Tag Archives: major league baseball

CATCH IT: Taking In A Mets Game At Citi Field, Shea Memories

BALL, GLOVEWelcome to CATCH IT! — Joe Castellano’s personal observations about what’s going on in the world of sports.

 

The baseball of my childhood is not coming back.

Well, it’s not like I just realized this today, but the reality of it really set in after my recent experience at Citi Field, where I took in a September game between the Mets and Dodgers.

In 1969 when I was 7 years old, I saw my first Major League Baseball game at Shea Stadium, Mets vs Phillies. I can still sense  the feeling of a real ticket in my hand and I remember reading the notice on the back about a rain check. I can still smell the big pretzels cooking outside on a hot barbecue. A vendor yelling “Hey, program here, hey yearbook” was the first sound I remember. Of course there was the blaring sound of airplanes flying in and out of LaGuardia airport. Getting a scorecard and sharpened pencil was a huge priority. Gotta buy one of those plastic batting helmets to wear and definitely a mini helmet that holds soft serve ice cream!

I went to several games as a kid many with nose-bleed seats. One time I vividly remember all I could see was the foul pole right in front of us. That didn’t bother me though. The ballpark always felt like home. Shea eventually became a worn and outdated place. It still held its charm for me, but I understand it was time to move on.

As I entered Citi field decades later and went through the post 9/11 frisking process I heard a song I didn’t expect to hear in the entryway.

“MEET THE METS,
MEET THE METS,
Step right up and greet the Mets!
Bring your kiddies,
bring your wife;
Guaranteed to have the time of your life,
because the Mets are really sockin’ the ball; knocking those home runs over the wall!
East side,
West side,
everybody’s coming down
to meet the M-E-T-S Mets of New York town!” Man, that song gave me chills. I used to play it on a 45 record.

You can enter the ballpark in the “Tom Seaver” gate. Very cool. I once had him as a guest during a game when I was the AAA play-by-play announcer for the Rochester Red Wings. He came on the air for an inning and kept playing with the nobs on our audio mixer. He got a real kick out of having the power to turn down my microphone and silence me for a few seconds. Here is this Hall of Famer, one of my childhood idols, playing games with my audio and making me laugh.

At Citi Field there are large photos of Seaver and other Mets greats as you walk towards the concourse. I notice hanging banners of Buddy Harrelson, Ed Kranepool and Jerry Koosman!

At first it looked like the only food choice was hot dogs, peanuts and pretzels. Upon further review, you can find pizza and many other choices including my favorite veggie burgers.

Time to go to my seat in the upper deck. Good view. It only cost $14 for a ticket on the Game Time app and there are plenty of empty seats if I want to move around. I’m a bit surprised. After all, the Mets are in the middle of a chase for a Wild Card berth. However, the intensity of the crowd just isn’t there. No airplane noise either. Did they change the flight patterns for Citi Field? It’s in the same place where Shea was standing and the plane sound used to be deafening.

The noise that makes the most impact now is the piercing sound of music or other chant inducing tones that come out of the public address system speakers during the game. Now, I understand that most people don’t want it to be quiet so that the crack of the bat can be heard from every seat like I do. But, is it really necessary that after every single pitch we need to hear high decibel sounds coming out of those speakers? I don’t mind the “Let’s Go Mets” prompts that they do (although, I wonder why that is needed now, since back when I first went to games the fans themselves initiated those chants). But, it’s all the other sounds that Citi Field entertainment folks think everyone needs to hear every five seconds that make a negative impression to me.  Very annoying. And since when did Major League Baseball games want to be so minor league? In-between inning promotions used to be reserved for the minor leagues where fans supposedly need more entertainment because the players aren’t as good. But this is not only the big leagues, it’s New York! I always thought New York fans didn’t need all of that extracurricular stuff, but I’m proven wrong on this night.

During the game you realize that professional baseball in 2019 is all about analytics. Just about every player gets shifted, many to the extreme with three fielders playing on one side of the infield. Players are so inundated with information from data-driven scouting reports now that they carry cards in their pockets. They all look like NFL offensive coordinators, trying to figure out where they should be positioned defensively. At one point I noticed Dodgers third baseman Chris Taylor reaching into his back pocket for one of those cards. He started to study it while walking to his left, then he stopped, studied it some more and turned to his right. Eventually he ended up playing in a conventional spot where third basemen have normally played for over 100 years. All of that data and somehow it seemed like a good idea to play the hitter “straight up.” Chalk one up for old-school baseball.

The most disappointing part of the night on the field came in the late innings of a close game. Mets All-Star first baseman Pete Alonso came to the plate. The kid is a shoo-in for NL Rookie of the year honors. He set the Mets single season home run record and is going to end up with over 50 bombs. An amazing season to say the least.

Recently Sports Illustrated did a feature on Alonso, taking us through this magical season, describing his positive attitude and detailing his work ethic. I had heard so many good things about him so he seems easy to root for especially since everyone would like to see him get out the the slump he is mired in at the moment.

On a routine fly ball to right field, Alonso  jogged to first base and didn’t even make it to the bag as the catch was being made. I know this is no big deal to most people and I’m not here to get on Alonso since most major leaguers these days are not running out routine fly balls and ground balls. It’s September too and everyone is worn out from a long season. BUT, it is a close game in a playoff race game and Pete is a 24-year-old rookie. Run it out! What if the right fielder drops the ball? You should be on second base, not barely making it to first base.

Maybe we’ve seen the last of all players hustling on those types of plays. Maybe the PA system is only going to get noisier and louder in future years. Perhaps baseball is a dying sport and to get the younger generation to follow it, this is necessary. Analytics are here to stay. Maybe managers will soon be able to text a player on his cell phone about his defensive positioning.

