Ron Darling couldn’t tell his father.
That’s the first thing the SNY analyst thinks about when he recalls his fight with thyroid cancer a year ago that kept him out of the booth for nearly two months.
“It was strange. My dad was very sick [with cancer, too], so I couldn’t really tell him because he was really struggling,” Darling told The Post while in Florida with his parents.
“So, I didn’t want to tell him what I was going through. So, I held it for a long time because I wanted him to take care of himself and not worry about his firstborn son. He has recovered and is doing unbelievably, so then I was able to tell him and he was able to help me and my entire family get through it.”
The former Mets pitcher suddenly left the SNY booth in mid-April last season, citing a mass in his chest. During surgery to remove that mass, doctors discovered the cancer. Darling returned to the booth in June with the cancer stabilized, and then this January, play-by-play man Gary Cohen announced Darling had beaten the disease.
“I never gave two thoughts to mortality or ‘I got cancer,’ ” the 59-year-old Darling said. “I don’t know if that’s unusual or whatever, I haven’t really talked to anyone about that. I was really concerned about my kids, my wife, that’s all I could really think about it. I didn’t really think about, ‘Am I going to live?’
“I figured I’d live or not or whatever, I was just really concerned that they would be all right. They were so strong and so helpful with getting me to recover. I knew from that day forward that they’d be fine and be able to take care of themselves. That really helped.”
While Darling was out, Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez worked some games by themselves and some with Todd Zeile, who moved from the studio to the booth. Darling, who also works national games for TBS, was suddenly put in the unusual position of watching games from his couch. After his time away he came up with a list of 50 observations, “not criticisms,” he was quick to note.
“I am very happy that I’ll be able to do my part, instead of them having to pick up for me,” said Darling, who will be enshrined in the Mets Hall of Fame on May 17.
“I am really happy to have a full season this year and can’t wait. It did give me a fresh kind of feel for watching the game. I saw a lot of very interesting things that I couldn’t see from the booth. Even the commercials, it’s just interesting to see the whole timing of it all. I really learned a lot.”
Darling is looking forward to a normal 2020 season, which already has started with spring training games in Port St. Lucie. The latter stages of the Mets offseason were dominated by the managerial transition from Carlos Beltran, who was hired and then fired due to his connection to the Astros’ cheating scandal, to Luis Rojas.
It was a public relations nightmare Darling thinks will be a blessing in the end.
“It’s nothing against Beltran, it’s just that we’ve seen the last three-to-four seasons the hiring of people with no experience has been the norm and people like Luis Rojas have been left waiting for a job,” Darling said of Rojas, who was previously the quality control coach and had been with the Mets franchise since 2006.
“I am just so happy a guy who chose baseball for his life is getting a chance. … They’ve got the right man for the job, I believe that 100 percent.”
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