A Model Home Plate

The New York Times

December 10, 2008

by Doug Glanville


I’m Doug Glanville and my wife approved this message.

Being a major league baseball player has its perks, one of which is the wide-open access you can have to celebrities in all industries. I’ve met Mia Hamm, I’ve met “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, I’ve met Josh Grobin, I’ve met Michael Jordan. If you added up all the stars I have encountered, the sum of their 15 or more minutes of fame could make a heckuva grandfather clock.

O.K., you got me: meeting a supermodel probably deserves special consideration. Although I met Tyra Banks in the most random way imaginable.

It all started with Wade Boggs. The Hall of Fame third baseman had an amazing career, mostly with the Boston Red Sox. He was a left-handed hitter who used to slap balls off the Green Monster like he was playing tennis with himself. Eventually he found himself approaching his 3,000th hit.

Let me give you an idea of how remarkable that number is: I ended up with 1,100 hits, and I was an everyday player for most of my nine major league seasons. One year I even had 204 hits in 150 games. Take what I did and multiply it by three. That is a lot of hits.

So, as only the best drama writers could script it, Wade Boggs stepped up to the plate as a member of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and got his 3,000th hit by homering into the right field stands. He galloped around the bases and when he reached home plate, he kissed it.

Now, I know the level of nastiness a home plate can attain. It is a smorgasbord of dirt, white chalk, spit and tobacco — and that’s on a good day. So when columnist Jayson Stark of The Philadelphia Inquirer asked my opinion of Boggs’s act of passion, I told him, “The only way I would kiss that filthy thing is if Tyra Banks’s picture was on it.” (Although even when I said it, I would have definitely hesitated to pucker up.)

Well, somehow, that quote made it to The Los Angeles Times, and apparently Banks read it. All I know is that shortly after the season ended, I received a package with an authentic major league home plate inside . . . and her picture airbrushed on it. An inscription read, “You don’t have to wait ‘til you hit 3,000, you can kiss home plate now!” Her birthday was coming up (it was just last week, in fact), and the plate was accompanied by an invitation to a party hosted by GQ magazine in New York.

I thought, “Not a bad way to spend an evening during the off-season.”

Still, I didn’t believe it. I wouldn’t have put it past a teammate playing a practical joke, or even some person three degrees of separation from her entourage wanting to score points with her. But my agent’s office was able to confirm that it was not a hoax, and that she had asked her people to find little ol’ me.

Now I had to figure out what in the world she might want for her birthday.

I did a little research and found out that her favorite color was green. I was playing for the Phillies at the time, and we were known to have green hats for the St. Patrick’s Day game during spring training. Seemed like the perfect gift.

So I rounded up my best friends from college and brought my own mini-entourage to her party. We were escorted to her V.I.P. room and there she was, greeting us with open arms. I believe one of my friends still hasn’t washed the side of his face she kissed.

It was a star-studded night. From what I recall, the party also honored her as GQ’s first African-American cover girl. Great D.J., too.

Meanwhile, I had broken out my A game: Inside her birthday bag, I made sure to include every possible way a human being could find me if she wanted to. I probably would have implanted a G.P.S. chip in my head and given her the tracking device if I had thought of it.

A couple of months later, on a quiet day at Phillies training camp, I was working out with Curt Schilling and decided to take a break and check my e-mail. There was one I didn’t recognize, and not till I got to the signature line did it appear that it was, apparently, from Tyra. A little skeptically, I wrote back.

To my surprise, she replied. And over time, we e-mailed. She turned out to be an insightful and fun e-pal. She even sent me a handwritten thank-you note for the green hat.

I continue to watch the meteoric rise of her career, and I root for her. She seems to be capturing the hearts of America by her openness and her palpable connection to people, a couple of traits I noticed in the short time I interacted with her. And when I think about some of the more memorable events in my career, I will always think of that home plate with her picture on it and smile.

Still, despite my remark that started all this, I will never in a million years kiss that thing.

Republished from The NY Times


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