Sunday, March 29, 2009
OK, in this life of mine, I have not had the chance to ever partake in a country club, but all of that seemed to change today.
You see, I visited the Mets new home, CitiField. It was odd attending a college baseball game, especially since my alma mater wasn't playing, but rather two rivals. The steep price of $5 per ticket couldn't keep me away.
As much as I LOVED Shea Stadium, this place is amazing.
It has elevated the National Pasttime from "going to a ballgame" to an "Experience"
More to come. Not a bad seat in the house.
(Incidentally, the picture above is the first pitch ever thrown at Shea. Brian Kemp of St. John's was the batter. Ironically, St. Johns was the visting team)
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Nice to see a lot of Patriotism co-mingled with Baseball. And, Felix is a Wright fan.
Thanks David, for your heroics last night. Bottom of the 9th - BOOM...after the ball took its second bounce, (which, for those with a stopwatch wasn't in milliseconds, but eons, I knew the runner from second would score.
LETS win the WBC...After all, baseball is an American Game.
Red, white and blue, through and through
By Jeff Passan, Yahoo! Sports 8 hours, 14 minutes ago
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – The flag traveled around the world and through the deserts of Afghanistan and Iraq. Sgt. Felix Perez brought it from home as a reminder and an amulet. The flag never left his Army backpack.
It accompanied Perez to Dolphin Stadium on Tuesday night. He needed some luck for his team, the United States, in its must-win World Baseball Classic game against Puerto Rico. Perez wore a Team USA hat and a Team USA hoodie, and his little sister, Jessica, draped his flag across her shoulders. The United States’ 6-5 come-from-behind victory in the ninth inning sent them into a frenzy. She danced around. He sat in his motorized wheelchair and roared.
On the way out, the 27-year-old Perez placed the flag in his lap and leaned over to a security guard manning Gate G. He was hoping some players from Team USA might sign it. The security guard led Perez and his sister to the U.S. clubhouse, and the flag went inside.
“The next thing I know,” Perez said, “I’m getting called to come back in there.”
And so began the coolest 30 minutes of Felix Perez’s life. On an evening when he felt especially proud to be an American – when a group of his sporting heroes wearing his country’s name across their chests banded together to win a game they had no business winning – Perez found himself surrounded by them, doused with celebratory Miller Lites, with the American flag that was with him during the worst moment of his life passed around the room and signed by every player on the team.
“Everybody,” Perez said.
Then they handed him a ball filled with signatures.
“Everybody,” Perez said.
The half-hour went too fast. Jimmy Rollins, who scored the winning run, wanted to chat more. David Wright, who drove it in, couldn’t hear enough about how the New York Mets are Perez’s favorite team. Almost half the team surrounded Perez for a photograph, the flag draped around his torso, a smile on every face, and none brighter than his.
“I’m just happy to see him happy,” Jessica said.
It’s been four years since Perez returned from the Middle East, where he spent four years. He enlisted after his 17th birthday and was in Afghanistan by the time he turned 20. He doesn’t like to talk about his injury. Some wounds don’t heal.
Perez played ball growing up in North Bergen, N.J., and still loves watching the sport. He attended Team USA’s first WBC game here, an 11-1 mercy-rule loss to Puerto Rico. When the Americans beat the Netherlands to stay alive, Perez woke up at 9 the next morning, called the box office and bought three tickets.
The stadium, practically empty at first pitch, filled to 13,224 by game’s end. It deserved more eyes. Puerto Rico scored in the sixth inning to break a 3-3 tie and tacked on an insurance run in the ninth for a two-run lead. The Americans, about to get bumped from the second straight WBC before the semifinals, needed something divine. Shane Victorino singled to right field. Brian Roberts singled to center. And then Roberts, who had joined Team USA just two days earlier to replace the injured Dustin Pedroia, stole second base – even though coaches laid down the hold sign. Roberts hadn’t quite learned the signs yet.
A walk to Rollins, and another to Kevin Youkilis, and the U.S. had cut the deficit to one run. Wright laced a 2-1 pitch from Fernando Cabrera down the right-field line, and out charged all of Team USA, from the bench and the bullpen, in a bull rush to home plate, then to greet Wright. His teammates kept pushing Wright, joyous and unbridled shoves, until he fell down and they buried his face in the dirt.
