My thoughts, observations, musings and tirades related to the Mets, Jets, Knicks and Hokies (and whatever other sports-related nerves are hit).

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Mets, thanks for Banner Day. You gave me hope of turning a 6 yr old into a fan.

I know there were 99 banners, and I agree with Shannon’s reaction to a degree - I mean, it was Mother’s Day weekend, bad weather, etc - but it really was a great day.  Much more organized than last year, and it went smoothly.  More importantly, my 6 year old nephew had the best day at the ballpark.  James is actually my cousin’s kid - and both his parents (and his grandfather) are die hard Yankees fans.  Of course, I love my Metropolitans as our Boppy taught us to.  But, we are teaching him to just love the game (wink wink).

But, the day started dreary - as soon as we got in the car out on LI, it poured.  But, we pulled into Citi and it cleared up.  It was an early day - and we spent 2+ hours in line.  It was broken up by chatter with the MetsFanFriends, Mets employees passing around donuts, and, of course Mr. Met. James just missed the big guy last year when we went to a game, so we were on the hunt this time - and he came right up to us in line.  James spotted him and started to get so excited - he couldn’t stand still, he was flailing about, and being an all around spaz.  Then… he ARRIVED.  James ran up and gave him the biggest hug - Mr. Met bent down to return the favor and I lost my Little Dude amongst the baseball head.  The pic of the two of them epitomizes the greatness of baseball and our Mets.

More and more we stood around.  Shannon came through a few times with his camera (James said “there’s actually police just for the Mets?!”), and the kid was getting more and more cranky, and closer and closer to wanting to leave.  Then we moved - and stood around some more.  Finally we got to the tunnel - to wait some more.  That’s when it hit the breaking point - he was being a cranky little shit of a 6 year old.  But, then, the parade started…. we came around the corner and he saw the field.  His. Eyes. Lit. Up. 

We walked onto the warning track and he just looked around - he walked aimlessly as he took it all in.  That made his day.  He saw the press box, and got a pic with the scoreboard behind him. We get to the judges, and the great KB tried to talk to him, but poor James just hid behind our banner.  That’s OK - KB talked to my nephew. It was a good moment, one that I hope he remembers.  Once we got out of there it was time to catch up with everyone, and get some foooooood.

Fast forward to final warmups - James starts taking pics with my phone, and hones in on Dave Racianello… “number 54 looks cool” he says.  Little did he know that shortly thereafter, we were getting Dave’s attention and he tossed James a ball.  Again, another winning moment for the Mets and the day.  He didn’t want to put the dang thing down. The relief pitchers come back to the bullpen, and of course the girls are talking to Rob Carson - “HEY ROB! What’s up?!” James says.  Yup.  That’s my dude.

Game time starts, and he asks who’s playing RF (since we went down to section 101) - Marlon Byrd, I tell him.  “LETS GO MARLON!” he responds with.  This goes the whole game - it gets to the point that pretty much the first 3 half innings, Marlon tipped his cap to James each time he came out.  James was in it all the way - booing, cheering, and being loud.  Yes, LOUD.  The girls said I need to bring him to a 513 game - if the schedule works out, he will be there. 

He cheered and danced and sang along with everything.  He talked trash to the security guys (who told me the next day “forget college tuition, bail money will add up for that kid“) throughout the game - including threatening to “kick your butt outta here.” He danced to Lazy Mary and sat through and 11-1 loss until they forced us to “take cover” mid-9th when we bailed out for dinner with his Nana, mom, and other aunt.

There were so many other things that made the day great. But really, it all started with reviving a tradition - the great tradition of Banner Day.  I was able to tell James about Gil Hodges, and Buddy Harrelson, and Rusty Staub, and Keith Hernandez, and Doc. And he saw the greatness of David Wright and how amazin’ our fans are.  THIS is how lifelong fans are made.  By an aunt loving the team introducing the Mets to kids in her life; by her friends embracing it too.  By having a day where we feel we are part of it. 

