Thursday, January 17, 2013

Mile High Mr. Met, Pt. II

FINALLY (and randomly) the second day of my trip to Denver. If you haven't read Part I, or would like to refresh yourself on my April 2012 Mile High Met Adventure, please do so.

After playing pool at a bar called @cheers (on 80’s Night, no less),  in Northglenn, we woke up Sunday Morning, April 29, in Golden, CO, ready to venture down to my sister’s place, which is about 10 minutes away from Coors Field. A cute, colorful house built circa the 1870’s, it was apparently moved a few blocks over from its original location so a highway could be built. After having breakfast with her, my brother-in-law, my young nephew and niese (oops. niece), the babysitter arrived and we hopped into the car and headed to the game. It would have been lovely for the kids to come with us, but they are rather young, I hadn’t seen my sister or her husband in a while and they wanted to enjoy the game without restless children in the sun.

We got off the highway when I realized I had left the tickets in my Mr. Met duffle. Luckily, we still had plenty of time till 1st pitch and turned around by staying on the Denver grid. We arrived back at their house and I ran inside, grabbing the tickets before the kids even knew we were back. I hopped into the car once more and off we went.
Looking for parking, we found a lot that was a cheap 10 dollars. We got on line for the ticket machine around 12:50 for a 1:10 game and soon noticed everyone had a credit card to use and each credit card transaction was taking 5 minutes (or so it felt). None of us had the cash to use and unfortunately had to wait a while once it was our turn. Tapping my toes decked out in my Blue RA Dickey throwback, the ticket finally printed, I ran to our rental car and put it in the windshield. I locked the car mid-sprint as we ventured towards the ballpark.

All I cared about was getting inside for the 1st pitch. There was much intrigue with the series on the line and the Mets facing 49-year-old Jamie Moyer. Besides all those facts, I just love catching the start of the game. Having seen the line at the home plate entrance, a decision was made that a better chance would be had at the left field gate, where we needed to be anyway with bleacher seats that day. When we got there, though, we found two rather long lines underneath a highway overpass. Having no choice, we hopped on as the Mets came to bat.

I tried to check the pitch-by-pitch on my phone, but my crappy device couldn't pick up the internet well. I took a breath and tried to calm down my "I need to witness every pitch" sports fanatic type of nerves and enjoyed the sunny day I was beginning to take in. Without further adieu, we were in the park and ready to soak up some baseball and some sun.


Much to my delight, when we crossed into visual contact with the game at hand, David Wright was sliding into 2nd having just plated Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Ruben Tejada with the first 2 runs of the day. A nice way for the Metsies to greet us (at least the Orange and Blue brigade of our party.) Now it was time for some brew and some grub.

What you see right there is chocolate-covered bacon. That floored me. When I approached the booth with the idea of purchasing a brisket sandwich, I was greeted on the menu with something my curiosity couldn't pass up. Bacon is already made with brown sugar, so the idea of making a desert out of the awesomeness of bacon isn't far-fetched, or weird-tasting (there's an ice cream shop in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, that has Bacon ice cream.) The delicacy above is, as many of you guessed, fantastic. It might need to be mandatory in every ballpark.

We found our seats, which were classic metal bleacher benches. I hadn't seen the likes of those in a long time. It was definitely a baseball experience I could wrap my head around. And the view was spectacular. A perfect spot to catch a ball, which is why I had my glove at hand.


Lucas Duda took a walk, giving Scott Hairston an opportunity to feast on the Ageless Southpaw with runners on. David Wright took off on a 1-0 count, stealing 3rd base easily because of the slow speed of the pitch. Moyer came back to go ahead 1-2 on Scottie but on the 5th pitch, Hairston singled towards our field, driving in Wright with a line-drive to left. We had hardly been in the building and us scattered Met fans had huge grins on our faces. Still, a long way to go.

Though Ike singled next, trying to use Coors Field to help break him out of his early season slump, Thole struck out, and Johan lined out as the 9th man up in the top of the 1st.