What’s the next major change in the game?
I’m not sure I want to know.

 

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Artwork courtesy of: Suzie Armagost.

INSIDE CHINA BASIN: ’19 Finale, We Hear From Bochy, Farhan, Pillar, Yaz, Beede and Vogey

Welcome to the INSIDE CHINA BASIN Baseball Podcast

Updated twice a week on TheSportsVirus.com!

For our final Giants podcast of 2019 we review the season by playing some interesting conversations that we had during the summer at Oracle Park and on the phone. 

We hear from Bruce Bochy in his final season as San Francisco skipper and listen to comments from opposing manager Bud Black and former Giants pitcher Ryan Vogelsong.

Vogey also let us in on the chats that he’s had with Tyler Beede, who we also sat down with. Kevin Pillar, Mike Yastrzemski, Farhan Alex Dickerson and 2019 draft picks Logan Wyatt and Tyler Fitzgerald are also featured here. 

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INSIDE CHINA BASIN: Jeff Idelson & Jean Fruth Discuss Book “Grassroots Baseball”

Welcome to the INSIDE CHINA BASIN Baseball Podcast

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Today we chat with former Baseball Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson and baseball photographer Jean Fruth, co-founders of Grassroots Baseball, which promotes and celebrates the amateur game around the globe. 

Jeff and Jean have collaborated on a new book – Grassroots Baseball: Where Legends Begin. It’s a photographic tribute to how ballplayers get their start with memories from Nolan Ryan, Hank Aaron, Randy Johnson, Ichiro Suzuki, Vladimir Guerrero, and more. With an Introduction by Cal Ripken, Jr. and an Afterword by Johnny Bench.

In Grassroots Baseball: Where Legends Begin, photographer Jean Fruth features more than 250 of the best images from all levels of the amateur game in various US cities, as well as several hotbeds of baseball around the world.

Each chapter opens with a portrait of a baseball legend and a first-person essay recounting his early memories of playing the game. Some of the stars highlighted in this full-color book include Whitey Ford, Vladimir Guerrero, Hank Aaron, Randy Johnson, Nolan Ryan, and Ichiro Suzuki.

Jean and Jeff will be signing their book in the Bay Area next week: Wednesday, Sept. 25 at Mrs. Dalloway’s in Berkeley and  Saturday, September 28 at Book Passage in Corte Madera. 100% of the proceeds from every book sold ($60/book) during each of two events will be donated to Oakland Little League.  

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INSIDE CHINA BASIN: Ray Woodson On Bochy’s Last Season, Future Of The Giants

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Ray Woodson joins us to evaluate the Giants 2019 season and look ahead to 2020 when a new manager will lead the Giants.

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INSIDE CHINA BASIN: Bill Laskey On Bay Bridge Series Sweep, State of the Giants For Final Month

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Former Giants pitcher, current NBC Sports Bay Area analyst and KNBR talk show host Bill Laskey takes a look back at the Bay Bridge series sweep by the Giants over the A’s with us. We also discuss Buster Posey’s struggles, the players’ weekend uniforms and the key to young pitchers having success in the Major Leagues.

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INSIDE CHINA BASIN: Ray Woodson On Arizona Series, Giants Playoff Chances

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Ray Woodson joins us from Arizona to review the Diamondbacks series, preview the Cubs series and size up the Giants post season chances with 37 games to go.

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INSIDE CHINA BASIN: Evan Longoria “Our Style Of Play Is Different” At Oracle Park

Welcome to the INSIDE CHINA BASIN Baseball Podcast

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On Tuesday at Oracle Park in San Francisco the Giants opened up a 2-game Bay Bridge series with the Oakland A’s. Evan Longoria is back in the lineup these days and his health is very important with Pablo Sandoval ailing lately with a throwing elbow. Longo tells us about coming back from his foot injury and the adjustments he makes at Oracle Park vs playing on the road.  OF Austin Slater and RHP Trevor Gott also join us. Plus, we hear from Giants manager Bruce Bochy.

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INSIDE CHINA BASIN: Hensley Meulens, Conner Menez and Hunter Strickland From Oracle Park

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On Monday at Oracle Park in San Francisco we caught up with Giants bench coach Hensley Meulens who is being groomed by Bruce Bochy to possible be the next SF manager. We also chat with rookie LHP Conner Menez, a Hollister, CA native who grew up rooting for the Giants. He gets his second career start on Tuesday. And, former Giants closer Hunter Strickland joins us from the Nationals clubhouse where he is fitting in with his new teammates after getting traded to Washington from Seattle.

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INSIDE CHINA BASIN: Ryan Vogelsong on Bumgarner, Beede, Anderson and Bochy

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Giants World Series hero Ryan Vogelsong joins us in a very candid conversation covering several topics. We examine the Giants Madison Bumgarner trade dilemma and get his thoughts on the young pitchers he’s worked with as an instructor, including Tyler Beede and Shaun Anderson. We also  reminisce about his career, which included two championships and an All Star appearance. And, we find out what it’s like to play for Bruce Bochy. Plus, Bay Area reporter Ryan Leong chats about the current Giants situation and the personality of the team.

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INSIDE CHINA BASIN: Beede “Can Trust Stuff” Dickerson “Rattling Off Wins A Great Feeling”

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On Sunday at Oracle Park we caught up with RHP Tyler Beede, fresh off his 8 scoreless innings against the Mets and OF Alex Dickerson who has been a major part of the Giants turnaround. We also hear from Giants manager Bruce Bochy and with the trade deadline approaching, Farhan Zaidi comments on his mindset regarding possible deals and the future of Madison Bumgarner.

Listen To Beede, Dickerson. Bochy & Zaidi

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