I know, there were only 99 of us this year.  Extenuating circumstances (last year was a holiday weekend with PERFECT weather). We love this team - we are loyal.  Pay us back, and help us enjoy time trying to turn the kids in our lives into Mets fans.  I hope to see us all on the field next year - with bigger and better banners.

Why this year will be different: the outfield edition

Yes. I know we don’t have a solid OFer - ANYWHERE in the outfield.  Bourn wasn’t the savior, but we didn’t have any definitive power outfield addition.  I get it. But, lets look at what we got.

Duda looks to be the permanent LFer, a position they have been grooming him for.  Do I think he’s going to be Cleon Jones or Cliff Floyd? Nope.  But, I have to think that maybe that there will be improved performance from Lucas than what we saw previously.  He is going to be a dedicated outfielder, and he has prepared for that (at least more so in years past). 

In center field, we know that Kirk will at least be a part of the plan.  I see this being a platoon situation with Cowgill.  While Kirk has a busted plantar fascia last year, I think that he will have the drive to kick it into gear and (maybe) be a decent left batter.  Last year he lit if up the first half, then he got figured out.  If he can become more consistent at the plate, that is a big plus.  As a righty batter, Cowgill has been a part of 2 teams that were expected to be in the basement, and ended up making the playoffs - the DIamondbacks and the A’s. He’s young, and he looks like he is a passionate kid.  His personality looks like ti is an asset in this situation, and I think the Kirk/Cowgill tandem will be an OK thing (at least for now - who knows what the year will bring).

That brings us to right field, where Mike Baxter, AKA the Pride of Whitestone, is a clear in for a lefty bat in that spot, whether it be a platoon role or a OF bench position.  TC has already said that righty Marlon Byrd could end up being an everyday RFer.  He is pretty much the counterpart to Cowgill - he is a veteran outfielder who  was an All Star in 2010.  That experience and tenure could be an asset, more than just on the field, with the young outfield that we have.  Do I see him being the everyday RFer?  Maybe, but I definitely think that Baxter will be that lefty bat for the outfield, even if it is off the bench. I admit, I have a soft spot for Baxter, but I do think he can be a contributor - whether it is a left hand bat off the bench, or a platooning outfielder, or a starting right fielder.

To be honest, I like the platoon approach when the situation provides for it, and if its managed the right way.  For all of you “platooning” haters, remember how Gil managed RF with Swoboda and Shamsky, and first base with Eddie Kranepool and Clandenon?  It worked in 1969 because Gil made sure that everyone knew their role and no one thought they were losing their job.  Solid defense and solid right/lefty tandems helped propel the Miracle Mets to the championship.  If we go with a platoon situation in center and right, Terry must make sure that the karma is good with everyone out there, and makes sure everyone knows they are contributing to the organization. 

The use of platooning could evolve over the season, but I think it is a good way to at least start (unless Byrd just lights up Spring Training, and even if he does, going to a platoon later could happen, as I don’t see how Baxter doesn’t make it to Queens this year).  Managed right and with staying healthy, this could work.

Everyone knows I love Gil. I think he was one of the most devoted, loyal, hard working, and best baseball men ever - both as a player and a manager. He was the best Mets manager, and should’ve been on the All-Time Team.

Hi57ory, the Kid and Some Angels

Last night happened with Murph and Lindsey calling the play-by-play; Gil looking over TC’s shoulder with a scuffed ball and a whisper to keep Johan in the game; Tug chanting “ya gotta believe” from the bullpen; Mrs. Payson sitting behind the dugout with a smile full of love and devotion on her face; and The Kid calling the pitches.  I said this year we need to win one for the Kid - but I think he gave us this great miracle. Last night Johan had 8Ks, and the Mets had 8 hits and 8 homeruns.

I was at the Zac Brown concert last night, faithfully checking my phone (whenever it had service… SPAC is like Citi in that way).  All of a sudden, I feel my phone vibrate over and over and over - meaning I just got a ton of texts.  I look down to find that Johan had done it. 8,020 games and 50+ years - and Johan did it after a lost season and a shoulder injury.  I jumped, I screamed, I hollared, and I scared the crap out of everyone around me.  A couple standing next to us vaguely heard what I said; when I confirmed with them that we had a no no, the three of us flipped out.  Amazin. 

