Dick Pecor

Dick Pecor stops for a picture during the 2014 spring training game between the New York Mets and Washington Nationals. The 80-year-old baseball fan had just purchased a pair of tickets for his 28th season of spring training home games at Tradition Field in Port St. Lucie. GREG GARDNER PHOTO


He had to play a little hooky when he was a teacher, but Richard “Dick” Pecor has seen every New York Mets home spring training game in Port St. Lucie since opening day in 1988.

As a business and accounting teacher at South Fork High School, Pecor was usually able to cover a class for a colleague in return for coverage of his afternoon class. And on a rare occasion, he would use a sick day. It also helped that he was on the school district’s calendar committee, which set the schedule for each school year. Pecor says he resisted every effort to move spring break to April from March when spring training home games are almost every other day.

Growing up in Burlington, Vt., which always had a minor league team, Pecor became a New York Yankees fan early on while his parents were Boston Red Sox fans. He used to visit a neighbor who caned chairs while he listened to Yankee games on the radio. “I’m a New York fan,” Pecor says. “When the Mets started in 1962, I automatically became a fan. They are in different leagues so I felt I could support them both.”

Since he was a day late for the first season ticket sales, the good seats on the Mets side were sold out, but Pecor has had at least two season tickets since 1988. His wife no longer comes to games because of advanced glaucoma, but she will come along as they stop at a minor league park in Scranton, Pa., for a game on their annual summer sojourn to Vermont. “She (Marilyn) is a great sport,” he says. “We’re on the road and she will go to the games.” Married for 50 years, the couple have seen games at 14 Major League ballparks. Marilyn taught math in Martin County before finishing her career at Lincoln Park Academy in Fort Pierce.

“My first job was picking up bottles during and after the ballgame,” Pecor says. “I had a paper route and I got the opportunity to go to my first Yankees game. I had an eight-hour bus ride and my back was killing me, but I wasn’t going to miss that game. Gene Woodling hit an inside-the-park home run.” Pecor says he was so sick that after the game he was placed on a plane that landed in Vermont with his doctor waiting. “I had polio and they quarantined me. After six weeks of therapy and hot packs on my back, I could walk again and had no paralysis.”

For a guy who turned 80 last year, Pecor is in great shape. He says he was always a runner, but these days exercise consists of hitting the gym four times a week (five-mile walk on a treadmill each day) and playing golf twice a week. He has had three holes-in-one. On the third one, a playing partner pointed out that his ball was teed up in front of the markers. Pecor re-teed the ball and scored his third ace.

During spring training and the regular season, Pecor watches the MLB Network, ESPN and the YES. He is also a hockey fan and watches New York Rangers games.

Pecor has always parked away from the stadium and walked in, saving him thousands of dollars for parking from the estimated $10,000 he has spent to see the Mets at home for spring training. His ritual consists of a hot dog, a beer and peanuts. He says it reminds him of his days as a kid when he could go to the ballpark and get two hot dogs and an orange soda for a quarter.

Pecor has grown to love sitting above the visitors dugout behind first base. His seats provide easy access to bathrooms and concessions with an excellent view of all the action and minimal disturbance from people coming and going from their seats. “I sometimes will sell both my tickets, if I have to, so I can buy another one and get in,” he says. “I can always sit near my seats. I have never eaten a ticket yet. And I sell my extra ticket for face value unless I give it to someone I know.”

When Pecor and his wife were lured to Port St. Lucie to buy a lot, they decided they would find teaching jobs and move down here to escape the Vermont winters. With a $102 monthly mortgage, the couple bought a home in 1972 on Coconut Street in the original River Park neighborhood of Port St. Lucie.

When he discovered that Martin County teachers had no union and no one negotiating their contracts, Pecor helped form a union. He was its team negotiator and spokesman until he retired in 1995. “It was intense and it went on forever,” he says. “We started in the summer and we would have no contract in December. We went to arbitration and we did the best we could, but the results were not outstanding. Martin County is a wealthy county in comparison to St. Lucie County. We have decent pensions, but today they are taking away some of the retirement benefits we had. Teaching is as important as any profession. The kids in elementary school are just beginning to learn, middle school is the toughest and you have to prepare the high school kids for adulthood. I was very fortunate. I had great kids along the way. When a student comes up and says, ‘I’m a CPA now.’ That’s a good feeling.”

Jim Fertitta, president of the local Mets Booster Club, has known Pecor since they both worked for the Martin County school system. “Dick is a huge Mets fan and he is always out there,” Fertitta says. We used to talk baseball at work. He is a nice guy who knows a lot about baseball.”

Pecor loves to talk baseball, and he always brings to the game the newest magazine with all the stats and scoops on the MLB team rosters. “For me, I like to see good defensive plays,” he says. Tagging the guy out at the plate is much more fun than watching a fly ball going over the fence.” In the ninth inning of the last game of 2015 spring training at Tradition Field, Pecor was explaining the scoring of defensive indifference where the player steals second or third and the catcher makes no effort to throw him out. But the runner does not get credit for a stolen base and no one gets an error. What? The defensive team concedes the base to the runner, says Pecor and he knows the rules.

“When we saw the Mets in spring training they didn’t have any offense until they made some key trades,” Pecor says. “Without those deals they would not have made it to the post-season. It was a pleasant surprise when they made the playoffs and the World Series. I hope they can upgrade their offense as they did last year and they need to improve their relief pitching. I have my tickets for 2016. The best day of the year is the first home game of spring training and it is a sad day when the Mets play their last game and go back up north.”

Name: Richard “Dick” Pecor
Age: 80
Home: Port St. Lucie
Occupation: Retired high school business teacher
Family: Wife, Marilyn and son, Stephen, 43
Background: Grew up in Burlington, Vt. Taught business in Vermont schools for 10 years before moving to Florida to teach business and accounting in Martin County schools for 20 years. Bachelor’s degree in business from Champlain College, Burlington, Vt.
Something most people don’t know about me: “In 1963, myself and four friends established the Burlington Amateur Hockey Association. We first used the indoor rink at the University of Vermont, which opened up hockey for players of all ages. I served as 1967-68 president and I ran the penalty box for 10 years.”