November 2017

#MetsPlus360: Picture Blog of the NL Wild Card Game

Mets Plus

Two nights ago, the Mets fell to the Giants in the 2016 National League Wild Card Game. Here is a personal recap of the night:


Waking up on Wednesday Morning, I had no tickets for the Wild Card game, but I had a fairly good feeling that I was going to find a way to get tickets to the game.

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Through one of my relatives connections, we were able to purchase three tickets from Sterling Equities in Section 332, and for those that don’t know, that is a seat on the third base side of the Excelsior Level. So, I walked into the stadium with my mobile tickets (which are convenient, as you only really need your phone until you walk through the gate, as the machine at the game automatically prints out a ticket slip once you scan your phone.)

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Queens Baseball Convention Tickets On-Sale

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Now less than three blocks away from me, the Queens Baseball Convention returns for it’s 5th time, once again, in Katch, located in Astoria (specifically Newtown Avenue and 31st Street). The event takes place all day on Saturday, January 20th.

The event, which was founded in 2014 by Keith Blacknick, Shannon Shark and Dan Twohig, has gained massive popularity among Mets fans, and is truly a “fan fest by the fans”.

Pictured above is my all-time favorite panel, or “The Uni Panel” which was originally called The Greatest Discussion of Mets Uniforms of All-Time, and it continues to be just that. I always ask a question to the panel, and with any luck, this year should be no different.

There is also a State of the Mets panel, some extras with SNY, and a whole lot more that’s still being determined. Lee and L.J. Mazzilli are also set to attend, and the basic package will include an autograph from one of them.

There are a few different price points, ranging from $50 to $100, with more perks being added as you climb up the wall of prices (obviously). You can purchase tickets here.

Overall, this is always a great event, and I can’t recommend it enough. There is re-entry, so if you are with your family and the pub atmosphere isn’t your thing, you can always step outside and head over to any of the family-friendly restaurants nearby, or enjoy some of the fare Katch has to offer.

Have you gotten your tickets to the 2018 Queens Baseball Convention yet? 

Top 5 Mets Christmas Themed Items For Sale

Merry Christmas, ladies and gentleman?!?!

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Ok, maybe it’s a little to early for that. But the sounds of the seasons are coming around, and Christmas shopping is well underway at the department stores and shops.

For a Mets fan, however, any regular Christmas gift just won’t cut it, so today we are going to look at some of the top presents decked out in the Orange and Blue that we all love, from some of the different Mets online retailers.

(Note, this post is not intended as a Christmas Gift Guide, nor is it sponsored by any of the retailers or manufactures listed below, these are simply my favorite Christmas/Holiday themed items for sale)

5. Aztec Scarf & Gloves Set – $14.99 – Fanatics 

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4. Mets Snowman Ornament – $11.99 – Amazon 

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3. Mets Royal Candy Cane Repeat Sweater – $69.99 – MLB Shop 

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2. A Very Jerry Christmas – The 7 Line – $42.00 

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1. Mets Festive Trapper – T7L x New Era 

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Watch: Mo Vaughn’s Home Run hits the Scoreboard

Anyone else wish Chase still sponsored the Mets? Just kidding….

Nice to see #42 in a Mets uniform, looks kind of weird, but nice.

Mets 2018 Cap Modifications

The good news is that if you are a uniform traditionalist, you will be happy to know that the Mets are not changing anything as far as the caps and uniform tops go. Unfortunately, (or fortunately, depending on what kind of cap you like) as is the case every two to three years, Major League Baseball changes it’s cap and uniform template, usually only limited to Spring Training and Batting Practice, and this year is no exception.

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The cap is made with the new lightweight “Prolight” material, which, according to SportsLogos.net, will be 26% lighter than the Diamond Era caps. We saw a preview of these Prolight caps on the Holiday caps last year, which was met with generally positive reviews. Most appreciate it’s lightweight feel without the annoying diamond stitching found on the League’s “Diamond Era” caps, an era that lasted less than a decade, from 2013 to 2017.

Side-by-side, the difference is noticeable, and, while I think I prefer proline to DiamondEra, the chrome really throws me off.

Ultimately, this is a minor detail, however, if Major League Baseball decides that they want to expand this to on-field regular season caps, then, the century long tradition of cap embroidery will be gone, something I don’t want to see happen.

I’ll probably buy this cap for the Prolight material alone, and, the timing is perfect with Thanksgiving and Christmas literally right around the corner, but this strikes me as an unnecessary change, and a devaluation to a cap.

 

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.

MetsGiving Returns for 2017

For a second consecutive year, the New York Mets would like to wish everyone a Happy “MetsGiving”.

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For those un-aware of what the concept is, MetsGiving is basically the Mets giving back to the community, though a variety of fundraisers, events and other miscellaneous tasks to contribute.

The first “event” is coming up in just a few days, so I thought I would take this time to share the list of events, which includes some ways the public can get involved.

  • Thursday, November 16 – Fourth Annual Turkey Giveaway –  The Mets will work with the New York Common Pantry to hand out turkeys in Manhattan, Agape Food Rescue in Brooklyn, Cayuga Center in the Bronx, The River Fund NY in Queens and Project Hospitality in Staten Island. Each family will also receive ticket vouchers redeemable to select games during the 2018 season.
  • Thursday, December 7 – Kids’ Holiday Party – More than 100 elementary school students from local schools will play games, enjoy lunch and perform holiday songs at the annual event. The children will receive a special visit from Santa and his elves who will be delivering gifts.
  • Wednesday, December 13 – Mets Annual Coat Drive – The Mets in partnership with UnitedHealthcare will be collecting new and gently-used coats for New York Cares to distribute to those in need this winter. Fans donating one coat or more will receive a voucher redeemable for two tickets to a select Mets home game in April 2018 and enjoy a day-of discount at the Mets Team Store.

