My Mets Spring Training Plans

Today is the day, I’ve arrived at Spring Training! Follow me @NikoMetsPlus for all of the action!

Mets Plus

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In my seventeen year life, I’ve gone to Spring Training three times, in 2013, 2014 and 2016. This year, I’m going during the first week of Spring Training, more specifically to the February 26th game versus the Tigers, and the February 27th game versus the Astros.

The first thing I noticed is that tickets are considerably more expensive than they have been in previous years. More specifically, the prices are more expensive than prices at regular season games. Unfortunately, (or fortunately, depending on your stance) MLB is trying to turn Spring Training into a “marquee” event, which entails special uniforms, commemorative baseballs, patches on the field and on caps, and a “Spring Training Collection” on the online shop. This, combined with the fact that the Mets are better these days, has led to a substantial increase in ticket prices, starting at $30 dollars for select games.

Looking back at these…

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First Data is the new Tradition

One of the better bloggers on the Mets blogosphere is Shannon Shark from MetsPolice.com. Whenever news like this breaks, Shannon always writes a humorous post along the lines of “Bloggers write obligatory post about something everybody knows”.

However, I do think it’s important to document and write about this, as I do have some thoughts on this.

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According to a Press Release, Tradition Field is no more. Instead of giving the naming rights to Tradition Florida (a small commercial town near St.Lucie) they entered a ten year “strategic” partnership with First Data, a company based in Atlanta, Georgia focusing on payment technology.

I don’t mind the name First Data, but like a lot of people have been saying, Tradition Field just sounded considerably better. This is the fourth name of the ballpark in St.Lucie. To start, the stadium was named after developer Thomas J. White, before switching to Tradition Field in 2004. In 2010, the park was renamed Digital Domain Park, before reverting back to Tradition two years later due to issues with the financials. Now, in 2017, the park has been officially renamed “First Data Field”.

To be completely honest, I’m not going to care much about this after a week or two, and, judging by the 77% of the 1,300+ fans that voted on a Twitter Poll from Orange & Blue Thing, I think it’s safe to say most Mets fans don’t care that much either.

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UniformLineup.com Mets Postseason 2016 Uniform Recap

Last but not least in this series of Uniform Recap’s is the Postseason Recap:


 

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Here is a breakdown of the Mets Postseason Uniforms:

  • Home White Pinstripes: 1 games out of 1. (0-0 record) Paired with Primary cap.
  • Blue Home Alternate: 0 game out of 1. (NOT WORN) Paired with Home Alt cap.
  • 1986 Throwback Alt: 0 games out of 1 (NOT WORN) Paired with throwback cap.
  • Road Grey: 0 games out of 1 (1NOT WORN) paired with Primary cap.
  • Road Blue Alternate: 0 games out of 1 (NOT WORN) paired with road alternate cap.

  • And here is a breakdown of the Mets Sept/Oct Caps:
    • Primary Mets cap:  1 games out of 1 (0-1 record)
    • Road Alternate cap: 0 games out of 1 (NOT WORN)
    • Home Alternate cap: 0 game out of 1 (NOT WORN)
    • Original Mets Throwback cap: 0 games out of 1 (NOT WORN)

 

And that’s that for 2016 Uniform Recaps. I plan on doing a cumulative post within the week, and then it’s off to the 2017 review.

The 7 Line Army inserted into MLB The Show 17

This is pretty cool news!

As someone who used to play MLB The Show a lot, I was always annoyed by the lack of real life elements, with generic signage, regular stadium music, and fans that were automatically triggered to stand up.

All in all, MLB The Show isn’t the most real life experience out there, but year by year, they become closer to that alternate reality. This year, in what has been a long awaited move, The 7 Line Army will be present in the Big Apple Reserve during Citi Field games. I’m curious how the will be able to program the army to appear during certain games, or if they will be present during every game played at Citi Field.

While they probably won’t be programed to wave towels or use thundersticks, this will make the game considerably more enjoyable for all involved. A huge tip of the cap to whoever made this change at San Diego Studios. Now we just need a few posters, a K tracker, and the sign-man…..

Spring Training is Here….

#ThePlusInMetsPlus: Picking a Career…..

One of the questions I always used to hate when I was sitting around the dinner table when visiting family was “Hey, Niko, what do you want to do when your grow-up??” or some version of that.

Even when logging into WordPress, I forgot my password, and the “security question” was “What did you want to be when you grew up when you were a child?”.

