Updated: Feb 18, 2019
Today, I have to talk about what truly was an AMAZIN’ night out at the ballpark. Last Friday I headed out to Long Island, to Bethpage Ballpark, home of the Long Island Ducks, to honor and celebrate former New York Mets World Series Champion and Long Island Ducks coach, Buddy Harrelson. On Buddy Harrelson Appreciation Night, the Long Island Ducks retired his #3 jersey and proudly hung it on the pillars of the outfield scoreboard for players and fans to see forever.
This honor couldn’t have been bestowed on a better man, who has given so much of his time to the beautiful game of baseball, and who proudly wore the New York Mets and Long Island Ducks uniforms with immense pride. Buddy may be best known as the only man in uniform for both New York Mets World Series Championships of 1969 and 1986 and for his memorable fight at second base with Pete Rose. He has said that helping bring the Ducks to Long Island is the best thing he has ever done in the game. Well, The Ducks organization agreed and held a beautiful and moving ceremony in his honor. The ceremony started with a video tribute where family, friends, politicians and former players shared their favorite memories and expressed their sincere gratitude for their relationship with Buddy.
But this ceremony meant so much more than retiring a jersey. You see, Buddy was diagnosed with Alzheimers Disease in 2016 and he and his family have been battling this sickness since. And to show to show unwavering support for a man who has meant so much to their organization, all the LI Ducks players wore purple #3 jerseys on this special night. Throughout the game, The purple #3 jerseys were auctioned off to fans with net proceeds going to the Alzheimers Association. To see all those purple jerseys on the field, and in the stands, was something I will never forget. For his entire career, Buddy has ALWAYS been there for any and everyone who he has ever met. And on this night, the organization and all Long Island Ducks fans showed Buddy THAT THEY ARE THERE FOR HIM!!
A beautiful tribute that included some moving words from many who have had the privilege of having Buddy in their lives. Long Island Ducks Manager Kevin Baez gave an emotional speech, sharing his personal relationship with the baseball legend. Fighting tears with each word he spoke, Baez said,
“IT ALWAYS SEEMED LIKED BUDDY KNEW WHEN TO DO SOMETHING NICE FOR PEOPLE…WHICH WAS ALWAYS”
You could hear the emotion in Kevin Baez’s voice when speaking about Buddy. And I have to say, standing up there during that ceremony , it was hard not to get emotional and shed a tear for such a special man. Kevin Baez is an example of the kind of influence Buddy can have on someones career, and their lives.
I had the honor and privilege of playing for Buddy Harrelson for 8 season with the Long Island Ducks. I can’t express how lucky I am to have been one of the few who get to say that I played for him. I learned so much about the game, and even more about life from Buddy, who always supported me throughout all the ups and downs during my time on long Island. He was always there to give me a high five after a big, would pull me aside after a error, stood beside me when I was acknowledged for an award, and stood up for me during many of my struggles.
"What can I say, I truly love the guy"
I was truly honored the when the Ducks asked me to be a part of this ceremony - I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. The Long Island Ducks retired my #16 nearly 3 years ago. I thought it was such a special accomplishment when it happened and something I was extremely proud of. That was before the the Long Island Ducks retired Buddy's #3. To see my #16 hanging on the same stadium facade as his #3 has given it a whole new meaning. I have always been proud to have worn that uniform for as long as I have. After this special night, I am humbled and extremely honored to be alongside someone who has meant so much to so many...including me.
Last night put so many things in perspective. You know, life seems to move so fast at times, and we are all guilty of taking things for granted. Playing the sport you love, friends, family, our health. It can all go away in an instant. To stand out there as part of an organization that honored and celebrated a truly great man was extremely humbling. And a great reminder for all of us to appreciate all we have. And to give back more of our time and attention to our family and friends and community…just like Buddy Harrelson has done his whole life. So as we all move forward, lets try to live life like the great Buddy Harrelson…Fiery, friendly and compassionate.
If you would like to support Buddy’s battle and all those affected by ALZHEIMERS, you can head out to Bethpage Ballpark and purchase a special purple Harrelson #3 Tee-shirt or make a donation to the ALZHEIMERS ASSOCIATION by visiting www.ALZ.ORG
I do have one request for all of you who took the time to read this; Please take a minute and go to YOUTUBE.com, and look up some awesome Buddy Harrelson content. Pull up the his fight with Pete Rose in 1973, or my favorite…Buddy running up the 3rd base line with Ray Knight when the Mets miraculously came back in Gem 6 of the 1986 world series…
Yeah, I got to play for that guy!!
Written with great respect and gratitude for a man who gave so much to so many
- Ray Digmi