I remember the day like it was yesterday. It was April 16, 2004, and it was one of the best days of my life. My dad had recently won four passes that would allow us to go onto the field at Citizens Bank Park and meet some of the players.
The Phillies were taking batting practice. Larry Anderson had given me a ball to get signed by the players. Randy Wolf, Ed Wade, and Mike Lieberthal had signed the ball, but the guy whose autograph I really wanted was my favorite ballplayer (at the time), Billy Wagner.
I walked up to him and asked for an autograph, and he signed the ball. He started talking to me and asked if I played baseball. I said yeah, and then he asked if I was a pitcher. I again replied yeah and this is what he said.
"Yeah? That's good. You're a little big, and you'll to slim down a bit if you wanna be a good pitcher. If you work at it, you'll be good, okay?"
Obviously, I said yes.
Now, I'm not gonna lie. When I was in fourth grade, I was a little tubby. Alright, fine, I was as my sister called me "an animal."
The next time Billy Wagner did something for me was this past year. The Mets were taking batting practice, and Carlos Delgado hit a ball deep. It bounced against the wall, near where I was.
Wagner got the ball and tossed into the stands. I snagged it before anyone else could.
During the four years that I didn't see Wagner, I had went from a long-relief guy to the number two starter on my baseball team. I have slimmed down a great deal, but I'm still not tall.
I guess you can say that my conversation with Wagner encouraged me to get in better shape. That, and my aunt literally calling me fat in front of my cousins.
What I can say is that, help can come from the weirdest places. Though I won't see Wagner for a while since he won't be back with the Mets next year, I will hold onto the words he said to me.