“I never thought that we’d be dog piling in March,” Wright said.
No one did. The malaise that clouded the previous games involving Team USA seemed infectious. For every Felix Perez, there were dozens, sometimes hundreds, of fans rooting for the opposing team. Every WBC game thus far, even the ones in Florida, felt like it was on the road.
Not even that dampened the Americans’ enthusiasm. They play Venezuela on Wednesday to determine seeding in Los Angeles, where they’ll face either Korea or the winner of Wednesday’s Japan-Cuba knockout game – and perhaps with a few more supporters who can appreciate what Team USA accomplished Tuesday.
“That was the greatest game I’ve ever been a part of,” catcher Brian McCann said. “Ever.”
Same went for Perez. He said he would rather Team USA win the WBC than the Mets win a World Series.
“We’re the U.S.,” Perez said. “This is our game. … This is the world. You’re representing your country. What is more honorable than representing your country?”
Team USA’s manager, Davey Johnson, grew up an Army brat, his father a prisoner-of-war in World War II.
“There is nothing more honorable,” he said.
Wright was raised near Naval Station Norfolk, one of the largest military bases in the country.
“When you see those guys and get a chance to see how much it means to them, that makes it extra special,” he said. “They take a lot of pride in that red, white and blue, and to have USA across your chest and have supporters like that – that’s what this tournament means.”
Outside the clubhouse, Perez started moving toward the stadium exit. His dad, Felix, had called. He was wondering where Perez and Jessica had gone. They were headed back to the car, Jessica said. They had a pretty amazing souvenir.
A minute later, Rollins walked by and spotted Perez.
“All right, baby,” he said. “Keep a smile on your face.”
“Hey,” Perez said, “as long as you keep swinging the bat, I’ll be happy.”
Perez lifted his right arm as high as he could to wave goodbye. He wasn’t sure he’d see these guys again. He said he might fly to Los Angeles for the finals. He doesn’t know.
Perez moved his hands onto the flag. It’s a struggle, but he wanted to touch his prize. He plans on hanging it next to his other American flag, the one his friends in the 82nd Airborne sent to him when he was injured.
The old flag’s traveling days are over. Sgt. Felix Perez brought it to his home Tuesday night as a reminder and an amulet. The flag never will leave his heart.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Pedro Martinez - and, an EXCITING World Baseball Classic Game - Netherlands Upsets the Dominican Republic
As you know, this is a Mets blog, so the point here is that I saw Pedro Martinez pitch in relief, and to these eyes (YES, my contact lenses were in) he looked good. Got two innings under the belt and seemed to have his control in order.
Prior to watching him pitch tonight, I was resigned to letting him go his own way. But, with the news of the Mets releasing Duaner Sanchez (TAXI!!!!!!), I think the Metropolitans should offer Pedro a contract to come back as a middle reliever to pitch the 6th and 7th innings, hand the ball to Putz and then to K-Rod.
Pedro can be the Phoenix rising from the ashes. I would rather see him get a chance this year and do well, than to do well for another team - regardless of the league.
OK..each day gets closer to opening day. I can't wait.
And for you box score junkies (self included) here is the one from the Netherlands upset victory:
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
I was fortunate to get a ticket to the St. Johns -Georgetown game at the end of the month. It will be exciting to be at the first game at the new park, regardless who plays.
Shea was a great place. All the bashing and shortcomings people make of it, well, that's their loss.
Sure, I once sat in the last row of the loge in left field and couldn't see an outfielder (or two). Did I care? NO! I was at a baseball game.
The excitement is back. I'm worried about Santana's elbow a bit, but, let's face it, I rather he be safe and someone else pitch than to rush it for pomp and circumstance.
Before you read Belson and Sandomir's article, repeat this soothing mantra (NO, It is not "ommmmmmm" it's LET'S GO METS!
March 5, 2009
The Mets’ New Home: Call It the Anti-Shea
By KEN BELSON and RICHARD SANDOMIR
For those fans who hated Shea Stadium, fear not: Citi Field is nothing like its predecessor, the last bits of which lie in ruins a few hundreds yards away.
The Mets’ new park, which will open its doors for a Georgetown-St. John’s game March 29, is far more intimate than Shea and corrects some of the old stadium’s worst faults.
