As the “BATBOY” producer for its first four productions in 2018, I couldn’t help but notice the excitement and anticipation from the folks that were lined up outside the heralded Brokerage Comedy Club in Bellmore, Long Island. It was Sunday, January 6th, and it was the 2019 debut and fifth show featuring New York Baseball Legend Dwight “Doc” Gooden.
“Doc’s” house call, along with the amazing performances from its actors and musicians at this most recent event, occurred before a sold-out, standing room only crowd where fans had to be turned away at the door, was utterly spectacular. The energy in the crowd was electric as they waited patiently for the doors to open. Unfortunately not everyone was able to experience it. This development created sincere regret for the “BATBOY” himself. “To have people turned away at the door on a wintry Sunday night is highly upsetting to me. I wish they could have been there for the show,” Ray Negron said. Without prompting from this writer, Negron went on to mention, “however, to see all the seats filled with others standing throughout the wings of this historic comedic establishment was an incredible sight to see. This is a venue which has featured comedians such as Eddie Murphy, Andrew “Dice” Clay, Artie Lange and Kevin James, now “BATBOY” and Dwight Gooden…………………….well, it doesn’t get better than that.”
Similar to past shows, this performance featured incredible talent from its own actors/actresses. From musical legend Pepe Cardona from “Alive N’ Kickin” to the sultry sound of “DIVANATION” to the operatic voice of Adam Unger (who played Bobby Murcer), to the candid, intimate conversation between Ray Negron, Larry Davis and Dwight Gooden on center stage immediately following the “BATBOY” performance/showcase offered a wide ranging variety of talented performers.
Negron was proud to be a part of this memorable evening. “This was a showcase for our extremely talented cast and performers,” Negron said. “We wanted them to demonstrate their God-given gifts to the folks that were in the audience such as Ken Decamillo (William Morris Agency), Joey Dedio (Film Producer) and Gene Gagliardi (Music Producer).” “This showcase was a chance to begin working out some of its kinks before our production embarks on its 2019 tour highlighted by the return to the Tilles Center on May 22nd.”
Making his Musical “BATBOY” debut was singer/songwriter Alex Martin whose rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” brought the crowd to its feet as well as Cardona’s original ode to Thurman Munson called “Won’t Be the Same Without You.”
Cardona shared his thoughts about the reception of the audience after he and his son, Timothy Cardona, performed this emotionally charged song which reminds us all that it will be 40 years since the Yankee Captain passed away in a fiery plane crash on August 2, 1979. “Seeing the crowd’s reaction standing and applauding with tears in their eyes brought tears to my eyes. That’s what the song is all about….remembering Thurman. Thurman brought people together on and off the field. This show highlights his love affair with his wife Diana Munson (played by GiGi Cormio).” Cardona added,” Frankly I was floored and very touched by the reaction. I had their full attention and they were able to hear the words and appreciate them. I can see us doing that at the stadium you know?”
Other “BATBOY” mainstays Martin Knapp (Billy Martin), Terrell Carpenter (Reggie Jackson), Luis Castillo (Edwin), Carmine Elvezio (Little Ray), Charlie Santora (Yogi Berra), Shane Springer (Roy White), Theresa Farrell (Olga), Aris Sakellaridis (Sparky Lyle), Steve Vaccaro (Marshmallow Salesman), Lisa Coppola (Salesman’s Girlfriend) were spot on.
Newcomer and established actor Bryan Dromerhauser, who played a sinister gang member, gave the crowd a dramatic performance recreating a gang scene that Negron horrifically experienced when he was 17 years old. . However, it was Dwight Gooden’s appearance that brought “heat” to the raucous atmosphere just like one of his powerful fastballs. As highlights of his May 14, 1996 No-Hitter at Yankee Stadium were being played on the big screen for all to see, Ray Negron introduced Dr. K. to join him up on the stage. As he approached the stage, the entire sold out crowd stood up and cheered for their hero. It was reminiscent of sitting in the left field “K” corner at Shea Stadium standing up applauding after every strikeout and posting a”K” on the railing.
“WOW, what a great feeling,” Doc said. You guys are great (referring to the audience). It is always nice to return home,” Gooden announced. He then began rhythmically clapping to the crowd cheering, “Dwight, Dwight, Dwight.” The relationship that Doc has with New York is amazing. After 16 years of playing major league baseball and being inducted into the Mets’ Hall of Fame in 2010, his relationship with New Yorkers will remain lovingly secured forever.
Receiving the 1984 rookie of the year award and 1985 Cy Young award were not even discussed on this special night. Both Ray Negron and Larry Davis asked some very personal, fun-loving questions that Doc answered candidly as they reflected on some funny times. This empowered the audience to ask their own questions as well.
There was a moment during the Q & A that Gooden talked about “battling addiction demons.” He then leaned over, as he was sitting on a stool center stage, to make eye contact with Negron, who was to his left. Gooden emphatically and gracefully stated, “I want you all in the audience to know that Ray Negron saved my life. He was always there for me. Protecting me and always looking out for me. I will never forget those times until the day I die.” There was not a dry eye in the house, including Negron. Both men got up and hugged each other in loving support. The crowd began to humbly applaud with sincere, heartfelt emotion. Gooden then faced the crowd and revealed his love, gratitude and appreciation for the late, great George Steinbrenner. The audience stood in silence feeling the seemingly pure affection Gooden had with the Boss.
Yes, the Doc made a house call on this cold night in Long Island to share his love, gratitude and lifelong appreciation to the “BATBOY.” Maybe, just maybe, Doc may appear at other “BATBOY” performances in New York or in the Tampa area. However, for now, Gooden is off to Mets’ Fantasy camp in Florida and the “BATBOY” will be doing the same at Yankee Fantasy Camp. Pitchers and catchers report in only 25 days…….. PLAY BALL!!!!!