Monthly Archives: August 2012

I Have Been a Terrible Mets Fan

Atoning for two decades of fan neglect

As I’ve said before (or at least thought many times), I have been a terrible Mets fan.  I can blame part of that on my upbringing, which was devoid of any die-hard Mets fan role models.  Aside from some Mets merchandise and trips to two Mets games (only one of which was at Shea), we were largely content with watching an afternoon game on television on the weekend or listening to a game on the radio; I listened to more than a few late games on my non-Sony walkman-equivalent in the summer of ’88.  We had no Mets t-shirts, jerseys (replica or authentic), jackets, or other such luxuries.  The Mets sundae helmet was used to scoop rabbit food.  We enjoyed the things we enjoyed without anything outwardly visible to show it and without any big effort to seek out opportunities to engage in fan activities.

Another big chunk of the blame has to go to the timing of the team’s fortunes taking a nosedive as I gained the means and opportunity to better express myself (i.e., have money, will spend).  The success of the ’80s left many of us unprepared for what the ’90s held in store.  It was hard to get behind those early ’90s teams, especially when they added Bobby Bonilla of the much-hated Pirates.  There was no heart to these teams and their record reflected it.  Mets fans, who weren’t all that visible to begin with, went underground with their fandom.  The low point for me came in 1994, when one of the items on the packing list for my hiking trip at Philmont Scout Ranch was a hat.  Such a simple item, but I was at a loss to come up with anything.  A Mets hat would be the logical choice, but I no longer had one and didn’t think it would go over so well anyway.  I briefly considered getting a hat from some other New York sports team, but I didn’t follow any other sports and knew that only ridicule could follow being found out as an impostor.  I went hat-less and bought a hat in the Philmont base camp shop, choosing to be that guy wearing the hat of the place he’s hiking in over representing a Mets team I no longer felt connected to.

With the present Mets filled with nothing but disappointment and shame, the ’90s were a time for looking back at a team that went from laughingstock to World Series champion twice in less than 25 years.  Many of the heroes from those championship teams regularly appeared at random events in nearby towns to sign autographs.  Back then, I got the chance to meet familiar players like Howard Johnson and Lee Mazzilli as well as ’69 Mets like Ed Kranepool, Tommie Agee, Jerry Grote, and Cleon Jones.  It was a great time to be a Mets fan, or it would have been if I had actually known who any of those guys were at the time.  Like I said, I was a terrible Mets fan.

When the Mets started winning again, I started paying attention, finally watching Mets games when they made the postseason in 1999 and a young player by the name of Melvin Mora came through in high pressure situations against a fearsome Atlanta Braves team.  When Mora was shipped to Baltimore for a disappointing Mike Bordick rental a few months later, it was like the early ’90s were clawing their way back into the picture.  Within two years, the transformation was complete and I was no longer watching.

We all know what happened in 2006, 2007, and, 2008.  This time though, I held my ground.  It was easier than ever to follow the team through commercial sports web sites and fan blogs, so I kept at it through the collapses and the misery that followed.  I even got a Mets hat, my first in 20 years.  That hat traveled with me around the world, through good times and bad.  I wasn’t going to let this slip away again.

By this point, I had a lot of catching up to do.  So many washed-up stars and terrible players made their way through the Mets over the previous two decades and I set about collecting autograph and game-used baseball cards of all of them.  How did I never notice that Orel Hershiser had been on the Mets?  Who the heck was this Yusmeiro Petit guy?  The depth of my ignorance was without end.  Finally though, I had caught up on everything I had missed by 2011, largely with the help of blogs like Amazin’ Avenue and Mets Today.  Now I was ready to set my grand plan in motion.  A Mets-themed Twitter account to keep up on all of the news, a new blog to begin the process of documenting the history of Mets in game-used and autograph cards – I was finally building and contributing to the fan community.

One thing was missing though – actual baseball games.  Citi Field was out of range for me and Fenway wasn’t hosting the Mets this year, but I could probably make do with some minor league games, no matter who was playing.  They’ve had a team up in Manchester for a few years, let’s see who they play…  The Binghamton Mets???  All this time, the Mets’ AA team has been playing away games right up in Manchester!  How did I not know this?  OK, no need to beat yourself up too much, just get some tickets when they go on sale and we can start making up for years of neglect.  How about the Lowell Spinners, they play in the same league as the Hudson Valley Renegades, right?  It would be nice to see the Renegades again, so…  The Brooklyn Cyclones are in the same league???  When did THAT happen?  What’s next, the Buffalo Bisons playing nearby?  No, only as close as Rhode Island, too far for me.  Well, except for when they play at Fenway in August.  Hey, I caught that one as it was announced!  I just might be digging myself out from being the World’s Worst Mets Fan after all.

