101-year-old World War II veteran gets major league welcome at Citi Field

World War II veteran gets major league welcome at Citi Field.
Published: Jun. 6, 2023 at 5:04 PM EDT
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(WFSB) - A World War II veteran got a major league welcome at Citi Field last Thursday.

Leo Tyboroski has seen a lot in his 101 years. The East Hartford resident fell in love with baseball at an early age.

Leo is an avid Yankees fan, and fondly remembers seeing his idols play in the World Series as a kid.

“We got right behind the dugout, and there comes Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio. We could have shook hands with them,” Leo said.

Leo had a shot to reach the major leagues, too, but life took him in a different direction.

“I was signed by the Yankees. They had scouts there, the Dodgers and the Yankees, but you know, Uncle Sam signed me instead,” Leo said.

In 1943, Leo was drafted into military service during World War II. He fought with the 78th Infantry in the Battle of the Bulge.

“I was very proud to serve my country. I could have picked a service, but young then, I didn’t know anything, so I just went into the infantry,” said Leo.

He received various medals for his service, including a Purple Heart. But for Leo, even the idea of looking back is hard.

“I’ve got a lot of bad memories of the war. I don’t want to remember them, I don’t want to talk about them. It’s better if I just say I was there and I did my part, and that’s it,” Leo said.

In 1946 Leo came home, but he still kept up with the game he loved as life went on.

Now, 80 years after serving his country, it was baseball’s turn to serve him.

The Mets stepped up to the plate, giving Leo, his son-in-law and two friends tickets to their matchup with the Phillies.

Ambassador Limousine surprised him with a free, chauffeured ride to and from New York City.

When he arrived at the park, Leo got treatment fit for a hero.

But it was what happened after the third inning that really made the trip special.

Leo was honored as the Mets Veteran of the Game.

“Very touching actually, to see his pictures up on the jumbotron. I know that he really is excited about this,” said Steve Spencer, Leo’s son-in-law.

“He’s so deserving of it. The fact that you have that many people all cheering for him and clapping, it was really heartwarming to hear and to see,” said Richard Quinlan, a family friend.

As for Leo himself?

“It’s a great day for me. God bless all the fans in here. I had a good time,” Leo said.

Being on a major league baseball field is a dream for many people. But for Leo the lifelong baseball fan? His dream included two of the most important words in honor of his military service: thank you.