Tracy Hunt knows she’s going to get in trouble for this one.
“I’ll ask for forgiveness later. This is coming from me,” the Wentzville, Mo., resident said this week. “This is just me wanting my dad to have a quality of life for what he has left.”
Hunt’s dad is someone well-known to older Mets fans: fan favorite Ron Hunt, the first Met to start an All-Star Game, the 1964 Midsummer Classic, held at Shea Stadium of all places. As the Hunt family shared with The Post back in 2018, Ron is battling Parkinson’s disease, an incurable neurodegenerative disorder that has taken its toll on him. Now 80, “Ron has good days and bad days, but every three days, he takes a good, nice fall,” his daughter said. “His kneecaps are destroyed. His body is destroyed.”
There is a way to help him, though, Tracy Hunt believes, which is why she finds herself asking her dad’s many admirers for help. The Hunt family, with the help of family friend Frank Santarpia, has set up a GoFundMe page in the hopes of completing an experimental protocol for Parkinson’s that Ron began earlier this year. Such publicity won’t play well with the stoic Ron Hunt, who takes great pride in the 243 times he got hit by a pitch, fourth all-time in modern baseball, including the single-season record of 50 in 1971 with the Expos.
“This is me. This is my last resort,” Tracy Hunt said. “I don’t have another bag of money.”
The next-to-last resort took place when Hunt procured funding for the first three of the recommended six homeopathic treatments, an intravenous cocktail of stem-cell therapy and exosomes that Tracy Hunt researched and their longtime family doctor blessed, each one costing $7,000. The Baseball Assistance Team (B.A.T.), the long-standing organization that aids people in the baseball community — and that Hunt himself contributed to for many years, flying in for the annual dinner, signing autographs and posing for photos — funded those first three rounds, which took place in January, February and April of 2021.
“I noticed a difference,” Tracy Hunt said of her father. “His walking was so much better. His talking was so much better.”
(Ron Hunt still calls me pretty regularly, once every 10 days or so, to inform me that he’s “still pushing ’em, not smelling ’em” or to complain about illegal performance-enhancing drug users being considered for the Hall or whatever else is on his still-fertile mind. His slurring has gradually become more noticeable.)
After the third treatment, however, B.A.T. told Tracy Hunt it would fund no more and suggested that the family take out either a line of credit or a second mortgage on its family farm. Erik Nilsen, the executive director for B.A.T., declined comment on the situation, noting that the organization doesn’t publicly acknowledge its cases.
The notion of putting her family in such financial straits greatly concerned Tracy Hunt, who already plans to sell her home, located seven miles from her parents’, to move onto the family property in order to be around for her parents full-time. When Ron Hunt, who weighs about 230 pounds, falls, Tracy said, he often has to wait for Tracy to come over to help him get all the way up since Ron’s wife Jackie, also 80, is “100 pounds soaking wet.” Tracy’s brother, Ron Jr., lives a few hours away and visits about once a month to help with the property.
Ron Hunt played professional ball before the game’s economics exploded. His last salary, when he played for the Expos and Cardinals in 1974, was $59,000.
So when Mets vice president of alumni public relations Jay Horwitz, who healed a rift between the team and the Mets, suggested the GoFundMe page, Tracy Hunt decided it made the most sense, no matter what short-term heat she receives from her father. The response to The Post’s 2018 story on Ron Hunt, from which I received well over 100 emails from fans that I printed out and snail-mailed to Ron (he’s not a computer guy), helped convince Tracy this could work. Because she knows the way her dad impacted people with his grit, first as a player and then when he ran a baseball camp for youths on his farm. She wants to keep that grit around as long as possible.
“I don’t want him sitting in a chair all day,” Tracy Hunt said. “Every time he goes out the door, we have to follow him everywhere because he’s so damn stubborn. I walk with him in the infield [to spot him].”
If Ron Hunt has a soft spot, it’s his love for the fans, particularly Mets fans. Back in 2018, when I asked Ron if he wanted Mets fans to pray for him, he said: “No. Just tell them I said hi. I don’t know them. They don’t know me personally. Just tell them I said hi. I’ll never forget you.”
My guess is, if he gets another embrace from those fans — who will never forget him, either — in his time of need, Ron won’t be too hard on his loving family.