Monday, March 29, 2010

Leaving Port St. Lucie

The combination of exhaustion after 13 games in 11 days and a pre-flight insomnia has me up at 3:18am, just hours before I am scheduled to leave Port St. Lucie, Florida, ending my 7th annual Spring Training vacation. Putting aside what the Mets have done for me on the field (2 wins, 5 losses, and 1 rainout that wasn't their doing), and the 3 day break that I took from the Mets, I had a great time in Florida.

I got a good in-person look at players that we'll see on the Opening Day roster, players we wish we'd see on the Opening Day roster, and players we hope to see on the roster 6 months from now when the season comes to a close.

I had a great time traveling the Grapefruit League to familiar towns like Jupiter (Marlins and Cardinals), Viera (Nationals), and Disney (Braves - yes, I know "Disney" isn't the name of the town, and now it's not even the name of the complex, but it's easiest to describe where I was) and to towns that don't appear on my schedule very often like Kissimmee (Astros) and Lakeland (Tigers). I enjoyed spending a few days in Vero Beach, my 4th year staying there in 7 that I've been doing this, after a year's hiatus, and seeing the old Dodgertown complex on what might have been one of the last days that it beared that name. And I enjoyed my few days on what I call the "Disney Strip", named for the Vegas Strip because of all of the lights and signs for hotels, restrauants, tickets, mini golf and gift shops on Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway/US 192 outside of Disney World.

But there's no place like (Spring Training) home - Port St. Lucie, St. Lucie West, and Tradition Field. Last year's very short 3 night trip was the first time I had stayed in PSL since my first year in 2004, and I realized how much I had missed staying in town, in what is probably the only place in the country that is a Mets town without also being a Yankees town. Despite the record that the Mets put up on the field, and how good or not good the players have been at handling the fans' (and my) desire for autographs, I absolutely love coming here, driving or walking to what I'll keep calling "Tradition Field" out of habit, being at the ballpark, seeing the Mets, and seeing and talking to a ton of Mets fans - the latter two both for home and road games.

I love that the stadium, at least for Spring Training, has touches of our New York baseball experience like Lazy Mary in the 7th Inning Stretch, seeing Kevin, Gary, Keith, and/or Ron, and a beautiful mural of Mets history along the press box facade. I hope it isn't changed too much when they replace the last reference to the "Tradition Field" name.

Port St. Lucie is one of the very best places to watch a Spring Training game, at least in the Grapefruit League, where I've seen games in 12 of the 14 active stadiums and 4 of the inactive stadiums (some year I'll get to Clearwater again to see a game and I'll get down to Port Charlotte). That wouldn't be possible without the hard work of (in no particular order) the folks running the Mets Florida operations and the ballpark itself as well as the NY and St. Lucie Mets Booster club, who have a presence at every Mets Spring Training home game (as well as the St. Lucie Mets season). The Mets Booster Club does great things with the local community, troops overseas, and players. If you're a regular at Spring Training, you should check them out and consider joining. For everyone there in Port St. Lucie, thank you for a wonderful time.

To play off both the name of another Mets fan blog, and a reference from a semi-recent baseball movie...
To my Spring Family, I'll see you next year!

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