Even a bad day at the ballpark is better than a good day at the office, so please don't take any portion of this post as a complaint. The sun was shining, not a drop of rain fell, there were almost as many Mets fans as there were Tigers fans at Joker Marchant Stadium, Detroit's spring training site, on Saturday afternoon. The food was good, the beer was cold, and my three partners and I got to see plenty of Mets up close and personal. Only none of them was named Wright, Reyes, Beltran, Santana, Church, Schneider, Tatis, or even Castillo.
I got through the gates moments after they opened, along with Johnni Gunnz, Tigers Guy from Oveido, and his friend Richard, whose membership in Mets Nation meant Tigers Guy was outnumbered all afternoon. I was certain we'd see the Mets' A squad , since it was the last chance they'd have to play together before half the team had to report to their various World Baseball Classic clubhouses. I was wrong, though: we got virtually the entire Tigers' starting lineup, and lots of Mets we probably won't see again until September. They had Granderson, Polanco, Ordonez, Cabrera, Guillen and Sheffield. We had Andy Green, Bobby Kielty, Jeremy Reed, Robinson Cancel, and the Other Martinez (Ramon). Every spring training game is a crapshoot when it comes to seeing your favorite player, but for star power, Mets fans crapped out at this game.
Since we got there so early, there was plenty of time to catch the Mets' wind sprints and batting practice. We chose the view from the outfield berm, where plenty of fans who have stadium seats choose to stay once the game begins. They even had a cart with frosty adult beverages ten paces away. Is this heaven, or what? A few dozen home run balls rained down on the fans in left field, none coming very close to us. The rule seemed to be that little kids with little gloves, and curvaceous baseball hotties, got all the souvenirs.
Jonathon Neise started and was lit up for two runs in two innings, getting hit hard and falling behind on most batters. Bobby Parnell was just as wild in his two innings, but escaped without allowing a hit or a run. Heriberto Ruelas did nothing to help his chances of sticking, allowing three runs in one inning of work, and Brian Stokes and Matt DeSalvo each allowed a run.
We did see a few Mets hitters who'll be making the trip up to Citi Field. Murhpy and Evans both played. Angel Pagan reached base his first three times up, and stole a base, proving he's escaped from the black hole that seemed to have swallowed him up after he was hurt last May. Alex Cora had a hit, and was in the middle of all three Mets double plays, proving he'll be a useful backup to both Reyes and Castillo. Catcher Josh Thole had a hard-hit RBI single, and showed a glimpse of his potential to be the Mets' best-hitting catcher since a guy named Piazza. There was even a brief F-Mart sighting; one at-bat at DH, one soft ground out.
Tigers Guy's friend Richard anointed himself the heckler of section 202, dubbing Angel Pagan "Oxy", short for "oxymoron". Angel? Pagan? Get it? Nevermind. I tried out a nickname on the Tigers' catcher, Matt Treanor, who's married to Olympic volleyball gold medalist Misty May-Treanor. "Mister Misty" didn't stick, either. Home plate umpire Adrian Johnson was the object of derision from fans of both teams. His strike zone seemed to be an amorphous floating blob, drifting up and down as the afternoon went on. Mr. Johnson has not yet umpired in the major leagues. We can only hope that fact doesn't change any time soon.
My sister Terri and nephew Little John were there as well - they're hardcore spring training nuts who routinely drive all over Florida in March, and often schedule several days in a row of Grapefruit League action. Terri was kind enough to share some pictures with us all, which is fortunate, since I suffer from DCI (digital camera illiteracy). You can check out the album here:
The Mets' 7-2 loss Saturday contained no news of lasting significance. For that matter, neither did Sunday's win over the Astros, which featured all the Mets I'd been hoping to see the previous day. It was just nice for me to see the team out there in person, and to know that their opportunity to erase the sour taste of '08, '07, and even '06 gets closer every day.