My Greatest High School Moment
I went to Hickory High School in Chesapeake, Virginia, and we had this huge rivalry with a school, a new school, called Great Bridge. Every time we played them it was a big event. We'd get 1,500, maybe 2,000 out for the game. That's like a Friday night football crowd. Baseball is big in the Chesapeake area where I grew up. It's treated like football in other areas of the country.
I mean we had tailgating and barbeques before a night game. It was great. They would party and tailgate all the way up to game time. Everyone would come out and watch.
Great Bridge was a new school, but I knew a lot of kids who went there, including some friends of mine. One of them was Jeff DeMara, who was pitching for them the night I hit two homers.
I remember they got off to a good start, and I hit a three-run homer in the first to tie the game. We went back and forth with one another for another five, six innings, and Great Bridge took the lead again, going into the bottom of the seventh.
It's when I hit another homer, a two-run homer that tied the game again, and it was against DeMara, one of my really good friends. We wound up winning the game on a walk-off in the eighth inning, but it's a game I'll never forget, regardless of what level I play. In fact, I remember that game like it was yesterday.
B.J. Upton, who played with me on my AAU team, was there in the stands. He went to another school, but I can remember smirking at him during the game.
That game was big for me. There were a lot of college scouts there that night, you have the rivalry, there's no question it was one of the best times of my life. And it'â„¢s definitely one of my best baseball memories.
There are times I think back to when I played high school baseball. It was pure back then, fun. Not that playing for the New York Mets in the majors isn't, but it is different. You wore your jersey to school on game days, you remember the joy of playing the game. Because back then, it was a game. And that's how I think a lot of big leaguers look at their high school days, as a game they enjoyed playing.
This is obviously a lot of fun at this level, with pretty much everything you always dreamed of having and doing. But you're always going well in high school, hitting .500, hitting homers. It can get hectic here because you're not always going well. You have your ups and downs. When you're in a slump, you turn around and see all these pads and pens, and camera lights in your face. In high school, you're not dealing with that.
It's those times you remember playing in high school and why you found so much joy playing the game. It wasn't about money or making TV commercials then, it was about having fun playing a game you love. When I'm down, I think back to that game my senior year against Great Bridge. It's all you can do but smile. It brings you back up to realize why you play.