I’ve been making the trip down to Spring Training since the year 2013, each year re-energizing me into the spirit of America’s pastime.
This year, I decided to take a three day trip down in to the heart of the Treasure Coast in Florida, and take in games at both FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach, Florida, and First Data Field in Port St. Lucie, Florida.
The former, FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, is a brand new facility, which opened in the year 2016, and is home to both the Houston Astros and the Washington Nationals.
The teams essentially flip and flop home games, which means there is a game at the ballpark pretty much every single day, which is great.
On the day I attended, I went to see the New York Mets play the Houston Astros at their facility. Parking was rather simple and intuitive, and was available for $10. After getting settled, we had to take a golf-cart shuttle to the top of the hill where we were met with a long line to purchase tickets.
Thankfully they opened up one of the Will Call desks, and that sped up the process, somewhat.
Eventually we had our tickets in hand, and went through the metal detectors (grr..)
We decided to disregard the seating location on the ticket stub, and took a nice seat down the left field line, with the intention to bounce around periodically as the game progressed.
Noah Syndergaard pitched two scoreless innings to start, and some minor league pitchers followed with mixed results.
Despite it being an “Astros home game” the ballpark was filled with Orange & Blue, with (at least) 50% of the crowd being Mets fans.
With that being said, there were plenty of ‘stros fans, including the biggest one of all, Orbit (think of a Astros-loving-astronomical-themed-Philly-Phanatic) doing a great job entertaining the crowd.
The food in the ballpark was also really, really, good, and all of the stands were in an open-air concourse with a specific name, like “Beachwood Burgers”, which I sampled, and thoroughly enjoyed.
Lastly, there were abundantly different and unique seating locations throughout the ballpark alongside a huge berm that stretched the entire length of the outfield.
I would highly recommend taking in a game at the Ballpark of The Palm Beaches, especially if you’re looking for a family friendly, easy going environment.. the best kind for Spring Training!
I just got back from my three day venture to Port St. Lucie in Florida. The trip was full of palm trees, fun, and lots of baseball. Before the trip, I compiled a list of three things I wanted to see, and see if my perception on these questions would be any different after viewing the team in person at camp.
A) Team Camaraderie without Jose Reyes and David Wright
It goes without saying that in this post-Wright era team, there isn’t a bonafide leader in the clubhouse, and while it’s not possible to predict who will emerge as said leader in three days of camp, I definitely saw a lot of strides by many players I didn’t expect to see stepping forward.
The best example of such was Amed Rosario, who impressed me with the way he was coordinating the infield, and walking to the mound, to calm the — often overwhelmed minor league — pitchers. His poise and confidence notwithstanding, I was very impressed with his demeanor.
In the bullpen, Jeurys Familia seemed to be chatting and mentoring some of the younger hispanic pitchers, which was nice to see. I was outspoken in my disdain for the Familia signing last December, as I thought it was a rather stale move, but if he can provide his counsel and help some of the younger arms all while taking care of his own affairs, that would be great to see, and I think the relationship between Familia and Edwin Díaz will be fascinating to watch over the course of the season.
B) Which of the Veteran Journeyman would Separate Themselves from the Pack
Mets General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen made it a priority this offseason to enhance the minor league depth, especially at the Triple-A Level. In doing so, the Mets signed a lot of experienced, older players, including Keon Broxton, Gregor Blanco, Danny Espinosa, Adeiny Hechavarria, Devin Mesoraco, Rajai Davis, J.D Davis, among others.
While most of these players are expected to start the year at Triple-A Syracuse, it’s become apparent that a few of them might make the big club, especially after the injuries to Jed Lowrie and Todd Frazier.
Of all the aforementioned players, Gregor Blanco seemed very eager and energetic, and was aggressive on the bases, something the Mets could always use. While he’s not the most exciting player off the bench, he could be an interesting 25th man.
C) Would any of the Young Pitchers Emerge as Leaders?
