The Wilpons' choice to be a minority owner used to try to hit softballs onto Bud Selig's lawn as a kid.
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The Mets yesterday said hedge-fund manager David Einhorn has entered "exclusive negotiations" with the Wilpons on a minority share. Einhorn, 42, said his best friend while growing up in Milwaukee, Justin Gendlin, lived next door to Selig, who was the Brewers' owner at the time.
The two boys often played softball outside Gendlin's home, and Selig's lawn, situated in rightfield, was considered automatic home run territory.
"The funny thing is that my friend, because this was his home field, he developed his power to rightfield, which was the short fence," Einhorn said. "I always tended to hit the ball to leftfield, and the yard just went indefinitely in that direction. So he easily won the games because he hit more home runs than I did."
Einhorn's friend, Gendlin, died in 2009. His widow, Michelle, told Newsday that Einhorn has since relayed stories of those softball games to Gendlin's 7-year-old son.
Gendlin's sister, Lauren Simmons of Austin, Texas, remembered those games well, too. Sometimes she played in them.
"David and my brother were very, very into baseball from a very young age," Simmons said. She said if they weren't talking baseball or playing a board game called All-Star Baseball, they usually were outside playing their own games with their own specific ground rules, taking the Selig property line into account.
"There was no fence there,'' Simmons said, "so like where we stopped mowing our grass and they started mowing theirs, if a hit would land beyond that and in the Seligs' yard, that would be a home run."
Three decades later, Selig is in line to have the final say whether to approve Einhorn as a Mets minority owner, an interesting twist. Because of those softball games in the early 1980s, Einhorn joked Thursday that "the Seligs have been familiar to me for a very long time."
But unless any of Einhorn's shots broke one of Selig's windows, it's hard to imagine the games having any impact on the commissioner's decision.
"I'm not sure they ever met," Simmons said, "and if they did meet, they were 10-year-old kids, you know."