30 Years As a Mets Fan – Part 5
My first visit Spring TrainingFor those of you that know me, or have been following for a long time, you know that every March, I make the trip down to Port St. Lucie, Florida, to see Mets Spring Training. It’s something that I’ve been doing every year since 2004. But the first time I set foot at the ballpark in Port St. Lucie (then known as Thomas J. White Stadium) was in March of 1995.
Yes, THAT 1995. The one with the infamous replacement players.
1995 was the first year in which I had a break from school in March, and my dad decided it would be a good opportunity for the two of us to go to Florida to visit his parents (outside Ft. Lauderdale). I think he convinced me to go by promising me we could go see a couple baseball games. One was a Yankees-Red Sox game at old Ft. Lauderdale Stadium. This was during a time when Yankees-Red Sox games weren’t always must-see. It was also the last season for the Yankees in Ft. Lauderdale after almost 35 years. And the other game, with my 80-something year old grandparents in tow, was 90 minutes north in Port St. Lucie to see the Mets.
Getting there was one of those adventures from hell. Without thinking of the back fields or batting practice (like I do every day that I’m there now), I wanted to get there early because I just wanted to get there, like the little kid who just wanted to be at the ballpark just because it was there. But we got off to a slow start to the morning. And it was a long ride to get there. And I misread the map and had my dad move to Route 1 because that’s where the dot for “Port St. Lucie” was located. In case you don’t know the geography of the area, Route 1 is a road with traffic lights and is located about 8 miles away from the ballpark, while I-95 is an expressway and located in the ballpark’s shadow that also goes down to Ft. Lauderdale. So that little detour to Route 1 in Port St. Lucie added about 45 minutes to the ride to the ballpark. Then everybody walked slowly through the parking field/lot to the ticket office. It was torture.
But inside, it was pure joy. Here’s this ballpark which I’ve watched on TV every March since the Mets moved there in 1988, as the spring home of the Mets and the portal into the baseball season, right in front of me in living color. I have no memories of the game. That part doesn’t matter. It was an exhibition game between teams made up of scabs. Somewhere, I have the program and ticket stub, because I always have a program and ticket stub. And I have a few pictures. It was the only time I got to see old Thomas J. White Stadium before the first round of upgrades (which launched in 2004).