June 18, 2013 was a historic day for the New York Mets.
Zack Wheeler dazzled in his much anticipated Major League debut, starting the nightcap of a doubleheader in Atlanta. During the day, Matt Harvey dominated the Atlanta Braves and once again flirted with a no-hitter. Together the starters struck out 20 batters in 13 innings, giving Mets fans a glimpse at what the future could hold.
Back in Flushing on Tuesday night, former Mets Doc Gooden and John Franco joined fans at a charity softball game with proceeds benefiting the Fisher House Foundation, which builds houses at Veterans Affairs hospitals and military medical facilities so that families can be close to their loved ones in the hospital, free of charge.
With tickets for the game priced at $750 each, the event raised over $20,000 to support the foundation.
Gooden and Franco mingled with fans and signed autographs after which participants enjoyed a dinner and VIP tour of the ballpark. Fan Sal Nicastro was one of the day’s players.
“This is fantastic,” Nicastro said. “It’s such a worthy organization to be able to give back to our troops and I’m having fun even though it’s raining.”
Franco is in his fifth year as a Club Ambassador for the Mets.
“Meeting him was a great experience —you don’t get this experience very often,” Mets fan Ed Peters said.
Rick Romero brought his son, Jackson, to the event and said that he felt it was a perfect opportunity to visit the stadium and help a good cause.
“The military does a lot for us and sometimes they might get forgotten about, so it’s a great way to make sure they’re taken care of,” Romero said.
The event also gave Jackson the chance to work on his collection of autographs of the ’86 Mets.
“I’ll always be a Met at heart and it’s great to come here and share stuff and engage more with the fans,” Gooden said, explaining that his interactions with fans as a player were often rushed.
Gooden and Franco both made it to the postseason with the Mets and they are looking forward to their former team’s future.
“These are the New York fans,” Franco said “These are the fans that want to come and see me and Doc play and they want to see the future play.”
When asked about Harvey and Wheeler, Franco replied, “They’re obviously the future,” adding that along with pitchers Jon Niese, Dillon Gee, and those still in the minors, the Mets have something special to look forward to.
Gooden is known to be one of Harvey’s biggest fans, as he often keeps a running count on Twitter of Harvey’s strikeouts.
“Obviously Harvey has great stuff, but I like his mound presence. Each start, he pitches like he’s a five- or ten-year vet. He has a lot of confidence, but I don’t think he’s cocky. The thing I’m most impressed about is he’s not just settling for the success he’s having now, but he wants to get better,” Gooden said, adding that he tuned in to Harvey’s no-hit bid while driving to the ballpark.
Baseball fans can expect to see Franco and Gooden at All-Star Game festivities this summer.
“I think it’s great for the city,” Gooden said. “For me, this is one of the best ballparks here and I’ll be involved with some of the activities, so I look forward to it. I live here now and it’ll be a great week.”