Tuesday, March 31, 2009

this and that

I few items that crossed my eyes and ears tonight.

  • Alex Anthony moves to Citi Field to be the Public Address announcer. He also works (most) Mets games at Tradition Field. He worked Friday in Port St. Lucie, missed Saturday's game, and worked Sunday at Citi Field. It's always good to hear familiar voices, but I'm sure it'll be a bit weird.

  • Howie Rose finally made it down to Florida for one game. The Islanders have a couple days off before Wednesday's game in Washington DC. I'm guessing 5 games for Jiggs McDonald (which really isn't bad for the fans at all) covering for Howie.

  • SNY will have a new look for their Mets broadcasts this season. I read about that here. I saw a promo for Friday's exhibition game at Citi Field, which I'm guessing will be the debut of the new graphics, etc. The promo was a new style (pretty good looking one too) and not the old style that they've used for a couple years up to this spring.

  • After tonight's game on WFAN, the next broadcast of a Mets game anywhere will be Friday night from Citi Field.

I need to make some design improvements, and I really want to post my tales of the final 2 games at Shea before opening day and my photos from Spring Training.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Spring Training vacation Final thoughts

one last thing I forgot to mention about Ft. Lauderdale stadium. It's a dump. I've played at high school fields/stadiums that are nicer than this place. And these facilities are in the northeast, not a southern city where nice weather leads to nice high school stadiums.

it's the 2nd year in a row that I've followed the Mets to a Grapefruit League stadium worthy of being torn down, gotten caught in the rain, and left to catch a flight home (all in the same day).

I already have thoughts on next year. Camp out at Disney for a couple days, with day trips to Clearwater (Phillies), Lakeland (Tigers), Kissimmee (Astros) and Disney (Braves), to get to see a couple good stadiums that I don't get too often, then head down to Port St. Lucie (another new hotel opening soon), Ft. Pierce, Vero Beach, or Palm City (2 new hotels right off I-95) for a week.

Man I miss Dodgertown. For those of you who do miss Dodgertown, maybe seeing these photos will help you knowing that at least one piece lives on. For those unfamiliar with Dodgertown, this guy is a beer vendor (cold water at times today as well) who wears that big hat, and blows a whistle to get people's attention. I've been told (back at Dodgertown) that he would drive up from Ft. Lauderdale 2 hours to work Dodgers games and also worked at Ft. Lauderdale stadium on other days, as well as Marlins at Dolphins Stadium. All the vendors for the Orioles wear an Adam Jones jersey-t-shirt.

Game 4 recap

Not much to say from today on the live blog because there wasn't much room to move around.

Game 4 - Mets vs. Orioles @ Ft. Lauderdale
I get to the park, go down for BP, and I will use the word with pun intended that I had to sweat it out to get Jerry Manuel's autograph. Very hot and muggy in Ft. Lauderdale earlier today. Jerry was the only one willing to sign on the dugout side of the Mets sideline. A few signed down on the bullpen side.
    At Ft. Lauderdale stadium, the seating sections are different admissions (different entrances and you can't go between them) to be along the bullpen in LF and to be along the dugout at 3B. I was int he main seating area which has access to be behind the dugouts.

Anyway, Jerry did sign after BP, but he took a chair just outside the dugout and sat down to sign. He did sign for a while, but it was a long wait before this even happened. And where he sat, it was a restricted area, so he alternated between individuals being allowed in to hand him something, and a lady sitting in that area being courier. I was one of the last to get one through her, after a long wait, and she really got tired of it quickly. I did give her one of my waters for all her troubles. She deserved it.

I saw the (weather) radar before I left Port St. Lucie at 9am, and knew there was rain coming. I couldn't judge how quickly it would come, or how long it would take, but it was coming. Down the coast. I figured rain in St. Lucie by 10am, so I decided not to see the players left behind working out (expecting there to be nothing to see outdoors).

The rain got to Ft. Lauderdale just before 1st pitch. For some reason, they started playing. Alternating between heavy rain and just steady rain for about an hour. Play was stopped with Pelfrey facing 2 batters in the bottom of the 1st. I wish I had good video of what I'm about to mention - maybe photos later (though it doesn't quite convey the blooper in what I will describe). The grounds crew had quite a bit of trouble getting the tarp on the field. Maybe 10 minutes, with the tarp getting stuck covering only a little bit of the infield. They had to get extra bodies, and drag it back to the LF wall to fix it, before getting it covered. Lots of puddles on the infield and warning track. I really expected the game to be called after that. Pelfrey was actually pulled before the game was delayed, with no new pitcher coming in before the delay. The Orioles radio team actually left the stadium during the delay expecting play not to resume. I stayed and watched. And at about 2pm, the skies cleared, the grounds crew got out there (still with some trouble closing the tarp in LF, rolling it up, and getting the rolled tarp back along the fence). They got the field dried (it's Florida, with the humidity, it probably helped matters), and got play resumed at about 2:45, after about a 90 minute delay.

