Well, for all of those among us with inquiring minds, I will attempt to recap the recently passed BBH Annual Albany Get-Together.
There is no way to begin this dialog without first acknowledging and sincerely thanking the people who dedicated themselves specifically to the task of making this event successful. They took the steps required, sacrificed some of their time and in general went the "extra mile" to make it all happen.
In the first place there is Ed, who I believe is a natural, and honestly seems born to coordinate! It's probably fair to say that without his dedication, the weekend would certainly have been different, and I'm pretty certain that it would NOT have been as good.
Right up there with Ed is Kevin, who has been one of our "native guides" forever. This guy sacrificed the entire morning practice session so that our place at the park was secure. And, this isn't the first time he has donated his time, often while we all relaxed.
As this is always a collaborative menu, almost everyone brings something and the variety is awesome. But I'd like to offer a special thanks to Bill and Cindy who really pitched in, stepping into the breach when some late cancellations left us with needed items, and little time.
Now, the recap:
The Friday night welcome dinner at the Barnsider was a great kickoff to the weekend. In the past I had foregone this event, as I would normally drive up in the wee hours of Saturday morning. But this year I was accompanied by my wife, Cyndi. So, we decided to attend. I don't know who first selected the Barnsider, but it was a fine choice (and apparently an Albany mainstay)! And, the restaurant obliged us with separate checks!
Their specialty is aged beef, served to perfection, and super-fresh seafood. None of the 13 people who attended were disappointed in the fare. And, certainly the company was excellent! Talk ranged from the typical getting to know you stuff for the new comers, to the hard core nuts and bolt of the Giants in camp.
Kudos to John and Rich who arrived a day ahead and gave us the advanced scouting report. The only downside to the evening was that we had to cut it off in time to get some rest before a much bigger day coming up on Saturday. I do believe some of the conversations could have gone on until the management put us out!
Saturday morning practice began at 8:35, but the bulk of the BBH crew met in the parking lot of the Dutch Quad at 7:30 and where able to get prime seating, as the crowd eventually became quite large.
The day before, John had taken his rosters to a local Kinko's and made a pile of copies (alphabetical on one side and numerical on the opposite, just like the pros do it), then he generously distributed to everyone (BBHers or not).
AM practice ran a little bit long, so it was quite a good thing that Kevin had forgone attending the AM session to be at the ice house when they opened for business that morning, purchased the ice and headed straight down to the park, arriving at around 9am.
Unlike years past, when our group dominated the area under the cedars, this time several groups had already claimed the majority of the tables and grills. When I arrived at about 11:30, with Cyndi and my brother Vinny, there was only one table available for any group that came later than we did.
But, because the layout of the park is more than adequate, none of the groups were really cramped for space. Instead, it kept our group of about 35 people more closely together. Because we didn't spread out, we had lots of great conversation and interaction. I think there were a few more ladies in attendance this year, and as usual some youngsters too.
For several years we had been successful at getting a guest speaker to attend. And, although this has always been a highlight of the event, this year we did without. And, again, instead of being a shortcoming it actually allowed us to spend more time talking amongst each other.
Of course, the highlight of any BBH Get-Together is quantity and quality of food and beverages. Finger foods and chips gave way to platters of burgers and dogs with cold salads galore. John did his usual best waiter service making the rounds with chilled shrimp and his homemade cocktail sauce (kickin'), followed by a smoked salmon plate.
I whipped out my one-of-a-kind, official New York Giants bocce balls and we started the first game of the afternoon just as everyone was loosening their belts and resting up after the opening salvo of food had been consumed. Those balls would continue to fly for the rest of the afternoon! (ps.: Rich, who claims to have never thrown a bocce ball in his life turns out to be the ringer!)
Then, Ed's ribs and Jim's chicken arrived on the tables to signal the second wave of good food. Every thing topped off with a fine selection of baked goods for desert.
The Giants switch to a late starting PM practice (6 instead of 3:30) provided us with some extra time to party and relax. Cleanup was a little less hurried, and most people actually had time to go back to their hotels to refresh (or nap) before the second practice session of the day.
And, that session turned out to be a bit more spirited than the earlier one had been. The Barden one-handed catch was certainly the highlight, but the Hedgecock/Kehl scuffle was the fireworks!
Everyone retreated to their own events in the evening following practice. For me that meant 20 year old Scotch and fine Dominican cigars with my brother, back at the hotel.
The next morning at 10 AM, a group just shy of a dozen met at the Cheesecake Factory for a fine brunch and a few more laughs before dispersing. Again, the choice of venue was perfect, as the Cheesecake Factory offers an excellent brunch menu (and again, separate checks)! From there some would head back to camp for the 2:30 PM practice, and others would hit the open road.
In the weeks ahead we will probably learn if the Giants intend to renew their arrangement with the State University of New York and return to Albany next year, or if they will begin a new chapter in their summer camps by relocating it. There was some speculation about the possibility that the G-Men will stay closer to home now that they have a state-of-the-art training facility right next to the stadium.
If this change becomes reality, we will need to begin doing some research on hotels and restaurants and parks that might offer us an opportunity to continue our annual Get-Together. Perhaps some of the local Jersey guys among us can help by making suggestions.
I know that a change of venue to New Jersey will probably allow more BBHers to attend. But, I'm kind of hoping that the Giants continue to make Albany their summer home. It really is a great place to meet and enjoy each other and our shared passion for the New York Giants!