For the 2nd time in this young season, I had the pleasure of seeing our Venezuelan Southpaw try to reestablish his career. Given a 3-0 lead, Johan K'ed both Marco Scutaro and Dexter Fowler on swinging strikes to start the bottom half. I made a mental note of how many games the Mets have had without a no-hitter when Carlos Gonzalez singled to left-center (7,990.) It was probably wishful thinking to get a No-No at just about a Mile High...

The Mile High Row

Though being a Mile High must be quite the thrill, The Rock Pile is a section that comes out of nowhere. I have not sat there, but gather there is no perspective like it anywhere else in the Majors. The only kind-of-comparison I can think of is the Center Field section in Wrigley...you know, where Rowengardner threw a strike to home plate...

Besides being very friendly folk in Denver and at Coors Field, some of them also have a flare for the stellar facial hair. Earthman 0008, the beer vendor there on the right, had a 'stahe that was nothing short of excellent. He not only has a fantastic horseshoe-style, he has dyed it Rockies purple. Well done, sir.

After that 3-run 1st, Moyer settled down, and him and Santana exchanged zeros until a Josh Thole Coors Field Home Run into one of the 'Pens broke that up in the 5th. It couldn't have been a better day to take in some baseball, and the company surrounding us were good to converse with. We talked sports, the regions we live in, etc.

"You know, Peyton is here today. Him and Helton are good friends," the guys informed our group.

"Oh, cool. Yeah, Peyton backed up Helton at the University of Tennessee before Todd went down with an injury. He then dropped quarterbacking and focused all his attention on baseball," my brother-in-law retorted.

You learn something new everyday.

Inbetween innings, like all ballparks, the media department engages the crowd with games and other video interactions. The gentlemen on the left was charged with catching a fly ball they were throwing from the left field corner. They didn't make it easy for him, and on one attempt he almost made a diving catch on a ball well in front of him. One of the guys we had been conversing with behind us said to his buddies, "They really jewed him on that one."

Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuummm.....

I chuckled deep down inside.

One of my goals in the early part of the season was doing a better job capturing stills of the baseball motion. As the Rockies threatened in the bottom half of the 5th inning with a runner on 2nd and 1 out, I clicked away as the pitch came in to Jonathan Herrera, who had pinch hit for Moyer. He got a hold of the ball and sent it to deep left-center.

Here's my chance for a great action shot, I thought to myself.

I looked and saw that it appeared Kirk had it the whole way. I had the play the whole way as well.




Yeah.

By the time the ball was in his glove and Kirk was laying out in center, that man's head completely covered the play. Oh well. The most important part was that Nieuwenhuis made a spectacular play to save a run, and Johan was able to get Scutaro to ground into a 1-3, ending the inning.

The Mets threatened to tack on more throughout, but could not get it done. Johan went 6 shutout innings, giving up only 2 hits and 3 walks. Miguel Batista took over for him in the 7th and had a 1-2-3 inning, getting through the bottom part of the Rockies lineup. It felt comfortable, but only as comfortable as a 4-0 lead can feel in Rockie Mountain High, Colorado.

Jon Rauch arrived for the 8th, aiming to keep up his so far stellar 2012 pitching. It started off a little scary with a Scutaro fly ball to deep left field for the 1st out. Dexter Fowler, however, sent a 3-2 pitch up the middle for a single. Wanting nothing to do with CarGo, he walked him on 4 pitches to put a runner in scoring position. Tulo then grounded out to Rauch, weak enough to allow both Fowler and Gonzalez to reach 3rd and 2nd, respectively. Things were getting a little dicey...give Johan the win, man. Don't do that, like always... The Rockies fans around us started to awaken, including my brother-in-law and the guys we had been talking to. Then, on 6 pitches, Rauch put the cherry on top by walking Michael Cuddyer. That was it. Terry was on his way out. And nothing was getting the crowd more pumped up than Todd "Mr. Rockie" Helton being the pinch-hit tying run at home plate with a 0-4 deficit. The last thing any of us wanted was extra-innings with my sister and her husband needing to get a barbeque ready by 5.

Time for the Byrdak.

He got the count to 2-2 on the left-handed Helton.  
Come on, Byrdak, you can get out of this...
The pitch came in...and the sound of the bat echoed throughout.

