Review: 2018 Triple-A All-Star Game

Yesterday, at around 3:00pm, I packed my bags, got my final folio from the Renaissance Columbus, and took the six block walk down Broad Street to the bus stop, where I would take the COTA AirConnect to John Glenn Airport, and, after a quick stopover in Chicago, make my way back to New York.

However, something extremely unusual happened at the bus stop. As I was waiting for my bus to arrive, another bus was pulling in, and after all the customers had boarded, the bus operator, whom I had never met before, says “Hey! You write about the Mets, right? My son follows you online!”

We ended up having a nice (and brief, the bus was still in revenue service) conversation about the Triple-A All-Star Game, and about Columbus.

And while it wasn’t the first time that I’ve been recognized in public, it was a first outside of the New York Metropolitan area, and it truly made not only my day, but probably my entire trip.  Best of all, it was a euphemism of the culture in Columbus, one of happiest and most welcoming cities I’ve ever been to.

From the folks at the visitor centers, to the amazing hotel staff, and of course the local men and women on the streets; everyone, and I mean everyone, was so passionate and genuine.

The game itself embodied the same Columbus values. My entry experience was flawless, and I was given a game program detailing the rosters for both teams, and a breakdown of the days festivities.

As I approached my seats, an usher asked me “Do you know where you folks are headed?” instead of the usual snap call for “Tickets!”, “Let me see your tickets!”

It’s amazing how a little re-phrasing can make someone feel so much more welcome.

There were various familiar faces (to Mets fans) in the Triple-A All-Star Game. Eric Campbell was the starting Second Baseman for the New Orleans Baby Cakes (Marlins), and Adam Wilk pitched for the Toledo Mud Hens (Tigers).

I was in my ticketed seats for the first two innings of the game, but eventually moved out to the berm in left center, which reminded me of the one in Tradition Field during Spring Training. All of the typical sights, from the kids rolling down the hill, to the catches between parent and child, and the wide variety of colors on beach towels were present.

My favorite part of the ballpark were the tree-lined outdoor concourses. At certain times, I didn’t even think I was at the ballpark.

Even the covered concourses were nice and airy.

I eventually moved closer to home plate, behind the third base dugout for the last three innings.

I loved how there wasn’t much netting obstructing the field of play. This is a touchy subject around professional baseball, but I’ve never been a netting fan.

The Pacific Coast League won the game, only their second victory in the last ten years, which was fitting for me, as I will once again be rooting for the International League in 2019, as the Mets move their Triple-A Affiliate to Syracuse, New York.

Thank you to the Columbus Clippers for hosting a fantastic event. Without any semblance of doubt, this was the best Triple-A All-Star Game I have ever been to (and I’ve been to eight now), and they have truly set the bar, thanks in part to being great with the intangibles. Columbus has trained their employees with poise and elegance, and it’s comes off on the fans.

El Paso, you’re up next!

Review: 2018 AAA Challenge-Skills-Derby (Part 2)

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Yesterday, we covered the basics of the fan experience, or the soft product of the Triple-A Skills & Challenge competition.

This installment will focus on the actual events themselves, which differed from the Home Run Derby’s of years prior.

Previously, there would be a Home Run Derby, divided into three different rounds, featuring eight hitters, which was narrowed down to four, and eventually two in the final round.

This year, the format was completely overhauled. As previously mentioned, the all-stars were divided into teams, with one player from each team participating in each event. Each team would wear a certain color, and would be cheered on by sections wearing that color’s t-shirt.

The five events were:

  • Catcher’s Throwing Challenge.
  • Pitcher’s Bunting Challenge
  • Outfielder’s Throwing Challenge
  • Specialty Hitting
  • Home Run Derby

And, while the Catcher’s Throwing Challenge was exciting, I’d by lying if I wasn’t saying the other events fell flat.

During the pitcher’s bunting challenge, no one could bunt a ball into one of the hoops, so they had to modify the rules mid-game to speed things up.

The mid-event entertainment was also lackluster with the same t-shirt toss over and over again (remember, every fan was already given a few free t-shirts, so the prospect of a t-shirt toss wasn’t too exciting at that point).

Luckily, the home run derby re-energized the crowd. One of the participants was Mets’ own Zach Bournstein, who hit four home runs, including two to the opposite field, which was nice to see.

After the derby was over, the winning Orange team was given a gift, and the Columbus Gay Mens Choir serenaded us with fireworks in the background.