This is another question that I did not expect an answer to in three days, but throughout Spring, it doesn’t seem like any one pitcher is going to go the extra mile to grab the bull by the horns and lead the staff. Could deGrom take on this role post-extension? Maybe, but I think the door is open for Syndergaard to emerge into this Matt Harvey-type “king of New York” role, and if he has a good first half, he could do just that.
I also watched starts from both Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz, both of him seem to be in good shape, and ready to prove themselves in this pivotal season (for both themselves and for the club). Both of them came up with high praise, and while they’ve both had great moments, they’ve largely been overshadowed by deGrom, Harvey and Syndergaard, and I expect both pitchers to work in tandem with Dave Eiland, and develop and continue off what was a strong 2018 season.
Stay tuned for a comprehensive review of my trip to West Palm Beach & Port St. Lucie, next Wednesday!
Do me a favor. Close your eyes, and picture you are at the game.
When you’ve done that, click play on the video below (you might have to open your eyes for that).
“No, Niko, the seventh inning stretch was never played on the organ at Citi Field”
And you’d be right, that’s because that was played before the game.
“Seventh Inning Stretch before the game, and you want that back, aren’t you a traditionalist?”
Well, not necessarily the stretch, I want the organ. Instead of the loud obnoxious pop music, I want the sweet sounds of a ballpark organ.
The organ, or, organ tracks, was in-use from 2009 until 2014, when it was retired in favor of generic tracks.
So Mets, you’ve done things to win back the hearts of old-school Mets fans before, so in this year, 2019, where Brodie is mixing it up new and old, why not bring back this organ? I don’t think anyone dislikes it, and if you use organ tracks, there is no cost associated with it…
Hey everyone! Long time, no talk!
It’s me, Niko Goutakolis. Need I re-introduce myself?
I’m a little bit different from who I was when I was blogging in High School under the original MetsPlus title, so quick primer: In brief, I’m a college student that works two jobs, and does something fifteen hours a day, seven days a week, which made blogging about Baseball difficult, to the point that I stopped doing so last Fall.
As the weather gets warmer, I wanted to get back into it, at least a little bit.
This time, however, I’m going to do things a little differently. I’m going to post a longer-form article each and every Wednesday (in aggregate, this will also provide a great opportunity to master the spelling of Wednesday, something auto-correct is telling me I’ve surprisedly omitted from my educated brain these last twenty years).
So check back here, every Wednesday, for a new and exciting piece on something Mets, Baseball or (this is still Mets Plus) an interesting topic that I’ll a somehow give a baseball spin.
I’m really excited to start this new venture with all of you, and I look forward to seeing you all out at the ballpark soon.
As always, thanks for visiting MetsPlus.
This postseason marks five years since I launched this blog (then known as Pepper: a MLB Blog) with two of my friends, Borja and Pablo, as a freshman in High School. The blog started on Blogger with a super-generic theme, but we had a lot of fun with it. That December, we launched a video podcast series, titled the “Pepper Show”, and we had a whole season of over 30 episodes.
Later on in the Spring of 2014, to coincide with the Australian Opening Series, I made the decision to move the blog to it’s current home, MLBlogs, and eventually, that May, we became a dedicated Mets blog, called “Pepper Mets Blog” and was all by myself (and continued to be for the next four years).
We did a lot of cool things with the blog, we got credentials to the Winter Meetings three years in a row, covered plenty of Minor League ballclubs, and got to peek into the Citi Field press box every once in a while. The blog was prominently featured when I was the Baseball Bloggers Alliance president in 2014 and 2015.
I’ve had the time of my life sharing my baseball life with 750,000 of you over the last five years. And while I won’t give that up anytime soon, this blog will (continue to) take a pause, for a good portion of the offseason.
As some of you who know me personally are aware of, I have around three hours of free time on an average week. Between a job, an internship and being a college sophomore full time, there just isn’t a sufficient amount of time to devote to this blog.
