Saturday, August 25, 2012

Finding Something Out of Nothing

No matter what the standings, no matter what the decor, I always get juiced for going to a Mets game. Some more than others, but Thursday, August 23rd's game, for a team who was on the brink of getting swept for a 2nd straight time at home to the Purple Mountains (in two 4-game series), I was pretty juiced for it. I love sitting outside on a summer's day taking in something I consider my religion. The summer is actually winding down, the team has swooned once more, and so you better get jacked up and take in every ounce of this season that you can, because the 2012 New York Mets, in all likelihood, will soon be no more. Enjoy every last moment of Orange and Blue, because that flawed majestic canvas in front of you will soon depart for greyer pastures.

Even though the Mets were worse than they've been in three years going into the game, a feeling, at least for me, of better times ahead encompassed the Metsian atmosphere. Yet another rookie, Collin McHugh, was making his Major League debut, and the pitcher had intrigued me ever since I discovered him in the 2011 season. I wish Johan Santana's season had ended successfully, but it was yet another opportunity for roster evaluation. Maybe McHugh would give us something to cheer for even if the offense doesn't.

As always, I timed my entrance perfectly to arrive at the 3rd base field standing room seconds before first pitch. Certainly didn't want to miss the kid's first throw in The Show. My eyes settled in, getting accustomed to the green grass that had been absent in my vision for a couple weeks. Finally, Collin and the rest of the baseball players were ready, and his Big League career commenced. Fastball. Ball one. He got the ball back, and with an intent stare of someone well beyond his Major League debut, threw a fastball over the plate for a strike. The next pitch, however, was knocked by Charlie Blackmon slowly towards the left field line and rolled to Scott Hairston for a double. Knowing the Mets have been struggling (understatement) for a run all week, the Rockies played for the single score, bunting the runner over to 3rd. With that, realizing that my section was on the 1st base side, I hastily made my way over as McHugh began facing his 3rd Big League batter. He was a couple pitches in as I stopped at the standing room section on the other side of the field to watch the At Bat. While he did let an 0-2 count go to 3-2, he still got Jordan Pacheco on a called 3rd strike. That got me mobile again, and I stopped behind another section to watch what turned out to be the last batter up in the top of the 1st, as McHugh struck another out to strand a runner on 3rd. I made my way to section 106 with a slight feeling that this game could actually end with a Mets victory. But the way things have been going, that was entirely up to the offense.

This was the first time I had ever sat in the right field foul corner, and I like the angle. Seeing the outfield from there makes you appreciate how hard a professional ballplayer has to hit it to get the ball out of there. Not just the Citi (which is still vaster than a good amount of outfields) but when you are personally on a softball field or a little league field and then see a Major League ballfield, man, you gotta applaud those athletes. Even when it is hit foul, it goes a long way for the fact they just missed it. That's exactly what Scott Hairston did to open the 2nd inning. Had he connected just a little bit better, he would have had a solid opposite field home run. He instead fouled it long into my very own section, about 12 rows in front of me. I saw a bunch of people (or whatever the definition of "bunch" is at a Mets game these days) go for the ball. One skinny, grey-haired middle-aged man put his hand up to catch it on the fly, but it grazed his fingers and landed in the row behind him. I guess my eyes drifted for a second, because the next thing I know, he's holding the ball up high, gaining applause from the folks around him. All of a sudden, I see his other hand is red and he's holding his head back. It was either his nose or his lip, but he was certainly bleeding. He was brought to the first-aid area and on his way back, I asked what happened. Before he started his story, I saw a red, vainy mark in the middle of his upper lip. He said after the ball landed behind him, he whipped around and bended down to get it. In doing so, and doing it in the hasty manner one goes after a foul ball, he slammed his face into the back of the chair.

I hope there's a little red mark on the ball.

I lasted till mid 5th in my ticketed section, after another swinging strikeout by a Rockie. I made my way over to section 131, the last row right in front of Keith's Grill in the left field stands. There, I was greeted by Greg Prince, a new friend named Sharon Chapman, and her son. She is a fantastic photographer, showing me great action shots throughout the game. Through the remainder of the fantastic McHugh effort and the baserunning blunders, and the defensive miscues, and the usual Parnell Effect, the highlights of the day were watching a young Mets pitcher completely locked into his game plan, and the conversation had between a bunch (there's that word again) of Met fans.

Considering how low everything has gone in a very short while and the fact they lost for the umpteenth-hundredth time since the All-Star break, there really wasn't anything truly miserable about Thursday. We got a glimpse into the Mets organizational pitching depth. We evaluated Jordany Valdespin and realize we're not quite sure his defense fits anywhere. Bobby Parnell is more and more looking like a trade chip than a Metsian bullpen mainstay. Josh Thole...most likely not a champion-caliber battery mate, with his defense or his bat. So many things are closer to being resolved than they were before, no matter how disappointed we are they went through the same thing AGAIN. Our starting pitching isn't a short-term problem and it doesn't look to be a long-term problem, and that's the last thing we thought we'd say two years ago.

What I love about this 50th Anniversary campaign is that we are basically getting a hybrid of every single one of the 50 seasons prior. We've got our collapse, we've got our LOB, we've got our championship (in the form of a no-hitter). We've got all of the good and all of the bad, and certainly all of the ugly. No matter the final product (which is looking more and more like a deep 20-games under) this will have been one of the best seasons in New York Metropolitan History.

That's certainly finding something out of nothing.


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