Watching Jeff’s team was lots of fun. I would bring my folding chair and sit right behind home plate. I would sit up close to the screen so I could put my feet up on the screen and get in a nice comfortable position, for the next few hours or so. It took me back to the days I used to play baseball and it made me feel young again. “The Big Bang” was their team name. I got to know more of Jeff’s teammates with each game I went to.
As the months went by the local paper’s sports section really hyped up the coming Spring Training Season. Fort Myers had two Major League baseball teams train there. The Minnesota Twins and the Boston RedSox. Each team had their own Ballpark. Both parks were about 15 minutes by car from my condo. I had never been to a spring training game in the previous years of coming to my condo. One day Jeff asked me if I would go with him to the first Spring Training game of the season. I told him I would love to go. I asked him if he had tickets and he told me that we would see his friend Pickle down the street from the ballpark. Pickle would be selling tickets to the game and he will give us his cheapest tickets for about $7 a piece. I frowned and told him that I didn’t want to sit so far away from home plate. Jeff laughed and told me that we would be able to sit right behind home plate in the seats reserved for the baseball scouts.
Jeff drove us through the back employee entrance and found a parking spot. He then took me to meet his friend Pickle. When we got close to where Pickle was busy selling his tickets, Jeff pointed him out to me. Pickle looked like a cross between Robin Williams and Richard Dryfus. I shook his hand and told him that Jeff had talked to me about him so much that I felt I knew him already. I then showed him my newspaper articles that I had shown the other guys so he would know I played baseball and basketball for J.U. back in the early 60’s. I had no idea what a big time sports nut he was or that selling sports tickets was his profession. He also played on Jeff’s team but was too busy during spring training to play on a regular basis. He gave us the 2 tickets and said he had to get back to work but would see us inside the stadium. Sure enough, Jeff led me to the empty seats right behind home plate in the second row. I couldn’t believe that we could sit there. I spotted the center field TV camera pointing our way and I knew from watching games on TV that we would be in the camera’s home plate view for the whole game. I made a mental note to let my NY friends know, that when the games would be televised back to NY on ESPN, to look for me behind home plate. I even told them what I would be wearing so they could spot me. About an hour into the game, Pickle came to join us and that was when I found out what that he was a sports encyclopedia of sports trivia knowledge. I told him that I got married during the 1969 World Series and watched the first game between the Mets and Orioles in my wedding tuxedo. He immediately knew that it must have been game one, on Saturday Oct. 11th, he told me the starting pitchers and gave me the exact score of the game the Orioles won. He then said that the Mets won the next 4 games in a row! wow! I said to myself, this guy has a photogenic mind and is a real sports nut. The rest of the game is a blur for me to remember because I was mesmerized by Pickle’s non-stop encyclopedic mind rattling off all kinds of baseball, basketball and football trivia. I also found out that buying & selling tickets to sporting events in Florida was his life’s work now that he retired from being a car salesman. Pickle was originally from Long Island. He played baseball and football in high school and tried college but it wasn’t his cup of tea. He got the nick name Pickle because as a youngster, he was always getting in a “pickle” of trouble, especially in his elementary school. His parents were called many times to let them know what their son did “this time!” Pickle comes from a very high functioning family. His dad owned a car dealership in Long Island and his mom was a school principle. His brothers were all successful. and a few of them even graduated from West Point. He joked that he somehow wound up in that family by mistake. I didn’t fall for that joke because I saw through his joking about himself that he had a very sharp mind. During the game he was on his cell phone checking to see how many of his tickets were being sold on Stub Hub. He also talked to customers who wanted tickets and he had a very slick sales pitch. I could see that he was no ordinary ticket broker. He came across to me as really caring about pleasing his clients. He not only sells the tickets, but he left us to go see the clients that he sold tickets to today’s game, just to make sure they were pleased with their seats and were having a good time. He said to me that a “happy customer would become a “repeat” customer. So I could clearly see how good he was at his new job.
During the rest of spring training, Jeff and I went to about 6 more games as I got to know him and Pickle and they got to know me better and better. I also enjoyed watching them both play baseball on Sunday mornings.. As it was getting closer for me to go back to NY. Pickle asked me if I would be interested in helping him and a few of his friends, including Jeff, with getting on line overnight when the tickets go on sale at the box office for next spring training season. I told him that as long as Jeff picks me up, I would give it a try. I had no idea that by agreeing to stand in line the first day tickets went on sale for Pickle would be the start of a fantastic new and exciting adventure in my life.
I was rescued by these 2 great guys from just taking long walks and going to the swimming pool every day. So I couldn’t wait to come back to Fort Myers in the Fall of 2016. The best is yet to come…..stay tuned!
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