PORT ST. LUCIE — Tom Seaver tributes have flowed like Seaver wine the past two days since it was announced by his family that the Mets legend is retiring from public life because of his struggles with dementia.
Mets pitching coach Dave Eiland offered his own insightful story about The Franchise that happened in 2013.
That was the day Seaver invited Eiland and his entire Royals pitching staff to his vineyard.
“It was one of the most memorable days in my baseball life,’’ Eiland told The Post on Friday. “Tom was so gracious. It seemed like he enjoyed it as much or more than we did. His passion for the wine and growing the grapes and how he would do his crossword puzzles under the tree in his vineyard.
“That’s why it was so sad to hear [Thursday’s] news.’’
This trip got started because Seaver was a broadcaster during Eiland’s pitching stint with the Yankees and because of Seaver’s friendship with Hall of Famer and Royals legend George Brett. The Royals were on the West Coast with an off-day.
Traveling secretary Jeff Davenport arranged for a bus to take the K.C. contingent to the Calistoga hillside to Seaver Vineyards. Seaver let the group know that a bus would not be able to navigate the turns of the mountain, so instead, the Royals rented four stretch limos for the trip from downtown San Francisco.
“We all met in the lobby at 7 a.m.,’’ Eiland said as he stood along the third base foul line at First Data Field. “Got to his place around 8:30 and spent the whole day with him. He brought us into his house, showed us his den where there was a big display on his wall with all the baseballs and Cy Young Awards and he kind of told the story of every ball, every award and just the art of pitching.
“Then we walked down the hill to his vineyard and he showed us his barn, and a bunch of pictures in his office there.’’
One featured Gil Hodges.
“He started talking about Gil and he kind of got real emotional, the love and respect he had for Gil,’’ Eiland said.
“We walked through his vineyard, and he educated us on how you irrigate, how you prune, he had his little clippers in his pocket, it was fascinating, then we went back up to his house and had lunch.’’
With wonderful Seaver GTS wine.
“We tasted all his wines, it was unbelievable and then after that we went across the valley to where the wine was made,’’ Eiland said.
Eiland smiles as he remembers this scene: “Here is Tom in his old beat-up pickup truck, leading us across the valley in these four stretch limos. We should be in the truck. He should be in the limo. He then told us how the wine was made and we spent the whole day with him just talking wine and baseball.’’
A day in baseball/wine heaven.
“A lot of the pitchers knew the name but they didn’t know how good he really was and the story of the ’69 Mets,’’ Eiland said of the 311-game winner and 12-time All-Star.
Photos of the event were taken and an album made for each participant, an album Eiland cherishes.
“He was talking to our pitchers about, ‘When you start your slider, your breaking ball, what’s your site line?’ It’s things we always talk about too, but this was coming from one of the greatest pitchers of all times,’’ Eiland said.
“It was interesting to hear him talk to the guys about game day, how he prepared. He would do a crossword puzzle but always keep his eye on the clock as he went through his precise routine, something us pitching coaches preach. He talked of his passion for his teammates.’’
One story stood out.
“Every time he pitched, Tom knew exactly where his family was sitting,’’ Eiland explained. “Gil Hodges told him to continue to know where his wife and family were in the stands so if he was in a tough spot he could look over and see his family and that would put him in a little bit of a comfort zone.’’
Hopefully, even now, Seaver can look at his family and find the same comfort in these difficult times.
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