Results tagged ‘ New York Mets ’

DON’T catch that flight!!!

Catch that Plane!Mets outfielder Matt den Dekker had time to kill on Sunday. He had been called up for his first major league start of the season the previous day from the Triple-A affiliate. He no sooner arrived to join the team in Philadelphia then he was told he’d be returning to the 51s. Reportedly unable to catch the game on TV in his hotel (what kind of fleabag hotel did the Mets put him up in in Philly, anyhow??!!) he went out to check out the Liberty Bell and Center City environs prior to his evening flight back to Vegas. Good thing for the Mets that his return trip was cancelled. Let’s just say, he made the most of his time in Philly…and I don’t even know if he was a contributor to the new cheese-steak-eating contest numbers.

Hoop Dreams

basketball_baseball_sml2Absence makes the heart grow fonder, so the saying goes.  I know I personally am beside myself for the return of baseball to Citi Field.  However, my wandering eyes have been smitten by, gulp, basketball.

I’ve written a blog post comparing the success of the Wichita State Shockers to a successful orchestra.  You can read it here:

METaphorically Tweeting

The tweet by Greg Prince that was
the overture to subsequent METaphors.

I was there.

I WAS THERE!

But, through the immediacy of social media, there were others not at Citi Field tonight who were there with me nonetheless.

Yes, I was one of the lucky Mets fans to experience live tonight–from the front row of the Excelsior Level, right behind Home Plate–the first no-hitter in the history of the Mets franchise, pitched by Johan Santana.

But, as the number of zeroes on the scoreboard began to climb, so did the anxiety and the trepidation.  The angst was palpable:  I saw it in my daughter’s and my husband’s faces; I saw it six seats down from me in the intense concentration on the face of WFAN’s Evan Roberts as well as in the death grip he held on the railing in front of him.

But I also “heard” it loud and clear in the voices fairly shouting on Twitter and Facebook.

I try to put my phone away during game-time, for the most part.  I find that I miss too much of what’s going on in front of me if I don’t.

But with collective jitters permeating the atmosphere tonight, the distraction of my smart phone proved to be just the bit of short-term electronically-produced Xanax needed –at least while the Mets were at bat from about the sixth inning forward.  (Did anyone else think that the bottom of the eighth inning set yet another franchise record for the LONGEST half-inning EVER?!)

Checking Twitter and Facebook late in the game when Johann was not on the mound, I was surprised to see a thread of comments inspired by a single tweet by fellow Mets blogger Greg Prince, of Faith and Fear in Flushing fame, in which he compared the spectacle we were all witnessing–in the ballpark, home, and elsewhere–to the grand spectacle that is opera.

I couldn’t have agreed more with the analogy.  Truly, this evening’s event–with the pitcher in question having taken well over an entire season off for possibly career-ending surgery–was a story writ large.  A gran scena.

For stellar moments in sports history as well as those in the arena of musical performance, the crowd simply cannot contain itself.  “Jo- han!  Jo- han!” or “Bravi! Bravi!”:  the intensity and the passion are one and the same.  And the thrill of having shared that athlete’s/musician’s professional milestone is something to cherish and to be retold–in the dramatic and theatrical manner appropriate to the occasion.

Bravissimo, Johan!

Agitato et Con Fuoco

What comes to your mind when Jose Reyes…

  • …hits one of his signature triples?
  • …steals yet another base?
  • …flashes that infectious smile?
  • …has yet another multi-hit game?

The first thing you probably think–as I do–is, “We HAVE to SIGN HIM!!

But sometimes, watching Jose in action reminds me of another exciting performer.

In the world of opera.

Tribute to Dana Brand

Stefanie (sister), Dana & Sonia (daughter) Brand at Foley's

He seemed like a mensch.

I wish I could tell you more about him, but I only met him five days ago.

And now he’s gone.

Dana Brand was a professor at Hofstra University, an avid Mets fan and blogger, an author of two books on the Mets, a husband and father.

In the relatively small subset of Mets fans that is the blogging community, he was a collaborator with and supporter of many and a mentor to all.

