Tag Archives: New York Mets

Why I Love Spring Training

The Markowski family “New York Mets Spring Training 2016 Extravaganza” came to a close earlier this week.

Put it in the books.

It’s outta here.

To say we are hooked on the experience is a gross understatement. It dominated our conversations all three days while we were in Disney World following ST, which is really saying something. Mickey ain’t got nothing on “The Big Sexy”.

bartolo-colon

After returning home late Wednesday night and somehow stumbling into the office on Thursday, I was bombarded with the requisite “How was your trip to Florida?” Normally I’m not a fan of recounting a vacation because you know, it’s over and I’m annoyed and you really don’t care much anyway, you’re just being courteous.

But this time was different.

Without hesitation, I went all tween:

 … and then we like, saw Harvey

I totally got a fist bump from Yo

Oh my gawd, Piazza was there and he looked like way skinny  

Yes I’m 43 and many of the players are of the age where they could be my son. Don’t judge.

As I provided detail after painful detail about the Spring Training experience I could see that my coworkers expected to hear more about Disney, the most wonderful place on earth. Sure it was magical or whatever, but it couldn’t hold a candle to watching overpaid men throw a baseball back and forth.

why i love spring training

At this point you are probably asking yourself, why the love for glorified baseball practice? Thanks so much for asking. You’ve aided in my transition to now listing all of the reasons why. Some will be obvious and others not so much, but collectively I hope I can effectively express why ST is a must-see for any baseball fan.

 

Florida is warm in February. New Jersey is not warm in February. If you hate the cold as much as I do, this is an easy one to grasp. My goal is to figure out how one becomes a snowbird and still keeps their day job at my age.

mets tradition field 2

 

There is no better player access than during Spring Training. I don’t know if all teams provide the same level of access as the Mets do, but it is phenomenal.

mets wright

The kids (and adults if they so wish) get fist bumps as the players race between fields and drills. You can listen in on the conversations between coaches as they watch/evaluate their players. Getting to watch the players hit in the batting cages from just feet away is worth the price of admission. Speaking of admission …

 

There is no admission cost. Yes, you heard that right. Attending ST practice is free, including the parking.

why i love spring training

 

The autographs. Good luck trying to score an autograph at a major league game. Those days have been over for a while now. But during ST, almost all of the players will sign at one time or another. With the success of the Mets last season, the crowds seemed to double in ST this year, as did those seeking autographs. Still, the chase is exciting and most of the players are as accommodating as possible, especially with kids.

mets wheeler signing

My son is an autograph freak. His collection has become super impressive over the past few years. I’m not going to lie, the hunt during ST is a bit like gambling and the rush is a hell of a lot of fun. This year, we were at the stadium for three straight days before 6:30 AM and were the first fans to arrive. Most of the time, the players arrived to the park and just waved, but there were a few who stopped to sign and that was awesome.

We also typically stay until the last player/coach has left the facility and have hit pay dirt from time to time.

Mets Collins

**Negative aside** There was one much more noticeable negative this ST in terms of autographs. We encountered way more “dealers” than last year and I’d have to assume that has to do with the team’s success. They had no problem pushing kids aside and shoving their way to the front of the line. My son is very laid back and not the least bit aggressive or obnoxious when it comes to pursuing an autograph. These a-holes made autograph pursuing a lot less fun this year for him and they don’t know a thing about the Mets to boot.

True story: a group of 5 guys came up to my son and asked him to identify a few players they had on a photo they were looking to get signed. I shit you not, it was Jacob DeGrom and Noah Syndergaard. I’m sorry, if you don’t know who they are by now, stay the hell out of Tradition Field. There should be a basic entry test before one is allowed into the facility. I’ll design it and even implement it next year.

 

Fan camaraderie. This is the most underrated benefit. The majority of the fans at ST are the diehards. Those that remember every Met dating back twenty years. They remember Butch Huskey and Danny Heep. They know who plays second base in AA and what WAR means.

At least 15 casual conversations are had each day with someone you just met and there is that immediate bond. I could listen to stories about how entertaining Rickey Henderson was in ST in 1999 or how much more out of shape the players were upon arriving to ST back in the 80’s. Every fan had a story and one was better than the next.