Simply put, the future has been a huge topic of discussion for a large portion of my life, and throughout my college admissions process, this topic has been amplified, and I’ve been forced to answer many questions about parts of my life that haven’t even occurred yet.

Funny thing is, like most people, I don’t know where I want to be in a five years, I don’t even know where I want to be in five months. However, I’ve had a good idea. On those college searches, I’ve filled in “journalist” or some iteration of written media on any applicable prompt, and that’s what I’ve told my family and friends. However, there are lot of other areas that interest me, like Public Relations, Hospitality, Customer Service and Broadcast Media.

So, to help me understand career paths, I indirectly signed-up for the Green Careers Lab. I say indirectly because I basically found this program through another Central Park Youth program (both of which I recommend, highly)

The Green Careers Lab, in it’s third year, is run for the main purpose of having professionals in the “green landscape” share their story about their career paths and explain how they got where they got to high school students like me.

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One of the many interviews with Park Professionals

We talked about everything, from Presidential Campaigns to AP Statistics, and frankly, I found the program extremely helpful.

Throughout the entire interviews, there were two common themes:

  1. Nobody had the same career goals from their childhood, or, in other words, no one had a linear route to their current occupation. There were fragments of their childhood goals, but their goals had all evolved, sometimes evolved because their interests had changed, and sometimes because the atmosphere around them had changed which in turn changed their interests.
  2. None of the professionals were 100% settled in. Everyone that talked to us had a lot of experience and for the most part were very gracious and happy with their current setting and routine. However, none of the professionals seemed like they had reached the end of the career journey, and a lot of them had a lot of plans and thoughts for the future.

So what did this all teach me?

Well, it will change the way I answer those dinner table questions. While it might sound somewhat cliché, being open to whatever life gives you, even if it’s something that appears un-appealing right now, is the most important thing one can do in the present. Sure, Journalism might interest me right now in 2017, and I have no plans of stopping. However, in 2020, in some college, I might become interested in Political Science, or TV Production, and I can’t do anything right now to change those natural emotions in the future.

If you live in the New York area and are still in High School, I highly recommend the Green Careers Lab. At first, I was a little un-sure of what dividends the program was going to provide, but, with time, I quickly realized how my career path is considerably less complicated than I thought it was, but so much more complex.

If you have any questions about this program or about careers, email me Niko@MetsPlus.com or tweet me @NikoMetsPlus.

 

Spring Training Begins!

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Today is the first official day for Pitchers & Catchers and Injured Players to report to camp in Port St.Lucie, Florida.

As the players filter in, we start to see images from Twitter of guys approaching the backfields, throwing in-front of palm trees, and overall just making me and every other Mets fans looking at these photos wish we were down there.

This Spring Training will bring a lot of competition, there is no set in stone 5 man-rotation, as Robert Gsellman or maybe even Seth Lugo could out-do Zack Wheeler if he performs better in Spring Training.

In the bullpen, we don’t know who will be closing (or who will be setting up if Reed is forced to move into the closers spot during Familia’s suspension.)

In the infield, we don’t know where T.J Rivera will play. He was very strong down the stretch last year, and it would be a shame to waste him by not giving him a starting infield spot this year if he’s able to produce similar numbers in Spring Training.

The outfield is a mess too, as there are six guys looking at three positions, and, there might not even be a bench spot for one of them, so, the outfielders will definitely have their work cut out for them this Spring.

All in all, a very important Spring Training. Unfortunately, it’ll be chopped up a little bit in the middle with the World Baseball Classic, but, it should be an exciting beginning to an exhilarating season.

 

MLB to test rule change in Extra Innings

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Personally, I love 20 inning thrillers that go into the early hours of the morning.

Unfortunately, that feeling is not mutual among common fans, and Major League Baseball is recognizing that.

According to rumors around MLB, Major League Baseball will pilot a program in Rookie Ball, (low level minor league) which will speed up the game.

The rule, which is based of a different variant of this “extra-inning speed-up” rule from the World Baseball Classic, will put a runner on second base to start both the top and the bottom of the 10th (and every subsequent) inning.

This rule, according to Joe Torre, will speed up the game and add an extra component into dealing with extra innings. “It’s not fun to watch when you go through your whole pitching staff and wind up bringing a utility infielder in to pitch. As much as it’s nice to talk about being at an 18-inning game, it takes time.” Torre said.

The rule, after being tested in the Rookie League this summer, will be considered for higher levels of play, including the majors.

