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New Look For MetsPlus

I took to the WP-Admin and decided to change the theme from MLB Fan to MLB Retro.

Nice clean look!

Digging Through The Past…..

A little early for Spring cleaning?

Maybe. But then again, Major League Baseball has Spring Training in the middle of Winter, and the Winter Meetings in the Fall, so anything is possible….

I was looking back at my credit card charges, and one of them was the domain for this blog, which I intend to keep.

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Since I’ve forked over $18 an hour, I thought I might as well do something with the blog, even if I don’t intend to keep the blog going full time.

A quick recap since I’ve blogged regularly: I work six days a week with two jobs, and go to school three days a week, so committing to something isn’t going to happen, but thankfully, since I written anything in half a year on here, I can be therapeutic by writing this nonsense and know that there will be little to no criticism!

 

Catch me on MetsPolice this June & July!

Hey Everyone, just a quick heads up:

You’ll be seeing me pop-up on MetsPolice.com once again this year, for two weeks. I’m looking forward to it, and it should be a lot of fun!

If any of you have suggestions or ideas, feel free to email me at Niko@MetsPlus.com, I look forward to seeing you all come June 27th!

Why I Fail to Understand the Mets new Backpack Rule

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Effective last homestand, the Mets implemented a new bag policy for fans entering the stadium.

Previously, the Mets had a rather reasonable policy, allowing anything soft-sided provided that the dimensions do not exceed 16 inches by 16 inches by 8 inches. Briefcases, coolers and other hard-sided bags or containers were not, and are not permitted.

However, for whatever reason, come last homestand, the Mets deemed their security staff incapable of properly screening backpacks, despite being fit to do so during several games between the announcement and the implementation.

I was very frustrated at first, and knew that with the various exceptions provided, this policy is a lazy way to weed out work for staff, and a piss-poor attempt to speed up lines.

I successfully got my backpack through security with no hassle on the first day of the new policy:

So if these exceptions are in place, is this rule here to annoy and turn-away loyal fans for warranted security procedures, or just to speed things up for the workers?

I can’t think of any reason as to why the bags should be banned. The screening was already rather comprehensive, and it doesn’t match the national scale for security.

For example, as an airport worker, I can bring in any type of backpack, luggage, hard-sided briefcase, you name it, though to the airside gates with no security screening, yet the Mets won’t grant backpacks access to the game, even with extra handling or screening.

And you wonder why fans are staying home….

Trip Around the League: PNC Park, Home of the Pirates

As the Mets ventured into the West Coast for the week, MetsPlus also traveled west! Instead of the 2,500 mile cross-country trek to San Diego, we went less than 500 miles away, to the steel city: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; home of Pittsburgh Pirates, to take in some newfound sights and sounds.

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The Pirates play their home games in PNC Park, which opened in 2001, and is currently the seventh oldest park in the National League. The ballpark’s proximity to the city couldn’t be beat, as it’s located right in the heart of Downtown Pittsburgh, off the shores of the Allegheny River. The ballpark has a seating capacity of 38,747, and has held over 40,000 fans at a game, but given the Pirates current trajectory, roughly sees an average of 20,000 fans a game.

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Most of the hotels, shops and restaurants are located across the Roberto Clemente Bridge (renamed from the Sixth Street Bridge in honor of the legendary Pirate) so many fans cross over the bridge (which is closed to vehicular traffic) prior to and after the game. The original bridge was designed by famed architect John A. Roebling, thirty years before he designed the Brooklyn Bridge, arguably the most famous bridge in the world.

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Once nearby, there’s lots of bars, restaurants and live music to get fans excited and ready for the game. Most of these did not appear to be officially sanctioned from the team, which contributes to a very organic and grassroots feel; the perfect atmosphere for a baseball game.

The Pirates (like many other teams in the Major Leagues nowadays, but dissimilar to the Mets) use metal detection upon entry, which was annoying, but rather nominal time-wise. There wasn’t much of a line when we entered, and I never saw a queue at any point during the game.

For a twenty year old ballpark, PNC Park still looks brand new from an aesthetics perspective. Around the exterior of the ballpark stands a series of grand masonry archways, and stunning decorative terra cotta tiled pilasters, which invokes feelings of nostalgia from the club’s former home, Forbes Field.

