BY JOE SCOTCHIE
Thirty years ago, a group of Roslyn men began meeting for weekend softball games at Wheatley High School. The idea caught on (think of similar gatherings at The Park At East Hills) and the games attracted more weekend ballplayers. By 1998, the players were ready to take a yearly trip to spring training camps in Florida. A leader of the group, Nat Cherney, has a friend who does promotion work for Major League Baseball. This connection led to the men being invited to step onto Shea Stadium and play on the same field was graced by Tom Seaver, Gary Carter, Keith Hernandez and Mike Piazza.
That was just the beginning. Over the past decade, the Roslyn gang has been invited to play at Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, Wrigley Field and Nationals Park in Washington, DC.
So, you’re a lifelong baseball fan and you get to play on the same fields as generations of legends.
“Every young child who started playing baseball most likely dreamed of playing at a Major League stadium,” Cherney told The Roslyn News. “The thought of stepping out onto the field at Yankee Stadium or Fenway Park where many of our heroes play was something not attainable by most.”
But it was to these men. And the thrills go on.
“In 2008 it was revealed to us that we would be invited to play on the field at Shea Stadium,” Cherney added, recalling that first visit. “A few days later we gathered in the parking lot at Shea and were escorted onto the Field. The feeling of stepping onto the turf where our legends of the game played was indescribable. We ran to the outfield, some touched the outfield wall, others pretended they were jumping up and catching a game saving home run, others ran the bases, and most just stared in disbelief that yes, once again we were realizing our childhood dream. The time flew by as we played two games and took many pictures to preserve forever our journey as stars.
“Jump ahead to 2010 and we were elated to hear we would be playing at Citi Field,” Cherney continued. “The anticipation was as great as our first trip to play in a big league and it was just as enjoyable. The next phase of our amazing run came in 2013 when we were informed that we would be going to the most famous stadium in the world, Yankee Stadium. The thought of walking and playing on the same grass that so many players, we thought were bigger than life, played was hard to grasp. As we stepped onto the field that day, everyone was high-fiving each other, taking pictures, sitting in the dugout in the same place where so many greats sat. The two games we played were as much fun as anyone ever throwing a ball or swinging a bat could have. If our lives ended that day, we all felt we attained our dreams and would go in peace.”
Future forays would take the gang, as noted, to Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia and Washington Nationals Park. Most recently, Cherney and his friends played a few innings at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, FL. But it’s hardly the last one.
“Back in New York and getting ready for our season opener, we all reflect back at our past experiences and the thrills we had the opportunity to take part in,” Cherney said. “I am sure we are eligible to be entered into The Guinness Book of Records for the Most Major League stadiums played in by a nonprofessional team. But whether that happens or not—nothing can take away our amazing run of walking on, hitting on, throwing on, and enjoying Major League Stadiums up close and personal. Who knows where our Field of Dreams Tour will take us next.”