While there is a lot of opposition from hard core baseball fans, I see this as a positive potential change. This will radically change how managers play in extra innings, and every inning will be important. Coaches and players will no longer be playing for the tie in the ninth, instead, they will be playing for the win.

My only criticism is time that the rule is enforced. The 10th inning is way too early to add an extra baserunner to speed things up. The tenth, eleventh and twelfth are all “early extras”, in my opinion, and, things don’t start to get “slow” until the thirteenth, the same time the rule was implemented for the WBC.

It’ll be interesting to see if this rule change ever takes effect in the big leagues.

 

Citi Field Facts, Figures and Thoughts

One of the most popular questions I get on a daily basis from Mets fans is what to do at Citi Field. While most fans live in New York, a lot of fans live outside of the Metropolitan area or simply do not have the time or the means to visit. So, I decided I would write a small post, a beginner’s guide of sorts, with some brief history, facts & figures, and my personal opinion on the stadium that is turning eight years old this April. 


The first thing I will say about Citi Field is how every fan has a different opinion on the stadium. Some fans hate the stadium, citing a plethora of Dodgers references, and some fans love the stadium, stating that it’s family friendly activities make it a great experience for a Sunday afternoon.

This is a trend among stadiums in the 2000s, starting with Oriole Park in Camden Yards, is the movement of “Retro Modern” stadiums, something Citi Field follows to a tee, where a stadium will look rustic and display heritage on the outside, but look pristine on the inside with all of the modern amenities.

One of the biggest examples of this is the facade, known as the Jackie Robinson Rotunda:

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Like the title suggests, this rotunda, designed by POPULOUS (or HOK Sport like many call it), is designed after the history of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Some of Jackie Robinson’s best quotes and pictures are adorned inside a replica of the Dodgers fifth and most popular stadium, Ebbits Field.

So why is this entrance criticized so heavily? Well, Citi Field is the home of the Mets, not the Dodgers. When you walk into Citi Field, a lot of Mets fans would have preferred statues of Tom Seaver and Keith Hernandez, even the press has written about it at length.

And while the Mets haven’t added statues yet, they did listen in 2010, when, one year after the ballpark’s first game, they opened a “Mets Hall of Fame and Museum” with commemorative plaques, jerseys and even the World Series trophy.

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Another tactic the Mets have done to try to make the outside more Mets centric is the addition of fanwalk bricks, which is very cool to see in practice, as I’d much rather see quotes from Mets fans than Geico advertisements,  but is very costly for the fan.

Moving inside the stadium, we see another new ballpark trend. Team Stores. Two, to be exact, less than 50 steps from the entrance. This no-frills tactic, where you don’t pay much on a ticket, but are forced to pay a lot for merchandise and concessions is a truly brilliant move. If you are a fan that wants to watch the game and nothing else, you can buy a ticket for $6 dollars, and enjoy the game. If you want to have fun with your family, you can enjoy all of the concessions and fun games at Fan Fest (currently called Send In The Clowns Fan Fest, but that always changes….) like dunk tank, a fast pitch game and event  virtual simulator. Additionally, young fans can run the bases after Sunday Home Games (known as the Mr.Met Dash), which is extremely fun for the little ones, and is another example of how teams are becoming more accessible and interested in “opening up” their stadium. Ten or twenty years ago, when ballparks were considered “sacred” a post game dash would never be allowed.

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Another ballpark staple is food, and Citi Field doesn’t disappoint there. The New York Post and other newspapers have often called Citi Field the best stadium in the world as far as eats, and I don’t disagree.

Last summer, MLB sent me to Citi Field to do a “Culinary Citi” feature. (Well, two actually…. I like ballpark food) And, I completely understand why people feel this way.

From Blue Smoke to Fuku to PRESSED, to Taqueria to Shake Shack (where people will miss 3 innings of a game just to get a milkshake) there are nearly infinite options for dining. Fans that want an elevated dining experience can dine at the Porsche Grille with excellent stadium views or the Pat La Frieda Chop House (again, it’s officially called the Pat La Frieda Chop House presented by Delta Airlines, but, I fly United, so I don’t mention that.)

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While the food at Pat La Frieda’s looks good, I kind of question the idea of an indoor steakhouse at a Baseball field, but, I digress.

The actual baseball field has evolved as well (and yes, it’s very ironic that we have made it so far in a ballpark review without actually talking about the field), in 2009 the left field wall and parts of the right field walls was 16 feet high, which is double the size of a standard fence, eight feet high. Another criticism in the wall was the color of the wall.