From there, the Mets were down 3-1 in the middle of the 6th inning when I had to leave to catch my flight home (to which, i probably arrived 20 minutes before scheduled boarding time, and the flight is delayed 2 1/2 hours).

Opening day is a week away.

Rain Delay

Bot 1st

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

A little reminder of Shea

Game 3 recap

Game 3 - Marlins vs. Mets @ Port St. Lucie
Let's start by saying that it was a beautiful day for baseball. This is what I look for when I come to Florida (and it doesn't usually matter what teams I watch or what stadium I'm in when the weather is like this).

At last night's game, there was a bit of a buzz (helped by ushers) about getting autographs during the morning pre-game workout on the back fields of the Tradition Field complex. "Come at 9:30" is what I heard at least a few times. There were quite a few people there that early. This is the type of drawing power that the Mets have in Spring Training. But they didn't open the practice fields. They were telling us a little after 9am when you come in to the parking lot that they won't open up. It makes sense - it's a day game after a night game, so they won't be working out as early as they normally do. But I got there at about 9:20am hoping to be able to go to the back. No such luck.

So it's hanging out by Gate A and the media entrance. Gary Cohen came back and forth a few times, stopping (or getting stopped) to sign a few of those times. I think that makes 3 for me overall. He's a nice guy.

Around 10:30am the crowd waiting on line to get really swells up (basically, a sellout today). And around 11am there was a bit of a buzz when Ralph Kiner arrived in his parking space, and security set up a line for autographs for him. That was worth leaving the front of the line to wait for about 30 minutes to get his autograph. I wish I could remember what I said to him or what he said back.
    My assessment of Ralph is that he's old. Sorry to say. He talked and wrote very slow. The actual signature is very readable and a very good one. And he still sounds good on air.

Inside the stadium, there was the expectation of getting somewhere between very little to nothing. That's about right. That's why I didn't mind staying outside for Ralph Kiner. During the Marlins BP, their star player Hanley Ramirez spotted a Marlins fan over by the Mets bullpen, and come over to sign a few. He came back a few minutes later to work the line, basically all the way down from the bullpen home plate over to the Mets dugout. Weird to see the visitor player come to the home team fans for a warm reception. So I got his autograph.

For the game, Dillon Gee went 3.1 innings before running out of gas in the 4th. some good relief, some was better than others, and a 4-run 3rd inning gave the Mets the win.

One more game tomorrow in Ft. Lauderdale. Maybe a stop at Mets practice before I head down there.

Mets Win


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Pitching Change

One Marlin signed on the Mets side. Gee 3 good, 1 bad innings

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Coming Up

More on Ralph Kiner later

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Waiting to get in. Saw Gary Cohen

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They Told Us 9 30

No public workout today

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Game 2 in the books

Picking up the recap of Day 1 from last night...

Game 2 - Nationals vs. Mets @ Port St. Lucie
It was on to Port St. Lucie for game 2. Arriving at the ballpark (after a brisk 15 minute walk from the hotel) at 3:30pm for a 7:10pm game. Over to the team store to see what t-shirts they had in stock. i needed something to wear for Saturday and Sunday.

We don't get into the back fields until 4pm. Different from prior seasons, the team is warming up on the practice field who's centerfield is adjacent to the centerfield from the big stadium (they had always used the one adjacent to the clubhouse and parking lot). fans were allowed to go deeper inside the complex to see the team. after gym class (streching), they broke up into groups for different drills. I looked like fans were allowed to stay inside until 5pm, instead of 4:30pm which I had remembered. But they're working, so nobody signed (I have gotten one autograph out there during this point from Korean import Jae Seo in 2004, and teammates got on him for it afterwards).

Into the stadium, where several thousand fans got to watch the Nationals take BP, and mostly ignore the fans (to be fair, it was all our fans on the Mets side of the field), and then just sit and wait with music playing. Waiting until the point in the night when the Mets make an appearance to ignore the fans. It's getting kind of crazy who we usually don't even get acknowledged. sometimes they say they have to work (which is usually true).

