John McEnroe visited the New York Mets’ dugout before his first pitch at Citi Field on Saturday.
NEW YORK – For a brief time Saturday, he wasn’t John McEnroe, tennis Hall of Famer, celebrity, rock star-wannabe, dad of six and ESPN commentator.
He was Johnny McEnroe, middle school pitcher from Douglaston, Queens, living out a dream.
Wide-eyed, the one-time lefthanded pitcher (“I gave up baseball in high school; it was the same time of year as tennis.” Editor’s Note: Good choice.) checked out the New York Mets’ locker room and indoor batting catch/pitching mound at Citi Field where he warmed up his serving, er, pitching arm.
He got pitching tips from Mets ace Matt Harvey (“What they put on the mound to dry it is like kitty litter, it’s slippery. Don’t take a long stride.”)
Other players politely introduced themselves, honored to meet the tennis – and commercial – legend. From all appearances, he was just as pleased to meet the Mets. A longtime fan, he’s enjoying this year’s team and their first-place showing so far.
The four-time US Open champion – currently working the tournament for ESPN’s first exclusive coverage of the year’s fourth and final Major – admires baseball players for “their hand-eye coordination. Even by tennis standards – and they have more at stake. If we get hit, it’s just a tennis ball.”
When he was introduced to the sell-out crowd of 42,000 or so, he was loudly cheered, local boy done good.
In a swift, compact motion, he fired a pitch that smacked the catcher’s target. Strike.
“I got the outside corner,” he said with pride.
Later, watching the game from the front row behind home plate, the inner Johnny Mac known all too well to tennis lines people and referees, emerged. He just couldn’t help himself. He heckled the ump.
“Oh c’mon!” he let out, after a questionable called strike to Mets shortstop Wilmer Flores.
Some things never change.