Everybody stood up. Except me. I didn't need to track the ball. I knew where it was going.
My brother-in-law high-fived everyone around us. One of the guys we had been talking to screamed, "Yeah!!" in my ear a couple times for a couple seconds. I just sat there shaking my head, saying, "He hung that slider. He hung that #@%&*! slider." After Helton crossed home plate, they showed Peyton Manning on the screen and the place went insane. Denver might be a football town, but they sure know how to root for their Rockies.

Bobby Parnell came in and got the last out. The Mets threatened in the top of the 9th, getting Wright all the way to 3rd base on a walk, a groundout and a balk. But Scottie H. struck out looking and Ike lined out unluckily to 2nd. They sent Bobby back out there for the bottom of the 9th and he quietly got the Mets through it with 2 groundouts to 2nd and a groundout to short.

Onto extras we went.




This guy.

I don't leave games early, much less in a 4-4 tie going into the 10th, unless its an emergency. My sis and bro-in-law did have to go set up for the barbeque, and I asked them to give it an inning. Being their ride, but with their place so close, they decided that if the game wasn't yet over after 10 innings, they would take a cab. I appreciated them doing what myself in fan mode couldn't do, which was adapt. All of this was moot, however, if either team won. I was hoping to drive them back home with a smile on my face.

Josh Thole started the extras with a groundout to 3rd that Helton dug out at 1st(Jason Giambi had gotten the start but Helton stayed in for him after the Grand Slam.) Mike Baxter, pinch-hitting for Parnell, looked to continue his stellar early season bench work. The count went 2-2 and he placed the 5th pitch into right-center for a single. It was his 5th hit in 10 pinch-hitting at bats so far. Up came Kirk, another young surprise for the Mets. After swinging at a high fastball to send the count to 0-2, they went away from the lefty with a breaking pitch, but he stayed with it, driving the curveball down the left field line. I saw the ball, heading towards our side of the field, slice away from the "No-Doubles" defense and head towards the corner. Now, I was standing. Baxter flew around 2nd, around 3rd...but the relay throw got bobbled. It might have been close, but it didn't matter. The Mets had a 5-4 lead. I silently cheered, keeping it to a clapping minimum and the comments to the party. Another Mets fan, though, to my left and down, in a Darryl home pinstripe throwback, stood up and started trash-talking all the Rockies fans around him. "Whoa, whoa, whoa, take it easy!!!" I said out loud, though not loud enough for the fan to hear me since he was over a few sections.

This wasn't Citi Field.

We hadn't won the game yet.

What the fan was doing screamed of Karma biting us in the ass.

Sure enough, Karma's ass biting made it's first appearance, in the form of Kirk going to 3rd on a ball to his right. Absolut Dead Duck. Big run erased, but I took everything in stride. After Daniel Murphy grounded out, it was time for Karma's 2nd ass biting...or was it just Frank Francisco's very hittable pitches? After barely getting the save the night before, I sat on the edge of my seat looking for him to get through the inning. He had a good sequence of pitches against Dexter Fowler to get him to ground to 1st, but fell behind CarGo 2-0. Francisco threw one right down the middle, and the ball got just over the right field fence in a hurry. My brother-in-law cheered, but shook his head at the fact we couldn't lock this one down. Surprisingly, it was Frank Francisco's 1st blown save of the year.  My brother-in-law was ready to get outta Dodge, but pushed the Rockies to send him off with a win. I couldn't see a scenario where I wasn't driving them back in a "I just watched the Mets blow it a couple times on the road" mood. Though 2 more got on against the closer, he buckled down and pitched his way out of trouble.

My sis and bro-in-law were outta there.

My girlfriend and I certainly wanted to get outta there, too. I love baseball. I love extra-inning baseball. I love when extra-inning baseball just doesn't seem to end. But the reason I was still there was 'cause the Mets blew it twice. So, yeah, even though I'm all about the full experience, my patience was waning. I wasn't going anywhere, no matter how long it took. But I didn't want it to take that long.

Boom. A David Wright lead-off single.

Come on, Duda. Abide...

Single into center! David takes 3rd!

Runners on the corners and no out? Come on, Hairston!!!

Even though he drove in the 3rd run of the day, for the 3rd time in the game, Scottie failed to get a runner in with a grounder to 3rd. Duda out at 2nd. 1 out.