Next: A Major Thanks to the Minor Leaguers

2012 Futures at Fenway Game 2: Bisons 2, Red Sox 0

Collin McHugh returns to Fenway

Box Score

And now, the main event. Last year, the Mets’ AA affiliate played the Red Sox AA affiliate in Futures at Fenway.  This year, the AAA clubs got into the action as the Buffalo Bisons took on the Pawtucket Red Sox in the 100 year old Fenway Park.  Pitching in such an iconic stadium can be intimidating, so it was awfully convenient that last year’s B-Mets starter Collin McHugh had his turn in the rotation come up today.  McHugh came into the game with six scoreless innings pitched at Fenway, not bad for a guy who has yet to pitch in a major league game.

Josh Satin and Brad Emaus are clearly plotting something as Lucas May, C.J. Nitkowski, and Dylan Owen sign autographs

I didn't see anything

The Bisons wasted no time moving in after the Renegades finished off the Spinners, but you probably don’t want to hear about autograph signings, warmup tosses, or Josh Satin getting worked over with a roller.  You want some action, so I give you Lucas Duda:

Duda hit a line drive to center in the top of the 1st for the first hit of the game.  That would be the only hit for Duda, but nobody else fared better; six Bisons would get hits, but just one each.  Of course, Josh Satin doesn’t need hits.

I told you they were up to something

Satin worked a walk, advanced to third on a double, and then scored on a Brad Emaus groundout.  With that quick tour of the Fenway bases, the Bisons were ahead 1-0.

It was Mike Nickeas’s turn to get a hit in the 5th, but a strikeout ended the inning with him stranded at first.

Eek! A home run!

Josh Rodriguez used his hit in the 6th to send a ball into the Green Monster seats, where fans reacted with surprised panic. 2-0 Bisons.

Matt den Dekker was next with a single in the 7th.  He advanced to second on a groundout and was left stranded one out later.

Zach Lutz doubled in the 8th, but like den Dekker, he was stranded at second.  And that concludes tonight’s offense.  What’s that, you didn’t hear anything about the Red Sox offense?  That could have something to do with these guys:

Collin McHugh, Robert Carson, Elvin Ramirez, and Fernando Cabrera combined for nine scoreless innings, with McHugh’s seven extending his Fenway scoreless innings streak to 13.  Robert Carson was pulled with two outs in the 8th after issuing a walk; Elvin Ramirez struck out J. C. Linares to finish off the inning.

"Sit tight Lucas, I got this one."

Fernando Cabrera came in for the 9th and narrowly avoided giving up a leadoff hit when Matt Tuiasosopo snagged a line drive from Andy LaRoche, stopping the Red Sox rally before it started.  A strikeout left Nate Spears as Pawtucket’s only hope.  He only managed a grounder back to Cabrera, (thankfully) nothing like the way this day started.

Bisons win, 2-0.

2012 Futures at Fenway Game 1: Renegades 6, Spinners 5

An ugly start, a messy end, and a decent game in between

Box Score

So here we are, at Fenway Park on a cloudy afternoon to see a pair of minor league games and some Star Wars.  Yeah, this day would be anything but normal.

Before we get to the games, there’s the matter of some Star Wars festivities.  We start with a parade of costumed fans, ranging from kids in Halloween costumes to professional replicas, to the answer to “What do you get when you cross a Star Wars fan with a Red Sox fan?”  The ball for the first pitch was delivered by Darth Vader using The Force.  Or maybe it was the string…

Every game should start with a high five from Chewbacca

With that out of the way, the players emerged to begin their warmups and chat with fans, posing for pictures and signing autographs.  The Renegades pitchers occupied the dugout rail and signed plenty of balls tossed over the dugout.

So why am I even covering a Renegades-Spinners game?  The easy answer is because of the Bisons game coming up in the second half of the doubleheader, but it’s not like I had no interest in this game.  Aside from payback for beating the Cyclones in two out of three games the previous week (which would in turn would bump the Cyclones down in the standings…), it was nice to see the closest professional team to where I grew up.  Even if they do play on the wrong side of the river and it wasn’t formed until just a few years before I left, it is still a reminder of home.  Well, not really, but who cares, I run this place and can cover whatever I want.  It’s not like I have readers to appease.

Not how you want to get the first out of a game. Or any out ever.

The game was quick to get to some drama of the tragic kind when Hudson Valley’s Joey Rickard sent the second pitch from Lowell Spinners pitcher Brian Johnson straight back to the pitcher, hitting him square in the left eye socket.  Johnson left the field on a stretcher, in pain but conscious.  Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery from one of the scariest plays a pitcher can encounter.

No pitchers were harmed in the hitting of these balls, unless you count damage to ERA.

The hits kept coming as both teams exchanged unintentional HBPs in the second inning, with the offense on both sides delivering enough to send each player as far as home plate (though for the Spinners their runner was the victim of an inning-ending double play).  Joel Caminero and Jake DePew combined to drive in three runs for the Renegades, while Zach Kapstein drove in a run for the Spinners in the bottom half.

