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Scenes from Spring Training: Meet The Mets Part 3

Mar 8, 2010, 11:20 AM EDT

Press Box View.jpgOver the weekend, the Los Angeles Times’ Dylan Hernandez said that he overheard another reporter in the press box of the Dodgers’ game say “I hate this job. I want to go work in a factory.”  I suppose it’s possible to get tired of anything, but I’m not sure how you can get tired of watching a game from up in the press box.

They’re not the best seats in the house — a little higher than I’d like — but they’re still excellent.  You can’t get a beer, but there’s free soda and no one is patting you down and finding your hip flask if you’re that desperate for booze. You can’t cheer, but you can snark and complain “Mystery Science Theater 3000”-style, and that’s almost as fun, especially given that the people sitting next to you are likely to get the most obscure and inside baseball references you throw out there.  Really, it’s a sweet, sweet deal, and that’s before you even take into account that the reason you’re up there is because you have a job writing about baseball.  After practicing law for 11 years I’m going to say it would take, oh, 59 years of going to the press box every day before I’d get tired of it.

I got up there early, wanting to make sure I got a good seat.  There were name plates on the tables for the Daily News, New York Times, the Post and most of the other outlets that cover the Mets. One guy was already sitting in the only “visiting press” seat I could see, so I sat in the one marked “visiting PR,” figuring that the Nationals wouldn’t send a public relations guy to a road spring training game.

As it got closer and closer to the game starting, something funny happened: the press box didn’t really fill up. There were five or six Nats’ beat writers there and a couple of New York guys, but the majority of the New York guys I’d been watching all morning didn’t even bother.  Most of them were columnist types and not the ones who would have to write the game story, but I still assumed that they’d actually watch the game.

The last guy to come in was Knox Bardeen of AOL FanHouse.  He sat next to me and we talked all game, bonding over the fact that we’re both Internet guys doing something that print-guys still dominate and the fact that we’re both new to press boxes.  Knox has covered a few Braves games and some NFL, but we’re both green as hell when it comes to the beat and are both taking our first working swings through spring training. I was glad to have Knox next to me all game.  Random observations from the box during the game:

  • Reporters do rise for the National Anthem, but they also heckle the singer. It wasn’t the best rendition you’ve ever heard, but man, tough crowd.

  • The official scorer sat in the same box — not sure if they sit separately at major league parks — and helpfully shouts out pitch counts, scoring decisions and player substitutions to the reporters. The informality of spring training was apparent, however, as some of the writers would tell him when they saw a substitution happening before he saw it or would check his pitch counts against theirs and stuff.  Neat dynamic.

  • It was Oliver Perez’s first outing of the spring.  If it’s any indication of how his summer will go, you may want to sell your “Oliver Perez is going to bounce back in 2010” stock right now.  Nothing on his pitches. He threw strikes, but most of them were hammered.

  • Jeff Francoeuer took five straight pitches from Jason Marquis in the second inning to work the walk. Knox and I speculated that we each would have bet something on the order of $750 that we’d never see such a thing.

  • A couple of batters later Omir Santos hit what would be scored as an inside-the-park grand slam. Regardless, what were Mets thinking not signing Molina? this guy can play.  After that play the Mets had five runs on three hits, which I take as a sign that their 2010 offense will be built around lots of walks and inside the park grand slams. It might not work, but hey, at least it’s a philosophy. If you’re curious, here’s video of the Santos slam. It obviously had more to do with the ball getting caught in the corner and Willie Tavares having a bit of a brain lock, but hey, the scorer’s ruling stands.
  • Francoeur gunned down two runners at the plate during the game.  As you all know I’m not much of a Jeff Francoeur fan, but I’ll always love good baseball 100 times more than I’ll dislike anything about it or anyone in it, and there aren’t many more exciting plays in baseball than someone getting nailed at the plate. On the first one I let out a choked cheer, doing everything I could to not break the “no cheering in the press box” rule.  The second time was hopeless — I whooped. No one seemed to care.
  • Hisanori Takahashi is a non-roster invitee of the Mets, and given the presence of Ryota Igarashi, he isn’t even the most celebrated Japanese newcomer on the team.  But he was simply fantastic yesterday, striking out six in three very efficient innings.  I know very little about the guy and you obviously can’t base much on just one outing, but I was pretty impressed.
  • The press box started to clear out around the fifth inning as the clubhouses open up in the middle of the game during spring training so that the veterans can give their quotes to the beat writers and then take off for the golf course or wherever they’re going.  Why anyone wanted to get quotes from Oliver Perez and his ilk is beyond me, because from my perspective that was about the time of the game things got interesting. Why? Because it was when some young prospects who may actually help the Nats and Mets win a lot of ballgames one day got their chances.
  • First up was the Nats’ other first round pick from last year — Drew Storen — who pitched the sixth inning and got three ground ball outs. He may be closing games for the Nats before the year is done. Then came the Mets’ Ike Davis, who entered the game in the seventh and hit a double off Ron Villone. My granny could probably hit a double off Villone these days, but Davis’ was hit to the opposite field, so technically that makes him a “professional hitter,” just like he said earlier in the day. Not a professional base runner, however. After making it to third, he thought about tagging up on a shallow fly ball, changed his mind about 15 feet towards home and then got nailed at the bag while trying to retreat to third.  But did I mention that he’s tall and hits the ball really, really hard?

