Over the years, Tim Teufel has spoken often about those heady days in 1986, back when the Mets last ruled the world. His audiences have ranged from corporate executives to eager Little Leaguers, or anybody looking for the insight of a champion.
But this time was different. As often as he had spoken of how his life changed 29 years ago, he'd never done so in a room full of men wearing the uniform that he once wore.
"Not to our own people," said Teufel, now the Mets' third-base coach. "Not to the actual Mets."
Yet here he stood, one morning late in spring training, in a clubhouse packed with Mets, relaying how winning a championship in New York would mean attaining a slice of immortality.
The time had come to dream big. Seven arduous months later, that faith has been validated.
Many of the players Teufel addressed that morning will be standing on the foul line Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium to be introduced before Game 1 of the World Series. For the first time in 15 years, the Mets are four victories from winning the franchise's third championship.
"Once you become that team -- a person on that team -- you'll never be forgotten in this city," said Teufel, who platooned with Wally Backman at second base for the 1986 World Series champs, the last Mets team to go all the way. "They recognize you everywhere you go, they love you, they support you and they treat you special. I've been treated that way ever since '86. And it's a great feeling."
Now Teufel wants a new generation to experience that feeling. It's part of the reason he was asked to speak at a team meeting late in spring training, one that David Wright hoped would set a clear goal for the season. He wanted the team's younger players to gain a clearer sense of the reward that might come by reaching the postseason. The meeting evolved into what he called "story time" about various experiences in the postseason.
Michael Cuddyer spoke of the playoff runs he had made with the Twins. Curtis Granderson did the same about his time with the Tigers and Yankees. Wright piped up about the team's run to the NLCS in 2006. Then came Teufel, one of the strongest existing links still remaining from the 1986 world champions.
Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling maintain a strong presence on the team's television broadcast and Backman manages the Mets' Triple-A affiliate in Las Vegas, but Teufel is the only member of the current coaching staff to have played for those unforgettable Mets. Through the years, he's been mindful about dwelling on the past.
"I don't ever stick the '86 thing in anybody's face," he said. "That's just not me, it's not my personality. I'm just not into the showing off of 'yeah, I was an '86 guy.' They all know that."
But when Teufel was approached about speaking at the meeting, he obliged, especially when encouraged by Wright.
Said Teufel: "He wanted the young guys to hear it and start dreaming toward that, and start grabbing a hold of what possibly could happen, and grab a hold of the feelings of it, and the longevity of it, and the meaning of it."
That meaning has never escaped Teufel. When he spoke, the memories came pouring out. He spoke of the way New York comes alive for a champion and imagined how Citi Field someday might get as loud as Shea Stadium. He spoke of the recognition of "being a winner" and how that has never faded, even for those who played complementary roles. "We're set apart," Teufel said. "We're not Hall of Famers. But we're set apart."
He spoke of the parade down the Canyon of Heroes, an honor he wants badly for a current group of Mets, many of whom had yet to be born when Teufel made that joyous journey.
"As special as '86 is, I think the '86 guys would like to see somebody else take the baton, because there's another generation of Mets fans that will never forget 2015 if they do it," Teufel said. "It will push the organization into a new direction, a new era. It would be wonderful."