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Day 18 “Louie Armstrong!”

I paid $9 at Ed Smith Stadium for parking, I wanted to find a place and walk but it was a residential neighborhood for the most part and you couldn’t park on the street during game days, as I was walking out of the lot and towards the stadium I started talking to an older gentleman, he wasn’t a baseball fan but was looking for something to do on this beautiful day, he told me that his children and grandchildren love baseball so he thought he would try to get into the game.  He inquired about Baseball Buddha and I explained to him what I was doing, he invariable asked how I make money doing that, I told him I don’t, he didn’t get it, but could appreciate someone doing what they have a passion for, he asked about the cost of tickets, I said that could be a problem as the season wears on, I told him that if you stand around the main gates, chances are good that you can get a free one, right after I said that, Jon Nilsen asked if I needed a free ticket!

Jon Nilsen - "Rock Star"
Jon Nilsen – “Rock Star”

Jon, 50, is a musician, he called himself a “professional sideman”, he explained that a sideman is hired to perform or record with a group of which he or she is not a regular member.  The band he plays with most of the time plays classic rock from the 60’s and 70’s, he mainly plays guitar and mandolin but can play bass if needed, “I’m equally at home on electric and acoustic, lead or rhythm and I enjoy playing slide guitar as well” Jon stated but it was lost on me, I told him that if it has a good beat and is easy to dance too, I’m in! .  Jon moved to Sarasota, Florida 3 years ago with his wife and hopes that this is his last move, originally from Brooklyn, NY, he has lived in Kentucky, Southern Indiana, Chicago, IL and Ashville, NC.

His Brother-In-Law, has spring training tickets for 3 teams, Orioles, Mets and Rays, gave him the seats for the game, Jon’s wife was suppose to attend with him but she was called into work, thanks Julia, they were “sweet” seats, right behind the visiting teams dugout, (I really thought I was going to get a ball on this day, no dice, it is starting to become an obsession, damn those cute kids that have been next to me).  Jon was born and raised a Mets fan and used to go to 3 or 4 games a year when he lived up north, he remembers his grandfather always having the game on as a kid, his love for the game blossomed in 1969, the year of the “Miracle Mets”, it was the team’s eighth as a Major League Baseball (MLB) franchise and culminated with them winning the World Series over the Baltimore Orioles.

Jon explained that spring training games have a certain charm, with his brother in law having all those tickets he gets a chance to see a lot of games in the month of March, it doesn’t matter who he sees, just being out in the crowd and feeling the energy is what he loves, he used to follow all the players, checking all the box scores and stat sheets when he was young, especially in the early to mid 80’s when the Mets had Strawberry, Gooden, Hernandez and Carter, but now he doesn’t pay that close attention to the players.  Jon said his brother in law can’t make it down much this year so Jon, has a lot of tickets.  He told me I need to go to his brother in law’s ice cream store on Long Island when I am in New York this summer, he usually opens it right after spring training, I will be sure to stop by and thank him for the ticket!

Jon comes from a family of musicians, his dad was an opera singer and his grandfather was in a barber shop quartet.  His grandfather, Cliff Dixon, wrote the song, “The Blues were born in New Orleans”, which was sung by Louie Armstrong, the family still gets a royalty check every year, Jon joked that he hasn’t seen any of the money, it is suppose to be split evenly by the surviving family members, but Jon says that getting a piece of the $35 yearly check isn’t that important.  The largest crowd that Jon has ever played in front of was 35,000 people, he said it was an incredible feeling seeing all those people, they were there to see Joan Baez, who came on after his band but it didn’t matter.

Jon never played sports, too small and “I was bookish”, he said with a laugh, but when it comes to music, I have gotten to play all over the country, he says he is very grateful to be able to do what he is passionate about, he used to work in the health food industry for a number of years, but at times it was frustrating dealing with customers who were overly demanding and mean.  He practices 3-4 times a week and plays almost every weekend, it is more than a full time job but he loves it!

Jon needed to take off before the game ended, he said he needed to make dinner for his wife, very cool Jon, very cool!  I loved sitting and talking with you, call me when you are heading over to Port St. Lucie to watch the Mets, I will tag along if you have an extra ticket!

If you enjoy this story and you would like to help me complete the “Baseball in America Tour 2014” which is roughly 265 days, please click on the following link to see how you can help .  Please also share this on your Facebook page and Twitter, I appreciate all the help I can get!

More Information:

Jon Nilsen:

“1969 Miracle Mets”:;

Louie Armstrong:

Darryl Strawberry:

Gary Carter:

Dwight Gooden:

Keith Hernandez: