-Star Game the following evening.

We then learned that the family had just returned from an enjoyable vacation in Barbados–during the husband/father’s two-week leave from Afghanistan.

As we all exited the bus, I thought back on my part of the conversation and felt embarrassed that I had been complaining at all about the heat of Phoenix, much less New York.  As we all stood beside the mini-bus waiting to collect our bags, I asked the gentleman, “Is it really hot in Afghanistan?”  He told me that he had seen temperatures of 130 degrees, but that what made it even worse was that the equipment he has to wear traps body heat and adds to the temperature (not to mention the weight.)

Ashamed of having previously alluded to any discomfort because of the change in climate, I told the young gentleman, “You all are the TRUE All-Stars and real heroes.  Thank you for all you are doing.”

Our family wished theirs a safe trip home, and we added that we hoped that the young soldier might be coming home permanently from Afghanistan very soon.

It was a sobering moment.  The stressors awaiting each of the members of my family upon our return from a leisurely vacation now seemed so trivial, so inconsequential.  Any sadness or regret we had about returning to our regular routines was quickly displaced by the realization of the inevitable sadness and anxiety that that young wife and her children would be experiencing all too soon as they said goodbye–again–to this soldier.

I’ve always been glad that the Mets honor a veteran at every home game as part of the “Welcome Back, Veterans” program.  And I always applaud the day’s soldier as he or she is recognized in the third inning of the game.  But since this chance encounter, I have applauded more loudly and with even more appreciation and gratitude for each soldier’s sacrifices.

Coincidentally, my “warmer welcomes” this past weekend coincided with the appearance at Citi Field of U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Leroy Petry.  On Tuesday, Petry became the second living active-duty service member to receive a Medal of Honor for actions in the Iraq or Afghanistan wars. Petry earned the prestigious award and a lunch date with President Obama for his courageous actions in Afghanistan on May 26, 2008.

The details of Petry’s heroism have been detailed everywhere, including this quote from a story on

Though shot in both legs during a mission, Petry managed to make his way to an enemy hand grenade and throw it away from himself and two fellow Rangers. Though he managed to save his peers, Petry had to have his right hand amputated afterward and now uses a prosthetic.


All-Star Oboist

WOPCDart.jpgI once played in an All-Star Concert.

The ensemble was not designated as such, but it met the definition in all respects.  As you can see in the image to the right, a sticker put on the plastic jewel case containing a recording of the group’s concert attested to the fact.

On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, an orchestra–dubbed the “World Orchestra for Peace“–conducted by Sir Georg Solti, was assembled for a performance surrounding the celebration of the anniversary in Geneva, Switzerland.  For this inaugural UN concert in 1995 (there have been others since), every single one of the players Solti invited accepted immediately.  The players represented 45 orchestras, from 24 countries:




The concert opened with Rossini’s Overture to William Tell (a nod to the Swiss Tell).  It was followed by Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra.  (Bartok and Solti were not only fellow Hungarians, but Solti was a student of Bartok.)  The concert concluded with vocal soloists and chorus joining the ensemble for the rousing finale of Beethoven’s opera Fidelio in which freedom and peace are celebrated by newly-released political prisoners and jubilant civilians.

‘…I picked the Beethoven for the qualities of brotherhood, liberty and humanity, and the Rossini overture as a homage to Switzerland, but the Bartok for a number of reasons. Not only is he one of my favourite composers, but he also encompasses the whole world: his music is very Western, but based on an Eastern culture.’ Sir Georg Solti

To get a taste of the concert (available both on video and on audio releases), watch this video clip of the William Tell Overture performance.  What a fiery and dynamic performance Solti led!  Those amazing trombones!  The delicate pianissimos!


By the way, you can catch a glimpse of me from 5:34-5:48 as I respectfully listen to the English Horn soloist to my left.

I have so many wonderful memories and stories from my participation in that event, but–like David Wright‘s wide-eyed anticipation about playing tonight on the same team as his child-hood idol Scott Rolen–one of the highlights of the experience in Geneva was performing alongside one of my idols of the oboe for as long as I had been a student of the instrument:  Richard Woodhams.  (I recently wrote a post comparing Woodhams’ illustrious oboe playing and his preeminence in the world of woodwind playing to that of Sandy Koufax in the realm of pitching.)

Subsequent World Orchestra for Peace concerts have taken place, not always with the same musicians.  Although I was again invited to participate, I could not participate beyond the initial year because of the Metropolitan Opera schedule.

But I have the CD, the DVD, and the memories of making music on a stage filled with “big league” instrumentalists from all over the world, under the baton of one of the greatest maestros of all time.

With diplomats and dignitaries from many countries (including Yasar Arafat), it was a special day and, truly, a red carpet event.  Speaking of which, I’m going to now watch the Red Carpet parade of All-Stars in Ahaheim, followed by the All-Star Game itself.

Let’s go National League!

Dream Team

DreamImage copylr.jpgWith the exception of brief appearances (neither very impressive, I might add) by David Wright and Billy Wagner in the All-Star Game,  the Mets have been non-entities here in New York since they last played on Sunday night:  a game that marked their ninth consecutive win. That was actually only three days ago, but it seems like at least a WEEK to me.

Perhaps because it seems so distant, I keep asking myself, “Did it REALLY happen?!”  “Did we REALLY sweep the Giants AND the Rockies?!” 

Yes, it must be true:  after Matt Holliday’s home run to put the National League on the board last night, FOX’s Joe Buck mentioned how Holliday had recently had no such success at Shea Stadium.

I’m sure one reason I keep questioning whether or not I imagined the Mets’ recent success is because there was SUCH an inordinate amount of spectacle surrounding the Yankees and Derek Jeter and A-Rod and Madonna and THE LAST ALL-STAR GAME AT YANKEE STADIUM and all-things-Yankee for the past few days. 