 

Review: 2018 AAA Challenge-Skills-Derby (Part 1)

Day one is in the books!

Not bad, Columbus, not bad. Certainly not a perfect event, especially from a gameday experience standpoint, but it was a fun night of minor league festivities.

When I arrived at the ballpark, I was extremely happy to see that there was no security theater, like you see in most Major League parks, and some minor league parks, like the Tacoma Rainers’ Cheney Stadium (last years host venue).

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Once inside we proceeded to the Columbus Cargo shop on the right hand side. The shop, at least 2300 square feet, was very impressive, and featured a nice collection of general Clippers gear and All-Star commemorative gear.

Usually, these shops get pretty busy, but there were no lines as far as I could tell, which was good. I purchased a curved cap, with the commemorative logo on the front, my eighth.

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Once you exit the main store in left field, most fans will turn right into the main concourse, which will take you most of the way around the ballpark, but not all the way around.

The concourse itself is absolutely stunning. For a portion of time, it is tree lined, and even the covered sections are nice and have faux-wood finishes, which creates for an upscale but comfortable setting.

There was no giveaway at the gate, but each seat featured a t-shirt with a tonal version of the commemorative logo. There were six different t-shirt colors, each promoting a different group of players.

 

For example, as someone who was on the Orange team (sections 1 thru 4), I rooted for the players wearing the orange Pacific Coast League top. There were six different players in each game, the same number of color groups in the stands.

The Clippers were nice enough to provide all fans with the shirt of their size, so if you couldn’t fit into the shirt provided, you could exchange out your shirt with a staff member.

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Unfortunately, the Clippers placed too much trust in their fans. By the two hour mark (no innings to give relative time…) when the staff had left their post, these boxes were left out un-attended to the masses, in which people stuffed their bags with as many shirts as they could get their hands on.

Even at the end, people were walking around the seating areas grabbing un-claimed shirts, walking across the street, and selling them for $10.

Back inside the stadium however, I was impressed with all of the ballpark’s amenities. The restrooms were nice and clean, and there was a general admission porch in right field with a fantastic view of the game.

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As far as the eats were concerned, there was a good amount of ballpark favorites, and a few local places, like Bob Evans, a local burger place, and City Barbecue, the place where I got my food.

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The coleslaw was super fresh, and the pulled pork hit the spot, with tangy barbecue sauce. Overall, this was very good food for a minor league ballpark.

Stay Tuned for Part 2 of this review, coming out tomorrow! 

Triple-A Challenge and Derby Schedule

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Today, starting at 5pm through 10:30, part one of the Triple-A All-Star week in Columbus gets underway!

The gates at Huntington Park open at 5pm sharp, and once folks are inside, there will be an autographs session, which will run from approximately 5:15pm until 6:20pm.

Following the autographs, there will be an exhibition game, following the rules of 1880’s Base ball (yes, base-ball) featuring the Ohio Muffins (whoever they are…) against the local media.

Before the main event starts, there will be a flyover, and then the brand new Triple-A Skills competition gets going! This is brand new, as in years prior, the Home Run Derby was the only feature event on the Monday.

The Derby will still be held, just slightly truncated and not until 9:00pm.

Following all of the fun and excitement, there will be a fireworks show to send everyone off.

Be sure to follow along all night long on Twitter @NikoMetsPlus (including some live streams)!

 

The Venue: Huntington Park

Hello from Washington Dulles International Airport!

The last twenty four hours sure have been hectic. I re-booked myself at least four different times to try to find the most comfortable way to get to Columbus, Ohio, and I’m now lounge hopping in one of the world’s biggest airports (drafting this in the Turkish Lounge, will probably post in the British Airways Lounge or the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse).

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Anyway, as I depart from New York City and head to Columbus, I thought it would be a good opportunity to provide some fast facts on the venue of the upcoming Triple-A All-Star Game, Huntington Park!

The park, named after the Huntington Bancshares company, opened in 2009 (the same year as Citi Field), when it was named the Ballpark of the Year by Baseballparks.com, in a competition including all Major and Minor League parks (Wrigley, Fenway and Yankee Stadium included).

Huntington replaced the iconic Cooper Stadium, which was the home for minor league baseball in Columbus for just under a century.

The park, with it’s open concourses, seats approximately 10,100 folks, and has 12 luxury suites. The home club, the Columbus Clippers, is the Triple-A affiliate of the nearby Cleveland Indians.