 

Taking an interest in a player’s personal life. Since the access is so fantastic and often times you get to chat up a player, it makes you interested in the person as much as the player. You feel like you got to know that player on a more intimate level even for a brief moment and it inspires you to want to know more about what makes them tick.

I’ve taken a liking to the Mets relief pitchers, specifically those who are on the bubble for a roster spot. You can see their appreciation for getting another chance and you cannot help but pull for them to make it. During the season you may scream at the TV “How can you walk a .225 hitter?” but then think back to that interaction in ST and realize they are more than just a number on the back of a uniform.

That player for me this year is Buddy Carlyle.

mets - jamie and carlyleSuper nice guy and beyond signing for my daughter, I watched him chat with another little girl who reminded him of his own daughter and all I saw was the human, missing his child, but having no choice if he wanted to continue in his current profession. I’m pulling for him.

 

A chance to watch the “up and comers” before they explode on the scene. Since ST includes those players who will start out in all levels of the minor leagues, you get a chance to get a sneak peak at the future stars. You get to see the players go about their business quietly and humbly since they are just starting out and learning the ropes. You get to see glimpses of their skills and why they were so highly touted in the first place. You get to see them before they have a chance to become hardened to the never ending carousel of fans and media requests. That player was Noah Syndergaard last year.

mets thor 2

Now he is “Thor” and has taken New York by storm in only one year’s time.

mets - thor hitting

 

Your fandom becomes a richer experience. Last year was the perfect example. As the Mets season developed into a special one starting in July and running all of the way through October, I got that feeling of “I was there from the beginning. I literally watched certain players meet on the practice field.”

I watched players get criticized in ST (Ruben Tejada) only to bounce back and play well at times during the season. I watched players come into camp as potential starters only to be gone at season’s end (John Mayberry). I watched pitchers who were up an coming really up and come within no time (Thor).

It’s the reason you start calling the team “we” instead of “the Mets”.

 

On a more personal level, here are additional reasons why I plan on heading down to Port St. Lucie, FL for the foreseeable future:

Photographic opportunities. If you read any of my posts from the past week, this one is obvious. ST allows you to feel like you were granted special access to the players. The photo opps for a wanna be professional photographer like me are endless.

Mets - Wright

 

Inspiration watching someone do what they love. Maybe it’s just me and where I am in age and professionally right now, but I walk away from ST determined to also pursue what I love as a profession. It may not last beyond the plane ride home, but watching these young dudes do something that requires such skill and athleticism and all of it done with a smile on their face is a thing of beauty. You can’t help but get caught up in it. It even extends to the photographers and the beat writers and the security guards and the coaches. It is a contagious thing and I gladly allow myself to soak it in.

 

The crew grows larger year after year. My wife and daughter and another friend attended ST for the first time this year and they have all admittedly been converted to lifers. It’s fun to watch someone experience it for the first time and we hope to up the crowd even more in 2017.

Mets - all of us

Who’s with us?

 

 

 

 

 

2016 Mets Spring Training – Day 3

Quick one today.

Made it to the field by 6:00 and while we greeted almost all of the players, no autographs. Still don’t regret it one bit.

And this may have something to do with it.

mets - field

A gorgeous day for baseball.

And a gorgeous bagel I might add.

mets - bagel

DeGrom and Syndergaard acting like 2 year olds and clearly not listening to a very important message.

mets - pitchers

Batting practice coordination at its best.

mets - teufel bp

Guest instructor Mike Piazza.

mets - piazza

Autograph insanity was the theme of this trip.

mets - autograph

Even the greatest strategy in the world couldn’t make up for it.

mets - strategy

Jamie battled on though.

mets - jamie and carlyle

Kevin Plawecki with the good guy award for the day.

mets - plawecki signing 2

mets - plawecki signing

After three days, insanity kicked in.

mets - kids mrmet

But damn if we didn’t have a good time.

mets - me and jack

mets - train to reign

I could have watched for another week.

mets - granderson

On to Disney.

