Before a recent Long Island Ducks game, I was waiting near the field for my 12-year-old daughter, Jessica, and the East Quogue Elementary School marching band to perform the national anthem.
I noticed a woman with a camera on her shoulder ready to shoot video images of the kids for the big screen at Bethpage Ballpark in Central Islip.
“Excuse me,” I said to her. “Can you get my daughter on the big screen?”
I told her to look for “the one with the blond hair and the trumpet; her name is Jessica!”
The woman replied, “My daughter’s name is Jessica, and she plays the trumpet. Get your phone ready, she’ll be up there.”
I asked, “Are you my wife?” and we both chuckled.
I took out my phone and on its small screen noticed the date, June 20, which was my father’s birthday. I calculated that my dad, Donald P. Curran, a Suffolk County police detective, would have been 76 that day. He died of an illness 29 years ago.
I chatted with my other daughter, Jennifer, 16, and then I looked into the dugout on my right. There was a familiar face. Our eyes met.
I said, “Buddy? Bud Harrelson?”
He said, “Yes, how are you?”
Wearing his Ducks coaching uniform, he walked over.
I asked to take his picture and he agreed.
Harrelson, of course, is the former New York Mets shortstop and manager. In recent years, he has been a co-owner and coach of the Ducks.
I told him that he was my dad’s hero, especially when he traded punches with Pete Rose in the 1973 playoffs.
I remembered that because I was 9 at the time, and I always watched the Mets with my dad.
He said, “I don’t really want to talk about Pete Rose.”
No trouble. I took some pictures, shook Buddy’s hand and gave him a hug. He hugged me back and said, “Stick out your hand.”
I put out my left hand. He handed me his 1969 World Series ring and told me to put it on and take pictures, which I immediately did.
He told me he liked getting it out there for people to see. I handed back the ring. We shook hands and hugged again.
Earlier this year, Harrelson revealed that he’s dealing with the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, so it was wonderful to see him so engaging.
After our encounter, Jen asked, “Who was that guy?”
Just then, the national anthem began. I looked up and there on the screen was Jessica playing her trumpet in her blue school T-shirt.
I took some more pictures and stood there, hand over my heart, and thought for a moment: a daughter on the big screen, Bud Harrelson, a World Series ring, my mother visiting from Florida and sitting in the stands with my wife, all on my dad’s birthday.
I thought about the baseball fantasy movie “Field of Dreams,” in which the main character meets a young version of his father, a baseball player. Maybe my dad was sending me a message on his birthday.
“Hey, Dad,” I thought. “Do you want to have a catch?”
Reader Brian J. Curran lives in East Quogue.