As a worker bee in Stamford, CT I’m never too far from my next lunch at Bobby V’s. I find it the perfect spot for catching up on the occasional afternoon ballgame, and the chicken Caesar wrap isn’t bad either. And during each visit I make it a point to brush up on the prominently displayed exploits of Valentine’s turn-of-the-century Mets, a group of players that captured the heart of at least one burgeoning young Mets fan.
In the eyes of a thirteen-year old, guys like Edgardo Alfonzo, Robin Ventura and John Olerud were the epitome of cool. And a staff highlighted by names like Franco and Leiter just exuded that lethal combo of calm, cool and collected. I’ll never forget my dad explaining to me why I shouldn’t be upset that Piazza didn’t charge the mound on that October night, instead we should appreciate a ballplayer with real class.
But during my last visit it was not the old pennants or signed jerseys that caught my eye. Instead it was a short newspaper article that I hadn’t noticed before. There was an attached photo that depicted Valentine and his club regally lined up pre-game back at Shea, on the night of Sept. 21, 2001. I spent some time reminiscing my way through the article, remembering that game and the home run, how awesome I felt those NYPD hats were, but most of all I was caught up on the outlined efforts of the team off the field during those frenzied days.
It’s been a long time since I'd thought of those scenes of Shea’s parking lot lined with supplies, of policemen and outfielders stacking boxes, of relief pitchers becoming relief workers. I’d nearly forgotten how many Mets showed up on those trying days and I was actually astonished to re-learn the extent of their efforts. They worked days, nights, gave money, gave time. Many players went straight from volunteering outside the stadium to hospitals and shelters to visit victims and their families. Edgardo Alfonzo summed it up best when he recently stated, 'It made us want to be better people.' And they were, but none more so than Valentine himself. The field general seamlessly transitioned from managing players to managing volunteers, staying late into those September nights to lend a hand any way he could.
On my walk back to the office that day I reflected on why I like Bobby V’s so much. There are bigger, fancier options out there and it is by no means the most popular joint off Summer Street. But like Valentine and his ’01 squad, it has that special something, a gritty flair, a uniquely Metropolitan brand of class which, no matter how many times you go back to it, can always leave you feeling surprised.