Yesterday baseball lost a great baseball player and a great man. Ralph Kiner, Hall of Fame outfielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates and legendary broadcaster for the New York Mets, passed away at the age of 91. I could very well go into his Hall of Fame career and stats, but I'd like to quickly talk about the man I was lucky enough to meet in the summer of 2009.
To say that the 2009 baseball season was great for me would be an absolute understatement. Thanks to my internship at SNY, the TV broadcast home of our neighbors from Queens, I was able to see what goes on behind the scenes at baseball games and at baseball stadiums. I was in the Yankees locker room after the famous Luis Castillo dropped pop-up game. In fact, it's quite possible that I'm the direct reason the Yankees won the World Series that year. I'm not, but I like to think so. Holding the mic in the locker room after games and helping out the SNY staff was my usual routine if they sent me to sporting events. One Sunday Afternoon meant more to me than any other, and it surprisingly had nothing to do with the Yanks.
I was asked to help Ralph Kiner as he left the SNY booth for the afternoon. It was a simple task of carrying his bags down to the parking lot as he waited for a car service to pick him up. Before I go any further, I must stress that, while on the job, we are required to be completely professional. There is to be no asking for autographs or pictures. We're not even suppose to shake hands with the players or say hello to them. It's strictly business. Failure to do so would result in being instantly let go from the internship program. I'm just there to help with his bags.
As soon as we left the SNY booth and made our way towards the elevators, Mr. Kiner started talking with me out of the blue. He asked me questions about my internship and my life. He wanted to know what my career goals were. He told me stories from his time growing up, getting into baseball and broadcasting. It went from "just there to help with his bags" to having a full on, very friendly conversation with Ralph Kiner. Along the way, he signed autographs and took pictures with some fans. I am not a modest person, and I was incredibly humbled by the experience in the best of ways.
Let's not kid ourselves here. I was just an intern. My job was to get people coffee or food, help out when asked or told to, make future contacts, and to learn from people that can help me grow in my career. Ralph Kiner did not have to talk to me at all, but he still went out of his way to have a friendly conversation with me and get to know me. That spoke volumes to me. It still does. Again, I was just there to help with his bags.
After reading all the other articles out there talking about the man, it's clear that Ralph Kiner was one of the nicest individuals you could ever meet. Personable, friendly, and a great person get to know. I wanted to get to know him cause he's Ralph Kiner. I was humbled by the fact that he wanted to get to know me. I'll never forget it. Whenever his name is mentioned, I always tell people that he is the very definition of a class act. I still hold true to that.
R.I.P. Mr. Ralph Kiner. Thank you for the friendly conversation.