Escape from Queens

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Leaving Citi Field wasn’t a ton of fun for most fans last night. Just as the Home Run Derby was ending a fire broke out at the 103rd street station on the 7 train, stopping subway service back to the city.

While this stranded thousands, at least temporarily, we elite members of the media had nothing to fear, for there is a media shuttle bus. A few fellow scribes and I made our way to the bus, giving lip service to how dreadful it was for those poor, poor people stuck at Willets Point, but really thanking our lucky stars that we had an air conditioned bus waiting to ferry us back to Manhattan.

But they weren’t all poor, poor people. Some were resourceful. As we were getting on the bus several people wearing Mets and All-Star gear, some with kids, subtly inquired where the bus was going and, when they heard “Midtown,” just walked on board. The idea was clearly to make someone kick them off rather than ask if they could ride. No one was checking credentials.

Can’t lie: really loved this. Partially because I was near the front of the line getting on the bus and knew I had a seat. Partially because it presented the possibility that some member of the sporting press would get stuck on the sidewalk when the driver said the bus was full. I was hoping against hope that some seasoned columnist would be left shaking his fist at the driver, shouting “don’t you know who I am?!”

Alas it didn’t come to that. Much of the media was still back at the park writing stories. The bus left with four empty seats. My hopes of seeing something akin to the last helicopter leaving the American embassy in Saigon were dashed.

Still: it was kind of fun to see New Yorkers doing what they do best: pretty much what they want unless and until someone or something stopped them. It’s the only way to be in this city, I figure. Otherwise you’re probably going to be toast.

Heading up to Connecticut and the NBC Sports mothership this morning. Back at Citi Field for the All-Star Game this afternoon. Between now an then I’ll be making my escape contingency plans for tonight.

Check out Minute Maid Park without Tal’s Hill

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During the offseason, the Astros finally got rid of Tal’s Hill in center field. It was a throwback to older stadiums, some of which had uneven topography — Crosley Field, namely. As unique as it was in the age of cookie cutter sports stadiums, most of us were holding our collective breaths hoping no one ruptured an Achilles or suffered another brutal injury trying to navigate the hill while attempting to catch a fly ball.

We saw what it looked like during reconstruction:

And now, via Julia Morales of ROOT Sports, we see what it looks like after all the work has been done:

The Astros are allowing fans with Lexus Field Club tickets to stand on the new warning track to watch batting practice and shag fly balls as well, Morales notes. Lexus Field Club is where Tal’s Hill used to be.

Good riddance, Tal’s Hill.

Jhoulys Chacin will start Opening Day for the Padres

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Jhoulys Chacin will start on Opening Day, April 3 against the Dodgers in Los Angeles, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. It will be Chacin’s second Opening Day start, the other coming in 2013 with the Rockies against the Brewers. He’ll be the fifth different Padres pitcher in as many years to start on Opening Day.

Chacin, 29, inked a one-year, $1.75 million contract with the Padres in December. The right-hander spent the 2016 season with the Braves and Angels, compiling an aggregate 4.81 ERA with a 119/55 K/BB ratio in 144 innings.

Lin notes that Chacin will be followed in the rotation by Clayton Richard and Jered Weaver. It will be an interesting rotation, to say the least, as it will arguably be the worst in baseball.