Hard-hit ball + slick defensive play - ball staying in receiving fielder's glove = single

The Renegades added three more runs over the next seven innings, with Jake DePew adding a double and a home run over the Green Monster to his 2nd inning single, leaving him a triple shy of the cycle when he came up to bat in the 8th.  A great play by Lowell’s Matthew Gedman looked like it would turn DePew’s grounder into a fielder’s choice, but the ball had other plans, bouncing out of the glove of the fielder covering second and leaving DePew with a mere single.  The game looked to be over as the Spinners came up in the bottom of the 9th, down 6-1.

Wait, what did I miss?

And so I went off to get some food so I would be ready to hunt down Bisons autographs before the start of the next game.  While I was gone, the Spinners put together three runs on a triple, single, double, and a fielding error.  Wait, I remember this, it’s how the Mets beat the Braves last Sunday.  All they need to is give up one more run, and there it is.  Now that pesky third out and…

The Mets would be proud.

The B-Mets return to Manchester

Tips for first-timers to Northeast Delta Dental Stadium

The Binghamton Mets are back in New Hampshire this week for another series against the Fisher Cats.  As a long-time attendee of Fisher Cats games (well, I went to three games in May…), I thought I would pass along some tips for Mets fans making their first trip to Manchester.

Driving directions

Getting to the stadium is easy, just take the Everett Turnpike to Exit 5 (Granite St.), head east on Granite St. across the river, and take the first right onto South Commercial St.  Go straight ahead and you’ll find several parking lots, all charging $10.  There’s no free parking anywhere nearby, so make sure you have some cash with you.  If it’s available, you’ll want to park in the last private lot on the right before the stadium entrance, across the street from the place claiming to be the closest parking lot (it isn’t, and it requires crossing a busy street to get in and out of it).  Don’t drive directly into the stadium entrance unless you have paid in advance for a space in that lot (see the Fisher Cats web site for more information).


The visitors’ dugout is on the third base side. so you’ll probably want to hang out over there.  Section 107 is on the home plate side of the dugout and is at the edge of the net, which could be good or bad depending on whether you want an unobstructed view or protection from foul balls; you can get a clear view of the plate from the seat on the dugout-side aisle, but not from any of the others.  This section is often fairly empty in the front rows, so adventurous fans can move up to front row seats here fairly easily.  Sections 106, 105, and 104 make up the rest of the space around the dugout and are good for catching foul balls and flying bats.

Sight lines to the scoreboards are pretty terrible from all seats on the third base side.  The main scoreboard is used almost exclusively for current batter information and occasionally announcing a pitching change, so don’t look for game info there.  There is a simple info board at the far end of the upper level on each side, but it is difficult to read during the day and uses amber lights for everything, so figuring out which dim lights are for outs/balls/strikes is about as hard as telling how many are lit up.  A better option is the scoreboard at the far end of the left field wall, but that is partially obscured by fans when viewing it from the third base side.  Even so, that board uses different color lights (green for balls and red for strikes and outs) and is much easier to read.  This is perhaps the biggest problem at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium.

Handicapped seating is available on the edge of the concourse and is typically unused.  The concourse has a perfect view of the field all around the stadium, so this is a great place to move to for some shade or to get a different angle on the action.  It also has convenient access to bathrooms and concessions.  The concourse itself is wide enough to accommodate normal traffic without becoming too crowded.


A variety of food items are available for purchase at the stands located on the concourse or from the hawkers who frequently roam the seating area (and occasionally stop at the edge of the field, obstructing everyone’s view).  Prices are the same from the stands or the hawkers, so it makes sense to take advantage of the convenience if you want what they’re offering (prices in general are fairly decent for ballparks); for frozen items, always go with the hawkers, the freezers at the concession stands are cranked up to 11.  There’s more of a variety of offerings at the concession stands, which often have little or no wait at the registers (particularly when the Fisher Cats are at bat).  As is the norm, beer is sold at the stadium until the middle of the 7th inning, but I didn’t see any heavy drinkers in my trips there; drunken fans can ruin a ballpark experience, so it was nice to see no sign of them.


Players are available to sign autographs during warmups before the game, if you can catch them.  They are usually busy getting ready for the game, so your best bet is calling to them when they enter the dugout (home plate side) or when they leave the dugout to warm up (left field side).  Study up on the player names and uniform numbers (or have a copy of the roster handy for quick IDs) for the best chance of getting their attention in the few seconds you’ll have before they’re out of range (note that some players may be in uniforms that do not match their roster number).  Players who are not in the lineup will be more accessible; they will often be sitting in the dugout while everyone else warms up.  Pitchers are tough to find, though they may occasionally wander along the edge of the field randomly.  There is a group of regulars seeking out autographs from everyone, often with pages and pages of cards to be signed.  I don’t quite understand them and they don’t seem to talk much to outsiders.