Fans don’t need to be there to share in the joy. We FEEL it.  I knew something was gonna happen last night - for good or for bad - which is why I kept checking the Twitter feed and text updates.  And sure enough, greatness arrived in the form of a “NO-HAN” text update from Twitter.  I shouted it as loud as I good.  When we got back to the car, I started responding, and reading, and downloading the audio that Mets Police had already posted.  Then I stopped. And I cried.  Tears of joy; tears of relief; tears because this is a life long love affair that I (along with all my fellow fans) have had with our New York Metropolitans (and really, our fellow fans).

People mocked us true faithful fans. We are the faithful.  We love our boys, and how this team has played, and, you know what- these guys love us just as much in return.  We are all invested together.  Hearing Gary’s call on the strike out - and Ron’s yelp in the background - was awesome; Howie’s great “put it in the books - the HISTORY BOOKS” was just as awesome.   You can hear the emotion in all of it - not just the historical nature of what happened as a baseball observer, but the fact that those guys have just as much invested in this as we do, and as the players do.

We shared in Justin Turner’s enthusiasm when he strolled out with his boot on to pie Johan - his typical role after clutch performances. We tasted the champagne showered on Johan in the dugout.  We were dancing to the music blaring out of the clubhouse as Johan thanked his team for making history with him.  We cried Terry’s tears and share his sentiment that Johan is his hero. 

To be honest, the one place I would have rather been last night, is sitting in the living room of 117 Centre Avenue watching the game with Boppy in the recliner, and Nana dozing on the couch.  To share such a great memory with them, as I did for so many other amazing Mets days.  Maybe Nana was up there, too - sitting right next to Mrs. Payson, both in fancy new hats and dresses.

Mets Conference Round Up Part 1- In the Beginning

Many of you know that I attended the Mets 50th Anniversary Conference at Hofstra the last week of April.  Amazin’ experience.  So, I am going to share some of the highlights of what was seen/heard/discussed, and this will be done in several parts.

First up: “Amazin’ Media, Broadcasters and Sportswriters”(SN: I almost spelled that “SportsWrighters” - you see where my head is)

The panel included those reporters who covered the Mets from the beginning (and often for nearly their entire 50 year existence), or those who came in later for some great memories.  Of course, always great stories about Casey Stengel, our first manager. Ed Ingles (Hofstra and WRHY) told how Casey referred to those first teams as “John Hopkins Players” (because they belonged in the hospital).  And, these guys were just plain fun.  Stan Isaacs and Steve Jacobson had some great stories covering the Mets starting in 1962 for Newsday. 

Mark Hermann, also from Newsday, spoke of the fan interaction with the 1962 team - at the first exhibition game it was overheard that the team was “the same old Mets.”  That also leads to the fun of Carl Erhart - the original banner guy.  Team ownership wasn’t a fan, and continually asked him to take down his banners, and ultimately ripped them down.  Newsday picked that up, ran a story… the ownership then wasn’t so adament about opposing our original banner guy.  It is also said in 1969, that Mayor Lindsey grabbed Carl and made sure he rode in the parade - the Mets didn’t do it, the Mayor did.

It cannot also be forgotten that 1962 was the first full integrated spring training season, particularly for housing.  Where the teams stayed was still segregated, so the black players decided to buy a cheap car to travel into another part of town to eat and socialize.  Once spring training ended - the players gave it to the dishwasher at the hotel.

Essentially, the team was fun - and they knew they were being laughed at.  So, they laughed at themselves.

Gil Hodges, Jr was there representing his family.  Many of you know, that I have a special affinity for Gil.  I don’t know why - there was just something about him.  When the Dodgers moved to LA, Gil wanted to follow; and he did. Coming back to NY in 1962 was amazing, Jr. shares.  While Gil may have been at the end of his career, he was happy to end it in NY, and Casey couldn’t wait to play him.  More on Gil the manager later.