2016 Mets Spring Training – Day 2

Up at 5:45. We are not good with 4 of us sleeping in the same room. Another rough night of sleep.

In the car by 6:10. Why the hell are we doing this?

At the stadium by 6:20. Oh yeah, this is why.

mets - stadium sunrise

Hot damn I love baseball.

mets - stadium sunrise 2

While we were the first fans to  arrive, a lot of the players were already there. Which means we have no choice but to get there even earlier tomorrow. Don’t challenge us.

Even though we witnessed so many players arriving, only one stopped over to sign for my son. And that was the “Big Sexy” himself, Bartolo Colon. He allegedly never signs for fans so we considered it a big win.

By the time the gate opened for practice, we had already been there for over three hours. The feet burned from all of the standing around but who’s complaining, this is a good time.

The players soon arrived on the field and began their stretching and warm-up routine and I focused solely on Matt Harvey, Jacob DeGrom and Steven Matz.

mets - harvey, degrom, matz

They literally laughed through the entire thing and gave it around 57% effort. Nice way to make a living if you can get it.

mets - harvey, degrom, matz 2

Like I said, a very serious atmosphere.

mets - harvey, degrom, matz 3

Once the 15 minute stretching ended, the players left the field and we all gave them a hero’s welcome.

mets - harvey and team

mets - flores running

mets - verrett

mets - wheeler

We spent the next hour or so jumping from field to field watching the pitchers only as we all know they are the stars of this team. There were a lot of fist bumps and high fives and I’m pretty sure we’re now allowed to say “us” rather than the “Mets.”

mets - familia

mets - matz

mets - thor

Have I mentioned how much I love these pitchers?

mets - thor hitting  mets - matz hittingAs practice started to wind down around 11:15 or so (yes, you read that right, less than 2 hours of practice, my kids work harder in gym each day at school) we headed to the “autograph spot”.

Jacob DeGrom and Matt Harvey walked over to the relatively small crowd ready to sign.

mets - harveyAnd we got neither of them.

Jacob seems a bit shy and eager to run and Matt, well he makes sure the photo opp is there and then bolts. I find myself more and more down on Mr. Harvey each passing day. If David Wright can sign for 20 minutes or more at a time, so can you big shot. Trade him to the Yankees now and get it over with.

While my son was temporarily disappointed, he quickly had that smile back on his face when Yoenis Cespedes picked he and his sister out of the crowd and signed for them both. He is a good dude with the kids and I’ll never forget that. I was so excited that I forgot to snap a picture.

Soon after, Wilmer Flores stopped by and not only signed for a long time, but interacted with the fans in a fun way which reminded us all as to why he has become a fan favorite.

mets - flores signing kids

Yes, that is my son anxiously looking for the next victim signer. I will now remind him to appreciate the moment more.

Done.

But by far the “most patient and willing to sign for all” player was uber-prospect and former 1st round pick Michael Conforto.

mets - conforto

He literally signed until no one was left. Beyond impressive.

And me thinks my wife has a crush on him. Jerk.

One last thing and a really killer one at that.

My daughter was picked to be interviewed by the Mets TV channel – SNY – where she will be featured with other kids throughout the year on the show “Kid’s Clubhouse”. What a natural she was. Comfortable in front of the camera like she had done it many times before.

mets - jamie sny

Get those DVR’s ready people.

One more day to go in Met Town before we turn our attention towards Disney.

Mets - all of us

Who would have guessed that Disney World would be a welcome sight for rest?

The alarm is set for 5:35 tomorrow …

2016 Mets Spring Training – Day 1

Up at 5:55. Horrific night’s sleep.

Breakfast at 6:50. Need to fuel up for the long day ahead. Give me plenty of those funny textured eggs.

Leave the hotel at 7:10. 58 degrees never felt better.

Arrive at the stadium at 7:15. I could live and work down here.

About 15 others are there already. Within 2 minutes I despise 80% of them. They are all “dealers” seeking autographs and are clearly not Mets fans. We enjoy giving them dirty looks throughout the day.

