He seemed like a mensch.
I wish I could tell you more about him, but I only met him five days ago.
And now he’s gone.
Dana Brand was a professor at Hofstra University, an avid Mets fan and blogger, an author of two books on the Mets, a husband and father.
In the relatively small subset of Mets fans that is the blogging community, he was a collaborator with and supporter of many and a mentor to all.
As much as I loved reading his writing, it was even more of a delight to speak with him face to face on Saturday night.
My family and I, along with dozens of other Mets fans, were at Foley’s Sports Bar in Manhattan Saturday night for a charity event sponsored by the foundation of SNY-TV announcers Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez, and Ron Darling.
As much fun as it was to see the likes of Cohen and Darling tending bar and having them each pour a drink for me, the true highlight of the evening for me was the fact that I left that intimate gathering of like-minded people feeling that I had made a new friend: having recognized Dana from photos on his blog, I tentatively introduced myself. I needn’t have shown such temerity: he enthusiastically greeted me by name and told me how much he enjoyed reading my blog posts–a real compliment coming from someone with his literary credentials!
After introducing him to my family, the four of us talked about everything from the special relationships that can develop between fathers and daughters, the operas he had seen at the MET, as well as my daughter’s experiences in the MET Children’s Chorus. Clearly, he was interested in getting to know us better personally.
When the subject did turn to the Mets, he excitedly told us of a special event he was planning in celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Mets franchise to be held at Hofstra University. Dana seemed just as interested in sharing mutual remembrances of Mets history brought up by my husband Garry–a Mets fan from the team’s beginning and of Dana’s same generation. Garry enjoyed having the opportunity to tell Dana personally how much he had enjoyed reading both of his books.
I sensed Dana was appreciative of the favorable comments about his work. But Dana seemed to take particular delight when Garry turned to our daughter Melanie and, while pointing to Dana, informed Melanie, “This guy was THERE for Agee’s home run. He SAW it!!”
It was with obvious pride that Dana later introduced us to his lively, charming daughter and sister. As much passion and zeal as he obviously had for his team, it was very clear what a devoted and proud father he was as well.
Before we left Foley’s that night, we exchanged contact info with Dana, promising to meet up at Citi Field at a game in the near future.
It truly felt like we had met a real kindred spirit, and all of us agreed that we were so glad that we had made his acquaintance.
Dana passed away suddenly yesterday afternoon. I learned this early this afternoon through a Mets blog. Within a matter of hours, the sad news passed through the Twitter community and has resulted in countless other blog posts in honor of Dana. Word had obviously made its way to the SNY TV booth at Wrigley Field in Chicago as, watching this afternoon’s game on TV, we heard Gary Cohen make a brief tribute, mentioning Dana’s passing and what a devoted fan, blogger, and author he was.
In reading these blog posts, it is clear to me that I missed a real opportunity not having made Dana’s acquaintance sooner. He was obviously a person who had been a positive influence in many, many lives.
My family and I wish to add our condolences to Dana’s family and friends.
As grateful as I always am to take a vacation, and as much as I love that our family shares a passion for ballgames and the Mets, our family’s tradition of following the Mets for numerous roadtrips each summer is killing me.
With our season ticket package at Citi Field, we are at virtually every home game. But for many summers now, we have taken advantage of the fact that my daughter is not in school nor am I working in the summer and have planned and taken vacations based around Mets away games.
In our various sojourns, we have seen the Mets play at every National League ballpark with the exception of three: AT & T Park, Coors Field, and Busch Stadium. We have also seen the Mets play in several Americal League venues and in Spring Training games at Port St. Lucie. In addition to seeing all those games and ballparks, we have also been to nearby venues: National Parks, art museums, science museums, historical sites, amusement parks, aquariums, zoos and animal parks, beaches, and restaurants featuring regional fare.
We’ve been granted rare access to our favorite players in ballparks having more lenient rules for observing Batting Practice and getting autographs. Due to generally lower ticket prices at other parks compared to Citi Field prices, we have been able to sit in even better seats than we do at Citi Field. Both of those amenities have afforded me the opportunity to shoot photos from some amazing vantage points. The photos I have returned with have become some of our most treasured souvenirs.
Additionally, we’ve had the unexpected pleasure of running into friends (and teachers!) from home in some faraway places. We have made the acquaintance of other Mets fans, and we have met and had conversations wtih members of the media. Last summer, while covering the team for the Daily News, Adam Rubin (who is now a journalist for ESPN-NY) was seated across the aisle from me on our flight from San Diego to Phoenix. In 2007, SNY-TV’s Gary Cohen happened to be seated behind me on our outbound flight from New York to Pittsburgh; we approached him at baggage claim (where this photo was taken.) Both journalists were very personable, and we had the most delightful conversations with each of them!
This all sounds like the makings of dream vacations, right? How lucky am I to see so many Mets games?!
Here’s the problem: for all the delights–both planned and unexpected–neither wins nor a favorable standing in the NL East by the time the planned roadtrip is made is guaranteed. The heartbreak of having to watch terrible losses or a scrappy team that is way out of it–all without the support of an entire stadium of fans with which to commiserate–can be painful or even excruciating.
Last year’s trip: a four-game series in San Diego followed by a three-game series in Arizona late in the season was particularly disappointing baseball-wise with the Mets having so many regulars on the DL and the team being so far out of contention. Maybe paying the big bucks for a small prop plane tour over and into the Grand Canyon was our way of salvaging the trip…for ourselves, if not for the team.
While this season’s pre-All-Star-Game Spector Family Roadtrips–Washington, Baltimore, and Milwaukee–provided some wins and some unique opportunities (such as seeing the rookie Stephen Strasburg in a game in Washington), the final trip, to Los Angeles, was a struggle for the team and, therefore, for me.
Losing three out of four was no fun. Neither was having Dodger fans in our faces during every exit from Dodger Stadium following the game.
The two-day trip to Disneyland prior to the series, scheduled primarily for my daughter’s enjoyment, proved to be the highlight of the trip for me as well. Let’s just say that Dodger Stadium could not be mistaken for the Magic Kingdom in any way . Even our enchanted knuckleballer–the unexpected knight in shining armor of the starting rotation, R.A. Dickey–was not allowed conjure up his deceptive magic for very long, being yanked early in his start there.
Sometime following our return from L.A.–in the midst of one of the games during the frustrating homestand just concluded, perhaps around the time I and other fans found out that Mets ownership declined to take any action prior to the trade deadline–I snapped.
“I think I need a break from these Mets roadtrips,” I told my husband and daughter. “Having to suffer Mets losses–both home and away–are killing me.” .
No doubt, when the 2011 season is announced, I will salivate at potential trips and this low point will be long forgotten. But if we do decide to declare a moratorium on Mets roadtrips, I can think of one immediate benefit (besides not having to suffer losses without the home crowd): seeing those away games on SNY and hearing the great on-air talent of Keith Hernandez, Ron Darling, and Gary Cohen.
I know those guys will always follow the team for me…win or lose.
My family and I have season tickets at Citi Field. Not only do they afford an awesome view of the game, but they are right in front of the SNY TV booth.
It’s always a thrill to catch a glimpse of sportscasters Keith Hernandez, Ron Darling, and Gary Cohen. Sometimes one of them will even wave back to us during the Seventh Inning Stretch.
Tonight there was even more interest in what was going on behind us as Jerry Seinfeld was given a Father’s Day gift of joining Keith and Gary in broadcasting a portion of the game.
I was lucky enough to get this photo of Seinfeld talking to Cohen at the end of the second inning, moments before he donned his headset and began fulfilling a lifelong dream.
You can see and hear his “debut” on MLBTV.