Sunday, January 27, 2013

Former Mets pitcher Darling's love for baseball fulfilled in many ways

Former Mets pitcher and current SNY sportscaster Ron Darling
spoke at the Rider University baseball team's First Pitch Dinner.
                                              [Donte Carty/Rider University]
By Paul Franklin,
January 27, 2013

LAWRENCE – He figured he would go to law school, business school or maybe work on Wall Street.

"I was going to do what everyone at Yale does,'' Ron Darling said Saturday night, prior to speaking at the fifth annual Rider Baseball First Pitch Dinner. "I thought I'd do four years and then got on to my life.''

Instead he went on to play professional baseball, being drafted by the Texas Rangers his junior year of college.

But even then, in the spring of 1981, he still thought he would spend most of his days in a suit and tie.

"When I got a signing bonus I was like, "Ah, hah-hah, I got you now!' Once they figure out I can't play I'll use that money to go to law school.' Sixteen years later I was still playing.''

Most of his years were spent pitching for the New York Mets, including the 1986 World Series championship season.

After completing his pitching career in 1995, Darling eventually returned to the game as an announcer, and for a while now has been a TV analyst for Mets games and nationally for TBS.

Darling, 51, was introduced as the keynote speaker by Allentown resident Tom McCarthy, TV play-by-play broadcaster for the Phillies.

The event, which included a silent auction of impressive memorabilia, acknowledged this year's Rider baseball team and coach Barry Davis.

"Quite honestly, the last time I was able to have fun playing baseball was in college,'' Darling said. "After that it becomes a real occupation. Not everyone moves on to the major leagues, not everyone moves on to the minor leagues.

"But you remember these college days forever. I still have friends from those days.''
He still loves the game, though he wasn't really reminded of that fact until beginning his broadcasting career in 2000.

"When I started watching games and talking about them, and getting paid to do so, it was just about the neatest job in the world. I'm as lucky as can be,'' Darling said. "I'd like to say I prepared for this my entire life, but I didn't. I'm just blessed, and made the most of my opportunity.

"A lot of these kids will be going into different fields in life,'' he added, transitioning to the evening, "and when you get those opportunities they will be very much like in baseball. You have to get that hit, you have to get that strikeout, and you will be presented with those challenges probably thousands of times.

"How many times you're successful will probably determine how successful you'll be in life.''

Baseball has certainly been that for him, a game, he said, that offers a rhythm rarely felt in other sports.

"Baseball is like watching a play, or a great movie,'' Darling said. "If you're a lover of baseball, time doesn't mean anything to you.

"I've never seen him play, but when baseball's great it's gotta be like Miles Davis; like free-form jazz. That's what gets me going. The Mets had a difficult year last year but on June 1 Santana threw a no-hitter. You never know when baseball is going to sneak up on you and give you a gem.''

Just like in life. Sometimes even in college.

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