We watched about half of the team arrive for the first full day of camp in ridiculously expensive cars. What a way to make a living. No autographs but fun to get immersed in this world of spring baseball.

By 9:30 the gates open and we are ready to go.

mets - kids

Within minutes, the players are out on the field ready to stretch and warm up.

2016 Mets Spring Training

Yeah, that is the “Captain” David Wright leading the way.

A quick team meeting and then the players scattered among the 5-10 different fields.

2016 Mets Spring Training

Before they arrive, I try to get as many equipment photos as I can.

2016 Mets Spring Training

mets - equipment

A thing of beauty.

Manager Terry Collins runs between fields, tending to his troops.

mets - collins

I spend a good deal of time trying to get candid shots of the players.

Mets - Wright

Mets - Ces

mets - lagares

Mets - Reed

mets - walker

mets - d'arnaud

As practice drew to a close, some of the players started to sign autographs and it was absolute friggin chaos.

Mets - autographs

My kids are buried somewhere in that crowd and while my daughter scored big time with a David Wright signed ball.

mets - wright ball

My son was nearly trampled to death while trying to get a Yoenis Cespedes autograph. He was knocked to the ground by grown men acting like immature 10 year olds. It was an insane scene and completely different from the more laid back atmosphere we experienced last spring. Guess that’s what happens when you go to the World Series.

Mets - Robles

After recovering from the onslaught of overzealous fans, we headed out of the facility with one last stop at the media gate to see if we could hunt down a player or ten.

Mets - Jack media gate

Tomorrow we are getting up at 5:45 with plans to be at the stadium by 6:30. Either a brilliant or asinine move. The goal is to see every player arrive and stalk welcome them.

I’m exhausted but excited already.

Some other tidbits from the day:

  • I am badly sunburned and my face looks like a raccoon. What is this sunscreen you speak of?
  • We admittedly allowed Ruben Tejada to pull out in front of us when leaving, and subsequently chased his car down for an autograph.
  • We saw Wally Backman at lunch after practice and knew to stay the hell away based on his negative body language.
  • Shopping at Walmart in Port St Lucie is remarkably the same as shopping at WalMart in New Jersey.
  • Never underestimate the beauty of a hotel pool for children.
  • Always overestimate the fun time spent at a chain restaurant on a Friday night.

Until tomorrow.

 

New York Mets 2015 season

The New York Mets 2015 season officially came to an end on November 1st.

It still makes me giddy to say that out loud. Playing baseball in November means you had one hell of a season and were one of the top two teams in baseball. I’ll be damned if I saw that coming before the season started.

This past baseball season was without a doubt the most enjoyable I’ve ever experienced in my 43 years on this planet. Even though our beloved New York Mets just fell short and lost in the World Series, it cannot erase the joy it brought to my entire family and all of the memories we’ll have from this season. Each and every one of us was glued to the TV from April through October and I miss the hell out of it already.

I grew up watching the god awful Mets teams of the 70’s and early 80’s on a small black and white TV with my dad always sitting there next to me. It didn’t matter that the team was horrendous, it was a time to just hang with my pops. We didn’t even have to talk much during each game; the game itself was our conversation with only a telepathic communication needed. If a Met player made an error, a glance towards each other spoke volumes. Even attempts at real conversation would go like this:

“How was school today son?”

“Um, good or whatever, Doug Flynn cannot be our shortstop next year.”

Fast forward to 2015 and my son and I watch the Mets in the exact same manner. Except in high def on a big screen TV, while we are simultaneously tweeting via Twitter and discussing the OPS and BABIP for each hitter. Beyond that it was like totally the same.

This year we kicked it up a notch though. We got into it early. Like as early as humanly possible. We attended Spring Training for the first time ever.

new york mets 2015 season

I won’t rehash the story now as you can read about our experience through the following links:

Spring Training Day 1

Spring Training Day 2

Spring Training Day 3

Looking back on it all, it truly was magical from the very beginning. Not only did we get an up close and personal view of the players …

new york mets 2015 season

… and endless autographs for my son

mets thor signing

Yes, that is the Noah Syndergaard. But he also got his first go round on TV and did not disappoint. To this day, I still get people asking me if it was possible that they saw my son on the TV while they were eating dinner or out with friends.

