Day 12 - March 17, 2013 - Mets-Braves @ Port St. Lucie
Final home game in my Spring Training 2013 adventure. And it was St. Patrick's Day. In the morning, I was on the back fields, as per usual. Today, there was a treat. The team had a later-than-normal start. I actually got to see the whole team stretch before they broke up to do drills and hitting on different fields. That used to be the norm, but this year, they've been starting before 9:30 when the fans are allowed inside. And of course, there really wasn't much to see and no real autograph opportunities to get.
In to the stadium one final time, I headed down to the hidden corner of the ballpark that I found on Saturday (down the LF terrace seating past the bullpen, and around the corner to the back of the clubhouse where there is a small set of steps that takes you down to field level and hidden from the ballpark). I had seen that there was another morning picnic, which means that there's a better chance of players lingering on in the back after the Mets complete BP. With the Mets, sometimes, we just have to cling to things like that in order to get autographs. I did manage to get Pedro Feliciano and Jeremy Hefner in that corner (maybe I'll remember this for 2014). And we were this close to a Johan Santana autograph. He was signing and taking pictures with the fans at the picnic, came over towards the steps to talk to another group (this is an area just past the top of the LF upper terrace and just past the back entrance to the clubhouse). And we waited, with the stairs getting a bit more crowded. And a beer spilled down from up top, and Johan went inside. And that was it.
The big attraction was that TV host Regis Philbin was there to throw out the first pitch. And he came out of the Mets dugout to warm up on the field and was holding court for the fans, even posing for a few photos. Like the Mets, Regis had a green version of the Mets BP jersey and hat for St. Patrick's Day. Regis did his thing, even staying with Terry Collins as an honorary coach for the first two innings. And Jon Niese did his thing warming up for Opening Day. The Mets lost, but the results don't count. Niese pitched well.
After the game, I did grab an autograph from fan favorite Mets broadcaster Howie Rose. Howie has a new book out, but I don't have it yet in order to have it signed.
And it was Sunday in Spring Training. That means Bowling Night!! Which meant dinner at Duffy's first (like we need an excuse to eat at Duffy's). Players sometimes come into Duffy's to watch a game on one of the TVs. Jon Niese did, hanging with friends at a table watching his Ohio State game. And these are the candid times when they don't mind signing autographs for us fans. And after dinner, it was my first chance to see bowling night in person. The bowling alley, located at SuperPlay USA (which is attached to Duffy's Sports Bar, all just across the street and around the circle from some fan favorite hotels) is just about a 20 minute walk from the ballpark complex. Bowling started early, around 6pm. By the 4th week of it, a smaller group of players comes out (none of the "big boys - Wright, Santana, Ike, Tejada, Niese, Gee - were there). It was the coaching staff, GM, and Jeff Wilpon, a lot of the younger players, and even a couple of players' families and some of the ballpark staff from Tradition Field bowling. Even Al Jackson and his wife came out to watch. Bowling night is a good time, not just to hang out with friends watching the Mets, but to get autographs and pictures and interact with them in ways otherwise not seen at the ballpark. There was lots of it. And lots of autographs to be had.
I don't normally get autographs on a baseball or a baseball card or anything like that. I'm usually a simple person, going for a simple collection of autographs in the game program. But during my last game at Tradition Field, I got the lead ballpark entertainment person (you know, it's minor league, so they're entertaining the fans between most innings with trivia and prizes or throwing things into the crowd) to hook me up with one of the frisbees they were throwing around. So I decided to be a little different with Bowling night and get the inside of the frisbee autographed. I filled it up with a lot of the players and Mets personnel I had been missing (I was trying really hard to avoid duplicate autographs, and for most of these Mets, it's not worth the trouble to get them again).
LaTroy Hawkins, Travis d'Arnaud, Rob Carson, Colin Cowgill, Sandy Alderson, Brandon Hicks, Al Jackson, Scott Atchison, and Shaun Marcum. Other players like Mike Baxter, Jeremy Hefner, and Anthony Recker were also there. And even ex-Met Josh Thole made an appearance at the bowling alley, surprising both fans and Mets players/coaches. He didn't stay long, but he was certainly greeted warmly by both fans and his friends on the Mets.
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