Day 7 - March 28, 2012 - Mets-Nationals @ Port St. Lucie
Before the game, as usual, I spent a good hour on the back fields at the Digital Domain Park complex watching what I call "gym class" as well as players throwing, a bit of infield-outfield, and then I went to stake out the spot in field 7 where the players exit to go back to the clubhouse or into the big stadium (field 7 is the field right behind the LF scoreboard when looking from the stadium itself - one of my pictures caught a minor league game on field 7, looking between the LF scoreboard and the CF batter's eye). Overall in the back, I got autographs from Mets legend Al Jackson, who has been an instructor for the Mets since I can remember, Jason Bay, and R.A. Dickey (he's appearing at a bookstore in Jupiter this Friday night signing his new memoir that just came out - I'm sure you heard about it). With all the moving around that I do back there (hanging by the fence along the RF line of the first practice field they use, standing at the exit in the RF corner of that field for everyone to enter field 7 in the LF corner, and then near the CF exit of field 7, among other places) that I got autographs in multiple locations. As I say, it's all pot-luck each day as to what you can see, who you can get autographs from, and where. One other thing to note is that the players actually are working, even when they're moving between fields. I do have to respect that, even though I have to ask them to stop for me (hey, you never know). Daniel Murphy, while jogging into the stadium from field 7, did give that standard answer, but also thanked the fans within ear-shot for coming out to see the team on the back fields. I like that. More on Daniel Murphy later.
After the back fields, I went to the plaza in front of the stadium (where the box office, media-access elevators, and actual ballpark entrances are, as well as the Booster Club's raffle table) to look for Keith Hernandez. I've heard good things about him stopping to sign this year, something that he hasn't done in the past. I only stood out there for about half an hour before the game and didn't see Keith. I actually had no idea if he'd be working on Wednesday. More on him later.
Inside the stadium, things can be absolutely dead from 11am when the gates open until about 12:45, 25 minutes before first pitch. It's the tail end of the Mets taking BP. Maybe if we're lucky, someone will sign by the outfield corner of the Mets dugout. It's the visiting team's turn to take BP. No Mets in sight. And then players from both teams come out to get ready for the game. And then again, we're lucky if any Mets come over to sign. Wednesday, I got lucky. David Wright signed a few (no, I wasn't that lucky, other than to be witness to such an event). Scott Hairston signed. He was back in the lineup. Prospect Matt den Dekker signed. I heard a lot about him last year from my fields in St. Lucie while he was here at Single-A ball.
Then a game was played, and Jon Niese pitched for the Mets. I'd call it a quality start, especially for Spring Training. There was a long home run, but he pitched really well aside from that. The new Mets closer, Frank Francisco really scares the hell out of me, though he had 0 ER over 2.0 IP. And the offense isn't really clicking, aside from some HRs from Duda and Davis. Mets lost. Oh well.
And again after the game, I decided it was time to stake out the plaza for Keith Hernandez (something I teased on Facebook) figuring that he has to exit the elevator, walk through the plaza, and over to his car in the parking lot. A few others had the same idea. So we waited, even being down there before the game ended (just in case Keith made for a quick exit). And the crowd leaves. Ron Darling comes past. And the place empties out, save for a few others waiting for Keith, and about a dozen people at the Mets player parking lot gate. 90 minutes has passed. The only recognizable figure coming out is Sandy Alderson, after his WFAN interview. He was very nice about signing and thanking us for coming out. After about 2 hours of waiting, I gave up on Keith Hernandez. Over at the player's parking lot gate, I learned that Keith had parked there, snuck out quickly from the game to his car, and left without having to pass through the crowd. That seems to fit his character. By the time I was down at the gate, only a few Mets were left, and only Daniel Murphy stopped to sign (and take a picture with a crazy fan).
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