I’ll still be active on Twitter, on my refreshed account, @NikoGoutakolis and sharing stuff on Instagram @NikoGoutakolis. If you were already following @NikoMetsPlus before, you need not do anything, my feed will automatically roll over to the new account.
So thanks, everyone, see you real soon, Mets, Transit, Aviation, NYC or whatever, Let’s Go Mets, Let’s Go MetsPlus.
One thing that not many folks know about me is that when I was very young, I was actually a Yankee fan.
It could be due to the fact I never had the opportunity to make a choice for myself, or that the elementary school I went to in Westchester was filled with dads sending their kids to school in oversized Yankee caps, but for the first two years of my baseball fandom, I appreciated the team from the Bronx, as crazy as that sounds.
However, in 2005, I went to the first Mets game that I can remember (technically a Marlins-Mets matinee in 2002 was my first game) and was quickly swept away by the atmosphere of Shea Stadium, the energy of the crowd, and the talent on the field.
Since then, I’ve been a loyal Mets fan. So dedicated, that I started this blog back in 2013, and decided to go to over 35 games this past season.
Sure, I’ve had my favorites throughout the years. Pedro Martinez quickly became my favorite because of his infectious personality, Johan Santana took that spot for me after Pedro’s departure, followed by R.A Dickey, Daniel Murphy, Jacob deGrom, and now I’m starting to get attached to Jeff McNeil.
There was always that one constant through all of that, and that’s David Wright.
I met David Wright for the first time in 2008, I got him to sign my oversized glove that I still use today when I play catch, and while the signature might have faded away, the thoughts I have on the player himself sure haven’t.
David was a leader, but not in the way he spoke. He commanded the clubhouse based on his presence, his work ethic and his intelligence. Even by the year 2007, it was already clear that David was going to be a mainstay with the Mets for years to come in a leadership role, and he had only been playing for three years at that point.
I’m going to miss David Wright.
In many ways, this is the end of the era of my first generation of Mets fandom. I love this team and always will, but the Reyes, Beltran, Delgado, Santana, Wagner, Familia, Santana, Harvey, Wright generation (known informally as Generation Wright) has officially come to a close, and I will never forget the fun I had rooting on that team.
Best of luck going forward, Captain. we all had just as much passion for you as you had for us, and Mets fans will remember that for a long, long time.
Now, how many days until we retire #5?
There’s an exciting opportunity coming up tomorrow for any Mets fans looking to meet sports legend and World Series champion Art Shamsky! Tomorrow, at the Brooklyn Book Festival in Borough Hall, Art will make an appearance in booth 634.
Borough Hall is accessible by using the 2, 3, 4, N and R trains.
If you are unable to attend, feel free to learn more about upcoming events and about Art’s book “The Magnificent Seasons” on ArtShamsky.com
After nearly two years of countless trips to the doctors, second opinions, rehab assignments and false promises, David Wright will finally be able to return to the Citi Field diamond at the conclusion of the season.
The press conference, which took place earlier today with Wright, John Ricco and Jeff Wilpon made it official: On Tuesday, September 25th, David will be activated for the series against the Braves, and on Saturday, September 29th, David will start for the last time at third base (the game is already sold out, and standing room tickets are going for $100 on StubHub).
Wright was extremely emotional during the press conference, and broke out in tears various times during the broadcast, and also announced that he doubts he will play again beyond this season.
He’s played in the second-most games in franchise history, leads in hits, RBI’s, at-bats and many other offensive categories, and is a philanthropist by all accounts off the field. Many regard David as the ideal baseball player, given his repertoire and how he conducts himself.
Personally, I’ve already got my tickets for Saturday, and I’ll be sure to root on David and give him a huge standing ovation, and while I understand that many will be watching from home or listening on the road, I’m looking forward to being with 40,000+ fans celebrating Wright’s incredible accomplishments.