My neighbor Annie emailed me about a “most delightful” scene she witnessed while shopping at a Publix grocery store in Hilton Head, S.C., where she has a vacation property. An announcement sounded over the store’s P.A. system about a customer’s birthday: Frank Ventre is 101 years old.
Annie said the Publix staff had thoughtfully prepared and presented a few small birthday gifts representing Frank’s interests, including orange cupcakes for Syracuse, N.Y., and a few blue and white goodies to delight him in his passion for the New York Yankees.
“Where else in the modern world on a busy Saturday afternoon would a food store go to such lengths for a regular customer?” said Annie.
While Frank was being presented with the Yankees gifts (one an autograph signed “To Frank”) the gentleman spoke in great lengths about the team’s 27 championships, what city they were playing in that day, and where they would be playing in upcoming away games. Frank knew his facts.
When he nostalgically mentioned how he wished he could again attend a game some day, but that “the tickets are too expensive,” Annie approached him. Without mentioning who her neighbor is, she said she might be able to help him grant his wish. That’s when she emailed me to ask Ken if it was possible to obtain tickets.
Frank is now making plans to attend the game against the Tampa Bay Rays July 17 in New York. Ken laughed just now glancing at the schedule while he double-checked the date for me. “Huh! How about that? It’s Old-Timers’ Day at Yankee Stadium.”
No pun intended, Frankie.
When Ken had relayed this story to the Yankees PR office, they sent Frank a letter inviting him onto the field before the game. His 68-year-old son will accompany him to the Big Apple and his daughter (who he lives with) is treating them to the airfare.
A little old-timer recognition can go a long way.
“Oh my, I can’t believe it!” Frank relayed to Annie who told me, “He is so very excited!” (If you knew Annie, you’d know how she gets big kicks out of helping people – strangers and friends. It’s just the way she’s wired … Angel Annie … one of the last of the good Samaritans.)
Healthy still at 101, Frank goes to the gym regularly. He uses the treadmill, stationary bike and free weights. He’s 100 percent Italian – a sweet, entertaining man, reports Annie about her new friend. And believe me, they will be Hilton Head Island friends for sure.
“Hats off to the Publix staff that took time and effort merely to be nice,” said Annie, “and to make an amazing old man feel very special.”
This, she said, was truly a great example of “publix” affection.
I’m a week late writing about the distractions at Tropicana Field while we attended the Yankees game in Florida versus the Rays.
Sorry, got distracted.
Listen, I try hard to pay attention at Yankees games, honestly I do, but it was odd sitting under a dome at a ballpark versus being in the fresh open air (although the A/C is a welcome addition during Florida’s humidity attacks). Even when I did settle in to watch the game … ugh. A night of bad plays on the part of the Yankees.
If the roof wasn’t enough to keep my eyes roaming away from the field, these did the distraction trick for sure:
? The cowbells … everyone had cowbells. Fans rang them repeatedly to demonstrate their delight when the Rays made a good play or scored a run. Even the PA system sounded a cowbell! Why? Is it a Tropicana Field tradition or something? It’s not like the team is in the country; they’re in downtown St. Petersburg for Pete’s sake! I just didn’t see the connection. Cowbells are quite annoying when repeatedly shaken and, if you ask me, belong at football games.
? Then there was a female Rays attendee behind us shouting almost directly in my left ear “WOO!!!!!!!! WOO!!!!!!!!” – quite deafening for nine innings;
? And I couldn’t stop observing a couple several rows down who were clearly on a first or second date. She acted like she cared about sports with her little girly nods and phony grins as the guy talked about the teams. When she marries him, she won’t smile that much.
? It was entertaining watching the three belligerent drunk girls being escorted out of the stands by security – twice;
? And the guy behind us won first prize for sporting the funniest T-shirt: “Boobies Make Me Smile.”
? Then I wondered if it was yet dark outside (that dome again…)
? And we were forced to perpetually pay attention to the slew of foul balls coming our way like small white torpedoes, without the luxury of nabbing one ourselves;
? Then there was the creative Cotton Candy Caller: “HEY!!!!” he screamed frantically, and everyone turned around immediately to look at him. “I got cotton candy,” he said matter-of-factly, with a smirk;
? And how comical to watch the hefty quantities of junk food and beer being shuffled up and down the aisles by vendors and fans, then being consumed by the average gorging American (with my teens asking for money to buy most of it: ice cream, cotton candy, pretzels, soda, French fries).
Yes, a night at a Yankees game, try as I may to pay attention, is no easy walk in the ballpark for me. Maybe I should sit in the front row.