Ozzie Smith, Phil Niekro and the HOF Classic
It started with Pudge Rodriguez and Tony Perez shaking my hand. It moved to playing catch with Phil Niekro and Jacque Jones, and it ended with a nice talk with former Marlins catcher Charles Johnson.
For the second straight year, I had the opportunity and the honor to be on the field at the Cooperstown Hall of Fame Classic.
Each year, the Hall of Fame brings in one recently retired player from every team to play a game on the field at Doubleday.
The Hall also welcomes back six Hall of Famers to serve as managers and coaches for the event. This year that was Perez, Ozzie Smith, Phil Niekro, Rollie Fingers, Tom Glavine, and Robin Yount.
I had the opportunity to meet, shake hands, and converse with with Pudge Rodriguez, Aaron Rowand, Jack Wilson, Homer Bush, Steve Avery, Dan Wheeler, Benji Molina, Johnson, and Ozzie Smith.
Meeting Ozzie Smith was the thrill of a lifetime, as was playing catch with Phil Niekro. The former knuckleballer was getting ready to throw batting practice and he called me over to throw with him.
Fortunately, I didn't throw any over his head -- nor did I throw any over the head of Jacque Jones, who threw with me next.
It was a great experience, and I'm happy that through my connection with Hudson Valley Community College (hence the Vikings uniform), I was able to go.