I've gotten an autograph at every Spring game I've been to except for Legends Field (where it's strictly forbidden) and a few rainouts. I always knew that streak, if/when it ends, would end at Tradition Field. so i have to sweat out another long night trying to find an opening during the game for an autograph.

it's on to dinner time, picture time, and in the background, first pitch. Our ace, Johan, going in the game. For time's sake, it's a quick game. I got my "nighttime" photos, my real italian ices (best cold treat in the Grapefruit league), and got to watch a very fast ballgame. it moved on the pace of about 4 innings per hour, with Johan going 7 of them.

I know my only shot at an autograph is in the bullpen, late in the game, so it's now a matter of getting around the ushers to find a seat down there. Good ol' Nelson Figueroa was down there, and promised me an autograph after the 3rd out (i asked during a pitching change. i know they can't do it during actual play). but, at the inning change, he had to go to work warming up the right fielder and blocking for the guys throwing in the bullpen. no luck. After the game, a rare signing in the bullpen, Darren O'Day. He stayed for at least a few minutes and signed, so i could finally go home without having to stalk the player's parking lot.

Mets win 4-1, Johan goes 7, K-Rod made it interesting in the 8th (oy), and Feliciano in the 9th. I can't wait to catch the archived broadcast to hear Keith and Ron solo (although Kevin Burkhardt was in the ballpark).

End of one long day at the ballparks.

Friday, March 27, 2009

One long day in the books

A very long day. Let's recap.

Game 1 - Orioles vs. Marlins @ Jupiter
Small crowd, mostly O's fans and Cards fans with nothing to do for the day (Cardinals, who share Roger Dean Stadium with the Marlins were on the other coast in Ft. Myers losing to the Red Sox).

A few changes at Roger Dean Stadium since I was last there. Gates now open 90 minutes before the game (11:30am for a 1:05 game) instead of 2 hours pre-game. So there's no chance to see the home team take BP. They also changed the concessionaire, so the food is different. I was looking forward to one of my favorites - a cherry snow cone. That wasn't there. The hot dogs weren't that good (it actually had a beer-like taste to it).

Those things aside, it was a slow moving game. I left at 2:30pm after only 3 1/2 innings. O's weren't great about autographs, and I didn't look much to the other side of the field where the Marlins were. I did get Jeff Conine (I think it was him. he's not on any roster, but the signature looks like his name) after doing an interview for a sports talk station in the concourse after Marlins BP. And I got an O's prospect Matt Wieters who signed for a good long time in their dugout after their BP.

The entire time that I was there, my thought process revolved around getting around the stadium to take pictures and what time to leave the game to head to Tradition Field.

The longer half of the day will come after sleep.

Happy Recap

Put it in the books - 4-1 METS

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Quick Game

1:05 in, 5 innings done

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Waiting to get into Tradition Field

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BP done, no autographs

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Game 2

Gym class on field 7

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On The Road

Mid 4th - heading to PSL

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End Of BP

2 autographs, no balls

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Must Wait

Gates open @ 11:30 now

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Game 1

In Jupiter - O's Marlins

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

I loved Dodgertown, but I love Port St. Lucie

I'm here in Port St. Lucie (sorry if that gets annoying, but it's a personal victory for me to even be able to be in Florida this Spring Training), and I was walking around outside in the area off NW Peacock Blvd. thinking about how the area has changed since I last spent a night in Port St. Lucie in 2004. It's been a long long time. Every year, as I've driven into Tradition Field, I've marveled at how much more the area has grown. A new shopping center, new hotels (one of them coming soon), entertainment. This whole area was nothing in 2004, aside from the Friendly's (where I had desert tonight), the Hampton Inn, and the corner gas stations, this block was basically empty. (I was later reminded by some regulars here that the Spring Hill Suites where I'm staying was here back then, and actually assumed this name in 2001)

But I realized how much different the trip is when you're staying in a hotel filled with your kind - METS FANS. It's just so much better when you're staying within walking distance of the ballpark that is your "home" park, and there's lots of others here with me.

Dodgertown was a very special place. Very unique. The best place there ever was in Spring Training. And Vero Beach was good to me for 3 years. I loved staying there.

But I love being in Port St. Lucie.

One other note - back home (in NJ, but the same would be true in NY and CT), you have a mix of Mets fans and Yankees fans. Hats, jerseys, etc., for both teams. Here, it's only Mets. You really don't see any Yankees stuff anywhere (even the local Walgreens had a few Mets-themed items, but nothing for the Yankees). That's kind of nice.

Spring Training live blogging

If you follow the RSS feed or have visited the site itself in the last day, you've seen a couple of posts that came from my cell phone. as primitive as the phone itself may be, it will allow me to post a few items while at the ballparks over the next 3 days. i've always wanted to try to do this. i'll try to put in a recap from the games when i get back to the hotel each night, but it may give you a sense of what goes on from a fan's perspective trying to get autographs, pictures, and baseballs at a spring game. the mini-posts will also help me remember what i did during the day - something i've had trouble with the past few years.

