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Four Games, Three Cities, Three Stadiums, Two Nor'easters!


     
Four Games, Three Cities, Three Stadiums, Two Nor'easters!

MetsAngela Giannotti (from Brookhaven) and I are baseball twins separated at birth. We are both rabid lifelong Mets fans who share the same perspective on America's Pastime. For the last three years Angela has gotten her Spring Training baseball fix by visiting us in Port St. Lucie where we would take in as many games as possible during her visit. This year Mother Nature decided to mess with our plans. Angela was due to leave Islip Airport on Wednesday, March 14... Nope! Nor'easter number one!

Southwest Airlines announced on Monday that all flights for Wednesday were cancelled. Angela re-scheduled for Friday and her plane landed in West Palm around noon. I had already purchased tickets for the 1:10 PM game that day, so I picked her up and sped to the stadium here in Port St Lucie. As all good fans must, we made it in time for the first pitch, but unlike during the regular season, a game can end in a tie during Spring Training and this one did.

MetsOur second game was at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach. This is a beautiful new facility which opened just last year. Our seats were extraordinary, the weather was perfect, and the Mets beat the Nationals. Life was good.

Our next game on Tuesday, March 20th, was in Jupiter, Florida. Roger Dean Stadium is the Spring home to the Miami Marlins and the St. Louis Cardinals. We had premium seats for the game between the Mets and the Cardinals and as we were driving south, our biggest concern was if we had enough sunblock with us.

MetsAs I drove through the lovely streets of the Abacoa section of Jupiter, both of our phones sprung to life! Family and friends were very concerned about Angela's scheduled flight back to Islip on Wednesday. It seemed that a nor'easter named Toby had decided to disrupt her plans. All of our Long Island contacts assured us that a huge snow event was imminent, making her flight impossible so Angela began a series of phone calls to Southwest. After a great deal of angst, the flight was changed from Wednesday to Friday, March 23rd and once that flight was arranged, we were able to settle into our game and enjoy our delicious Mahi Tacos. The Mets rewarded us with another win!

MEtsWith two extra days added to her trip, Angela and I decided to get tickets for the only night game of the Spring season in PSL (Port St. Lucie). There was a Florida chill in the air once the sun set and I believe the temps dipped to a bone chilling 60! We made sure that we were prepared for this by dressing in layers and bringing fleece throws. The beer vendors were not doing well, but hot chocolate sales made up for it. While our friends on Long Island were posting pictures of their kids making snowmen, we were bundling up against a late March Florida chill.

MetsThe game itself started miserably with the Mets playing poorly and behind by five runs. As the air got cooler, the Mets got hotter scoring nine runs in one inning and beating the Nationals easily.

Those two storms did their best to wreak havoc with our 2018 baseball odyssey, but instead, we saw four great games, ate some interesting ballpark food, visited some terrific restaurants, and shared a lot of laughs with my family and friends. Take that, Toby!

MetsSpring Training 2018 is over. The car transport trucks are in the stadium parking lot loading the players' fancy cars and trucks for the trip up to New York. Some young players are getting their chance in the "bigs." Others wait in the minors, hoping that their turn will come. Still others are rethinking their career choice. St. Lucie West will settle down from the insanity of the last month and there won't be a wait for a table at Duffy's anymore. Traffic will ease and there won't be "sightings" in Pubix anymore. As far as baseball in Florida is concerned, it's "next year." Let's Go Mets!

 


    
Change

MetsAs we grow older, we rail against change. We're comfortable in routine. We are secure with sameness. Change is hard! Baseball isn't interested in our insecurities. Baseball is constantly in a state of flux and change. For non-fans, such as my husband, they wonder how this can still be your team when you barely recognize a face. How do you root for a guy who might have been an arch enemy last week? It's surprisingly easy! When he was with another team he was a real jerk. Now he's our jerk, simply a quirky personality. If he's wearing Orange and Blue, a great deal can be forgiven.

MetsFor the last several years the Mets had the oldest manager in baseball, Terry Collins. Terry was a ball of energy loved by his players and embraced by the hardnosed NY media. Fans may have scratched their heads over some game decisions he made, but no one ever questioned his devotion to his players or to the game. The Mets had a horrible season last year so it was time for a change.