As much as I loved reading his writing, it was even more of a delight to speak with him face to face on Saturday night.

My family and I, along with dozens of other Mets fans, were at Foley’s Sports Bar in Manhattan Saturday night for a charity event sponsored by the foundation of SNY-TV announcers Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez, and Ron Darling.

As much fun as it was to see the likes of Cohen and Darling tending bar and having them each pour a drink for me, the true highlight of the evening for me was the fact that I left that intimate gathering of like-minded people feeling that I had made a new friend: having recognized Dana from photos on his blog, I tentatively introduced myself. I needn’t have shown such temerity: he enthusiastically greeted me by name and told me how much he enjoyed reading my blog posts–a real compliment coming from someone with his literary credentials!

After introducing him to my family, the four of us talked about everything from the special relationships that can develop between fathers and daughters, the operas he had seen at the MET, as well as my daughter’s experiences in the MET Children’s Chorus. Clearly, he was interested in getting to know us better personally.

When the subject did turn to the Mets, he excitedly told us of a special event he was planning in celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Mets franchise to be held at Hofstra University. Dana seemed just as interested in sharing mutual remembrances of Mets history brought up by my husband Garry–a Mets fan from the team’s beginning and of Dana’s same generation. Garry enjoyed having the opportunity to tell Dana personally how much he had enjoyed reading both of his books.

I sensed Dana was appreciative of the favorable comments about his work. But Dana seemed to take particular delight when Garry turned to our daughter Melanie and, while pointing to Dana, informed Melanie, “This guy was THERE for Agee’s home run. He SAW it!!”

It was with obvious pride that Dana later introduced us to his lively, charming daughter and sister. As much passion and zeal as he obviously had for his team, it was very clear what a devoted and proud father he was as well.

Before we left Foley’s that night, we exchanged contact info with Dana, promising to meet up at Citi Field at a game in the near future.

It truly felt like we had met a real kindred spirit, and all of us agreed that we were so glad that we had made his acquaintance.

Dana passed away suddenly yesterday afternoon. I learned this early this afternoon through a Mets blog. Within a matter of hours, the sad news passed through the Twitter community and has resulted in countless other blog posts in honor of Dana. Word had obviously made its way to the SNY TV booth at Wrigley Field in Chicago as, watching this afternoon’s game on TV, we heard Gary Cohen make a brief tribute, mentioning Dana’s passing and what a devoted fan, blogger, and author he was.

In reading these blog posts, it is clear to me that I missed a real opportunity not having made Dana’s acquaintance sooner. He was obviously a person who had been a positive influence in many, many lives.

My family and I wish to add our condolences to Dana’s family and friends.

Blades of Glory

A recent New York Times sports article inspires the retelling of a story from opera.

The Long Goodbye

_348476_teletubbies.jpgHow to best describe Game 162 at Citi Field yesterday?

Limited to a one-word description, I guess I’d have to pick “surreal”.
In spite of the disappointing season and the very small gathering of fans (that is to say, not a crowd), those there did not seem the least bit dispirited.
The CitiField staff–from security to ushers to elevator attendants–seemed to possess that giddy “last day of school” feeling.  In fact, in talking with many of the staff with whom we’ve made acquaintance over the past two years, my family and I found out that many of them go on to work at Madison Square Garden or other venues.
The temperature at game time was in the low 60s, winds were blowing in briskly from right field, and batters for each of the non-contending teams were swinging at just about anything.  For players and staff catching flights home that night, not to mention Manager Jerry Manuel and General Manager Omar Minaya whose dismissals were likely to happen Monday (and did), the game probably couldn’t have concluded fast enough.
As luck would have it, though, the game went into extra innings.  
I’d like to say that we stayed because we just couldn’t bring ourselves to say goodbye to CitiField until the very last out had been recorded, but I would be lying.
With my daughter–a professional singer–having upper respiratory issues, it seemed downright foolhardy to stay.  
But we had reason to stay.  We had true incentive to stay until the last out was recorded, even–as we teased her–at the expense of our daughter’s health and singing career.  
We had an inducement compelling us to stay and watch the Mets “B Team”–those playing in extra innings after Manuel pulled Wright and Reyes in a gesture to earn them fan recognition:
 