Hells yeah you did.

mets jack sny

Port St Lucie, FL will now be a permanent destination each and every February. And this year we are quadrupling our group by adding friends and family to the mix. It is a must for all hardcore baseball fans.

Allow me to wax poetic even more about America’s past time.

Baseball isn’t for everyone, I know that. It is a slow moving sport and yes, they play 162 games over the course of 6 months. It isn’t the juggernaut that is the NFL and games do lack that “event” feeling, at least up until the playoffs.

But the pace is what makes it so fantastic. It is the background music/soundtrack of spring and summer. It doesn’t ask you to stay riveted to each and every moment. It fits right in with the relaxed and chilled vibe of summer. It is a familiar friend where there is the comfort of knowing you can hang for periods of time without saying a word.

Now having said that, there is a unique drama that only occurs in baseball. Because there are so many games and they are played nearly every day, there is always a new twist or turn to contend with. Especially in larger markets like New York, Chicago or Los Angeles where there are a number of beat reporters who cover the teams on a day to day basis. They need a daily story/angle and do a good job of drumming them up regularly. Why did that guy glare at the manager after his at bat? Why didn’t he run his hardest after hitting that ground ball? Why was so and so benched for a second straight game? Typically not earth shattering stuff, but interesting all the same. Like the kind of family stuff we all encounter on a daily basis. A problem on Tuesday can quickly become a non issue after a good night’s sleep and  a successful game the next day.

Baseball is also a thinking man’s game and if I am anything, I am a thinking man. You can debate lefty/righty splits, bunt or no bunt and defensive substitutions all day and night. The depth of baseball stats is overwhelming but completely fascinating at the same time. Some say it ruins the game, others rely solely on stats when debating the intricacies of the game. No matter where you fall on the spectrum, the game is still being debated after the last out is recorded. I love that.

After we returned from Spring Training, we felt a different kind of connection with the team. These were real people who just happened to have maybe the greatest job in the world. We saw them from day one; literally introducing themselves to each other as they took the field; very cool stuff. And because the Mets are a very young team, you got the feeling like you were there when it was all starting. The initial hype was palpable and frickin exciting.

As this season progressed, and the typical ups and downs occurred, my wife and daughter also became attached. We could discuss any aspect of the team and we all knew exactly what we were talking about. They’ve always enjoyed baseball but this was different. We even knew the names of the Mets players’ children. Again, like family.

By July/August, the Mets kicked it into high gear and we were riveted. Every game was must watch TV. This young and up an coming team was maturing right before our eyes. We knew good things were coming, just not this quickly.

By the time the playoffs started, we all had our assigned positions on the couch. Every ball and strike was the end of the world. As much as I like the slow pacing of the regular season, the playoffs are a different animal. It is insane and all consuming and worth the stress.

I’ll never forget texting with my wife and son from a bar during a game while I was in Florida for work.

I’ll never forget my father-in-law calling my son after every big home run by Daniel Murphy.

I’ll never forget waking up my daughter at 12:30 to allow her to see the Mets celebrate their first trip to the World Series since 2000.

I’ll never forget having my parents over on Halloween night and the highs of the early lead in Game 4 and the absolute agony of losing the game late.

I’ll never forget watching the last minute of commentary after the Mets lost the World Series and the last camera shot of the empty stadium.

I’ll never forget realizing that I will miss it all dearly once the kids get older and leave the house.

Mets-Mr_-Met

Thank you for the New York Mets 2015 season. I dare you to top it all in 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2015 Mets Spring Training: Day 3

The last day of our “Escape to Mets Camp” was Sunday and unlike all of the other days, we were welcomed by this unfamiliar site.

mets tradition field 2

I googled it and learned it is referred to as “sunshine”. What a neat concept. I like it.