While you are on the other team’s turf, the Fisher Cats are a Blue Jays affiliate and this is Red Sox territory, so the fans tend to be less aggressive than in some parks.  Still, there will be a few vocal die-hards in the crowd and the general vibe will go the way of the home team.  You will find Mets fans in the crowd though, particularly around the visitors’ dugout.  Identifying yourself as a Mets fan is unlikely to cause any problems, though you are likely to have random strangers ask you questions about the team or the players or talk to you at length about something while you’re trying to watch the game.  Just humor them for a while and they will eventually latch on to someone else.

With that, enjoy the games and let’s go Mets!

Lowell Spinners 4, Brooklyn Cyclones 1

Luis Mateo and the Ugly, Messy, Foul-Mouthed, Very Bad Game

Box Score

Luis Mateo started the game as a New York-Penn League All-Star and left six innings later in line for a loss after giving up runs with throws from both sides of the plate.  His 9 strikeouts showed a glimmer of the pitcher he is capable of being, but some hard hits and a 2-run throwing error dug the Cyclones into a hole too deep for the light-hitting lineup (missing Brandon Nimmo for the third straight game and Kevin Plawecki) to climb out of.  Plawecki entered the game as a pinch hitter in the 9th, but Nimmo only saw action as a first base coach.

I found Nimmo. And so did Julio Concepcion…

Mateo’s day started getting ugly in the bottom of the 2nd when he hit Mookie Betts with a pitch to start things off.  Betts followed that up with a stolen base on a strikeout, the second of four stolen bases against the Cyclones in the game; after Dreily Guerrero stole second in the 1st inning on what can only be called defensive incompetence, the Spinners knew they had free rein on the basepaths.  The real trouble came when Aneury Tavarez singled to left and Betts was waved home.  Stefan Sabol fired the ball to the plate well in advance of the runner, but also well over the head of the catcher.  Mateo was in place backing up the catcher and had Betts scrambling back to third.  As Betts dove for the bag, Mateo unloaded a pitch up the third base line that missed the third baseman’s glove and kept going deeper into the outfield than the original hit.  With nobody in the vicinity of the ball, Betts and Tavarez scored easily.  Mateo finished the inning with another strikeout and a pop fly, but the damage was done.

Who’s got the ball? None of these guys…

Mateo mixed strikeouts and multiple runs again in the 6th, which he opened with a strikeout, a single to left, another strikeout, and another single to left.  The ball then once more made its way to deep left field, this time by way of an Aneury Tavarez triple, putting the Cyclones down 4-0.  Mateo ended the inning on another strikeout, finishing with 6IP, 7H, 4R (2ER), 0BB, 9K, 1HBP, 1 balk, and 1 error.

When he’s bad, he’s bad, but when he’s good, he’s filthy

The Cyclones weren’t alone in making costly blunders in this game.  With one out in the top of the 7th, consecutive errors put Cyclones runners on second and third.  Jeff Reynolds hit a sac fly for one run, but that’s where the scoring ended for the Cyclones.  The Spinners errors did not end there though.  In the top of the 9th, another Spinners error put runners on first and second with two outs for pinch hitter Kevin Plawecki.  Plawecki watched three called strikes to end the game, much to his disbelief.  The umpire walked away as Plawecki disputed the call and expletives were hurled from the dugout by one of the coaches.  It’s probably a good thing that most of the kids were up on the concourse getting ready to run the bases; I don’t think their parents would have wanted them to witness the action at field level.

They should know better than to leave these where players can find them…

Brooklyn Cyclones 1, Lowell Spinners 0

Pitching and defense rule the day

Box Score

On a perfect evening for a baseball game, the Brooklyn Cyclones began a three-game series against the Lowell Spinners amid a sea of bobbling Jack Kerouaks. Those would prove to be the bulk of the bobbles in a game filled with stellar defensive plays by both teams. Despite outhitting the Spinners 9-4 (plus one walk for Brooklyn), the Cyclones only managed to score a single run on Jayce Boyd’s second home run of the year. Gabriel Ynoa went 7 scoreless innings for the Cyclones, giving up 4 hits and striking out 8. He got into a jam in the 6th but stranded runners on first and third. Paul Sewald picked up where Ynoa left off and recorded the final 6 outs to get the save. Sewald was a bit wild at the start of his outing, but the overeager Spinners ran up plenty of 2-strike counts on balls in the dirt. In addition to offense, a notable absence in this game was 2011 1st round draft pick Brandon Nimmo, who signed autographs before the game but did not play. Nimmo missed a second game after taking a pitch to the shoulder on Sunday.

Ks to the left and Ks to the right

Nelfi Zapata gets the first hit of the game and becomes the first of many stranded Cyclones baserunners