Prior to the game, my family and I–along with twenty-four other random fans–had been approached and asked to participate in the “Shirts Off Our Backs” campaign, presented by the Mets Marketing Department as part of its Fan Appreciation activities.  Moments after walking off the field at the conclusion of the game, each player would be removing his jersey, autographing it, and relinquishing it to be given away to a fan, the Mets marketing spokesperson told us.
The spokesperson did feel it necessary to caution us that it was a random drawing out of a hat.  “You might get David Wright’s jersey,” she said, “but you might get Joaquin Arias.”
We, therefore, could not leave before the end of the game. 
We stayed through the tenth inning.  The eleventh.  The twelfth.  The thirteenth.
It was cold and windy, my daughter’s hacking cough wasn’t going away, we were hungry and the food vendors in the Caesar’s Club had closed for the day.  And still we stayed.
We began to kid ourselves that, just watch, we would stay until the bitter end, attend the drawing for a jersey and be rewarded for our efforts with that very Joaquin Arias jersey.  Or, better yet, that of Luis Castillo.  Or Oliver Perez.
Oh, and our daughter would contract pneumonia and miss enough school that she would have to repeat eighth grade.
When it got to the fourteenth inning, Jerry Manuel found himself out of pitchers.  He chose to bring in Oliver Perez.  That is when the atmosphere at CitiField truly became surreal.
While his entrance into the game during any kind of meaningful game would’ve been greeted with frustration and anxiety, on this day the zeal of the crowd was palpable, the smattering of fans present obviously relishing the opportunity to heckle this pitcher who, by declining to go back down to the minor leagues during the season as he arguably should have done, managed to do no more than occupy a roster spot and collect his hefty paycheck for most of the season.
The gaiety and volume only increased as Perez’s outing very quickly started to unravel.  Accompanied by sarcastic chants of “MVP!  MVP!” Oliver Perez proceeded to hit one batter and walk in three batters, resulting in walking in the go-ahead run.
While razzing Perez felt a little mean-spirited, Howie Rose and Ed Coleman were there to remind anyone listening and having such sympathies that Oliver Perez had brought every bit of this groundswell of un-support upon himself.  (Presumably having to catch a plane himself and not having been promised a game-used, autographed player jersey, Wayne Hagin had already exited the WFAN broadcast booth.)
I sensed that the merriment of the crowd stemmed not only from the opportunity to heckle Perez but also from the fact that, at this point in the proceedings, many fans were just as glad to have the game come to an end, even if that meant Perez having a predictably putrid outing to give the game away.  
It was not lost on many of us the irony of a poor showing by Oliver Perez serving as the 2010 season denouement.
And so came the fourteenth inning stretch and, without the Mets scoring at the bottom of the 14th inning, the game, the season, and–finally–the wait for the jersey lottery came to a close.
After being summoned into the Mets Press Room–the very same room in which Jerry Manuel had just given his final post-game press conference–the marketing staff proceeded to call each invitee up to the stage, one at a time, to draw from a Mets helmet one of the slips of paper upon which a player’s name had been written.  Because my daughter’s entry ticket was stamped with the number one, she was the first to pick.  

100310.02small.jpg

As my husband and I held our breath, she reached in, took a slip of paper, smiled, and read aloud in a clear, excited voice, “Angel Pagan!”
No offense, Joaquin Arias, but Angel Pagan is definitely my favorite player and one of my daughter’s top three favorites.  Following each fantastic diving catch he made this season, along with each of his extra-base hits, she and I were right there in Section 319, waving our arms up and down slowly in our “angel wings” salute.
If he hadn’t been a beloved player of ours before, he would’ve been once we learned what a devoted father he is.  Because of his concern about a serious eye condition for which his two-year-old daughter Briana is being treated, Pagan was not in the lineup on September 17th so that he could–with the Mets’ approval–be part of a doctor’s consultation regarding his daughter’s condi
tion
, along with his wife.  
Ten days or so later, the night before his daughter was to undergo surgery, Angel sat out of the lineup and stayed home to be with Briana.  He was then at the hospital the next morning, bright and early.  After the surgery had taken place and presumably gone well, Angel was back at CitiField later that day and was in the lineup for both games of a double-header! 