 

 

PNC Park was also the first ballpark with a two-deck design (as opposed to a three-deck design) to be built in the United States since 1953, which contributes to a very intimate environment, the highest seat is just 88 feet from the playing field, giving every fan in the park an ideal sight line of the action.

In certain stadiums, sitting in the upper level would be nauseating of sorts, whereas that was not the case here. The upper level was arguably better than the main level, with those picturesque views of the Pittsburgh skyline in immediate view.

Wanting to venture around, I took a trip up to the aforementioned upper level to examine the vistas, but was promptly stopped by a somewhat nosy usher, who didn’t want to let me in to the upper deck, over an hour before game time, despite being ticketed in a more expensive seat on the field level.

This is something that I’ve only seen at Citizens Bank Park, and is extremely annoying for all involved, especially considering the stadium was extremely empty throughout the game. Thankfully, an usher a few sections over had no problem with me taking a breath or two in the cheap seats.

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Outside of that one interaction, I found the staff at PNC Park to be rather friendly, but concurrently, clinical to a fault. Like the Mets, the Pirates use Aramark concessions to fulfill food & beverage needs, which means that fans eligible to consume alcoholic beverages get carded no matter their age (which I think is wrong) and their new point-of-sale system, which was installed in April of this year, was rather laggy, causing prolonged wait times at food stands. Thankfully, a little bit of Pittsburgh charm from the staff (or is it a lack of New York rudeness?) kept the smile on the patient fans.

While Citi Field could be described as a culinary oasis of sorts, PNC Park is less-so, with your traditional ballpark classics adorned around the ballpark. On a quest to find some original eats, I stumbled upon Manny’s BBQ.

Named after former Pirates catcher Manny Sanguillen, this barbecue joint is located behind the center field batter’s eye, in an area that feels like you’re outside of the ballpark itself.

The barbecue is prepared in front of you, and there is a visual menu, featuring some of the most blurry and grotesque looking food I’ve ever seen on a public-facing image.

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Thankfully the cuisine looked much better in real life:

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I sampled two of the options, a more complex french-fry pork and onion string concoction, and the more traditional Pulled Pork sandwich.

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Both were tangy and rich with flavorful sauce, but rather lukewarm, mainly in part due to the long wait times caused by the technical difficulties, but considering I ate them at a table directly adjacent to the stand, and it is to be assumed most fans take their food to their seats, it might be worthwhile for the Pirates to pump up the heat a little bit on the smoker.

The other local staple from Pittsburgh was a location of Primanti Brothers (the Shake Shack of Pittsburgh).

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Founded in 1933 by Joe Primanti, this eatery is famous for putting french fries inside the sandwich (not that radical in my eyes, but I digress) and wrapping it in newspaper.

This location serves at the ballpark serves up two of Primanti’s classics, minus the newspaper.

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It was fine, but far from an excitement that my taste buds would want to go back and experience over and over again. Still, this is Pittsburgh’s signature sandwich that has delighted fans for decades. When in Rome, right?

The ballgame experience was fun as well. The Pirates mascot, Pirate Parrot, was busy entertaining fans young and young-at-heart, all throughout the game, and if you weren’t hungry enough from the photos above, there was a pierogi race around the outfield warning track (Chester Cheese won, for those scoring at home).

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The Pirates were also wearing their amazing throwback “steel city yellow & black” uniforms, with a yellow racing stripe on the pant leg, circa 1976. Black pants are all but extinct from the sport, so that was really cool to see.

If only they had kept the yellow batting helmets and the stir-up socks!

While the Pirates might not be the most exciting team in the league, (projected to be in last place with only 79 wins according to FanGraphs) the ballpark experience is on par with the best I’ve seen around the country, and while I find it somewhat arrogant that the Pirates proclaim that PNC Park is the “Best Ballpark in America” (I mean -come on- it’s **right there** in the logo) it does check all the boxes that you’d want to see in a premier ballpark, and I’m already looking to go back to pay the city a Pittsburgh a longer and prolonged visit real soon.

For those of you who would like the PNC Park Experience, you should definitely put the Mets vs. Pirates series in August on your bucket list. Tickets start at just $20, and there’s an amazing firework show after the game, with that picturesque Pittsburgh skyline in the background. You can purchase your tickets by clicking here.

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Travel Considerations Courtesy: MLBAM a.k.t. & MediumBlogs / Photos Courtesy: James Giovan & MLB Digital / All Views & Opinions are my own / Contact: Niko@MetsPlus.com

Special thanks to the Pittsburgh Pirates and the city of Pittsburgh for their generous hospitality. 

