Friday, May 4, 2012

Mile High Mr. Met, Pt. I

On Friday, April 27, my girlfriend and I headed to JFK Airport, ready to take to the skies for a journey to Colorado. Friends and family were waiting, and a certain team known as The New York Mets. Leaving New York and the Eastern Skies behind, we rose into the air, ready for some mountainous scenery. New York City waved us goodbye.

The first game was set to come on within an hour or so of take-off, so I decided to explore how much it would cost to watch it mid-air. The wireless fee wasn't terrible and I gave Delta my card information and went straight to MLB.TV. A little while before game time, I sampled other events from around the league and soon learned the video feed would barely come through, never able to pick up more than a frame every three seconds. So, I took solace in the fact I could listen in on Josh Lewin and Jim Duquette, with Howie Rose absent to be inducted into the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. The Mets quickly took a 1-0 lead, only to see that disappear in the bottom half on a Troy Tulowitzki homer off Chris Schwinden to make it 2-1. In the top of the 4th, Scott Hairston got the homer portion of his cycle out of the way, knotting the score up at 2-2. It's started to sound like a pretty tight game to be listening to at 30,000 feet. By the top of the 5th, the Mets took a 6-2 lead, all with 2 outs. Fantastic! If Chris Schwinden can keep it together the way he has up to this point and pass it on to the bullpen, we may have something here! Eric Young was the first to bat against him in the bottom of the 5th, and Schwinden received a comebacker for an easy out at first.......Wait! What am I doing?! I swore I'd never speak of this game again... 

We arrived in Denver a little after 10 o' Clock Mountain Time, went to the rental car dealer and picked up our mini-mini-van Mazda, all while the Mets wrapped up that monstrosity. We got into the car and drove 45 minutes west to a town called Golden, CO, the home of Coors and the place we would stay in the first evening of our trip.

What a beautiful town, surrounded by the foothills of the Rockies. Powered by the Coors economy as well as the novelty of the Wild West/1800's Gold Rush, you can understand why so many people have flocked to this state, with towns such as this one presenting a fantastic canvas to live in. Our friend's place is surrounded by views such as the ones below.

We ventured into the heart of Golden, looking to fill ourselves with a hearty breakfast. I have been better lately at watching my fatty and greasy intake during the week, but on weekends, and especially on vacation, I let it ride. We found a spot called the Golden Skillet, and if you're ever in Golden, do yourself a favor and stock your stomach up with items from their menu. I got the Country-fried steak with two eggs, hash browns and a side of biscuits and gravy. It was absolutely delicious, and just what I needed before we went off on our next excursion.

Driving to Red Rocks
I had never been to Red Rocks, neither the amphitheatre nor the rest of the park. The place is famous for the concerts that have been performed there, and rightfully so. There were no bands performing until May 8th, and we were able to explore its empty stage and its rows where fitness fanatics run up and down through the thin mountain air. What a spectacle Red Rocks is to behold.

After exploring the stage, we met up with some more friends and started off on a trail through the grandness. We found an open valley surrounded by the Rocks and decided to climb up onto them for an afternoon picnic. We later found out this was extremely illegal by some fellow rock climbers who found a hidden spot between the Red, but signs warning us were hardly prevalent throughout the area. Regardless, we sat in plain sight before this knowledge entered our minds, enjoying homemade pigs in blankets and mango/pineapple fruit salad surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery my eyes have ever laid upon.

Half past 4 arrived and it was time to make our way down to Denver. Dressed in my three-piece suit, I hopped in our rental car while my girlfriend traveled in her friend's ride, following them down to the Mile-High City.

Coors Field is in the middle of downtown Denver, an area I was not able to explore other than the three blocks between the ballpark and the parking lot, but one that looked cool nonetheless. It was a happening place, with many bars and restaurants surrounding the Field much in the same way Wrigleyville is decked out in Chicago. (Speaking of which, there were an unusual amount of non-Met/Rockie paraphernalia being worn at the game and around the ballpark, especially Cubs gear. There are apparently a lot of Chicago transplants in Denver, evident by the amount of C's I saw on people's chests.)


My girlfriend, who I have mentioned many times as being awesome, was once again just that as she found fantastically affordable field seats. A handlebar-mustached gentleman checked our tickets and we made our way down to the seats.

Guillermo Moscoso, a spot starter for Jeremy Guthrie (who had injured his shoulder in a bike accident Friday) made quick work of the Mets in the 1st inning, setting them down 1-2-3. After so many innings from the bullpen the night before, we needed Dillon Gee and his goatee to lock it down. Marco Scutaro, however, lead the bottom half off with a single to left field, stealing 2nd and reaching 3rd as Josh Thole threw it into center field. The eyes in my head rolled. Dillon was able to strike out Jonathan Herrera, but unfortunately walked Carlos Gonzalez. Troy Tulowitzki, the most adored Rockie based on the fans' reaction (outside of "Mr. Rockie" Todd Helton), grounded into a force-out, reaching first on the play and allowing Scutaro to score. The Rockies were out to an early 0-1 lead. The aforementioned "Mr. Rockie" strolled up to the plate, and Tulowitzki thought it was a good idea to try to steal on Josh Thole after his failed attempt at throwing earlier in the inning. This time, however, the idea was deemed a poor one, and Troy was out at 2nd to end the frame. I was delighted, as was the fellow Met fan behind us.

Denver people generally seem nice, and that goes for the Rockies fans as well. They were all cordial towards my Metdom, and being in enemy territory I felt it respectable to not be my loud self, even as the Mets took a 2-1 lead on a David Wright single and a Lucas Duda homer. The one time I used my megaphone was when my girlfriend cheered on her favorite player, Ike Davis, after he made a nice play at first. I told her, "I got this one, honey," and let my voice be heard.