So if day one was about the initial excitement and day two was about perseverance, then day three was about … a few different things:

  1. Soaking it all in – while Jack was on the autograph hunt, I reminded myself to take it slow, enjoy the experience, carefully observe and realize just how damn unforgettable this was going to be.
  2. Jealousy – to be so young with your future still out ahead of you. To make a living out of your passion – for the players, coaches and media, etc. To be a 12 year old without a care in the world. Not to mention the joy that is that giant yellow orb in the sky.
  3. Jealousy turning to determination – for my son, I want to do all I can to allow him to pursue his dreams while keeping him on track but not meddling too much. Easy right? For me, even at 42 years of age, I CAN still follow my passions and enjoy the journey.

With that as the backdrop, here is the story of two dudes; one mature/devastatingly handsome/well seasoned/world wise … and the other his father. Read on as they tour Mets spring training camp in Port St. Lucie, FL on March 1, 2015.

Game on at 9:30 AM after having arrived at 8:00, iced coffee in hand, to watch the players arrive in their ridiculously expensive rides. And maybe a scream or ten for an autograph.
mets entrance

 

Since Jack and I were now experts on how to navigate the Mets workout, we wandered off on our own while the players stretched and the majority of the fans looked on in awe.

I decided to capture the calm before the storm on the various fields.
mets equipment

mets bats

mets helmets

mets equipment 2

 

We then regrouped in time to catch the end of the stretch and inspirational message from the coaches.
mets team 3

 

And then they were off to their assigned drills in what appeared to be controlled chaos. One of the cool things here was the high fives given to the kids along the pathways.
mets running

 

While my son wandered to and fro and managed to score some free baseballs from the coaches, I settled in at infield practice. There I witnessed the familiar David Wright field, hop and throw we’ve come accustomed to the past ten years.
mets wright infield 2

mets wright infield

mets wright throwing

 

But even more interesting was watching the Mets manager, Terry Collins, closely monitoring his two shortstops. One of the biggest concerns this season is the defense provided at SS. You could sense the tension as Terry paced the field like an expectant father.
mets collins infield

 

I then followed him to another field where his dynamic pitchers were practicing fielding drills. He said very little and just observed. That said a lot.
mets collins 2

 

A quick stop to watch Bobby Parnell warm-up.  To me, there is something fascinating and almost magical about a pitcher’s wind-up. To see someone throw 90 mph up close is beyond impressive. A true art form.
mets parnell

mets parnell 2

mets parnell 3

 

And then Jack and I made our smartest move of the day. No, it wasn’t putting on sunscreen. We got first in line at the batting cages and just patiently waited for the arrival of the players. One by one they poured in and we had front row access to witness their swings and baseballish banter.

Brandon Nimmo, the nicest and most accessible Met in camp.
mets nimmo

 

Noah Syndergaard in what looks like the perfect baseball pose. I guarantee it is on a future baseball card. And that hair, chin line and beard is kind of awesome. To be in my early 20’s again.
mets thor

 

Seriously, is there a better color combo on a baseball uniform?
mets pitchers

 

I had to convince Jack not to steal a protein shake when no one was looking.
mets wright cuddyer

 

David Wright and Michael Cuddyer, friends from way back in the day, are the true leaders of this team and that was obvious throughout the three days we were there. And they are obviously besties.
mets cuddyer wright

 

And then our strategy paid off big time.

Autograph from David Wright.
mets wright signing

 

And Zack Wheeler.
mets wheeler signing

 

And Noah Syndergaard.
mets thor signing

 

And Wilmer Flores.
mets flores signing

 

After that nice run, there were two players that remained elusive and basically shunned signing for anyone.

That would be Matt Harvey …
mets harvey

 

… and Jacob de Grom.
mets degrom

 

I understand they are the two “hottest” signatures to obtain, but if David Wright can take the time out each practice to sign for all, especially the kids, so can they.

Oh well. A challenge for next spring.

By 12:30, after getting some additional autographs and watching David Wright, Curtis Granderson and Juan Lagares tear it up at batting practice, we called it a day.

We hit up Duffy’s for lunch for a third time and chilled out with our haul and our sunburns. Jack was thrilled with how day three turned out and appeared ready to head back home to the NJ.

