Sunday, January 25, 2009

Dinner With Moose

I'm back from my road trip to Williamsport, PA, where I attended the 16th and final Mike Mussina Fan Club Appreciation Dinner. Like last year, which was my first time attending, I had an absolute blast. A good time was had by all.

The day kicked off at 9am when I left Buffalo with my friends Dan and Joe. According to Yahoo Maps, we had about a 4-hour drive ahead of us. We made great time as we rolled into Williamsport at about 12:30. The doors to the dinner didn't open until 4pm, so we decided to go to our hotel to see if we could check in early. As we approached the hotel, I saw one of the most beautiful sites I had ever seen sitting in our hotel's parking lot, a Sheetz gas station. Aw yeah. For those of you who have never had the pleasure of visiting a Sheetz, it is one of the greatest places on Earth, solely because it has the best food on the planet. Anytime I pass one, I have to stop and grab something to eat. There is one in Scranton, PA and anytime I travel to the Bronx for a Yankee game, I stop there on the way down and on the way back. I love the food that much. So of course, we popped into Sheetz before checking in. I ordered a bag of fryz and a burger cordon bleu on a pretzel roll. It was absolute heaven. After finishing that glorious meal, I quickly began thinking about eating there again after Moose's dinner.

We checked into the hotel, an Econolodge, at about 1:15 or so. Dan hung out in the hotel lobby and took advantage of the free wi-fi. Joe hung out in his room. I hung out in mine and Dan's, watching reruns of iCarly, killing time until about 2:45, when we left for the Genetti Hotel, where the event was being held.

We got to the Genetti at about 3pm, an hour or so before we could even get in. There were already 4 or 5 people ahead of us. Seating at the dinner is first-come first serve, and the best way to ensure you get to sit up close to moose is to get there early. At about 3:15, there were about 40 or so people in line so we made it there at just the right time. We spent the hour chatting with an older couple that was in line just front of us. What's weird is that it was the exact same couple that was right in front of us last year. We remembered them. They remembered us. That made the time go a little faster.

4pm rolled around before we knew it and we quickly went inside and grabbed a table right up front, a little to the right of the head table. When you first walk in you get your first treat of the night, a little gift bag of sorts. This year's bag had in it a 2009 Yankees magnet schedule (with Moose and Molina on it), a Nike napsack, some Nike sports band, a Nike water bottle, and a picture of Moose, which is kind of like a custom 8x10 that they created. The head table was adorned with all sorts of Moose memorabilia. He had a ball from each one of his wins last year. He had the glove he used in each one of his wins. He had the ball from his last pitch ever in Fenway. He had the ball from his last strikeout. He had Jose Molina's glove, which was signed by Jose. He had a signed ball/glove that Jamie Moyer sent him in response to Hank Steinbrenner's comments about Moose after the 2007 season. For those that don't remember, Hank said Moose needed to learn how to pitch like Jamie Moyer. He also had his first ever glove used in the majors, the first jersey he ever wore as an Oriole, the jersey from his last home start in Yankee Stadium, as well as his Yankee Stadium clubhouse chair. The coolest stuff though were some of the t-shirts that Moose wore under his jersey throughout the years. My favorites were a Sanford & Son t-shirt, as well as a Captain America t-shirt, which Moose said he busted out for all big games. It was all very cool.

At 5pm, the event started, and it was kicked off by an introduction from Mike's brother Mark. Before he talked about Moose's season and his career, they showed a 3-minute clip of photos from Moose's career set to the song "My Way" by Frank Sinatra. The video was created by Shelley, who runs a Moose fan site/discussion board called the Moose Lodge. Shelley and Doris (a poster at the Moose Lodge), then presented Mike with a gift, a framed Wheaties box with Moose's photo on it and something else I couldn't make out. Moose was grateful and in return gave each one of his game-issued gloves. They were floored to say the least. His brother Mark then made his opening comments, then the mic got passed to Moose for a Q&A. Moose did a Q&A for about 45 minutes to an hour. Prior to the start of the Q&A, they asked a trivia question, where the winner would get a signed Mike Mussina bat. The question was: name all of the players Moose played with in both Baltimore and New York. People had until after dinner to submit their answers. I totally blanked and knew none. But more on that later.

The Q&A was pretty interesting. People asked all sorts of questions. Unfortunately, I don't really remember many of them. My friend Dan asked about what the conversation on the mound was like after he got hit by the line drive in his 19th win. Moose said he had to convince Gene Monahan to leave him in the game by letting him throw 2 pitches. The rest of course is history. Joe, a Moose dinner virgin if you will, asked what Moose's favorite road city was and why. Moose answered Chicago, but only after commenting that he seems to get that question every year. Some other answers that I recall are, he didn't take the flagpole, he's not really missing the game, and I kind of get the feeling that if he gets inducted into the HOF, he'd prefer to go in as a Yankee. At least that's what I took away from it.