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Worth a Read! After The Miracle, by Art Shamsky

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of picking up a copy of 1969 Mets champion Art Shamsky’s book, titled After The Miracle, with additions from longtime famed sportswriter Erik Sherman. The book, the second in Shamsky’s collection (the first being The Magnificent Seasons) perfectly depicts the camaraderie that we are celebrating 50 years after the Miracle Mets took home the commissioners trophy for the first time.

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The story features recollections from five of the Mets’ greats from 1969. Art himself, alongside Tom Seaver, Ron Swoboda, Bud Harrelson and Jerry Koosman. The book truly is a must read, especially in this ceremonial year where we are commemorating the half-centennial of the ’69 team.

Beyond the game of baseball, the book is perfectly tied with the climate of daily life in New York in the late 1960s, as it outlines the Mets successes in 1969, and the trials and tribulations that the team had to overcome as a unit.

I had the enormous pleasure to interview Art a few years ago, and you should definitely check that out, and pick up a copy of the book for yourself!

Have you read “After The Miracle” yet? If so, let us know about your favorite part down below!

 

 

 

 

Holidays are Here! Mets 2019 Holiday Cap Review

As I get ready for Greek Easter this Sunday, I’m starting to get into the festive mood, and with festivities comes lots of color, extravagance and uniqueness.

The same qualities can be said about the Mets Holiday uniforms for 2019, undoubtedly the best since this relatively new tradition was introduced to Major League Baseball.

So let’s look at the special event caps and jerseys and give it an honest critique:

MOTHER’S DAY CAP: B+

The Mother’s Day cap this year in slightly inverted from the previous iteration that we saw in 2018. Instead of the pink panel, we see a pink brim, and a blue top panel. The interlocking “NY” is also in pink. Like last year, regular Mets uniform tops will be worn with the Mother’s Day Ribbons. Overall this is a good look, nothing revolutionary, but good overall.

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ARMED FORCES DAY CAP: C+

What used to be a C- has just turned into a C+, as the camouflage, something I’ve never been fond of in a baseball uniform, is now being worn on the proper corresponding holiday. Unfortunately, that’s the only tangible improvement that can be seen… The cap is rather dark, uninspiring, and, well camo!

I think this will look better on some teams over others, but I still view this as an average cap that I won’t be thrilled to see on-field.

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MEMORIAL DAY CAP: A 

The only cap we don’t have a photo of, this cap is your standard Mets cap with a respectful, Memorial Day MLB patch. In addition, the uniforms have a “lest we forget” poppy, which is also a nice touch when remembering our fallen. The best part of all of this, though? None of this is for sale, so the motive for this (at least in a direct sense) isn’t profit driven.

FATHER’S DAY CAP: A+

This tie-die Mets cap is probably the only one here that I will end up buying myself. I love the sky blue tie-die, and the royal blue brim, it’ll match my socks from a couple years ago. I give this one an A+, while it doesn’t look great for all teams, it’ll look dandy on the Amazin’s.

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INDEPENDENCE DAY CAP: B

Outside of the National League patch, this cap strikes me as rather… unremarkable. The theme here is throwback logos, given the 150th Anniversary of Major League Baseball, but the Mets have never had a radically different cap logo, and even the small differences that would set a 1962 Met cap and a 2019 Met cap apart are not incorporated into the logo. With that being said, the cap itself is still visually pleasing, but I’m sure I’ll have a different thought when it’s juxtaposed with the royal blue Mets uniform.

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What’s your thoughts of the 2019 Holiday Mets uniforms? Let me know in the comments down below, or on Twitter, @NikoGoutakolis.

Mets Home Opener 2019 Review

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Last Thursday, I traveled east to Flushing, Queens to see the Mets take on the Washington Nationals, the game, a one o’clock start, was the Mets Home Opener after a very impressive 5-1 roadtrip to start the season.

I entered through the Jackie Robinson Rotunda at around 11:30am, with moderate lines that you would expect on Opening Day. There were no metal detectors, only wands which seemed to expedite the procedure somewhat.

Unfortunately my ticket didn’t scan, so I had to go to the Ticket Office and get a hard ticket printed out, which I actually prefer. New for this year, mobile tickets replace most of the paper tickets, and it is no longer possible to get a seat location slip upon entry into the ballpark. Thus, I noticed far more people struggling with print-at-homes, and long waits in the office ensued.

