My Andre Dawson VIP Experience – A MUST READ & SEE!!!
Well, my evening at the Miami Marlins game with Andre Dawson is done and over. And it was fantastic!
I will document the whole night from start to finish, and I will throw in a bunch of pictures as well.
My wife and I arrived at the ballpark at 445 and immediately met Andre’s agent who would be our host for the night. He got us our batting practice access badges and we headed to the field very quickly.
We were escorted to a roped off section behind home plate and the Marlins were taking BP when we got there.
I’m sure that you’ve heard of the fish tanks that are installed as part of the backstop at the park. Well, they are very nice and the fish are all pretty lively.
Here is a picture:
Dawson was with the other coaches around the cage when we arrived. It was cool to see him in his Marlins uniform chatting with the guys. He was actively watching the BP session and was talking with both Tony Perez and Manager Mike Redmond throughout the session.
He came over to say hello to his agent and we were introduced once again. He thanked us both for coming out to the game and said that after BP he had a few things to take care of and would meet up with us when the game started.
As players began exiting the field, a few players stopped by to greet us and say hello.
Among them, were Juan Pierre:
And phenom pitcher Jose Fernandez:
Pretty quickly after that, the San Diego Padres took to the field for their BP and fielding sessions. We enjoyed watching them get ready for the game and stayed on the field for their entire practice session as well.
30 minutes prior to the start of the game, we left the field and got tickets in the Marlins family area where Andre would meet us after he was done with his Marlins-related tasks.
The Andre Dawson foundation awarded a recent high school graduate with a $5,000 college scholarship so he could continue his education. Andre was on the field with the recipient and he got to throw out the first pitch of the game. I spoke with Andre’s agent quite a bit about the foundation and how much Andre likes to give back to the local community. For both of them, it is a volunteer effort, and both my wife and I were very impressed with how much they enjoy keeping their charitable efforts local to the Miami-area. Based on what I heard, I am thrilled to know that the donations that I have sent over the years are being reinvested the way that they are – it makes me feel great about continuing to send stuff in.
Andre met us at the end of the first inning and took us to our private VIP suite for the night.
The suites are located in the ‘Legends Level’ and there is some pretty fantastic art hanging on the walls in the long hallway:
Our suite was adjacent to the Marlins owner’s suite. We literally shared a meal and a bathroom with the owner and president of the club. Very surreal…
Here is a picture of the field from our seats:
Andre, his agent, and I jumped right into conversation. And it lasted for quite a while.
To break the ice, I showed him the article from Beckett that was written about my ‘Ultimate Dawson’ collection:
It was then that I think he recognized my full name, and he immediately started smiling. He told his agent that I send in so much stuff to the foundation and that I must have a pretty good collection of stuff just based on the items he knows that he has signed for me over the years. It was pretty neat to know that he recalled who I was. He actually called me, ‘The Brian Applebaum’ for a good 1/2 hour. My wife got a good kick out of that…
This gave me the opportunity to ask him about his personal collection. He is not a huge collector, but did put a bunch of stuff together for his son. He also told me that he has a lot of milestone pieces in his collection like 1st hit, 1000th RBI, 250 HR, 400 HR, etc.
From there we really talked about everything – from the ballparks he has played in to the ballparks that I have been to as a baseball fan over my lifetime. He really enjoyed playing at Wrigley and Fenway. He was also a big fan of Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego and Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta.
We talked a lot about the current Marlins team and he was very excited about the future of the club. The team is very young, but he likes the core nucleus of young talent that they have. He also really likes what he sees with the minor league clubs and thinks that in time they will be a competitive squad again. He also said that Mike Redmond is a perfect coach for this team.
I then asked him about Bryce Harper. And he really likes watching him play – really likes him!! We talked about the mentality that Harper plays with and his approach to the game. Dawson thinks that the sky is the limit for Harper and already sees him as a young veteran and a solid ambassador for the sport. He likes the energy and enthusiasm that Harper shows on the field.
We talked for a while about his kids and about their future plans (both in college now).
We chatted well into the late innings of the game. Some of the more fun conversations were about the photo shoot he did with Walter Payton and Michael Jordan:
We talked about the attention he earned with the All-State promotion that ran last year:
We discussed the upcoming crop of possible Hall of Fame inductees and the guys that are on the ballot today and how they may fair in the coming years. We talked about Tim Raines and Dale Murphy and Mike Schmidt and Pete Rose. It was so much fun to just sit and have a conversation with him in this kind of environment.
One of the many highlights for me was sharing my personal story with him about how I became a baseball fan and how I was drawn to him as a player. For me, it was a chance to explain my passion for the game and I think that I genuinely touched him with my love for the sport. I have been a huge baseball fan for a very big part of my life and letting him know how much his playing career was entwined into my life let him know how much enjoyment he brought to me as a fan.
Oh, I almost forgot – someone else came into the suite to say ‘Hello’…
Hall of Famer, Mr. Tony Perez!!! We chatted for a few minutes and he was happy to pose for a quick picture with me.
I didn’t want to ask for too much especially since we were treated to such an enjoyable evening with the whole experience, but Andre did sign two items for me.
First, he signed my Montreal Expos Cooperstown Collection jersey:
And then I asked him for a certain inscription on a baseball that I have wanted for some time. When I asked, a huge smile came across his face and he told me that he has never done that before. I was a little nervous, but also very excited about the prospect.
And I love how it came out!!!
If you don’t know, this quote – ‘If you love this game, the game will love you back’ it is from Andre’s Hall of Fame induction speech. He stated it several times during that speech and he must like it quite a bit as it is also the name of his autobiography that came out a year ago.
Consider that ball a 1/1 – LOL
Both pieces came out great and I am thrilled to have gotten them done in person.
We chatted some more and Andre and his agent got ready to leave in the middle of the eighth inning. They thanked us for coming to the game and our donation to the Andre Dawson Foundation and we thanked them for all that they do and for making this such a special night for the two of us.
We posed for a few more pictures:
And then they were on their way.
My wife and I stayed to see the Marlins secure the 7-1 victory and then we casually left the ballpark taking in the sites of this exclusive area one more time before we left.
All in all, it was a fantastic night. My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed our time at the game and with Andre and his agent. They both treated us very well, Andre even made sure that my wife got some food before the ‘vultures’ ate it all. He was as classy as I would have expected and he stayed engaged in conversation with us for more than two hours.
This was easily a night that I will never forget. And after all of the time and money I have dedicated to honoring the player and man who has been my baseball idol for almost 30 years, I think that this chance to meet him in an environment like this makes my wife realize how unique this opportunity was. And after chatting with Andre for an extended period of time, I think that she too has become a fan.