Scenes from Spring Training: Meet The Mets Part 1

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Niesen PFP.jpgSunday was spent at Tradition Field for the Mets-Nationals game. There’s so much more going on than just a game, however, so why don’t we run it down.  Lots of bite-sized observations, so this will be in multiple parts throughout the day.

I arrived at the ballpark early, hoping to get my bearings before it got too crowded. As I pulled into the parking lot and approached a woman in a Mets jacket to ask her where I could park she started yelling at me: “MOVE TO THE SIDE! MOVE TO THE SIDE!  THERE’S A PLAYER COMING!”  Sure enough, a player in a Chrysler 300 was behind me — no idea who it was, to be honest — and apparently players aren’t expected to have to deal with traffic.  Once the player passed the lady was nice enough to tell me where to.  Again.

I got my media credentials and started wandering. First stop: indoor batting cages. After seeing Bay and Francoeur hit, first base prospect Ike Davis stepped in. He’s quite tall and hits the ball really, really hard.  He stepped out of the cage and onto the walkway near where I was standing. As Nick Evans started taking his hacks, Davis took a couple of swings. He was nowhere close to hitting me, but because I’m a nervous newbie not used to gigantic people swinging bats in my vicinity, I flinched noticeably. Davis stifled a laugh and said “Don’t worry. I’m a professional.”

Past the batting cages are the back fields where players drill and a big grassy common area where fans can watch the action.  There weren’t too many people there yet. I asked a security guard if this was a typical crowd for a Sunday morning. He said “yeah, it’s uush-ally smawler on Sunday until around noon. You know. Choich.”  Probably worth noting that just about every employee at Tradition Field is a New Yorker.

I watched pitcher’s fielding practice for about ten minutes.  It’s kind of hypnotic. One after the other, faking a pitch, turning and running towards first, fielding the coach’s throw and then jogging to the back of the line again. After a while I started making a game of it in my mind, trying to see who was the fastest to first and who was the slowest. Bobby Parnell was pretty quick. Eric Neisen, as you can see in the pic above, was catching the throw farther from the bag than you usually see pitchers do, so I’m going to call him the slow poke.

From PFP it was over to the bullpen, where Nelson Figueroa was throwing his scheduled session.  Figueroa seems like a fun guy.  A coach was standing behind the catcher calling each pitch a ball, a strike, a hit, or whatever, and each time it was anything but a strike Figueroa would jaw things back at him like “you’re blind,” or “like you’d know what a strike is,” or “that wasn’t a hit, Carlos dove for it in the gap and caught it. I got a no-hitter going.”  The catcher and the coach were dying laughing. When Figueroa was done he signed autographs for approximately 117 hours, smiling and saying something nice and personalized to every kid that was hanging around.

After watching Figueroa, I noticed David Wright was walking from a back field towards the clubhouse. As he did, a mother prodded her David Wright jersey-wearing son — who was no more than seven years old — to say hello to him.  The boy hesitated and looked back at his mom, unsure of himself. She nodded encouragement. He turned around and said “Mr. Wright!”  Wright slowed down, gave the boy a little finger pistol, a wink, and a “hey kiddo!” and continued jogging toward the clubhouse.  The boy broke out into the biggest smile you’ve ever seen, turned to his mom and said “Did you see that! Did you see that!” That boy will remember that moment until the day he dies.

It and the Figueroa thing were moments I needed. Why? Because I was about to hit the media room and press box, and as you’ll see in our next couple of installments, there aren’t many aw-gosh, aw-gee warm and fuzzy baseball moments when you’re on the turf of the professional sporting press.

And That Happened: Wednesday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Indians 12, White Sox 0: The Indians gave Corey Kluber 12 runs of support which, c’mon, that’s a bit of overkill, innit? To make it fair they should be forced to begin all Corey Kluber starts with, like, negative three runs. Or make him pitch with his left hand or something. As it was, he allowed one hit over seven shutout innings. Jason Kipnis and Jose Ramirez each homered and drove in three. The entire Cleveland team was then referred to The Hague for crimes against compassion.

Yankees 7, Mariners 5: Seattle had to feel pretty dang good being up 5-0 after their half of the fifth inning. They shouldn’t have. New York clawed back with two on an Aaron Judge RBI single in the bottom half, got one more with a Didi Gregorius sac fly in the seventh and then Gary Sanchez tied things up with a two-run shot in the eighth. Then, with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and extras looming, Gregorius reached base and Giancarlo Stanton reached for the lumber:

Ballgame.

Note: if you get annoyed at the concept of who is a “True Yankee” and who is not a “True Yankee” or the larger notion that players who join the Yankees don’t really become part of the team until they’ve delivered some sort of signature moment, you may want to avoid all coverage of the Yankees today, because it’s only 6:30AM and I’ve already seen like five different articles and video features playing that jazz.