The Q&A ended at about 6pm and it was time for dinner. Dinner was a nice healthy portion of chicken parm. It was good, but it was no Sheetz. As I mentioned earlier, they asked a trivia question to see who could name all of the players that played with Moose in both Baltimore and New York. People had until after dinner to submit their answers. Dan had put together a nice list of about 10 or so, but unfortunately had 1 wrong, and finished 1 behind a kid from our table who had 10. Lucky jerk. There were 11 players in total and they were: David Dellucci, Al Reyes, Karim Garcia, Sidney Ponson, Scott Erickson, David Wells, Buddy Groom, Armando Benitez, Jesse Orosco, Todd Zeile, and Kevin Brown. Dan didn't have Reyes and Groom on his last, but had Luis Polonia, which was incorrect. I thought he had it for sure and was a little irked we missed out.

Once that piece of business was out of the way, they raffled off a bunch of stuff. The raffle started with about 35 signed Moose baseball cards. We didn't win. After that, he raffled off about a dozen or so signed baseballs (all signed by Moose, all were Yankee BP balls. We again didn't win. They then raffled off a signed team ball, a signed ball by Reggie Jackson, and a signed ball by Mariano Rivera. We struck out there also. Lastly, they raffled off about 5 signed Moose bats. Swing a miss. For the second year in a row we came up losers. Last year, people at our table won a signed bat and also tickets to the home opener. This year, our table won 2 signed cards, the Reggie Jackson ball, and the trivia contest. 4 people at our table didn't win anything, 3 of which were us. Bummer. I did win the table's centerpiece. Every table has a centerpiece and they give it away every year. The winner this year was the person whose birthday was closest to Moose's 20th win. Last year, it was whose birthday was closest to Mike's. I won that also. This year's prize was a baseball bank that is about the size of a basketball. In the bank was about 24 different candy items. My pregnant wife was happy to hear that.

The evening concluded with an autograph session. Moose pretty much sat at his table and signed 2 autographs for each person there. So he probably signed about 500 or so autos. I think that alone took almost 2 hours. My friend Dan was only looking to get a ball signed so he used his 2nd ticket on a 3rd thing of mine. I ended up having Moose sign a Rawlings Gold Glove baseball (inscribed with 7x--which is the # of GGs he won), a Yankee final season baseball (inscribed with his career record of 270-153 and his record from last season which was 20-9). My third item, which has instantly become the gem of my collection, was a signed Yankees home jersey. He signed his name on the "5" and also inscribe some stats for me on other parts of the jersey number. It looks awesome. I'll post pictures of that and everything else I got from the event later. That reminds me. Every fan club member was also given a fleece sweatshirt, which was had a little something-something embroidered on the left breast. It was a pretty nice parting gift if I must say.

After we left, which was about 9pm, the three of us went into the hotel lounge and had some adult beverages. We hung out there for a few hours and then went back to our hotel. When we got back, Dan and I dropped our stuff off in our room and headed to Sheetz. Joe skipped Sheetz and went to his room. We took the Sheetz to go (I had a 6-inch steak sub and onion ringz) and when we got back, Joe was standing outside his room with the front desk clerk. Apparently, his door wouldn't open with his key or the master key. It was about 5 degrees outside so it wasn't the best night to get locked out of your room. The lock to the door had apparently frozen shut. The maintenance guy got it open by taking a blow torch to it for about 2 minutes. The hotel ended up refunding Joe the room cost. At least they made things right.

We left Williamsport at about 10am, stopping of course at Sheetz for breakfast. God, I love that place. This time I went with 2 breakfast burritos. They were so good. And that ladies and gentleman was my trip. It was definitely a great time. Much fun was had by all. If you made it thru this rather lengthy post, I applaud you. I'll post some pictures later of all the stuff. Feel free to check back. It should be up later tonight or possibly tomorrow.

Peace, love and Pinstripes,



SoxAddict said...

Wow, that's pretty awesome. I wish some of the Boston players would have events like this.

Joe said...

Why did you guys get your own room and make that other guy pay for his all by himself? Or did you split both rooms three ways? Is Mussina going to continue doing this every year even though he is retired?

J-Boogie said...

I wish more players on any team would do stuff like this. It's the only event of its kind that I'm aware of.

And he wanted to get his own room. The original plan was to get a cot or bring an air mattress but he decided to get his own room. He had a bad neck and didn't want to make one of us sleep on the cot, which wasn't a biggie for any of us. He ended up lucking out b/c the room was free since he got locked out due to the cold.

And this was the last year, though he mentioned maybe doing something if/when he gets into the HOF. I know this year they actually stopped accepting members and even sent some people their "applications" back. I think a lot of people tried to join once he announced his retirement and/or won 20 games.

Shelley said...

Jay, it was great meeting you in Williamsport. Having attended 11 of these events, I can definitely say that this one was by far the most special. And I still can't believe he gave Doris and me those gloves!

Oh, and I also won the centerpiece. Have you finished your candy yet?

J-Boogie said...

Shelley - It was a pleasure meeting you guys also. I'm sure our paths will cross again, hopefully, in say 5 years ina little town in central NY. And I've still got plenty of candy left. It's way too much.