"Jon Niese will appear at Modell's in Huntington Station, Long Island, from 11 a.m. - noon Saturday"
That was the tweet from ESPN's Adam Rubin, a Long Island native himself and graduate of my very high school, yesterday. The first thing I thought was that I must go.
So I got up early this morning, even though it was my first Saturday off in several weeks since I work for an accounting firm and the filing deadline was just this past week, and made my way 20 minutes northeast of home to meet and greet one Jonathon Joseph Niese, pitcher for the New York Metropolitans.
The ad for the event was very basic. It didn't specify if there was a fee for an autograph, if photos could be taken, or if wristbands or some other form of admittance would be given out. It did, however, say that the first 100 fans were guaranteed autographs.
It was a tad on the chilly side on this late April morning in New York. Flip-flops probably weren't the recommended footwear of choice for most people. But I braved the elements and took my spot in line along the side of the building where Modell's stands.
There were two store employees, perhaps a manager and district manager or special events coordinator, talking to the couple on line in front of me. Turns out, they were fans numbers 99 and 100. You gotta be kiddin' me! I can't make this shit up!
What did this mean for me, you ask? Well, I'll tell you. Since the ad made no mention of the fact that Niese would not sign any personal items, only the photo supplied by Modell's, many meeters and greeters were disappointed and angry. So Modell's tried to make good on the deal by taking the names and addresses of those first 100 people - since it was only they who were guaranteed an autograph anyway - to send them cash cards in the mail.
Okay, so I miss out on being compensated for lugging my jersey with me only to find out that it can't be signed anyway. Fine. But what about getting in to see Mr. Niese?
Since Niese would appear for an entire hour, and because the line moved very quickly, it was speculated that I would in fact get to meet my baseball hubby face to face after all.
I reached the front of the line at about 11:35. Not bad, considering I got there at just about 11. I told the guy I was #101. He smiled and said "go right ahead". You don't have to tell me twice!
I followed the folks in front of me to where we ended up in another line. This one much shorter and with a view of Niese meeting and greeting those before us. 'Hotel California' could be heard over the speakers and somehow I knew that was appropriate for Jon Niese.
Then I noticed the shirt he was wearing. A blue and red plaid button-down shirt. Very similar to one my dad always wore, except dad's was short sleeve and Jon's was long and rolled up.
As I reached the front of the line, I made sure the guy behind me was ready, willing and able to take a pic with my phone for me. I had a few things planned to say to Jon, including asking him how he feels about the Ike deal and telling him how my friends tease me by telling me if I ever married Jon Niese, I would be Denise Niese (say it fast!)
It was finally my turn and I walked up to Jon, said hello, and then froze for a minute. I hadn't met a Major League ballplayer in a while, no less by myself. This was all on me.
I snapped out of it and told him it was nice to meet him and he said it was nice to meet me too! He signed the picture provided by the store and looked up at me and smiled. I asked if I could get a picture with him and he said "sure, of course!" He stood up and I walked around to his side of the table and we posed for my camera phone, which at this point I totally forgot I had even handed over to a complete stranger. I told him he was even taller in person and he chuckled.
Then I thanked him and wished him luck this year, took my phone back and thanked my fellow fan, and hurried out of the store to post my pic on Facebook and Instagram!
It was a fun experience and I'm glad I went. Jon was very nice and patient with the fans, despite losing his second game of the season last night because his team couldn't give him any run support. Good thing I didn't decide to ask him about that.