So, if you are in the spirit of giving, please consider donating a coat, or sharing the news by using the hashtag, #Metsgiving.

 

 

Congratulations Carlos Beltran….

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We all saw it coming, but now it’s official. Carlos Beltran, an all-star outfielder with an illustrious 20 year career, is calling it a career after winning the World Series with the Astros in 2017.

In an article in the Players Tribune, titled “Muchas Gracias, Béisbol”. Carlos explained why he made the decision to hang it up, and recollected on his career.

I remember when I got traded for the first time, from Kansas City to Houston in 2004. When I received the news, I was excited for the opportunity to play for a team that was contending. But at the same time, it was sad for me because of the great organization and teammates I had to leave behind. One of my dreams was to play for one organization for my entire career. I had always looked up to George Brett, who had played for the Royals for his entire career. I recognized how special it was for him to do that, and I wanted that, too.

Now, 20 years later, I have played for eight great organizations, and I would not trade any of the experiences I had with them for anything in the world. It has allowed me to play with many great players — to learn from them, to pass along my knowledge, to build great friendships, and to have a broader perspective on every aspect of the game of baseball.

I highly recommend reading the whole article, available here.

Unfortunately, many Mets fans still hold a grudge thanks to Beltran’s decision not to swing on the 3-2 pitch in Game 7 of the NLCS. That being said, I don’t think it’s a big deal, and I’m sure in time, most Mets fans will look beyond that plate appearance, and remember all the other memorable moments Beltran had as a Met.

So thank you Carlos, we’ll see you in five years in Cooperstown, New York.

Catch me on the Travel Blog…..

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No, I’m not giving up blogging on MetsPlus, but as I said earlier the month, I’m shifting my focus for the offseason, slightly. I have a lot of content planned for MetsPlus during the Winter Meetings, and I still have that big Otesaga Review coming out.

However, some new content is also coming out on Niko’s Travel Blog, a seperate blog altogether focusing on all things travel, from hotels to buses to trains and even planes.

The website is NikosTravelBlog.com, and will be updated fairly regularly.

Meet Jeremy Rochford, the man that will do anything to become a Scout

Last year, MetsPlus attended the 2016 Winter Meetings in National Harbor, Maryland. Today, we share one of the more special features from that year, an interview with Jeremy Rochford, the “Interview Me” guy. 


 

We’ve all heard those cliché expressions. “You have to follow your dreams”, and “you can only get there if you try as hard as you can try”. Well, during my trip the Winter Meetings in National Harbor, Maryland, I met the guy that wanted to put those clichés to the test.

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His name is Jeremy Rochford, a 28 year old from California, who has had various jobs throughout MiLB, and has tried to follow his dream of becoming a scout since he was a junior in high school.

What did he do?

He packed his bags, flew across the continental USA, and landed in the Nation’s Capital, with his huge sign, which reads “PLEASE INTERVIEW ME”, hoping that someone would take it seriously and offer him a position.

I had seen him multiple times in the lobby of the Gaylord National, and I had seen some people taking photos with him, laughing (in a good way) and he even got on the MLB Network at one point.

After learning a little bit about him, I wanted to interview with him for MetsPlus, as it sounded like a surreal story, and after speaking with him, I almost felt like hunting down executives to give him a chance, because he was so passionate about his craft. I asked him some questions, and here are some of the memorable answers he gave me:

Niko Goutakolis: How long have you worked do become a scout? 

Jeremy Rockford: I knew that I wanted to become a scout since I was a kid, evaluator or an executive since I was a kid, and I’ve been applying for jobs since I was in 11th grade.

Niko: What is your experience?

Jeremy: I’ve had some internships the last few years. Minor League video with the Rockies this past season, I also drove to San Fransisco to edit video with MLB, and I moved out to Pennsylvania to do video scouting. Before that, I worked as a ticket agent for the Lake Elsinore Storm, and I would try to finish my shift early so I could go out and watch the Storm hit batting practice.

Niko : How did you progress out of the internships?

Jeremy: 2013 was the first year I got really sick of it. So, I decided to go out and do my own scouting at High School and Minor League Games. I would talk to other scouts, and pick their brains, and write my own reports. It’s been a four year drive.

Niko: Is this your first Winter Meetings?

Jeremy: I actually went to the Winter Meetings two years ago in San Diego, I live an hour north of San Diego, I tried to email people. Get some meet-ups and network a little bit, and it didn’t go too well. This time around, I decided I would come out with a different strategy.

Niko: Tell me about your strategy, your “Interview Me sign”?

Jeremy: People have told me about it getting on TV, and it’s a definitly gaining attention, which was the intention. There are hundred and hundred of people looking for a job in Baseball, some of which want a job in Baseball operations like me. Most of them are wearing suits and have finely cut hair and all that other good stuff, and this is something that tries to make me stand out. I want to do something that helps me stand out. Whether or not it was a good thing, some people have laughed at me, and that’s fine.

Niko: What would you say to a kid that wants to get into Baseball Operations but has zero experience? 

Jeremy: If it’s something you truly want, you’ve got to stay persistent, day after day, year after year. It’s not going to be easy, and you have to remember most of those people fail. The majority of the people do, and that’s just what happens. So you have to stay persistent and you have to speak your mind, not arrogant but yourself. When I was first trying to break into the game, I was very humble, and when I came out with a humble attitude, it didn’t work out. So, I learned that I had to be more on the aggressive side, and that’s the advice I would give.



Thanks to Mr.Rochford for taking the time to answer these questions, I hope you get the opportunity you’ve been yearning for, your perseverance is admirable!