But soon all of the banners will come down and DHL Fan-Fest wll be dismantled and trucked away.  Already the red carpet has been ripped up and the NYPD barricades removed following the parade down Sixth Avenue.  Presumably, the old-timers have returned to their homes. 

And tomorrow the players will resume playing the regular baseball season.  No exhibition games.  No farcical home run olypmics.  No glorified trade shows.  No morass of Chevy vehicles on parade and the resulting street closures.

The Yankees aren’t even playing tomorrow.  Will the Mets then be worthy of some local press once more?

After all, they really DID win NINE in a row.  And will go for TEN tomorrow in Cincinnati.  And we’re merely [Pinch me again, please!] a HALF GAME behind first-place Philadelphia!

And the Yankees?  Well, they go to Oakland on Friday.  Six games out.  With a dearth of pitching.  With Johnny Damon on the DL and Matsui pondering season-ending surgery.

I think this really IS a Met fan’s dream.

Please, PLEASE…don’t wake me up just yet!

Pin-Striped Hospitality

071508.02lowres.jpgThe All-Star Game and all the hoo-ha surrounding it has come to our fair city and has now departed.

While I would not say I was consumed by the festivities of this week, I did stay tuned to the proceedings.

I spent a good part of a day at the DHL Fan-Fest at the Javits Center.  While the lines were unbelievable, and I could not get anywhere NEAR a former All-Star, there were some interesting displays about the history of baseball, including women in baseball.  (See my daughter, above.  She’s in a league all of her own!)

I also sat down and watched Josh Hamilton’s dazzling “performance” in Round One of the Home Run Derby, and I suffered  Jeanne Zelasko and the FOX network long enough to see some of the current and former players in the parade preceding the game.

Oh, and I did stay up until about the 12th inning or so last night for the game itself.  David Wright was correct:  many of us were asleep, but I’m still grateful he wasn’t sent to the mound by Clint Hurdle.  We’ve got a pennant race to get serious about after all of this tomfoolery, David!

And what tomfoolery it was.  The Yankee fans really did themselves proud for this occasion. 

At Fan-Fest I observed rather rude and selfish behavior and comments from Yankee fans.  I wondered if they felt the need to “mark their territory”, figuring the All-Star Game had nothing to do with the Mets and their fans and I didn’t have a right to pay my money and attend like everybody else.

Moving on to the Home Run Derby, the churlish fans let it be known that they felt slighted by Giambi’s absence in the contest.  Chants of “We want Ja– son!” filled the stadium.  (Although Giambi was invited to participate in the Derby even though he was not selected to the team, he was far away in Las Vegas.)

Also at the Derby, the classy Yankee fans booed Chase Utley.  What was THAT all about?  I mean, I could maybe understand it (if not approve of it) had the Derby been at Shea in front of Mets fan who have been cursed with Mr. Utley’s deadly at-bats too many times to count.  Obviously, Utley was incredulous about his reception as well:          


But Bombers fans saved their very best Bronx Cheers for the various Red Sox players’ and Terry Francona’s entrance onto the field at the beginning of the game itself…never mind that those players and that manager were about to play for the American League All-Stars and that, presumably, those fans would like to see their League prevail.

I imagine ballplayers are used to being booed away from home–particularly within the infamous Yankee-Red Sox rivalry.  However, I doubt team mascots are used such catcalls.

Perhaps motivated by frustration at not having their OWN mascot (that would NEVER happen on the hallowed grounds of THE CATHEDRAL or within the Yankees’ organization), these boorish fans made cute, cuddly, VOICELESS(!) mascots the target of their jeers before the Derby.


“Mr. Met sucks?”

Why don’t you pick on someone your own (head) size?!


So much for putting aside our differences and joining together for a little fun and amicable good sport.

Makes ya REAL proud to be a New Yorker, huh?  Fuhgeddaboudit! 

Love of the Game

51356221_snake_10 Well, I have to say I felt a bit snake-bitten after  those nasty ol’ Diamondbacks left town on Sunday.

At least we had the distinct pleasure of having curtailed their winning streak.  And we did have that wonderful win on Saturday…that felt good!  Additionally, the fact that Sosa seems to be in fine form and has built up his confidence following his less-than-triumphant return to Turner Field is another fine thing about the weekend too!  HOR- HAY!!

Allstar_20071 Following Saturday’s game, our family came home and turned on FOX to check out the action at Fenway.  Although our interest in the proceedings there was only casual, all three of us perked up every time the FOX commercial for their coverage of the All-Star Game came on.  Did anyone else see this clever commercial?

The ad features many Major League players on one of two trolley cars travelling rapidly up and down the hilly streets of San Francisco.Allstar_20072_1   Featured right at the very beginning of the commercial, and each grinning ear to ear, are the youthful Jose Reyes and David Wright.  (Credit goes to Daily News photographer Howard Simmons for these photos taken from the commercial shoot earlier this year in Fort Pierce, Florida.)

The commercial itself is so cute and brought such smiles and laughs (but especially from the antics of the two Mets.),  It was such a contrast to go back to the game itself and the camera shots of the Yankee dugout…so morose, so serious. 

Yes, I know the Yankees are not doing well at the moment and that "big hooks" have been threatened.  But even when the Yankees ARE doing well, they never seem to approach the game with the sheer JOY and EXUBERANCE that our boys do. 

The Mets just seem to LOVE playing the game.   The standings appear to be a mere by-product of that passion. 

My oboe teacher and still my greatest musical mentor, Richard Woodhams, once spoke of his wish to always try to perform like a professional with the spirit and enthusiasm of an amateur. 

Here’s to that "rookie spirit"…no matter each of our ages or endeavors!