Over the past few months, making adjustments and moving back into the HardwayHQ Studios has not been easy. Yet somehow, it has helped me rediscover memories that I thought I lost long ago.
Rebuilding the Studios was and still is a difficult task. However, unlike the original incarnation of it 18 months previous, I didn’t want to be a giant mess. I want it to be exactly how I always pictured it: as my office. A place to write, podcast, relax, watch TV, and create: a true Man Cave.
Almost immediately, I set up the must haves. The PlayStation 3 with MLB 11 The Show ready to go for my New York Mets franchise mode in 2025 (Note: I jacked up Lastings Milledge’s skills and midway through August, he has broken the all-time stolen base record held by Rickey Henderson), all of my DVDs, my books and programs, and, most of all, my sports memorabilia.
Ever since I was a kid, I have been collecting sports memorabilia. From Kenner’s Starting Lineups to baseball cards and autographed baseballs, I have a mix of everything. However, once I started going to Mets games regularly with the opening of Citi Field in 2009, I have been picking up the free Met giveaways with regularity. My Met Garden Gnomes (The Tale of the Syndergaarden Gnome will forever live on), Free Shirt Fridays, and the mass humanity of bobbleheads.
For me, there is nothing cooler than an awesome bobblehead. I have a mass amount of them. Although the majority of them are baseball related, I also New York Jets ones, pro wrestlers, and two Disney statues (Fantasia Mickey and Figment from Epcot). Regardless, my bobbleheads are my favorite things to collect nowadays.
Setting everything up, there was one in particular that was missing from the mix. It had been one that I hadn’t seen in years. More importantly, it had a lot of sentimental value to it. For reasons unbeknownst, I had never taken the bobblehead in question over to the apartment when I had originally moved out. Coming back to the Studios, I needed to find it.
For a week, I tore apart my house. I absolutely went through every nook and cranny trying to find it. Cabinets, drawers, bookcases, the whole gamut. I couldn’t find it. By Day 8, I started to seriously worry. I hoped I didn’t lose it.
Then, idiot me remembered randomly while eating my breakfast. It was stored away in the attic in the garage.
After taking off containers from one another, I found the final tupperware with a name on it: JON. Smiling it, I opened it up and uncovered the bubble-wrapped bobblehead. Ripping off the tape, I slowly unraveled the item and, quoting a term from wrestling personalities, MARKED OUT.
It was my 2009 Mets Francisco Rodriguez Bobblehead.
Now, at this point in the blog, you’re probably asking yourself: FRANCISCO RODRIGUEZ? THAT BOBBLEHEAD? WHAT COULD MAKE YOU SO SENTIMENTAL ABOUT THAT ONE?
You guys have to remember: before joining the Mets in the 2008/2009 offseason, K-Rod was THE CLOSER. In Anaheim, Rodriguez was a phenom, breaking the single season record for saves in a season with 62 saves. Seeing that major accomplishment transpire, the Mets, who just came off back-to-back September letdowns, and the closing of Shea Stadium, needed star power and talent heading into 2009. K-Rod was that guy.
And don’t get me wrong: with his 2 ½ years in New York, he wasn’t bad. 9-10 with a 3.05 ERA, with 83 saves and 186 strikeouts in 168 innings was his statline. He was an All-Star in 2009. And sure, in 2010, he lost the guarantee on his contract after he beat up his father-in-law in the bowels of Citi Field and spent the night in jail in the stadium, but that wasn’t why I spent over a week looking for the damn thing. It wasn’t because of K-Rod.
It was because of my Dad.
September 6, 2009 was a very important day to my father. Driving his big 1998 GMC Safari, Big Norm took me and the prepubescent B-Sizzle (wonder whatever happened to him) to a game against the Chicago Cubs inside the brand new Citi Field. Of course, the Mets won 4-2 and Daniel Murphy hit a home run, BIG PELF went 8 strong of 5 hit, 1 run ball, and K-Rod, despite a shaky 9th inning, picked up the 30th save of the season. Even the .195 batting averaged Brian Schneider had two hits on the day while coming up to Creed’s “My Sacrifice”. How I remember that, I have no idea.
But it was after the game that really meant a lot.
Before we left the stadium, my Dad was looking around the ballpark, taking it all in with both Sizzle and I. He looked at us and said, “When Shea Stadium opened back in 1964, my Dad took me to the ballpark in its first year. With Citi Field opening this year, I had to take you guys to the first year in the stadium. I hope someday, when the Mets decide to open a brand new ballpark, you take your kids to the first year the new stadium opens.”
Hearing that showed me how important this moment was to my old man. It wasn’t just the fact that it was a sports memory with he and his boys, but it was a bonding moment. It meant a lot to me that he felt strongly enough to do that with us. Even now, almost 10 years, I still get emotional thinking about that.
September 6, 2009 was also the only time my Dad stepped foot into Citi Field. He passed away four years later.
Finding that bobblehead meant the world to me. Unlike every other bobblehead in my collection, the Francisco Rodriguez one isn’t just a normal collectors item to me. It’s sentimental. It holds meaning.
It’s a memory of my Dad. And I’ll cherish it always.