Friday, February 24, 2017

30 Years As a Mets Fan – Part 4

30 Years As a Mets Fan – Part 4

The start of Spring Training

“People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.” – Rogers Hornsby, Baseball Hall of Famer and original Mets coach
And then one day each year, spring would slowly but surely arrive at my window. It would start with the first live local news reports from Port St. Lucie, seen on channel 4 or on channel 2. Nowadays, SNY is there 5 nights a week. But this is just practice. It’s a mirage. And then one day you turn on your radio and “Meet the Mets” is playing at the top of a broadcast. And you know that meant Bob Murphy’s voice would soon follow.

“Well hi everybody. This is Bob Murphy with Gary Cohen. Baseball has been asleep for a while. Welcome, the game is coming back.” – Bob Murphy, Mets Hall of Fame broadcaster, introducing the first Spring Training game in 1998
The way I remember it as a kid, it was always the first Friday in March that the Mets would take the field for the first time in the new season, and that WFAN would usually be there to cover it. I would set the clock radio in my bedroom to turn on at 1pm, even though I was in school. I didn’t want to waste any time, or even simply forget when I got home from school, even though the game might be in the 7th or 8th inning. I longed to hear the voices. And that was just in case I didn’t have my Walkman to listen to the game while I was walking home from school.

The years have blended together. I have one generic memory of this day which was probably the same every year growing up. I lost it a few years years when I was away at school. WFAN in the daytime didn’t have reception in New England and the Internet hadn’t been invented yet. In college, and as an adult, it became a bit harder because things like classes and work got in the way of that first spring game. But even if it’s for only 5 minutes, I make sure to listen to that first broadcast, now anchored by Howie Rose on WOR radio, and usually played through my computer. It’s not enough for me to join that broadcast in progress or catch it archived later in the day. I need the feeling of hearing Meet the Mets and Howie Rose live.

Same thing for the first spring TV broadcast. Seeing the Mets for the first time might have to wait until Saturday or Sunday, depending on the WWOR (or later, MSG/FSNY) schedule. I couldn’t wait until it was time when I could hear Ralph Kiner’s voice or that “Fresh from Florida” intro that Channel 9 had at one point. Now, it’s Gary Cohen on SNY and PIX11, but it’s the same idea.

There is a different sound to a Spring Training broadcast. It sounds a bit more relaxed in those smaller ballparks. There isn’t as much crowd noise. I swear at times I could hear a conversation from the stands. The games don’t mean anything, and the players and fans seem to know it. So do the broadcasters. Even they sound more relaxed. It’s just a warm up, forgotten at the end of the day. But it’s the sounds of summer while the calendar is technically still on winter.

I managed to grab the 3 audio files in this story from my Walkman during Spring Training 1998. The second one is just a few minutes of Bob Murphy and Gary Cohen calling most of a half inning from a game against the Cardinals in Jupiter. The third is just more Bob Murphy, this time throwing it to a commercial break.