I will also post (some? all?) pictures from each game each night.
  • someone playing in Jupiter - Friday 1pm, gates open at 11am

  • Mets in Port St. Luice - Friday 7pm, gates open 5pm, I hope to be there at 3:30pm

  • Mets in Port St. Lucie - Saturday 1pm, gates open 11am, I hope to be there at 9:30am

  • Mets in Ft. Lauderdale - Sunday 1pm, gates open 11am

  • all that said, i experienced one of my favorite non-private moments in life today. it's that moment when i've been "on the road" for several hours en route from my apartment in NJ to my rental car in Ft. Lauderdale where I get handed the keys to the car, and the vacation is now in my hands. i think it feels even better when it's a vacation that gets repeated every year (either through Orlando or Ft. Lauderdale).

    enjoy Keith and Ron without adult supervision tomorrow night on SNY. i'll look forward to the archive on MLB.TV later in the weekend.

    What in the name of Sir Allan H. Selig is going on here

    I saw on ESPNEWS at dinner tonight that Ollie Perez blames the WBC for his woes this spring. Where do I begin?

    You're a professional. You know what it takes to get you into shape for the season (yes, the season. the 6 months in the year that you get PAID to play baseball). you should know what to expect in the WBC (look at the schedule, and know you are NOT the only pitcher on the team).

    it appears that Olliver Perez is not as smart as some other pitchers who CHOSE not to participate in the WBC.

    I'll let the other bloggers take it from there.

    Half blog hlf Twiter

    I have arrived in beautiful Port St. Lucie, FL

    (the title of the post should have been "Half blog, Half Twitter", but my cell phone would only allow 20 characters in the title)

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    Wednesday, March 25, 2009

    Live Blogging

    If you can read this, it means I can blog from Florida

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    Tuesday, March 24, 2009

    quick update

    I haven't blogged in a couple of weeks. I've been very busy with work this month. A few items of note.

    • The skyline from the top of the old Shea right field scoreboard lives on - it will be atop a concession stand at the new ballpark, in centerfield I believe. Seven Train to Shea has a photo and a story about my new favorite concession stand (and thanks to loge13.com for pointing the way). There's also a bit on it from Mets Guy In Michigan.

    • metsgrrl.com also has a photo of the skyline's new home in a very long, detailed post about our new baseball stadium, with lots of photos. The Mets have been taking ticket holders on tours, so there are a lot of reviews coming out now.

    • From what I gathered at the end of Sunday's game, Friday night's Spring Training telecast will have Keith and Ron without adult supervision (no Gary, no Kevin in the booth). That should be very interesting. It's too bad I will be at the game and cannot actually listen to them. Thank goodness for the mlb.tv package so I can get the archived broadcast when I get back to the hotel. If anyone has paid more attention than I to the broadcasts this spring and knows what's up with Friday's game, please share.

    • Team U.S.A. lost in the Semifinals in the WBC. And Joe Morgan made some execellent points on the ESPN broadcasts Saturday and Sunday night that I wish I had a transcript of. Seriously. They were talking about reasons why the tournament is played in the wrong time of year and I think also a bit on why Team U.S.A. couldn't advance further. I could write more on that, but not now, and very quickly, the whole thing will be out of our minds for another couple years.

    Maybe I'll have time to write a good post about being at the "Santana Game" with the GaryKeithandRon group at Shea before I leave for Florida on Thursday. And maybe I won't.

    I'll try to post photos and my thoughts of the whole Mets team in real time when I see them in Port St. Lucie in person Friday and Saturday, and whatever part of the team I see in Ft. Lauderdale on Sunday.

    Wednesday, March 4, 2009

    World Baseball Classic redeux

    I should mention after my post last night on what I think of the WBC that I did attend 2 games in 2006 when they played the first round at the Disney Wide World of Sports complex in Florida (Grapefruit League home to the Atlanta Braves).

    Australia (who's uniforms looked a lot like the Oakland Athletics) vs. Italy (who's uniforms and caps looked a lot like the LA Dodgers) - where I saw a lot of Italians attend the game to root for Italy. Piazza was still playing at that point. Not much of a game.

    Australia vs. Venezuela - that was something. It was a blowout in favor of Venezuela, and watching their fans really get into the action was probably what the tournament is all about.

    New poll question - do you like the WBC, in its current form, taking away from Spring Training, with Spring Training taking away from the WBC?