After lunch ended, we had about two hours to kill before heading to the airport so I suggested we drive back to Tradition Field and take some pictures of the stadium now that it was empty. Lo and behold, we pulled in and some of our fellow diehards were still there. Apparently some of the players were still in the locker room so the stalkers fans could still get one last glimpse.

As expected, Jack jumped out of the car and took up his favorite position by the media gate.
mets jack media gate

 

And wouldn’t you know it, he got a few more autographs including #3 on the back of his shirt – Curtis Granderson.

Once it was confirmed by the security guard that the last player left, I finally saw Jack admit to himself it was over and let out a sigh.
mets jack

 

Our father/son adventure had come to an end and while we were both exhausted and devastated to see it end, we both knew it exceeded even our lofty expectations. It truly was a time neither of us will ever forget.

Until we do it again next year …

And in 2017 …

Because we know it’s happening.

EPILOGUE

Our flight back to NJ was delayed and we didn’t land in the Trenton airport until 12:20.

We then waited 40 minutes for the staff to de-ice the ramp off of the plane.

Even after that it took 10 minutes just to walk down the ramp.

After an icy walk to the car, I had to remove three inches of ice off of my car and broke the scraper half way through. I chopped the rest with my elbow.

The drive home took an hour and fifteen minutes instead of 35 minutes because of the road conditions.

I almost hit three deer.

We walked into the house at 2:45 AM.

Jack stayed home from school.

I went to work after four hours of sleep.

I still have a stye in my eye.

I hate NJ.

THE END

 

2015 Mets Spring Training: Day 2

If yesterday was all about awe and excitement, today was about perseverance, determination and maybe a dash of insanity. This was the view from our car as we arrived in the parking lot at 8:00 AM this morning.

Not giving up on practice yet. Son won’t let me. #mets #mlb

A photo posted by john markowski (@jmarkowski0) on

 

As we drank our Starbucks (Decaf for the  little guy) and wolfed down our chocolate croissants in the rental car, the mood started to head downhill quickly. I then made the mistake of suggesting we take the two hour drive to Walt Disney World (only half joking). The look my son gave me would scare small children and I knew then we were in for the long haul.

By 9:00 or so, through the wonders of social media, we learned that practice was going to be canceled and that the players were going to work out inside the bowels of the complex, out of view of the public. Not good. 

In a move of desperation, I started tweeting directly to the players and posting all over Facebook, Instagram and Twitter under the hashtag #Mets in the hope that they would just say “C’mon inside you silly diehards, you loonies have proven your commitment to the team.”

That never happened.

But my son was still determined to not give up. While he wandered the grounds and peeked through the media gate, I started taking photos through the deluge. This pretty much summed up the vibe.        

A dreary day at the park today but big ups to the #Mets players who signed on their way out. A photo posted by john markowski (@jmarkowski0) on

 

And this is where my son eventually settled in for about three hours, unaffected by the disappointing news.

 

While so many gave up and left the park, our perseverance did eventually pay off as so many of the players graciously signed for Jack as they were leaving Tradition Field between noon and 2:00 PM.

Mets injured and former closer and all around good dude Bobby Parnell. The beard is even more incredible up close. 

Jack getting autograph from Bobby Parnell #mets A photo posted by john markowski (@jmarkowski0) on

 

Mets current closer and entertaining character Jenrry Mejia. He was fantastic with the two young kids who were with us and like a superstar, sped out of the parking lot like a maniac.

Jenry Mejia granting Jack an autograph in the pouring rain. #Mets

A photo posted by john markowski (@jmarkowski0) on

 

For a blogger like me, it was such a cool experience to meet and chat with famous Mets blogger, Matthew Cerrone. His award winning blog is entitled, shockingly, Mets Blog.

He has been a personal inspiration for me, and my son and I bond over every one of his posts. The Mets have finally embraced bloggers these past few years and we the fans are better off because of it.

Jack with our fave blogger, Matt Cerrone of MetsBlog. #Mets A photo posted by john markowski (@jmarkowski0) on

 

Mets manager and all around good guy Terry Collins, was kind enough to stop as well.