(As you can see, I had stopped taking pictures at this point.)

Up walked Ike Davis, the man who just the night before gave my girlfriend's jersey a fresh signature. After an unlucky 1-4 on Saturday night, Ike had gone 2-5 that Sunday, clearly with a much better approach at the plate.

COME ON, IKE!!!!

On a 1-1 count, Davis took it the other way with a grounder between 3rd and short. It hopped past the diving 3rd baseman and into left field.

Oh, man. Are we lucky.

Davis would not have gone the other way like that a few weeks earlier, let alone in a moment like that. He seemed to be breaking out of that crazy funk of his, and we now had a lead. Clearly, I wanted us to "Coors Field" our way out of this with a victory, but doing that in the 11th inning got thwarted when Josh Thole capped his oddly power-hitter-type day (a home run, 3 strikeouts and a groundout) with an inning-ending double play. Now, it was crunch time. Another 1-run lead in Denver our (echem) bullpen needed to lock down.

And a barbeque we needed to get to.

So. In came Ramon Ramirez.

The reliever part of the Angel Pagan trade hadn't exactly been everything we had hoped for. He had a track record though, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt on April 29th. Besides, just about every reliever had been used. It was Ramon or bust.

He got behind the first hitter, Chris Nelson, 2-1, but then threw a low-outside corner fastball by the guy, the bat just barely getting a piece. Ramon pulled back and let go, giving it all he had, getting the Rockies' 3rd baseman to swing at a middle-inside fastball. Swinging 3rd Strike. 1 out.

Come on, RAMON!!!! LET'S DO THIS!!!

The next batter was a pinch hitter, Wilin Rosario, the supposed "future catcher" of the Rockies. Though Ramon once again fell behind the batter, Rosario swung at the 2nd pitch and put a charge into it, sending the ball to center. At this park, the split-second you hear that kind of crack of the bat, you...stay in your seat.

But I stood up this time. And quickly saw Nieuwenhuis locate it.

Two out.

One more batter and this was ours.

One man stood between us and another Mile High Metropolitan Victory.

That man...
...was Marco Scutaro.

That pesky SOB who, I did not know at the time, used to play for the New York Mets.

Yet again, Ramirez fell behind with an up and in pitch.

We're right there. Come on...

Another one, up and in.

2-0.

So close, come onnnnn...so close...

Ramon Ramirez had no choice but to throw a strike.

That strike was thrown down and inside.

And absolutely hammered by Marco.

I stood up as the ball headed towards me. I reluctantly readied my glove and tracked it.

This is gonna be tied up again. And I'm gonna be the one to catch the #$%&@! thing.

But as the milli-seconds turned into actual seconds, Hairston made his way onto the warning track, felt for the wall and set up for the catch.

Exactly 5 seconds after Scutaro scared every Met fan in the building, a crazy day of daytime baseball settled into Scottie's glove only mere feet in front of me, and the Mets had taken the series.

The people not dressed in Purple let out a great big cheer.

And took a huuuuuuuuuuuuuge, deep breath.

What a fitting way for that game to end.

The Mets certainly earned their handshakes this day.

The 2012 New York Mets were now 13-9, and my girlfriend and I were 2-0 in Met games at Coors Field, having avoided Friday Night's monstrosity.

It just took 6 runs on (only) 18 hits.

Let's go grill.


The barbeque was outstanding, consisting of many of their Denver friends, the children attached to them and the dogs they own. My sis and bro-in-law have certainly found and created a great atmosphere for their kids to grow up in and for them to share with their family and friends.





And our Mile High Journey came to a close.

The next day, we said our goodbyes, hopped in the rental car and dropped it off at the airport late-morning. Though the last thing we wanted to do was go back to work on Tuesday, we had to use Monday to get back to where we once belonged.

Time to get back to New York.





Before we knew it, "the initial descent" into JFK was commencing (though being a former airline attendant, my girlfriend always "knew".) I looked out my window and clicked away at the land underneath. I widened the scope of the frame and all of a sudden realized what was greeting me.




The City.


 What a way to end a magnificent Colorado trip.


UP. A. MILE.
LET'S. GO. METS.





















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