    Tuesday, March 3, 2009

    World Baseball Classic

    Lots of blogers and analysts have made remarks about the WBC, so I'll throw in my 2 cents.

    I like it...in a vaccuum. I've always liked seeing professional players compete for their countries in a tournament that will have a team you may want to root for, and lots of games involving other teams that are well worth watching.
      Among others, Hockey does this every once in a while, going back to the days of the Soviet Red Army team against Canada's NHLers in the Canada Cup, and now with the Olympics and World Cup of Hockey. A well diversified league in terms of countries represented should show off their assets in a true international competition.

      Basketball has their World Championships and Olympics, Soccer has its World Cup, and even Tennis has the Davis Cup tournament where players represent their countries in a team setting.

      Baseball is doing this too. And well they should. There is a lot of great talent that comes from many different places. The Olympics just don't satisfy the taste for the great competition, mainly because the top level pros (at least from MLB) don't compete. Baseball will sit out of the next Olympic Games (2012 in London). Enter the World Baseball Classic.

        As an interesting side note, this year, each of the 8 WBC teams training in Florida (sharing a complex with a Grapefruit League team for a couple days) is playing 3 exhibition games against MLB teams (each MLB team playing at least 1 such game). 24 such games over today, tomorrow, and the next day. If I had gone to Florida for this week, this would have been an interesting side trip to try to get around to see different matchups over the 3 days. The Cactus League is hosting 4 teams with similar scheduling now, and the 2 winners from the Japan bracket later in the month.

        Today had Derek Jeter playing against the New York Yankees, Toronto hosting Canada, and later is Albert Pujols sitting while his teams - the Cardinals and Dominican Republic - face off (he decided that he couldn't be on either side for the game).

    But it's just not done right. This is the height of competition, and it's being held at a point in time when players are just getting warmed up. The hitters are just getting their eye, and the pitchers, despite their head-start on training camp, are barely at the 3 inning point in a game.

    It also takes away from Spring Training. Teams, especially after tweaks, trades, signings and/or new managers picked up during the off season, are trying to find their fit while players are leaving for as much as 3 weeks. If you're like me, who visits Spring Training every March to see the players and get autographs, this takes away from the fan experience. Who am I seeing on the Mets? Not the biggest stars.

    Another reason why the WBC is bad in its place (and may never have a real place outside the vaccuum) - there have been a number of players who pulled out of the WBC, for various reasons, in favor of being with their pro team. Most of those reasons have to do with insurance the pro teams have on their biggest named players, or the player just isn't quite ready to be playing at that level.

    I love the irony in that - the WBC is a hole in the integrity of Spring Training and what it's about, and Spring Training is a hole in the integrity of the WBC and what it's about.

    So when can you have oen of these tournaments? In real life. I don't mean the answer to be in a video game.

    • We see what happens when it's played during Spring Training

    • Play it during the season - are you kidding? Do you stop the season for a month (then cut out about 28 games for each team, cut paychecks, etc.)? Do you play that part of the season with, dare I say it, replacement players? I don't think so!

    • What about playing it after the World Series? Interesting. There have been some MLB All-Star team tours of Japan taking place in November. But to pull together a World Competition may be tough because a lot of players have some sort of surgery or prescribed rest after the season. There's always the risk of injury to pitchers.

    • How about finishing up in late February, where the players of the final 2 teams come a few days late to their pro clubs but are already in shape? Ya, maybe, but you don't have players, or especially pitchers, in regular season form, so it will look a lot like the joke that goes on during Spring Training.

    • Do we try to go some time in December or January, in the middle of the off season? I could make points that are a mix of the arguments against the November and February ideas. But I won't repeat myself.

    The only good time to have the WBC is during the next work stoppage, whenever that happens to be.

    Share your thoughts.

    Sunday, March 1, 2009

    Shea seats

    I got my seats today! I even found an extra seat bottom in the box. I need to find something to steady the seats so they don't rock forward. Some have posted various things like seat feet, which I now need to go find. But they look pretty good. A little tape that I need to remove and some cleaning that needs to be done. I need to move some furniture to make them fit better (I plan on using them to watch games from). But I have my seats.

    Ralph Kiner is still alive

    Well, it's always good to say this from early Spring Training broadcasts every year. I've heard Ralph will be on the broadcast on PIX11 (WPIX and affiliates) later in the game.

    I should put up a poll of the favorite Mets broadcasters.

    Update 4:35pm - I've watched some of Ralph. He sounds like the same Ralph Kiner of the past few years (he hasn't sounded like the Ralph Kiner who did play by play in quite a few years). I had to check this - he's 86 years old. Not bad. I still wish they'd have him on more.