Gooden: Why I Enjoy Giving Back To The Kids

Thursday morning, I visited the T M Baseball Training Academy in the Bronx. Driving to the facility and with spring like temperatures it is obvious that another baseball season is closing in. This was always my favorite time of year with the Mets and Yankees down in Florida as we prepared for another long season of baseball.

So being around the kids who bring the game of baseball into a new era is always a perfect opportunity to relive the experience and also give them a few tips.  I love giving back to the kids and see how important it is for them to succeed and get an opportunity to do what I did. It is tough work to get there but dedication and persistence will always keep the dream going.

I visited the T M facility in late December. There, I was impressed with how Tony and Jessy Melendez dedicate their time and effort to the youngsters. There is always time to give a few moments to kids that want to succeed and it’s not all about the game of baseball. Life takes many twists and turns and many times luck will get you there.

But these kids want to learn more and that is what is most impressive. Today it was about pitching and you have to admit that I know a little something about pitching .

They asked me in between our two hours together the interesting questions you get from youngsters.  Many I meet only know the name and were not born when I pitched for the World Champion New York Mets team of 1986. Each time I get to relive some moments and I enjoy every minute of our discussions.

I was asked, what was my favorite pitch? That was easy because those who know me are aware that my fastball was the best chance against the batter because most hitters want to keep the ball in play.  

Some are Yankees fans and some root for the Mets.  They asked who my favorite pitcher is and that was difficult because there are so many today in the major leagues. But my favorite is Mets pitcher Matt Harvey. I am a fan of Harvey and all the other young and dynamic arms on the Mets pitching staff.  

Amazing, some were aware of the “K Corner” that became a big thing when I was pitching for the Mets at the old Shea Stadium. I hardly remember how that started but to this day I recall a fan in the late innings during a game started to keep track of how many strikeouts I would get.         

Mariano Rivera, they remember because he is more recent but these kids know their baseball and what it takes to be a good pitcher. Concentration and knowing what pitch to throw. Mariano is a good person and someone I respect and as I said to the kids, “He was the late bloomer with the cut fastball.”

And there is that one question always, if you could relive that one moment of your baseball experience what would it be? There are many but that fastball pitch to Mike Scioscia of the Dodgers over 25 years ago that went for a home run knocked the Mets out of the playoffs. If I could change one pitch and the location that would have been the difference.

Baseball changed my life as it does for many of the youngsters I meet. I will be doing more of these clinics and talk to the kids in the weeks and months ahead. In the meantime let’s all count the days to Opening Day and ring in a new season of this great game known as baseball.

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