SECAUCUS, N.J. -- Ed Fastaia is a man who's taken an uncommon life path, a journey that has led him from the crucible of one of America's most unforgettable moments to a path in the national pastime.
Fastaia, a former firefighter and first responder to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, is now employed as a scout for the Houston Astros, a personal dream job that allows him to live in New York and evaluate local talent. Fastaia's work usually occurs well out of the limelight by its very nature, but his team tabbed him as one of its two representatives at the First-Year Player Draft on Tuesday.
There, alongside former All-Star Jimmy Winn, Fastaia knew that he had really arrived.
"This is a great opportunity to be amongst all these legends of the game. And to witness what I've been working for as a scout, to see it from the inside is exciting," he said. "It's an honor. I always dread a phone call from the scouting director before the Draft, because you immediately think, 'What did I mess up?' You always think negative. But when [Bobby Heck] invited me, I said, 'Bobby, words can't describe how honored I'd be.
CWS, DET, NYY and PHI did not have first-round selections.
"Now all we have to do is get some players. That's what we're all working for as scouts."
That's the easy part for Fastaia, the looking at ballplayers like countless other scouts around the country. The Brooklyn native scouts the New York and New Jersey area for Houston, completing an arc that began well before his actions on 9/11. Fastaia used to be a regular guy managing a sandlot team, but he knew people in the Dodgers organization and began working part-time, moving slowly in matters of responsibility.
Fastaia later worked with Montreal and spent 11 seasons with the Milwaukee organization, earning the meat of his experience as a scout. He retired as a firefighter in 2003 and poured himself into his new vocation, mastering the work of a baseball scout and eventually moving to his post with the Astros.
"It's a long working process that I put a lot of time and effort into," he said. "I didn't play professional baseball, but I played enough baseball and have been around enough people to learn. There's a lot of people that would love to be in my shoes, and I just hope I can continue to do a good job and maintain it."
Fastaia willingly speaks about his 9/11 experience, believing it is a way to pay tribute to the people that paid the ultimate sacrifice. He said that he still suffers from emotional stress and sleeping disorders related to his harrowing ordeal, and he also said that it's something that stays with him every day.
"It's almost impossible to forget," he said of 9/11. "But I don't mind expressing my story. Timing and being in the right place -- or the wrong place -- was the difference between dying and living that day."
Fastaia said that he remembers being en route to the scene with his fellow members of Engine 246 in Brooklyn that day, and he can recall the dispatcher routing his engine through the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel.
The men on the truck were passing by the Brooklyn Bridge at that point, and they wanted to get there the quickest way on their own initiative. But their lieutenant checked again with dispatch and was told again to go through the tunnel, a directive that Fastaia attributes to the chaos of the moment.
And while they were working their way through traffic, a tragedy was unfolding.
"In that interim, that first tower came down, which we still didn't know," he said. "I think we thought that the tunnel blew up, because all the smoke in the area came through the tunnel. Then they turned everybody around to head back over the Brooklyn Bridge, and we were one of the first companies because we were at the tail end."
"We still didn't know what was happening. We just saw people with all the debris on their faces. And I think we didn't know until we got there that both towers came down. Somebody on the street said that. That 20 minutes might have saved our lives. But everybody's got a different story from that day."
The aftermath of the tragedy is forever emblazoned on his mind, and Fastaia helped out as part of the cleanup and salvage effort. He's spent the last decade remembering those less fortunate than him, and he said he meets with his former battalion every year on the anniversary of 9/11 to commemorate the occasion.
Fastaia, who now lives in Ronkonkoma, N.Y., said that he'll likely spend the 10th anniversary of 9/11 at MCU Park, the home of the Class A Brooklyn Cyclones that also houses a memorial to the Brooklyn servicemen that lost their lives on that day. Baseball, and his former life, you see, were never far from each other.
For now, though, that's the furthest thing from his mind. Fastaia is a representative of the Astros and he's just as curious as the average fan to see who will end up selected by which team.
"We don't know how the board lines up," he said. "They might have a feel right before the Draft, but it's a funny process. As the term says, it could blow up and you don't know which team will be taking which player. There are surprises and things move around. It's luck and it's being in the right plce at the right time to get the players you want. You know what? The Draft will be over in three days and the whole process starts again for next year."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.