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Once inside, I purchased a copy of Mets Magazine from my favorite salesman, and climbed the escalator to see the Mets lineup (in oversized Topps Baseball Cards).

I wanted to try one of the new critically acclaimed food options that had been praised, and I settled upon Sliders & Sinkers, a place with little to no organization. To keep a very long story short, I ordered the Slider combo in a souvenir helmet, and they were out of most anything and everything, which was a big disappointment.

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Eventually, I got some sliders, which, while cold, was rather tasty.

The ceremonies itself were very pleasant, Jacob deGrom got a great reception, and the annual tradition of giving the team a good luck wreath continued into 2019.

Unfortunately, the game itself was rather disappointing, with the Mets not scoring a single run. I did like the new scoreboard, which was recently overhauled.

All in all, while the game was disapointing, it was great to return to Citi Field after the long winter, bask in the sun, and root on the Amazin’s.

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I have high hopes for this team in 2019, and here’s to many more great memories to come at Citi Field.

Six Good Signs We Saw In the First Six Games

To start the 2018 season, the Mets went 11-1. Didn’t think we could beat that? Well, the 2019 New York Mets are 5-1 in their first six games, and this team (arguably) looks better than they did last year!

So let’s tale a closer look at the start of this ball club, and examine exactly what it is that is making this team so promising….

A. The Makeup of the Team

I mentioned last year when David Wright and Jose Reyes left that this would signify the end of an era for the New York Mets, and while it was nice to say farewell to some players that have shaped the history of the team, the flip side of players leaving is new aspiring players coming up, complemented by robust free agent signings.

B. The aggressiveness from the Front Office

I was in absolute shock when they actually went through with their word and gave Pete Alonso a spot on the team. This is one of the many testaments to how aggressive new GM Brodie Van Wagenen has been. It’s interesting to hear that the Mets are still reaching out to Dallas Keuchel; if Brodie were to go after him, that would make this offseason one of the most complete in terms of acquisitions in team history.

C. The Managerial Decisions from Callaway, Complemented by his new Coaching Staff

It’s not only the on-field talent that has a lot of new faces, the coaching staff that surrounds manager Mickey Callaway has gone through a complete overhaul as well. Two of the most well received changes was the addition of long-time National League skipper Jim Riggleman as the bench coach, who some believe might be calling more of the shots than a normal bench coach would, and could potentially replace Callaway if that is ever warranted, and hitting coach Chili Davis, a twenty year Major League veteran, who is promoting small ball play and taking the ball the other way, something you’ve seen Dominic Smith doing with lots of success early on.

D. The Camaraderie between Teams 

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The Mets have never had a hostile roster, but seeing the entire team on the same page with a revived energy is great to see. While Pete Alonso and Dominic Smith are competing for the same first base job, it’s clear that they have the same interests, and are genuinely rooting for each others success. Even bench players like Keon Broxton have been seen rallying the troops on the bench.

E. The Early Success from Jacob deGrom

It’s fair to say that Jacob deGrom has been as close to immaculate as one could be through his first two starts. Through 13 innings, he’s recorded 24 strikeouts, and has yet to give up a run. Some are calling him the undisputed best pitcher in baseball and it certainly makes deGrom’s contract extension look mighty fine.

F. Help is on the way….

I’ve always stated that injuries are a big part of the game, and while this team looks complete, things will only get better with Travis d’Arnaud and Todd Frazier re-joining the team in less than a week, and the (hopefull) return of Yoenis Cespedes in the not-do-distant future.

Next week on MetsPlus, get a comprehensive look into my experience at the Mets Home Opener! 

Opening Day 2019 is Here!

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Otherwise known as the only day that I actually want to be in Washington D.C, the New York Mets season begins in just under an hour, as hope springs eternal comes once again.

This team has rejuvenated energy, camaraderie, and I’m so excited to watch this team succeed in 2019.

It all starts with an exceptional matchup of Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer.

Of course it’s just one game, deGrom could pitch poorly and no one would have a different perception of him, but there’s nothing like clearing out your day, sitting at home, enjoying some ballpark classics, and listening to Gary, Keith and Ron.

Enjoy your Opening Day, everyone!

My Prediction for this Year: 81-81, 4th Place