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The above picture was taken in 2009. The black wall, a reversal from the Blue wall from the Mets previous home, Shea Stadium, was met with a lot of condemnation. In fact, the only similarity between the fields were the orange flag poles, something unique to the Mets.  Because of that, the Mets have changed the dimensions of Citi Field three times, in 2010, 2012 and in 2015.

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Today, the wall is Blue, and has two interesting areas in the space between the old fences and the new fences, both of which offer un-parralled views of the stadium, come with free food and drinks, and come with a hefty price tag.

Another thing that Citi Field improved on with the new fences was their capacity, which is technically 41,922, but is actually over 42,000 when you consider club level seating. The record attendance was the sole All-Star Game that the Mets hosted in 2013. In that mid-summer classic, 45,186 went through the turnstiles, which included a lot of standing room tickets, something the ballpark was meant to include.

Another feature of the stadium that is ultra fan-friendly (and great for fans like me that still keep score in a old fashioned scorebook) are these new ginormous Daktronics boards:

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These boards feature all of the statistics one could ever want, from batting average to WAR+, and yes, that is a baseball term.

Off the field, Citi Field hosts a lot of events through their Metropolitan Hospitality Division. A corporation that is owned by the Mets, and one that I’ve had the privilege of collaborating with in the past.

Some of these events include Tours, the Bacon + Beer Classic, The Color Run, various concerts and most notably the Meadows Concert, which, while it might have been fun for spectators, created quite a problem for the Queens Ballpark Company, which is the  company that owns Citi Field; and my hunch is the Meadows will be canned or re-located after this upcoming year.

Simply put, Metropolitan Hospitality does everything, from a birthday party to a lacrosse tournament, which, while un-conventional for a baseball stadium, is better than having the stadium stay closed all winter.

So, we’ve touched on all the elements of Citi Field. Most everything is positive, and all of the negatives have been rectified, but here’s the interesting thing. I personally wish Citi Field wasn’t built. 

I know, I know, that’s crazy, but I’ll explain.

Citi Field is infamous for being funded with $615 Million Dollars in Public Subsidies, and is privately owned. Furthermore, New Yorkers don’t have any attachment to something that they payed for, something that is very different from a lot of privately owned stadiums.

Citi Field was made without the fans input, and the owners paid for that. Attendance was very low the first few years, despite good transportation options with un-limited parking, the New York City Subway and the Long Island Rail Road. Many people were outraged by the lack of “Mets” in the ballpark, instead featuring nods to the Brooklyn Dodgers, the favorite team of Mets owner Fred Wilpon when he was a child.

Additionally, many people took objection to the naming rights deal, which was given to CitiCorp for $20 million dollars per year, the first major sports team in New York to have such a deal. T-Shirts were made reading “I’m Calling It Shea!”, and were worn by popular figures, like Jonathan Lethem, during occupy Wall Street.

Yes, Citi Field has grown on me, and has grown on many other fans, and I do realize that some children, teenagers and even adults need alternate forms of entertainment during a baseball game, citing the game is too slow, but there was something nice about Shea Stadium, a classic ballpark and a real marvel of it’s time.

It was no beauty, but with a renovation, I think it could have been a better solution. At the end of the day, however, Citi Field is a beautiful ballpark, and, you don’t even have to like baseball to attend a game, but wether or not that’s a good thing is something that has been bothering me ever since I walked into Citi Field for the first time in April of 2009. Unfortunately for me, owners have a different question nowadays: Wether or not an amenity is profitable.

 

 

 

 

Mets will offer a new Live Streaming Service through SNY

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A few weeks ago, NBC announced a deal to live stream games for their Comcast affiliates. This was met with much praise, as MLB.TV (the general video streaming service of Major League Baseball) only works for your favorite team if you are out of the local area. In simpler terms, you are subjected to local blackout through MLB.TV.

However, a few weeks ago, when I heard about the NBC streaming service, I was curious if the Mets were going to be included in this package, considering NBC owns a small stake in SNY.

Turns out the answer was no at the time, but today, that changes.

According to SNY, If you are an SNY subscriber via a participating video provider, and you reside in an area where you are able to view Mets games on the channel, you will be able to access Mets content made available through SNY’s “TV Everywhere” service after going through an authentication process.

This will no-doubt increase viewership and create a better gameday experience. After all, not everybody is at home during game hours.