The question seemed to take Roger McDowell by surprise. He started, then stopped, choking up just the slightest bit before talking about how much Tom Seaver meant to him.
As it turns out, the 1985-89 Mets reliever was one of the few people who liked it when Seaver was traded to the Reds.
"He was my idol growing up and — and sorry," he said, collecting himself again, "but he was my idol growing up and I read every book about Tom Seaver," McDowell told the members of CP Nassau, a non-profit center in Merrick that helps those with cerebral palsy, one of whom surprised McDowell with the question. "I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, so when Tom Seaver was traded to the Reds, I used to take the bus down to watch him pitch on the days he started at home."
Seaver, who died earlier this month from complications from COVID-19 and Lewy body dementia, was, in many ways, the basis of McDowell’s career.
"When I started playing baseball when I was a child, I guess what my father instilled in me was something he felt a guy like Tom Seaver (represented)," McDowell said later, at the conclusion of the Mets alumni event, where former Mets speak to those in assisted living facilities via Zoom. "He was the best, which was very important, but he was also a professional. He was a competitor. He was a guy’s guy. He did everything you could think of for an organization to be that guy that an organization hangs their hat on."
Seaver’s passing, McDowell said, was hard to put into words "because of what he accomplished, from what he was."
"He was a successful man, he was a successful baseball player, a businessman, a father and a husband. It’s the kind of guy that you want to be."
McDowell, who spoke to around 40 members of CP Nassau for about an hour, and fielded a slew of far-ranging questions, said he appreciated the chance to speak to fans in an unprecedented time, particularly in this context. Bob McGuire, executive director of CP Nassau, said it was the type of event that makes members of the community there feel valued. People with cerebral palsy have a wide range of abilities — some have more mobility and can communicate verbally, while others may use a machine to speak for them.
"The people we provide services to are all types and all sizes, but everybody likes to be treated with respect and the way Roger answered every question showed how much respect he had for the question and the person who was asking it," McGuire said. "It validates to our guys their importance as human beings, which sometimes gets lost in this world … It gives them a reason to get up in the morning."