Every person in the world dreams of meeting someone famous, like a rock star, an actor or an athlete. You can see celebrities on TV, in magazines or in concert, but that never really tells you much about who they are and whether their true character is what you’ve always hoped it would be.
I am thrilled to say former Yankees outfielder, jazz musician and now author Bernie Williams was as kind and generous as I always knew he would be. I interviewed this legendary Yankee at The Book Revue in Huntington July 29. He was there to sign his new book, “Rhythms of the Game,” which he co-authored with Dave Gluck and Bob Thompson. His experiences as a musician, his new book and his baseball career were a few of the things we talked about during our time together, but what impressed me was how Bernie touched so many lives in so many different ways.
When I arrived at Book Revue for the interview, the line to meet him wound around the building and down the street (about 1,200 people had their books signed)! In speaking with some fans, I learned many of them had different reasons for being there. One teenager said he wanted to tell Bernie his favorite memory of him: Bernie’s walk-off home run in the 2001 American League Championship Series against the Orioles in the 11th inning. In contrast, a group of women shared with me that they loved Bernie’s two albums and they had seen him in concert. Later, as I sat in the balcony behind Bernie and watched the eager faces approach him for autographs, some even chanting his name minutes before their turn, I knew my hero was also a hero for many others. The look on their faces when Bernie spoke with them and shook their hands was genuine happiness, a look I know I had when I got to meet him privately after the book signing.
My questions to Bernie about “Rhythms of the Game” focused mainly on what he would like young readers to learn about the link between musical and athletic performance. He stressed to me that both music and sports require a great deal of attention to practice, and you should always learn from your mistakes. He said that success is not only achieving your goal but also having fun while you do it. You should always stay focused, regardless of the challenge but also know that you don’t have to focus squarely on one goal.
We are lucky Bernie focused his energy not only on baseball, but also on music. For some people, Bernie will be remembered as an amazing ballplayer, and for others he is a fantastic guitarist who can get crowds on their feet with songs that can entertain for hours at a time. Now we can also know him as an author with an insight on how to excel in both music and sports. For me, now that I had the chance to meet him, he is simply my hero.