Citi Field will hold about 42,000 fans, 15,000 fewer than Shea. The park is enclosed and many seats wrap around the outfield, so it feels much cozier than Shea’s open-ended bowl, which favored watching football.
During an extensive tour of Citi Field on Tuesday, Jeff Wilpon, the team’s chief operating officer, spoke in the Acela Club, a restaurant in left field that will have 550 seats, table service, a bar and wine cabinets for frequent patrons.
“There’s all this light and air, and then you’re looking back at the field,” Wilpon said. “We want to make people feel they’re in a living room.”
The seats throughout the stadium are angled toward the center of the infield, reducing the need for fans, particularly on the field level, to crane their necks toward home plate.
Sitting in their seats, few fans will see the chop shops in Willets Point, the cars roaring past on the Van Wyck Expressway, the subway yards to the south or the U-Haul sign. They will still get a crystal-clear view of the planes on their final approach to La Guardia Airport. Some things never change.
Citi Field has many nooks and crannies that are nothing like Shea’s tired symmetry. The grandstand that hangs over right field, for instance, was inspired by the old Tiger Stadium, which Wilpon visited with his grandparents as a child. Fans in center field will get a bull’s-eye view of the bullpens, with Aaron Heilman only in the visitors’ half, which is on a slightly raised level, with some protection from fan saliva.
The 16-foot wall that rings much of the outfield means an Endy Chávez-like catch is unlikely, though.
Going for food or a bathroom break will be a lot easier. The concourses are far wider, bathrooms are more numerous and beer drinkers will not have to wander far for a microbrew. Gabila’s knishes will return thanks to convection ovens. (The old knishes were fried, which helps explain the heartburn they generated.)
The chance of a plumbing malfunction has also been reduced: the Mets have installed waterless urinals, an eco-friendly touch.
The walk from the subway station to Citi Field’s front entrance will take about as long as it took to reach Gate E at Shea, but an acre of planters, trees and other landscaping will usher fans to the new park’s brick exterior and ornate rotunda named for Jackie Robinson. Bricks embedded in the capacious plaza include inscriptions from fans who paid $195 to $345 for the privilege. Several applications were rejected because the language was deemed insulting of New York’s other baseball team.
Citi Field’s exterior is a splendid architectural response to the dullness of Shea, while the inner bowl is muted. Shea’s candy-colored plastic seats are gone (along with generations of chipped paint on the handrails) in favor of dark green seats everywhere.
“Dark green is the color of a classic ballpark,” said Dave Howard, the team’s executive vice president for business operations, as he stood ankle deep in snow. “And we thought the other team in town would use blue.”
Citi Field, with 28 different seating categories, also feels more fragmented than Shea, which had sections of box and reserved seats that stretched from one foul pole to the other. The collection of far smaller blocks of luxury suites, party rooms, restaurants and exclusive box seats spells exclusivity or exclusion, depending on your point of view.
Everything has a new name, as well. There’s the Ebbets Club, the Delta Sky360 Club and the Caesars Club. Seaver, Hodges and Stengel have their names on three of the five party suites. The name game is not done, either.
“In this economy, you don’t turn down sponsors,” Wilpon said. “Anyone who’s willing to pay. ...”
The suites, apparently, will not be just for baseball. Howard said that the club had already booked bar mitzvahs in the Caesars Club. A 150-seat auditorium could host corporate events.
While all the major construction is finished, many little touches remain. The kitchens are filled with refrigerators and even French fry baskets, but much of the equipment is unplugged, out of position and covered with layers of dust.
The much-improved sound system and scoreboards were getting a workout. A version of Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now” played loud and clear. The LED scoreboards that line the facades were ready for June. One read: “David Wright .320 AVG 15 HR 66 RBI.”
Wilpon said the team had not decided who would throw out the first pitch on opening day April 13. But he said it would be great if President Obama did it on Jackie Robinson Day two nights later.
With the sun setting, dozens of employees were waiting in the parking lot next to the park before their orientation sessions. Gary Brown, who worked at a concession stand for two years at Shea, said he and his friend Faruk Stokes were looking forward to their new workplace.
“Any type of progress is a good thing,” said Brown, who lives in Corona, Queens. “It’s a beautiful facility. I just hope the team is more successful here.”