Thursday, June 11, 2009

Transplanted ex-Mets update: Orlando El Duque Hernandez

Hey hey hey, El Duque isn't done yet. Former Mets pitcher and younger/older half-brother of Livan Hernandez, Orlando Hernandez has signed a minor league deal with the Texas Rangers.

The last time Mets fans saw El Duque he was due back any day now from a foot injury in 2007, but he missed all of 2008 when he injured his toe while rehabbing his foot. I'm pretty sure Suzyn Waldman blames the foot injury on El Duque being sad about Elian Gonzalez.

Another ex-Mets pitcher, Pedro Martinez, is reportedly in talks with the Tampa Ray Devil Bays to join the club, pending the results of an upcoming workout. Metsblog notes that the Rays will face the Mets at Citi Field for a three game set next weekend.
Meanwhile, in Japan, former Mets manager Bobby Valentine's Chiba Lotte Marines scored 15 runs in one inning against the Hiroshima Carp as part of a 23-2 win on Thursday.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Photos of Nationals Park (Mets V. Expos)

Alright, time to get one last post out of the way about my trip to Nationals Park, before the Mets kick off their big series with the Phillies (weather permitting).

All in all, I was very impressed with Nationals Park. What may be most impressive is that the Mets and Nationals both started work on their stadiums at roughly the same time in 2006, but the Washington, D.C. park opened a full year before Citi Field. I can't explain why it took the Mets longer, because both stadiums were designed by HOK. Maybe someone out there has a guess?

We took the DC Metro to the Park, which sits at the Navy Yards stop on the Green Line. Luckily I had my cousin with me to figure out how to buy a Metro Card - I have to admit I was totally baffled by the vending machines at the train station! One thing to note when riding teh DC Metro: you have to swipe your card both when you enter and exit the stations - it's kinda like the Jersey Turnpike tolls where you pay depending on how far you travel and what time of day, rather than a flat per-ride price.

When you depart the train you walk into the park down this main corridor where they are building condos and luxury apartment buildings. How great would it be to be able to watch the game from your apartment? I wonder how rents with ballpark views will compare to those with views of The Capitol?

MASN was broadcasting their pre-game show from the ballpark courtyard. I thought it was really cool to see a player from the 1986 Mets at the game. How could you top that? You can buy day of game grandstand seats for $5.00 each, but we opted for upper deck seats behind the plate for $20. I thought that was a pretty good deal. Here was our view:

There is a huge analog clock next to the giant HDTV scoreboard in centerfield. I am not sure if this is intentional, going back to rickety RFK days or what, but there is something wrong with the clock. At gametime it was about 10 minutes slow, and by the end of teh game (2 hrs. later) it was almost a full hour behind. And another thing, and I am sure I am not the first to note this, but someone should inform Walgreens that the baseball team stole their logo.

The TV announcers may complain about their high perch, but there is not an obstructed view in all of Nationals park. And I checked. You can watch teh game while walking around the entire park, almost at every level, with great views of the action. Wherever you go. There is phenomenal food choices (I did have a tasty W shaped pretzel), and overall a very fine atmosphere. Credit for this must go to thw aforementioned all-star ushers. Very friendly for out of town fans!

