NEWARK, N.J. — When he was a child, Devils forward Kyle Palmieri always was thankful to have a godfather who could give him good advice simply about growing up. Palmieri was even more grateful when he became a professional athlete, having a godfather who could mentor him about making his way in a tough business.
Palmieri is as proud as ever now of a godfather who is showing how to keep on going. It was, is and always will be an honor for the first-line forward to look up to Bud Harrelson.
“I haven’t spoken to him in a little bit. My parents keep me up to date a lot and I still speak to my cousins — his sons and daughters — and I check in about what’s going on,” Palmieri said of his famous and beloved godfather, who announced earlier this month that he has Alzheimer’s disease.
“It’s tough. I’ve watched my grandfather go through it. He has been in a battle with Alzheimer’s for a while now,” the Devils player said after the morning skate Saturday, in preparation for the home game against the Islanders. “Any time it’s someone close to you, it’s hard to watch them go through it. But he’s an upbeat guy. He has always been upbeat, he’s found ways to bring smiles to everyone’s faces.”
Palmieri is a native Long Islander, having lived in East Moriches before moving to Montvale, New Jersey, when he was three. He still spends part of every summer in Mattituck, where his family still has a house. So, he knows how much Harrelson means to people in Nassau and Suffolk. The hockey player thinks it is a good idea that Harrelson will still spend as much time as he can around the Long Island Ducks.
“He’s finding ways to fill his time and keep a smile on his face,” Palmieri said. “Obviously, baseball has been his whole life so the fact that he’s staying involved with it and going to games, that’s something that’s good to see.”
Harrelson and Palmieri’s father, Bruce, are cousins, the player said, adding that he remains close with Harrelson’s children, whom he calls his second cousins. “They used to come to more games when the Islanders played at the Coliseum,” he said, noting that the former shortstop and Mets manager and coach became something of a hockey aficionado.
“Going through a professional sports career, it’s good to have someone to help you. Obviously, everything was a little different in baseball in the 1960s and ’70s. But it’s awesome to have someone like that who knows what it’s like, going through it at a young age, playing pro sports,” Palmieri said.
Just talking about Harrelson brought a smile to his face, which is nothing new. “We are,” the forward said, “all giving our support.”