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Taking In a Spring Training Game

March 10, 2013 - Al Stephenson
My wife and I have just returned from sunny (though cool) Florida. We spent five days there resting the weary bones in Fort Pierce, which happened to be where we stopped once the temperature seemed warm enough. One of the highlights of the trip was a chance to see a spring training game. It took place in Port St. Lucie, the spring home of the New York Mets. They played the Miami Marlins that day, though it was difficult to tell the players without the proverbial program.

I'v always wanted to see a spring training game at least in part to see if the atmosphere is as laid back as people suggest. For the teams it was just that. A chance to get some work in. The outcome of the game is not important. These games do not count, so why bother to take things to seriously, right? Some of the fans thought otherwise.

Well, remember that we are talking about New York fans here. I have always felt that the most obnoxious baseball fans are New Yorkers. Boston comes in a close second, but if you've never been to a game at Yankee Stadium or Citi Field, it's hard to imagine how these people can be so arrogant. But this was a spring training game. It doesn't count. Surely the fans will be subdued, right? Well you can fuhgeddaboudit!!

With the managers sitting on folding chairs near the backstop and the regulars getting in work in adjoining fields (at least the Mets players), this game was essentially a minor league game. The players on the field, with a couple of exceptions, will soon be sent down to A or AA ball. Heck even the umpires were minor leaguers.

As the game progressed, a group of four older (nearly everyone in the stands seemed to be "retirees" by the looks of them) men started complaining. Either they didn't like an umpire's call or a Mets players effort, but even though it was not screaming, it was griping nonetheless. I watched with a smile on my face. You can take a New Yorker out of his state, but you can't keep him quiet when his team is not performing to the level he wants to see. It reminded me of a quote attributed to Danny Murtaugh, the former manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Murtaugh opined, "Sure I would like to have a pitcher that struck out every batter he faced, and sure I would like to have a hitter who got a hit in each at bat and a fielder who caught everything within his reach. The problem is I can't get the guy in the stands to put down his beer and come out on the field to do those things!"

These guys were those kind of fans, though to be fair, I think they were drinking coffee, not beer.

An interesting event took place around the fifth inning as a foul ball hit off the facing of the pressbox and caromed right to a rather young man sitting in the last row of the lower seats. He fumbled it three times before securing it and thrusting his hand into the air, not once, but several times. You would think he had just caught a foul ball from Babe Ruth the way he carried on. The crowd, to their credit, seemed unimpressed with his exuberance.

We did talk to some people behind us that were very nice. The "older" lady was from Long Island and was visiting friends in the area. A diehard Mets fan, she was nervous the whole game - afraid I guess that the Mets might lose the meaningless game. They did not, beating the "so called" Marlins 4-1. With Miami dismantling last season's team, perhaps this was the real team they will be utilizing this season. The much travelled Juan Pierre was one of the few names I recognized in their lineup.

The view from my seat suggests that while the game was not all that interesting, it did whet my appetite for the upcoming baseball season. There is nothing quite like being at the ballpark on a warm sunny day.


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