Generations of baseball enthusiasts stepped right up to meet Mets icon Ron Darling at the first-ever Queens Baseball Convention on Saturday afternoon at McFadden’s bar inside Citi Field.
The inaugural gathering of hundreds of Mets fans, organized by a group of bloggers from fan advocacy website MetsPolice.com among others, was a grand slam in the eyes of Darling, fans and organizers alike.
The event featured vendors selling a wide array of Mets merchandise ranging from buttons to pictures, face painting and interactive segments with Darling and Mets Hall of Fame legend Ed Kranepool, followed by autograph sessions with both.
Darling, also a two-time Emmy winner for his work as a Mets analyst on SNY, signed autographs for over an hour.
Afterwards, he spoke highly of the Mets faithful who came to the convention despite the cold temperatures and snow showers.
“I think today was so special because I got to meet the people that love the Mets. It’s not easy to come out in the cold,” Darling said. “I’ve come to love the Mets fans. I love what they represent. Mets fans reach out every day and say, ‘We love our team, I don’t care what team is better, our team is our team.
“And that dedication is something I really admire,” he continued. “I appreciate that.”
The Mets fans also appreciated Darling’s willingness to give autographs to everybody who wanted one.
Rosedale native Tim Miller brought his Ron Darling jersey to the event, and was able to add the Mets legend’s signature to his collection.
“It’s really cool,” Miller said of Darling’s presence at the convention. “My goal is to get the entire 1986 team’s signatures. I already have Doc [Gooden], Keith Hernandez and Darryl Strawberry’s. This is awesome.”
Awesome is exactly how Howard Beach residents Pete McNally and his son, Michael, described the event as well.
Donning a jersey featuring backwards lettering to highlight the “backwards decision making” of the Mets front office, the elder McNally still would rather be nowhere else on a cold Saturday afternoon.
“My whole life, I’ve been a huge Mets fan,” McNally said. “It’s great to see all of the Mets memorabilia and everyone having a great time.”
Even though the event, which had been planned since June, appeared to be a hit to the attending fans, convention co-organizer Keith Blacknick wasn’t convinced the gathering would be successful until he arrived at Citi Field on Saturday.
“To be honest, I was really worried,” said Blacknick, better known as Media Goon by MetsPolice readers. “But I think everyone enjoyed it and that’s the whole thing, making sure people had a good time. We’d love for this to become an annual thing.”
If the Queens Baseball Convention does return in 2015, Darling said, he would be more than happy to come spend the day with Mets fans once again.
“Queens really has a great baseball tradition,” he said. “I told them already that every year they invite me, I’ll come.”