Mets Collins

 

Former Met, new member of the SNY team and all around cool guy Cliff Floyd made an appearance. We had actually sat behind Cliff at Chili’s the day before but chickened out and couldn’t approach him. This was a nice turn of events.

Mets Floyd

 

By 2:00 I was shot and told Jack I needed to sit down in the car. I need my food and missing lunch can take its toll. He was all like “go ahead old man, I’m sticking this out because I’m 12 and awesome and I know there are still players who haven’t left yet”.

Sure enough, Mets outfielder and Jack personal favorite Curtis Granderson emerged and signed for the last man standing, my damn cool son. After they exhanged pleasantries, Jack looked at me through the rain and through the car window with the shit eating grin that said “Now we can go.”

Tomorrow is our last day and as of this evening, the weather looks OK for the morning but then nasty again in the afternoon. We’re staying optimistic and hope to deliver more great news in the next post.

 

2015 Mets Spring Training: Day 1

As I write this, I’m sitting in a hotel room in Port St Lucie, FL and my 12 year old son is asleep in the bed next to me. I wish I could just push the “life pause button” right now. He’s at that age of still being my little boy but displaying those great traits of maturing into his teenage years.

Sigh.

Other than the day he was born and I held him for the first time , we’ve never had a better moment together. And by moment, I mean the four hours we spent together this morning at the New York Mets spring training camp.

I am and have always been a huge baseball fan. I grew up watching every Mets game on TV with my dad. I still remember summer nights watching the small black and white TV we had on our screened in porch, hoping I’d never hear those words “Time for bed John”. The Mets were horrific in the late 70’s and early 80’s but I never cared. I just wanted to watch the theater of it all night.

My son’s passion for the game blows mine away. He knows every player in the league, their mother’s name and their Instagram handle. He knows all about the legends who played throughout the 20th century. He owns a hat from 22 of the 30 major league teams. He just recently taught me how to throw a knuckle curve ball. Most impressively, he has received 25+ autographed cards through the mail after sending each player a personalized hand written letter.

Having said all that, I’ve never seen him more prepared, more focused and more passionate than I saw him this morning. He had plans on how to get autographs and followed it to a tee. The sheer joy this typically quiet and laid back boy exuded today was worth every penny we paid for the trip. His smile and nervous excitement literally brought tears to my eyes. To watch my son follow his passion this young warms the heart and I can only hope he continues to do so in the future. Do what you love, do not worry about the money. Is it too soon to teach him that?

So as Jack painted Tradition Field red, I tried my best to document it all. Here are some photos from day 1 one of 3. If the next two days are half as good as today, we are in for more awesomeness.

The full squad meeting at the start of practice.
mets team

 

Mets ace Matt Harvey warming up surrounded by a massive group of onlookers. It is a thing of beauty to watch a pitcher of his caliber. That pop in the catcher’s glove is a true sound of spring.
mets harvey

mets harvey 3

mets harvey 2

 

Another Met stud pitcher of the future, Noah Syndergaard (aka Thor). Color me excited about the Mets future.
mets thor 2

mets thor 3

 

Highlight #1. Jack being interviewed for Mets Kids Clubhouse on SNY. He will be on an upcoming episode this season as he answered trivia and asked question of his favorite player, David Wright.
mets jack sny

 

Highlight #2. Yes, that is the David Wright signing and somewhere buried in there is my son. The biggest score and I’m forever grateful for his patience with all of the loonies surrounding him.
mets david wright

That would be David Wright #mets #mlb

A photo posted by john markowski (@jmarkowski0) on

 

Highlight #3. Not only a signature from Daniel Murphy, but a pic for the ages.
mets daniel murphy

 

I love watching the players interact with each other and talk about important things like batting gloves.
mets colon and wheeler

 

Newly acquired veteran Michael Cuddyer sharing his years of experience with some of the younger players, like Lucas Duda.
mets duda cuddyer

 

As a former bad catcher,  I couldn’t get enough of watching their drills. I have no idea how their knees survive the grind.
mets cathchers

 

And there is that familiar swing again.
mets wright

Yep, baseball is back.