The game ended with the Mets winning 6-5. The reporters quickly packed up and made a beeline for the elevator. I followed them, a little nervously to be honest. Why? We were on our way to my first ever gang bang.  Curious? Come back in about an hour and I’ll explain.

  1. d - Mar 8, 2010 at 11:29 AM

    in Fenway at least, the official scorer sits in the Press box, lower right side, first row as you’re looking at the field.

  2. judi - Mar 8, 2010 at 11:32 AM

    I am absolutely loving your non-jaded, no agenda coverage of spring training-very refreshing and funny!

  3. Curious George - Mar 8, 2010 at 11:51 AM

    “Jeff Francoeuer took five straight pitches from Jason Marquis in the second inning to work the walk. Knox and I speculated that we each would have bet something on the order of $750 that we’d never see such a thing.”
    I was at a Braves spring game at Disney a couple of years ago. I told my son, not really a baseball fan, that Francoeur wouldn’t take a single pitch, despite his claims that THIS would be the year that he’d be more selective. Francouer then worked the walk, refusing to hack, Chuckie Carr-style, at the 2-0 and 3-1 pitches.
    I, and the Georgians beside me, were a little surprised. Francoeur walking in a spring training game? Frenchy then went on to hit .239 for the season, walking no more than usual.

  4. Chipmaker - Mar 8, 2010 at 12:40 PM

    Maybe you’ll get to do a “My Breakfast With JoePoz” entry.

  5. Kathy - Mar 8, 2010 at 1:06 PM

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who cringed during the anthem at yesterday’s game! I felt bad doing so, because she still did a better job than I ever could, but it was close to Roseanne-esque. Oliver Perez appeared to be in midseason form already – 5 runs on 7 hits through 3 innings. I texted that to a Mets fan friend of mine who didn’t find that funny at all. I took a picture of the walk that Jeff Francouer took, I documented history! But it was nice to see the Francouer that I grew to love as a Braves fan, throwing out not one but TWO runners in the game with that cannon of his. Glad I missed the gang bang though (NOT a Ben Roethlisberger reference, by the way). And Curious George, props to you for the Chuckie Carr reference.

  6. Old gator - Mar 8, 2010 at 2:58 PM

    The national anthem is a musical horsemeat and velveeta sandwich. This has nothing whatsoever to do with patriotism, jingoism, subversion or treason. It is purely a matter of a horrible accident of history. Singing it should be a goddamned Olympic event. Why do people applaud when someone sings “fre-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e” without cracking their voice, as if they had just cleared the prior Olympic pole vault record by a quarter of an inch? Because this sonic and lyrical atrocity isn’t a song, it’s the national musical template for The Gong Show.
    Enough. We have plenty of other, eminently singable and equally inane options for a national anthem. A lot of people want “America the Beautiful” but I find that one just as trite as “Star Spangled Banner,” plus it was written before air and water pollution, stripmining and deforestation, and before “amber waves of grain” were all going to ethanol production, so it doesn’t even apply anymore. I thought maybe “America” from West Side Story would work nicely, especially considering the fact that Hispanics make up the largest minority contingent in the country now anyway.
    Or better yet: while Marvin Hamlisch or Stephen Sondheim or maybe Robert Hunter receive a congressional commission to write a good one for us, howsabout we just sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” and get on with what we paid our ticket price to see in the first place?

  7. The Rabbit - Mar 8, 2010 at 8:35 PM

    The National Anthem must have sounded better when sung with its original lyrics and in its original venue, British pubs.
    I would support Woody Guthrie’s classic “This Land Is Your Land”.

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