BEST BUDS don't do Hallmark cards. Don't do long hugs. Don't show up at the door with Godiva chocolates, Terms of Endearment and a box of Kleenex.
So when a best bud is really hurting, his pal is kind of stuck. There's a lot of shuffling feet and, "Dude, you know, if you need, uh, whatever," and awkward slaps on the back.
But when Aiden McGuire's best friend, Mike Sayre, lost the sight in his right eye to congenital glaucoma, leaving him only 15 feet of fuzzy vision in his left that could go any day, Aiden was determined to do something. Something that would stay with Mike, who'd been through more than 100 eye surgeries, forever. "He's my boy and I'm his," says Aiden of his buddy since first grade.
So the 26-year-old ad copywriter began writing letters, and every one of them started with, I'd like to tell you about my best friend, Michael Sayre.
He asked the New York Yankees if they wanted to help one of their most manic fans actually see a game up close while he still could. I'd like him to experience the game like never before, to walk on the field, sit in the dugout, hear the dirt crunch beneath his feet. And the Yankees arranged for them to have two of George Steinbrenner's personal seats.
He asked JetBlue if it would like to help them get from their hometown of Syracuse, N.Y., to New York City, and the airline mailed two free round-trip tickets. He asked the swank Peninsula Hotel in Manhattan, and management comped a $1,000 suite.
The thing is, everybody has a best friend, and everybody Aiden contacted wanted to help. Sometimes he didn't even have to ask. A limo driver in Syracuse, Ron Curcio, heard the story and it moved him. He'd lost his best friend to cancer just weeks before. "Let me drive you guys to the airport," he said.
So on June 29 Aiden showed up at Mike's door, with Mike thinking that they were going to take a six-hour bus ride to the game, stay in some crummy hotel and take their place in the nosebleeds, where Mike would try to see what he could of his beloved Yanks through binoculars.
Instead, Aiden said, "I got bad news, Mike. There's no bus trip."
"Shut up," Mike said. "You're drunk."
"Come with me," Aiden said.
When Mike got close enough to see the red carpet leading to a black stretch limo, his jaw dropped. Mike's mom, Dorothy, started crying, and Mike's brother, Bob, was having a hard time seeing through his tears to shoot pictures. Mike's voice was suddenly as bad as his vision.
"I'm going to reveal it all to you one step at a time," Aiden said. "You deserve it, buddy."
"I don't know about that," a stunned Mike finally said, "but I'll take it!"
Next thing you know, they were checking into the Peninsula. "It sure isn't the Red Roof Inn, is it?" Mike said.
When they got to the stadium, Yankees exec Jason Zillo walked them straight onto the field. Cue the dirt crunching.
"I'd like you to meet some people," Zillo said, and suddenly Mike's Vaseline-coated sight revealed Andy Pettitte. Then Roger Clemens. And finally, his alltime hero, Donny Baseball—Don Mattingly—who gave him a handshake, an autographed jersey and 10 minutes of conversation.
"Un-fricking-believable," Mike kept saying.
Aiden led him to their seats—six rows behind home plate. Binoculars? We don't need no stinkin' binoculars. Sometimes Mike would hear the crack of the bat and look up in the wrong direction, but so what? It would've taken a heavy-duty winch to pull the smile off his face.
Pretty soon he had a beer in his hand, his best friend to his right and his favorite team at his feet. Even better? Yanks 2, A's 1.
It still boggles his brain. "I kept thinking, Why me?" Mike said. "All those people doing all this for me. And Aiden—must've taken him months!"
Now, Mike figures, if he loses the left eye, "it'll be horrible, but I'll always have that day. It'll mean even more. So, I don't know what to say. I mean, what kind of friend does that?"
Which raises the question, How do you repay someone for the best day of your life?
"I've got a couple of ideas," Mike says. "But....
"Do you know any Laker Girls?"
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Mike figures if he loses the vision in his left eye, "it'll be horrible, but I'll always have that day [at Yankee Stadium]. It'll mean even more then. I mean, what kind of friend does that?"
PETER READ MILLER