100310.03small.jpg

After all twenty-five jerseys (none of which were Castillo’s or Perez’s, by the way), had been claimed, photographs were taken.  Outfielder Chris Carter stopped by to greet and pose for pictures with fans.
It was almost dark when we returned to our car in the practically empty CitiField parking lot.  I asked my husband and daughter if I could take one last  parting shot.  They acquiesced, proudly holding the very jersey Angel Pagan had played in not even an hour before, grass- and dirt-stained, and featuring his signature on his number.
How strange it felt to leave CitiField for the final time of the 2010 season feeling so ebullient. Considering how the team had fared this season, I assumed I would feel sad and empty. 
The reason for my upbeat mood, I rationalized, was the excitement of having received the jersey.  Nothing more, nothing less.  But I couldn’t help but think that there was something more.
Perhaps the game we had just sat through, with Oliver Perez serving as an unintentionally humorous coda to the somber blues anthem that had played over most of the season, had served as a catharsis of sorts.  Could it be that forcing myself to sit through that entire ludicrous game had helped me and perhaps other fans purge some of those latent negative feelings brought on by the season just concluded?

100310.01small.jpg

There’s always next year.  And we’ll have a new Manager and General Manager.  And we’ll see those same young, home-grown players that made a lot of this season exciting.
And we’ve got that angel in the outfield.

Guest Appearance

bill_pulsipher_autograph.jpgI recently had the pleasure of being extended an invitation to write a guest post for another blog devoted to the New York Mets:  Mets Gazette.  I was honored to have been asked, and my response is included in a regular feature of Mets Gazette:  “The Pulsipher of the Nation”.

Mets Gazette is an enterprising and informative blog featuring the creative talents of writers Jason Adamowicz, Tom Greenhalgh and Frank Gray.
Their writing has been featured on Mets Blog, ESPN’s Mets Today, SB Nation’s Amazin’ Avenue, Daily Stache, as well as other websites and blogs.  Their material has been read on air on New York sports radio station, WFAN. 
Please click here to read my contribution as well as that of two other notable Mets bloggers.  
Do look around the site while you are there, and be sure to bookmark it to return for more great sports writing from the Mets Gazette’s trio! 

Roadkill

080410.jpgAs grateful as I always am to take a vacation, and as much as I love that our family shares a passion for ballgames and the Mets, our family’s tradition of following the Mets for numerous roadtrips each summer is killing me.

With our season ticket package at Citi Field, we are at virtually every home game.  But for many summers now, we have taken advantage of the fact that my daughter is not in school nor am I working in the summer and have planned and taken vacations based around Mets away games.

In our various sojourns, we have seen the Mets play at every National League ballpark with the exception of three:  AT & T Park, Coors Field, and Busch Stadium.  We have also seen the Mets play in several Americal League venues and in Spring Training games at Port St. Lucie.  In addition to seeing all those games and ballparks, we have also been to nearby venues:  National Parks, art museums, science museums, historical sites, amusement parks, aquariums, zoos and animal parks, beaches, and restaurants featuring regional fare.

We’ve been granted rare access to our favorite players in ballparks having more lenient rules for observing Batting Practice and getting autographs.  Due to generally lower ticket prices at other parks compared to Citi Field prices, we have been able to sit in even better seats than we do at Citi Field.  Both of those amenities have afforded me the opportunity to shoot photos from some amazing vantage points.  The photos I have returned with have become some of our most treasured souvenirs.