Blue Jays 5, Braves 4: J.A. Happ‘s audition for contending teams continued, as he wins his fifth straight start, almost going the distance in doing so. He wasn’t sparkling — he allowed four runs and six hits — but he didn’t walk anyone and struck out eight dudes. Between that and the long start, it’s as if Toronto is showcasing him in a window display with the words “traditional workhorse, nothing flashy but built solidly” written on the glass. “Go ahead, take him for a spin,” the salesman says. “I’ll be talking to my manager to see if I can get you his best deal!”

Phillies 4, Cardinals 3Odubel Herrera hit a go-ahead solo home run off of Cardinals reliever Sam Tuivailala in the bottom of the seventh inning and the bullpen actually showed up to hold that lead, allowing the Phillies to go home with the W. Herrera has now homered in four consecutive games and in five of his last six. Which, if my experience with Philly talk radio is still up-to-date, means that only 60% of the callers will be complaining about Herrera’s “work ethic” and “hot dogging” today instead of the usual 85%.

Cubs 4, Dodgers 0: Jon Lester was fantastic, twirling seven shutout innings. Kyle Schwarber went deep and a couple of RBI singles and a fielder’s choice later this one was in the books. Javier Baez had two doubles and a triple, scored a run, stole a base and flashed some decent leather. He just needed to get hit by a pitch and, I dunno, sing the National Anthem to fill up every column of the scorecard. They have that on the scorecard, right?

Reds 5, Tigers 3: The Tigers led early and held the Reds to only two singles for the first five innings, but back-to-back homers from Scooter Gennett and Eugenio Suarez, followed by a later dinger by Adam Duvall, put Cincy over. Tyler Mahle won his fourth start of the month. It’s not a riveting competition, but he’s been the Reds’ best starter this year.

Athletics 12, Padres 4: Petco Park in San Diego is known as a pitcher’s park, but the ball flies there during day games before that marine layer rolls in. That was the case yesterday as the A’s hit five homers, going back-to-back twice. Franklin Barreto, Josh Phegley, Mark CanhaMatt Olson and Jed Lowrie all went deep for Oakland. Barreto and Phegley went back-to-back in the second, each hitting their first dinger of the season. Canha and Olson went back-to-back in the third.

Giants 6, Marlins 5Brandon Belt had three hits Gorkys Hernandez hit a two-run single during San Francisco’s five-run sixth inning and no one threw at anyone and no benches cleared. How refreshing. The Marlins behaved themselves and it’s almost as if the Giants realized that it’s not worth getting players injured just to protect the misguided notions of honor espoused by notorious red-ass Hunter Strickland.

Orioles 3, Nationals 0: Andrew Cashner and four relievers combined on a five-hit shutout and Mark Trumbo hit a two-run blast. There was a long rain delay here which chased Cashner after four and, if it had been longer and wetter, might’ve washed out the game entirely before it was official. The Baseball Gods have not smiled on the O’s much this year, but they at least did them this one solid and let this one resume.

Twins 4, Red Sox 1: Lance Lynn allowed only an unearned run in five innings and four relievers allowed the Red Sox bupkis over the final four. Max Kepler hit a two-run homer, Robbie Grossman hit a solo shot and Brian Dozier doubled in a run. The Twinkies have won four of five.

Astros 5, Rays 1: Charlie Morton allowed only an unearned run in six innings and three relievers allowed the Rays bupkis over the final three. Jose Altuve hit a homer, Jose Altuve also hit a solo shot and George Springer and Alex Bregman each homered. The Astros have won four of five.

Yeah, the games sometimes blend together for me. Sorry.

Rangers 3, Royals 2Austin Bibens-Dirkx — pitching to similarly hyphenated catcher Isiah Kiner-Falefa — pitched excellently into the seventh inning and Rougned Odor homered to give the Rangers their fifth straight win. The Royals lose for ninth straight time.

Rockies 10, Mets 8: Same score as Tuesday night. In this one New York led 3-0 at one point but such leads are meaningless at Coors Field, especially early. After blowing that they led once again — 8-6 in the fifth — but Ryan McMahon‘s three-run homer put the Rockies back on top to stay. These two teams have combined for 50 runs in three games. They still have one more to play in this series today. Everyone be aware of the location of your nearest fallout shelter.

Brewers vs. Pirates — POSTPONED:

The rain is falling through the mist
Of sorrow that surrounded me.
The sun could never thaw away
The the bliss that lays around me.

Let it rain, let it rain,
Let your love rain down on me.
Let it rain, let it rain,
Let it rain, rain, rain.