The Mets now have a young man as manager who has never managed before, Mickey Calloway. His philosophy will be completely different and that might be the change we need. Change might be good and we're willing to give him a chance... Maybe.

I had been strutting around bragging about how many of “my” Mets had bought homes down our block and in our community. I told David Wright about this community and I considered it a personal achievement when he bought here. We even lent him our hand truck to help him move in down our still developing block.

MetsOther players quickly followed. They came to our early block parties and brought dessert. They fished here, they golfed, and they played like kids in their snazzy golf carts. Their families grew, but change can be particularly tough for players. Yes, they certainly are compensated well, but they are still just young families looking to put down roots.

First there was a relief pitcher with an injury and subsequent surgery. Next came a starting pitcher with diminished ability. More injuries, trades, and homes sold. Players still live here and new ones are coming, but it will always be something that is changing.

During their playing days, a player's life is nomadic and they know change can come quickly. The trades are hard on players, especially the first one. It's the ultimate change. Is it that their current team has lost faith in them? Or, is it that another team thinks so highly of them that they're willing to give up other players to get them? Do they need to sell their home? Should they relocate and have their kids change schools? Should they rent a hotel room till the end of the season... and not see their family very often?

MetsYou might recall a situation in 2015 when a young player thought he was traded from the only team he knew. He reacted to change the way many of us would have, he cried. In that instance, the trade didn't happen, but his anguish played out on live television. Everyone who saw it, saw his pain. Change can hurt.

Most players will not play their entire career for just one team. Those days left when free agency arrived. Players learn to change, it's part of their sport. Fans adapt to change too... we have no choice. The team you root for today may not look the same in a few years or even in a few months. The faces might change, but fans are resilient. Bring on that change!

 


    
Hot Stove LIVE!

Hot Stove LIVEDuffy’s Sports Grill in St. Lucie West is a fairly typical sports bar. It’s got a group of regulars, it’s noisy, there are countless TV sets, and the food is quite good. This restaurant, that has a loyal clientele, experiences six weeks that are particularly wild and noisy.

When the Mets start Open Workouts in the middle of February through the Spring Training season in March, this is the “bar of choice” for Mets fans. Its location, which is just down the street from First Data Field, makes it the perfect place for fans to gather before and after the games. As crazy as Duffy’s gets for those six weeks, there is one night a year that surpasses all the others... It’s the Hot Stove Live broadcast!

Hot Stove LiveFor baseball fans, the term “hot stove” refers to the chilly off season when fans gather around a hot stove to discuss their team. Major League Baseball leaves us in the Fall, but for real fans, it‘s always a presence. There are never-ending issues to discuss and argue about. Who should the team keep? Who should be traded away? Who would you love to acquire? What’re our chances this year? Why is ownership so annoying? How do the other teams in our division look? These are the questions which keeps baseball alive for fans during those dark winter months.

Hot Stove LIVEThe Mets television network, SNY, broadcasts a weekly show to discuss these issues. Instead of being broadcast from their studios in New York City, the last Hot Stove show before Spring Training games begin, is broadcast live from Duffy’s. Every NY baseball beat writer is there, most of the SNY broadcasters are there, and I was there, all joined by hundreds of rabid Mets fans. The last few years, the fan group called The 7 Line Army that I wrote about last year, has been there, too.

Hot Stove LIVEThe dress code for the event is simple: Orange and Blue! The broadcasters interview players and coaches in an area of the restaurant set up with lights and cameras. It’s so loud that the fans can’t possibly hear those interviews. The “Let’s Go Mets” chant is deafening. We eat our burgers and wings. We chant for our guys. We bond with other fans. It’s a time for hope and optimism.

Hot Stove LIVEBeing Mets fans, we always hope. Spring Training is all about hope. It’s about seeing how the pitchers look, it’s about seeing if the hitters can catch up with the fastball, it’s about seeing the young phenoms. It’s about keeping players healthy and off the Disabled List. It’s February and March… everything seems possible. Mets fans know that our obsession is often one which results in heartbreak. Being a Mets fan is never easy, but every so often, our team is magic. There’s always hope. February at Duffy’s and those March games allow us to hope. Maybe this will be our year. Maybe 2018 will be magic!