081407lr.jpgAdditionally, we’ve had the unexpected pleasure of running into friends (and teachers!) from home in some faraway places.  We have made the acquaintance of other Mets fans, and we have met and had conversations wtih members of the media.  Last summer, while covering the team for the Daily News, Adam Rubin (who is now a journalist for ESPN-NY) was seated across the aisle from me on our flight from San Diego to Phoenix.  In 2007, SNY-TV’s Gary Cohen happened to be seated behind me on our outbound flight from New York to Pittsburgh; we approached him at baggage claim (where this photo was taken.)  Both journalists were very personable, and we had the most delightful conversations with each of them!

This all sounds like the makings of dream vacations, right?  How lucky am I to see so many Mets games?!

Here’s the problem:  for all the delights–both planned and unexpected–neither wins nor a favorable standing in the NL East by the time the planned roadtrip is made is guaranteed.  The heartbreak of having to watch terrible losses or a scrappy team that is way out of it–all without the support of an entire stadium of fans with which to commiserate–can be painful or even excruciating.

Last year’s trip:  a four-game series in San Diego followed by a three-game series in Arizona late in the season was particularly disappointing baseball-wise with the Mets having so many regulars on the DL and the team being so far out of contention.  Maybe paying the big bucks for a small prop plane tour over and into the Grand Canyon was our way of salvaging the trip…for ourselves, if not for the team.

While this season’s pre-All-Star-Game Spector Family Roadtrips–Washington, Baltimore, and Milwaukee–provided some wins and some unique opportunities (such as seeing the rookie Stephen Strasburg in a game in Washington), the final trip, to Los Angeles, was a struggle for the team and, therefore, for me.

Losing three out of four was no fun.  Neither was having Dodger fans in our faces during every exit from Dodger Stadium following the game.

The two-day trip to Disneyland prior to the series, scheduled primarily for my daughter’s enjoyment, proved to be the highlight of the trip for me as well.  Let’s just say that Dodger Stadium could not be mistaken for the Magic Kingdom in any way .  Even our enchanted knuckleballer–the unexpected knight in shining armor of the starting rotation, R.A. Dickey–was not allowed conjure up his deceptive magic for very long, being yanked early in his start there.

Sometime following our return from L.A.–in the midst of one of the games during the frustrating homestand just concluded, perhaps around the time I and other fans found out that Mets ownership declined to take any action prior to the trade deadline–I snapped.

“I think I need a break from these Mets roadtrips,” I told my husband and daughter. “Having to suffer Mets losses–both home and away–are killing me.” .

No doubt, when the 2011 season is announced, I will salivate at potential trips and this low point will be long forgotten.  But if we do decide to declare a moratorium on Mets roadtrips, I can think of one immediate benefit (besides not having to suffer losses without the home crowd):  seeing those away games on SNY and hearing the great on-air talent of Keith Hernandez, Ron Darling, and Gary Cohen. 

I know those guys will always follow the team for me…win or lose. 

The Prince of Queens

062610.02.jpgRoyalty stepped onto the pitching mound yesterday afternoon at Citi Field.

I’m sorry to say that I was not referring to our ace pitcher, Johan Santana.  His start yesterday was not, um, imperial in the least.

I instead refer to the ceremonial first pitch before yesterday’s game which was thrown by Prince Harry of Wales.  His Royal Highness is in town for several days and yesterday was the guest of the Wilpons.  Besides having the honor of throwing out the first pitch, he also received coaching from R. A. Dickey as well as a special Mets jersey (number 22 ) with “Wales” on the back.

Hearing from friends seated near us what was going to take place prior to the game, my daughter wondered if he would appear wearing a crown.  My husband and I laughed at that thought.  “Yes, and flowing red velvet robes.”

With my telephonto lens pointed at the dugout, I recognized his shock of red hair immediately.  I was delighted to announce to my daughter that, in fact, the Prince was going to be coming out momentarily, wearing a ratty looking Tshirt and faded grey pants!

062610.03crop.jpgI doubt any Mets fan were disappointed by any lack of fanfare or regal robes.

Far more regal than any jewel-encrusted crown was the METS HAT he had donned prior to taking the mound. 

 

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