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This is the first Triple-A All-Star Game for the park, but, as the main outdoor venue in Columbus, has hosted many concerts, and international sporting events.

The stadium is also one of the few in professional baseball that have no outfield wall advertisements, which amounts to a clean look for the park (Mets, take notes!)

I look forward to sharing my experiences at the ballpark later tonight and on Wednesday. Stay tuned!

2018 Triple-A All-Star Week Preview

As is usual every year, I’m making my annual trip to Columbus, Ohio to see the Triple-A All-Stars in person.

This is my eighth annual all-star game, and it’s a trip I’d like to make (god willing) for the remainder of my lifetime.

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I’ve been doing this since 2011 in Salt Lake City, and have done trips to Buffalo, New York City, Durham, Omaha, Charlotte, Tacoma and I’m now looking forward to the week in Columbus.

Representing our Mets (well, Las Veags) in the Triple-A All-Star Game is outfielder Zach Borenstein, after Ty Kelly and Jeff McNeil backed out at the last moment.

You can follow along the coverage all week long on Twitter @NikoMetsPlus, and here on the blog.

 

Jacob deGrom Selected for 2nd Career All-Star Game

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This is not a surprise.

Jacob deGrom was selected to join the National League’s best as the lone Mets representative for the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, next Tuesday in Washington D.C.

deGrom has an NL-leading 1.79 ERA alongside his 5-4 record, 0.99 WHIP, and 142 strikeouts in 115 1/3 innings this season.

The real surprise today was the lack of Brandon Nimmo on either the reserves or the final vote. Of course, he could still make the team as a replacement player, but one would assume the guy that is currently second in OPS in the National League would at least make the final vote.

Exciting Opportunities With World Series Champion Art Shamsky!

This is very exciting news. Art Shamsky, a member of the 1969 World Series Champion Miracle Mets, author of “The Magnificent Seasons”, and an ambassador of the Israel Association of Baseball has very exciting opportunities for fans and supporters alike that want to learn more about the history and heritage from one of the game’s best players.

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Mr.Shamsky is available for many different engagements. From Motivational talks, to baseball clinics, to charity events, to personal appearances (how neat would it be to have the opportunity to take in a game with Art himself?)

A few years ago, I had a chance to interview Art Shamsky, and I understood why he was not only a good player, but also a humanitarian for the sport, which also became apparent after reading his first book, The Magnificent Seasons, which is available here.

More details can be found on ArtShamsky.com, or by emailing info@artshamsky.com.

UniformLineup.com Mets June 2018 Uniform Recap

First, let’s take a look at the graphic provided by UniformLineup.com:

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Here is a breakdown of the Mets June uniforms:

  • Home White Pinstripes: 12 games out of 26.  Paired with Primary cap.
  • Blue Home Alternate: 2 game out of 26. Paired with Home Alternate Cap
  • Road Grey: 9 games out of 26.  Paired with Primary cap.
  • Road Blue Alternate: 3 games out of 26  paired with Road Alternate cap.

And here is a breakdown of the Mets June Caps:

  • Primary Mets cap: 20 games out of 26
  • Home Alternate cap: 2 games out of 26
  • Road Alternate cap: 3 game out of 26
  • Holiday Cap: 1 games out of 26 (Father’s Day)

Tale of Two (Horrible) Caps: $50 vs $500

You might remember the story of the $500 “Player Authentic” jersey cap that are on sale from New Era.

Screen Shot 2018-06-29 at 12.38.09 PMBasically, it’s parts of a Majestic jersey (not game used or team issued) torn apart and constructed into a cap. Supposedly, the $500 was to cover the cost of all of the hard work and amenities built into the cap, like the “hand cut panels” and the “six panel construction”.

This cap, one of the ugliest I’ve ever seen in my life, also doubles as one of the most expensive out there, at $499.

Shannon from MetsPolice.com described the target demographic for these caps perfectly back in May:

If you’re on crack and obviously don’t mind whistling all your money away, these $500 caps are on sale because hey anything for a buck and I think MLB just wants to see if there’s a price point everyone rejects.

Well, a $50 version of the cap popped up on the MLB Shop recently, which, aside from the metallic box, looks identical to the cap that costs $450 more.

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Frankly, this cap looks better than the expensive one. At least this time you don’t have to wear the underarm panel on your head.

I do actually feel really bad for anyone who bought the $500 one, thinking they got something unique, only to see the cheap Chinese one hit the market a few weeks later.