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Greg Pattenaude
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This year's annual pilgrimage to see the Mets - my 52nd consecutive year in doing so - was a spur of the moment affair. A combination of a good weather forecast, no other plans, and 50 percent off the face value of "Excelsior Level" seats in the shade contributed to the impromptu decision. After a lunch of those magical ShakeShack burgers and fries, my wife, son, and I were in our seats in time for the first pitch. The game started out promising. Mets starter Rafael Montero retired the first three Philadelphia Phillies batters. Those pretty much were the Mets highlights. After that, a series of poor defense, untimely hitting, and unhelpful bullpen relief resulted in a 7-1 Phillies victory, with the Mets limited to three hits, one of which was a TJ Rivera homer to avoid a shutout. I can say that I witnessed the Phillies' catcher Andrew Knapp score from second base on a wild pitch. So there is that. Or the Mets hitting into a bizarre double play when the Phillies' center fielder Aaron Altherr dove for a ball, juggled on his body as he rolled over, and managed to not let the ball hit the ground, fooling the Mets baserunner Jay Bruce and doubling him off first base. Plus I saw Knapp at it again when he beat Mets relief pitcher Chase Bradford in a footrace to first base in what I thought would be the third out in an inning, only to open up the flood gates for three more runs. I can safely say this game ranks in my Top 10 worst games attended ever. Mind you, I can't name the other nine, but I know this one is on the list, ranking high on the uninspired chart. (Hey, if you are a Phillies fan, you most likely have a different view and I tip my cap.) So that leaves some random observations about the rest of day to share. I'm not sure if this applies to all of Major League Baseball, but Mets management believes that fans need to be entertained in between innings. I call it the two minute barrage. Three "hosts" entertain the crowd on the big TV screen that sits in center field. There are contests to guess this or that, people-powered car races on the outfield warning track, and not one, but two tee shirt tosses. I expect this stuff at the minor league park ten minutes from my house; I don't expect it in Queens, at least not with the frequency that they do it. They usually play Piano Man in the 8th inning so everyone can sing along, but I guess they didn't want to add to the day's depressing atmosphere. And the biggest shock is that when it's time for the 7th inning stretch, a long-standing baseball tradition, no one gets out of their seats until instructed to do so. This is when my wife sees the veins in my head bulge. Over the last fifteen... Continue reading
Posted Jul 8, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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On Thursday, the Mets and Yankees completed the annual battle for New York; the Subway Series. In baseball's golden years, this meant two New York teams (Yankees, Dodgers or Giants) meeting in the World Series. But now, the term is attached to the regular season meeting between the Mets and Yankees. This year marks the 20th season of interleague play in baseball and I must admit the Mets-Yankees meeting is losing its luster, at least to me. The four game series - two at Citi Field and two at the new Yankee Stadium were split, with each team winning one at each other's ballpark. The games were long; the thrills few. Other than a strange scene in the final game where Mets pitcher Hansel Robles accused the Yankees' Mark Teixera of "stealing signs" (signaling the type of pitch about to be delivered to his teammates), and a half-hearted, bench emptying moment, the series was not all that memorable. For one thing, the Yankees, prior to the series, traded a number of star players for future prospects. I can't recall in my lifetime the Yankees waiving the white flag in early August. Meanwhile, since the All Star break, the Mets haven't been able to win two games in a row, yet believe they still have a shot at post season play. When interleague play started in 1997, I was against it. The purest in me is strong. And while I'm still not thrilled by it, I do admit to having vivid memories of those initial Mets-Yankees meetings, both on and off the field. I'll share three of them. In that first year, I attended the rubber game at Yankee Stadium with my wife, Susan, who at the time was "great with child." Our son would be born several weeks later. Several other folks that I worked with were also there, a mix of Met and Yankee fans. We arrived from Manhattan on the number 4 train and entered a packed house on a weekday afternoon. Missing work to attend a game is one of life's great joys, even for me if it was in the Bronx. I hadn't been in Yankee Stadium in over 20 years and this was a great atmosphere. Fans were chanting, trying to out yell each other. One of my work colleagues, a Met fan some might think of imposing stature, was particularly vocal, so much so that a fan several rows ahead stood up and turned around, in an act of intimidation. His quest for silence was quickly aborted however when my colleague also stood up and conveyed "are you talking to me?" without saying a word. Priceless. On the field, the Mets had tied in the 8th on a run scoring balk, caused by a dancing Steve Bieser who disrupted Yankee starter (and former Met) David Cone. Unfortunately, this was the extent of the Mets offense that day. The Yankees won the game in the bottom of the 9th. The final score was Yankees 2... Continue reading
Posted Aug 8, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
