Back in September of '01, I was a 20 year old, dopey guy, still trying to win the affection of a girl I'd fallen head-over-heels for only a few short months earlier. She was a Mets fan (you'll have to forgive me) and, wouldn't ya know it, that abortion of a team was going to be in town in just a few days. Even more perfect than that, September 9th was the birthday of one, Todd Zeile, Mets first baseman and, oh yeah, said girl's favorite player in the whole wide world. Some people claim they've spoken to God, but I'm almost positive that he and I exchanged exploding fist-bumps.
The day of the game comes and the object of my affection arrives at my house with a giant sign that reads, "HAPPY BIRTHDAY TODD!!!" Of course it did. She'd have baked him a cake if they'd let her bring it in the park. In retrospect, I wasn't as embarrassed as I probably should've been, but –and this cannot be emphasized enough – I was so ridiculously smitten by this girl.
During batting practice, she and I head to our seats a few rows behind first base. We're sitting for a minute, eating hot dogs, when she gets up and walks down to the railing with her sign. I watch in amusement. Instead of just yelling out to him, though, like a normal person, she rounds up six or seven small black children from nearby – she's very, very white, mind you and this whole thing is beginning to look more than a bit strange – and proceeds to get them all to sing "Happy Birthday" with her. Todd Zeile notices. Hell, everyone on that side of the stadium notices. I'm legitimately embarrassed for her. She wasn't. Todd Zeile smiled at her and that's all she really cared about.
I don't remember any of the game. (Baseball-Reference suggests that the Marlins won. Eat it, Steve Trachsel!) I just remember thinking about how awesome life was that night and how I was sure that Todd Zeile's pearly whites had done what no expensive dinner before could.
After the game, we're sitting around my house, talking, when I make the idiotic mistake of trying to impress her even more. This, of course, was wholly unnecessary seeing as though her favorite player had already smiled directly at her, but that didn't stop me from opening my mouth and saying one of the dumbest things I've ever said...
"I think I know where the players are staying tonight."
Yes, growing up with a friend who stalked hockey players for a living, I knew a lot about the hotels of opposing teams. I knew where they stayed, how to get in touch with them, what time they left in the morning; I was a pro. As much as one could be considered a pro at such things, anyway.
"OH MY GOD! LET'S GO SEE HIM!!!"
I, uh, well, I mean... Man, this just got outta hand real quick. What started out as a throwaway statement meant only to impress turned into a long conversation of me trying to convince her that the players were probably sleeping and that we probably wouldn't even get to see any of them, even if they weren't.
"Okay, fine, but can we call Todd? I wanna wish him a happy birthday!"
Fuck me in the face. I pick up the phone...
[ringing]I know important players never check in with their real names, but Todd Zeile? Gimme a break. Fine.
Hotel Girl: Sheraton Bal Harbour*, how may I direct your call?
Me: [defeated and embarrassed] Hi, Todd Zeile, please.
Hotel Girl: [checking the computer] Sorry, there's no guest here by that name.
Me: Okay, thank you.
Hotel Girl: Sheraton Bal Harbour, how may I direct your call?
Me: Yes, Jay Payton, please.
Hotel Girl: One moment...
[ringing]We dated for over a year before I realized that she was a psychopath. Who'd have thought, right? But, it's been ten years now and not a day goes by that I don't imagine Jay Payton walking up to Todd Zeile the next morning and saying, "Hey Todd, Stephanie says happy birthday." And Todd Zeile looking right back at him with a straight face and saying, "Oh, okay. Who the fuck is Stephanie?"
Me: Hey... Jay... I know this is a strange request, but is Todd Zeile around?
Me: Is there, uh... is there any way you can connect me to Todd Zeile's room? He's not listed and–
Jay: Nah, I can't. I'm sorry.
Me: [even more defeated and embarrassed] Aight, I understand. Well, can you just do me a huge favor...?
Me: Can you tell him that, um... there was a girl who sang Happy Birth– ugh, geez. Can you just tell him that Stephanie says happy birthday?
And then they both shrug and eat eggs.