In the top of the 3rd, 2 outs were quickly made when Dillon Gee and Kirk Nieuwenhuis lead off the inning with a fly ball and ground out, respectively. Ruben Tejada kept the frame going with a single, and Daniel Murphy followed suit. Up strolled "The New Franchise", David Wright, looking to extend the lead for our Metropolitans.
He did just that.

Doubling to the left fielder Car-Go, Tejada scored, and Murph went to 3rd. Pure. Baller.

Our lead went away for a little bit when the Rockies staged a rally in the bottom of the 4th. They were able to tie the game, and then Dillon Gee, to my frustration, allowed the pitcher to single in the lead run with 2 outs. For a second, I wondered if it was gonna be another long night for that Mets bullpen. Dillon, however, was able to get out of the frame, and settled down for the the rest of his 7-inning outing. A solid performance by the man with the long Goatee. We answered the Rockies back with 3 runs of our own in the top half of the 5th, and carried a 6-4 lead for the majority of the game afterwards. Fist Pump.

I am completely blanking right now on what on-screen race Citi Field has in-between innings (if they have one at all) but I found it interesting that the race out at Coors Field was a tricycle race through the streets of Denver. These bike-cabs are prevalent outside the ballpark, taking people who have parked their cars far away up to the building. So, this time-filler is very Denver-centric. The mascot foot-race they have later in the game, however, doesn't seem that Denver-centric...(more on that in Pt. 2.)

We arrived in the 9th inning looking for an insurance run, and we found it in the hot-hitting Mike Baxter. The Whitestone native doubled and arrived at 3rd on Cap'n Kirk's ground out. Ruben Tejada grounded out as well, though, and for a hot second it looked as if we'd strand that potentially important insurance run. The pitcher, however, was kind enough to throw a wild pitch, plating Baxter and making the score a more comfortable 7-4. Now it was time to see if Frank Francisco could handle the 3-run save.

With Friday night's memory fresh in every Met fan's mind, no way were we completely confident we had this game in the bag. Frankie, however, got 2 quick outs, increasing our confidence just a tiny bit. Dexter Fowler came up for Colorado, a player our friend who calls Golden home had come to appreciate throughout the night. All of a sudden, Dexter rocketed a shot to right-center field, and just like that, the uneasy feeling increased as the score became 7-5. Our friend absolutely loved it, along with 30,000 or so extremely passionate Rockies fans. Loudness ensued. Francisco buckled down, but pinch-hitter Tyler Colvin buckled down harder, hitting a line-drive to center field passed the glove of a diving Nieuwenhuis, who almost made the catch. My nervousness increased knowing the pesky Marco Scutaro was on his way up.  Every Met fans' uneasiness increased 10-fold, however, when it was announced that power-pinch-hitter extraordinaire Jason Giambi would pinch-hit for the scrappy Scoot. We zoned in on Frankie, willing him with our minds over the loud Coors Field crowd to come through for our Orange and Blue.

Giambi got a hold of one and hit it to center field. Kirk raced in fast, closed in on it...and gloved the ball for out number 3. Put it in the books. Mets win 7-5.

On our way out, we met a family of Met fans consisting of a father, mother, son and daughter. We got to talking Mets and baseball right behind home plate for a quite a while before a Coors Field gentleman came over to inform us they were closing the gates. We headed to the Home Plate exit and spotted a man by the name of Keith Hernandez getting ready to leave. I spoke to him briefly, asking him if he knew a woman of a kid I used to babysit who claims to have known him back in the day, but predictably he couldn't place the name. He seemed rather reserved when a fans approach, but he was also on his way to meet what appeared to be some family. The father we met, who had an "'86 World Series" patch on his right sleeve, tried to chase Keith down for a signature underneath the patch, but alas, Keith was already in another world. 

We all ventured outside and continued to converse. The son showed me some signatures he had already gotten throughout the afternoon on a couple baseballs, as well as a bag of Justin Turner's unfinished sunflower seeds. All of a sudden, the mother says, "Isn't that RA Dickey?" and sure enough, there was Dickey with whom I believed to be Dave Racaniello (Mets bullpen catcher) walking towards the corner of the street. The kid chased him down, and we all followed. Dickey was very gracious, signing everything the family handed his way. I stood there, nodded at (maybe) Dave, and smiled while my favorite player took care of some fantastic fans. My camera just stayed on my shoulder as I, for some reason, had no inclination to click away as all this took place. All for the better, however, as the family was not getting pictures taken and it probably would have been annoying for the flash to go off in that moment. RA and "Dave" said goodbye and crossed the street. 

As we stood on the corner amazed at our timing, not fully comprehending the awesomeness of what just happened, The mother goes, "Isn't that Ike Davis?" and sure enough, walking the other way on the 1st base side of the stadium was our 1st baseman himself, Ike Davis. The kid, who is obviously a signature bounty hunter by now, runs after Ike with a purpose. My girlfriend, who never acts like a fan in situations such as this, couldn't help herself, and we ran towards him looking for a signature for her "Road Shadow Ike."

"Uh, Ike, I know I'm not a kid, but could you sign my jersey?" she said with a huge smile on her face.

"Yeah, I can sign it."

The kid handed over his sharpie and Ike began to sign to the right side of his name. In this instance, I said to myself, "I have to get a picture of this," and clicked as Ike signed away. The family asked if they could take a photo with him, and, of course, he said yes, 'cause Ike is the man. As they got together, I said, "You're coming out of it, Ike. You hit the ball real hard tonight." (he went 1 for 4 but hit the ball hard every time, getting robbed on at least 2 of his outs.) He said, "Yeah, I'm coming around." And with the family having trouble with their camera, I clicked away.

Man. What a night in Denver. What a night to be a Mets fan.
This little lady made that all by herself

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