Here are some more pics for your perusal. Overall, I rate this ballpark an A


Monday, June 08, 2009

Meeting Doc Gooden

So here is the story of how I met transplanted ex-Mets superstar pitcher Dwight "Doctor K" Gooden:
I give a ton of credit to my cousin who has been a Mets fan for over 30 years, despite growing up in Western, PA where most baseball fans would grow up rooting for the Pirates, or maybe even the Indians or something.  But he stuck with the Mets through the lean times and even though he now lives in the Washington DC area, we try to meet up at least once a year for a Mets game.  The first autograph I ever got was Dwight Gooden.  I don't know how young I was, but it used to be that if you showed up early at Shea you could hang out at the field level and often times the players would come over to the railings and sign things.  I was fortunate enough to get Dwight Gooden's autograph on a baseball, and then I asked for a second autograph for my cousin.  Everyone in the crowd snickered, yeah sure for your cousin, but Doc obliged and I sent the artifact out to my cousin in PA. 
So this weekend my very understanding wife and my son and I drove down to southern Maryland to meet up with my cousin and his wife and their two kids.  Saturday night my cousin and I took the DC Metro into the game. My cousin's got this old shirt, I mean like 20 years old or something, that he wears to most Mets games.  It's a grey Dwight Gooden T-Shirt with an illustration of Doc on it and METS written across the top.    I wish I had a picture of this shirt, because no written description could do it justice.  But anyway, like I said my cousin wears it to almost all Mets games he goes to, and says they almost never lose when he wears it.  When we showed up at his house my wife asked where the Gooden shirt was.
So he's got the shirt on and we're walking around Nationals Park in between innings, and this dude at a memorabilia kiosk calls us over.  He wants to know about the shirt my cousin's got on, and where he got it.  It's an old shirt, my cousin says.  The guy at the kiosk says he has been getting requests for T-shirts featuring Negro League stars, and the one my cousin has on is great because it says Mets on it!  The guy was serious!  So my cousin just says it's an old shirt that he's had for years.  The guy says, "Well it fits you great - it's probably your best shirt!"  We just walked away laughing and of course made jokes for the rest of the game about Negro League superstar Dwight Gooden, and remember that time he faced Satchel Paige and that kind of thing.  
My cousin was very patient as I took about a thousand pictures of the ballpark.  The great thing about the park is that it's got open views of the field from practically every level, so you can walk around and watch the game from every angle.  Which is what we did once the game was out of hand.  We started way up on top and circled around, and as you'll see when I post pictures, I have photos from about a dozen different of angles.  So by the time the top of the ninth rolled around, we were at the lowest level, right at home plate.  I'm taking shots from where I thought was a good view, when an usher invited me to go even closer.  So I got separated from my cousin to walk down the ramp and take a few shots.  I got some closer pictures of Castillo and Beltran as they batted and then since it was 2 outs in the ninth I figured I should get back up to my cousin before we got separated when the game ended.  I turned around to walk up the ramp when a different usher calls back to me, "Hey! You know who's here? Dwight Gooden!"  I guess he spotted my Mets hat, and knew Dwight Gooden from his post-Negro League days? 
"Where?," I asked. 
"Go that way and ask the usher - his name is Howard."
I found Howard, and asked him if Doc Gooden was sitting nearby, right as Beltran made the last out of the game. "He's right there - standing up right now to leave." 
I asked the usher he would take our picture.  The Nationals my not have many wins, but they lead the league in my favorte ushers.  Dwight was with a young boy (his son?) but obliged for the photo anyway - he even smiled!  I thanked Doc for the 1980's memories, and ran back to my cousin.  "You are not going to believe this," as I showed him my camera.
My cousin laughed in astonishment.  "I was just about to say that the luck in this shirt had run out!"

I think I owe my cousin and his shirt a few beers for the karma.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Quick Review: Nationals Park

Still recovering from the long drive up from DC. I'll post a full review soon, hopefully tomorrow, but in the meantime here are some quick reactions about my trip to see the Mets play at Nationals Park:

  • I want to know if HOK (the designers of Citi Field) also did this park because whoever did, did a much better job.
  • Access to the park is super easy from the DC Metro.
  • 360 degrees of the field from ALL levels.
  • No obstructed views.
  • Fantastic food options.
  • A great value - I scored upper deck seats day of game for $20 each. There are also grandstand seats for $5, available day of game only, but we bought our seats from the kiosk and I think you have to talk to a live person to get the $5 seats?
  • Something is crazy with the big analog clock in right field, it was 15 minutes slow at game time, but by the end of the game it was almost a full hour behind!
  • Someone needs to tell Walgreens that the Nationals stole their logo.
  • How do 8 runs get scored in a baseball game that only lasts two hours?
  • I am officially a jinx for the 2009 Mets - I am 0 for 3 seeing the in person this year!
  • TONS of Mets fans at the park.
  • I will have to post this separately, as it is too long and crazy story to bury it here, but I managed to get my picture taken with Dwight Gooden, who was in attendance at the game!
  • Brag all you want, Washington fans, but until your team finishes above .500 for the season, they are still the Expos!
That's all for now - I'll post more pics, comments and stories later this week!