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Steven Wrenn on deck! photo (c) Greg Pattenaude There is something very patriotic about seeing baseball on the 4th of July. And even if you are not a big baseball fan, a visit to minor league park is worth the trip. I am lucky to have a team less than fifteen minutes from my home. My wife and I have made it a point to attend the July 4 game at Joseph Bruno Stadium in Troy, NY as our celebration of independence. For less than $11, you can sit four rows behind the on-deck circle and get to see talented ballplayers hoping to make the big leagues someday. Will it be Daz Cameron, son of former major leaguer Mike Cameron? How about Steven Wrenn, who's father, Steve, played minor league ball in the late 1960s? For many of the players, fresh out of college, this league is their first professional gig; they are getting paid to play baseball. The reality, however, is that very few will make it to the majors, let alone move up another rung in the minor league system. In the fifteen seasons of the Tri City Valleycats, 44 players have made it to the majors, players such as Dallas Keuchel, the 2015 American League Cy Young Award winner and Ben Zobrist, who last year played for the World Champion Royals and this season is with the first place Cubs. I always keep score at these games, then store the program in the basement. In a few years, I'll pull out the scorecard to see if any of the names made it. Sadly, there are many disappointing scorecards. The "Joe", the area nickname for the ballpark, hosted the 2008 New York Penn League All Star game, which I attended. The only names I recognized from my scorecard that night were the d'Arneau brothers, Travis, who plays for the Mets, and Chase, who is with the Braves. But on this night - July 4th, 2016, none of that matters; the Valleycats are playing the State College Spikes, an affiliate of the St Louis Cardinals. And it's a perfect night for baseball and post game fireworks. Not too many firework venues offer a comfortable chair, hot dogs for $2.50 and a cup holder for adult libations. Southpaw, the Valley Cats Mascot In tonight's game, runs were scored early, with the Spikes leading most of the night. Of course, in a minor league park, the game serves as filler for what happens in between innings, when various promotions are rolled out on the field. There is Southpaw, the Valleycats' mascot, racing a 10 year old boy around the bases. Southpaw always seems to lose by a step or two. Then there is a game of musical chairs, with an obnoxious chicken (well, someone in a chicken suit), who cheats and always wins, becoming the park villain in the process and a great reminder to go get some tenders or a "spiedie" at the concession stand. And finally, there is the... Continue reading
Posted Jul 11, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
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I always enjoyed taking a day off from work in June to attend a Mets afternoon game. The schedule maker hasn't been as kind in recent years in making this event possible. And even though I'm now retired, it's still special when one of these opportunities pops up, like it did yesterday: the Mets versus the defending World Champions Kansas City Royals. And so I went, with wife, son and his friend by my side. After all, the lyrics to Meet the Mets tell me to "bring the kiddies; bring the wife". For what it's worth, the last time I saw the Royals was 40 years ago at Yankee Stadium, when young George Brett was making his mark and the road uniforms were powder-puff blue. But that game is a tale for another time. The weather in Queens was nearly perfect, maybe a bit hot in the sun. But a gentle breeze and a parade of puffy cumulus clouds kept the sun at bay until our seats were shaded for the afternoon thanks to the small roof at the top of the ballpark. We sat directly above home plate, in the upper deck, although the marketing department for the Mets prefer we call it "the Promenade". The view nearly matched the same one I had 50 years ago for my first game at Shea, as I wrote about several weeks back. The game was good, featuring starting pitchers Danny Duffy, a southpaw, for the Royals and Noah Syndergaard aka "Thor" for the Mets. The breeze provided a good showcase for Thor's long locks. It was a back and forth affair with the Mets taking the lead in the 4th, the Royals scoring 2 in the top of 5th, the Mets answering with 2 in the bottom of the 5th, the Royals tying it in the 6th, and the Mets going ahead for good in the bottom of the 6th on the first home run of Matt Reynolds' career. Mets closer Jeurys Familia nailed down the victory with a 1-2-3 9th inning, his 24th save in as many tries this season. Three years ago, I saw Familia in his visit to Troy (NY) to pitch one inning for the Brooklyn Cyclones against the Tri City Valleycats, whose stadium is 15 minutes from our home. I always remind folks that this was the turning point of his career. Well, at least in my mind it was. Despite rush hour traffic that turned a normal three hour trip home into a nearly five-hour marathon, we declared the day a success and hope that the Mets season is back on track. I have one other thought to share. Citi Field now has been the Mets home for eight seasons. I'm still getting used to it. There is a lot to like: wide concourses, wide aisles, wide seats, and lots of places to get food. We have sat in various sections and levels, seeing games from various angles. The last two games have been in... Continue reading
Posted Jun 23, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
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Jun 20, 2016