Saturday, March 22, 2014


On Omens

A lack of plane
Friday, March 21, 2014
Boynton Beach, FL

Outside The Game:
And so it goes. Another Spring is here, another desperate escape from a stressed workplace is executed, and another trip to Florida is had.

The song remains the same, but, as always, the verses change. The Spring this year seems to be an actual Spring, instead of a snow-filled mistake, although the weather report for the next week certainly was foreboding in the solid particulates department. The cause of the work-related ennui was also certainly unique, in that a client was making our lives hellish by being rather uniquely unavailable when decisions needed to be made and things--such as contracts--needed to be signed.

And even the trip to Spring Training was switched up a little this year. While I was still seeing the Metropolitans before they can crush my spirits for the regular season, thanks to some scheduling irregularities, I would see them not in their "home" of Digital Domain Traditional Field (or whatever they are calling it this year), but rather as a visiting team at the Marlins facility in Jupiter, which they share with the St. Louis Cardinals. And while an away game, Jupiter is actually closer to my parents' snowbird condo community in Florida than the home facility. So I had that going for me.

After a late-ish night at the office to shore up the works for my one-day absence, I was disturbed to discover how early I had booked my flight for Friday morning. It wasn't crack of dawn or anything of that ilk, but I still a had to get up earlier than normal, which is an awful way to start a weekend away. Pity me.

Despite these crushing impediments, I managed to get myself up about a half hour earlier than normal and make myself presentable for my car service waiting for me outside. In the shower, I had heard ominous reports of entire swaths of road being shut down by apocalyptic accidents, but the trip to the airport was ridiculously uneventful, and even the dreaded Pulaski Skyway was completely clear of traffic. That was an omen of such import that I am still trying to work out what it means. One does not just find the Pulaski Skyway bereft of traffic. I feared I may die on this trip, or be named King of England. It could go either way.

I got checked in at the airport and paid the usual sucker tax for early boarding. Security was without incident, as was procuring breakfast and boarding the plane. And outside of some mildly rambunctious kids in the row behind me, the flight itself went alright as well.

I was landing this time out at Ft. Lauderdale instead of West Palm Beach, as for some reason, tickets to the later were something around $200 more expensive. For the extra fifteen-minute drive, I wasn't willing to spend an extra two Benjamins, so Ft. Lauderdale it was. I eventually got into cell contact with my father, made it to the passenger pick-up area, and drove off into the blinding Florida day. The sheer brightness and flatness of Florida never ceases to amaze me. Natural wonder or natural blight remains to be debated by minds greater than my own.

We eventually met up with my mother, who was out helping to pick wedding dresses with one of my relation's fiancee. Because of the engagement party for said wedding the next evening, we would be going out Friday evening with just my parents instead of the usual Saturday, and the now-traditional pizza party at my parents' condo Friday evening was off for this year. And so it was that we were dropping off the tickets for tomorrow's game to various relations, instead of dishing them out later that evening as per normal.

Tickets so delivered, we left the lady-folk to their gowns and such, and my father and I finally got some lunch at a NY-style deli in a nearby mall. I had not eaten since before my flight, and I was now well and truly starving. After eating until sated, my father and I went back to their condo at the community for the aged in Boynton Beach. As with every other year, they had a different condo in the same complex by the Intracoastal. This one was further back from the water than the ones previous, but it was newly renovated and a full two bedroom affair, so it was the nicest and largest unit they had been in as of yet.

I had my own bedroom area with my own TV, which I quickly utilized to unpack and nap while "watching" some TV. By the time I had awakened, my mother had returned, and while she and my father got ready from dinner, I schlubbed it out the complex's clubhouse to get some sweet, sweet Internet on my iPad. When I returned to the condo, my father was screaming into my cell phone at someone. I had left my phone in my bedroom when I went to the clubhouse, and now my father had somehow 1) answered my phone, 2) turned on speakerphone (which even I didn't know how to do on the thing), and 3) commenced screaming at whoever had called me. I had nightmares about this being a call from my boss at work, who now had a crazy old man hollering at him.

As it turned out, it was just a realtor I was working with back at home. While at the clubhouse, I had opted out of his property listing emails, as he had rather lazily set them up to automatically mail me as soon as an individual property came on the market, and my inbox was thereby being flooded with emails. He must have gotten the notice about it after I did it, and in the time it took me to walk back to my parents' condo, he had called my cell and gotten screamed at by my father. That behind me, I chastised my father to not answer my phone, and we went off to dinner.

My immediate family alone can often be a contentious thing, but perhaps the earlier embarrassment of the phone incident took an edge off the evening, and we managed to get through dinner without any major disturbances. There was a woman providing vocal accompaniment to the diners. I always feel bad for performers in situations such as this. Her audience had little to no interest in what she's doing, but you have to continue to sing on to an unresponsive and uninterested crowd and wonder where you career has gone that you were doing such a thing. I tossed a bill or two in her tip jar on the way out.

The rest of the evening was just the drive back to the condo and a walk out to the clubhouse before bed.

The Accommodations:
As mentioned, I was at my parents' condo in the over-55 community in Boynton Beach. This was a much larger and much recently renovated unit than they had the previous years. I had my own bedroom and bathroom to myself, while my parents had a large master suite.

Apparently, the place was not without controversy. The renovated unit was sold to a new owner, but it was done so with the stipulation that she had to honor any previous rental agreements, of which my parents were the only ones. So the new owner rather passive-aggressively left the unit for the period of my parents' rental. In the silence of night, I could feel her glaring at us from whatever distance separated.

On Witnessing an Old, Fat Man Running 90 Feet

Roger Dean Stadium
Roger Dean Stadium, 2014

Saturday, March 22, 2014
New York Metropolitans vs. Miami Marlins
Roger Dean Stadium
Grapefruit League (Spring Training)
Jupiter, FL
1:05 PM

Outside the Game:
And so my first day began in Florida. Since the stadium was only a half hour or so from the condo, it wasn't as early a day as some others on these trips have been. My dad and I made breakfast and headed to pick up our one passenger going with us to the game.

After some wrong turn wanderings by my father, we reached our rendezvous point and were on our way for the short drive to the stadium. I had pre-purchased parking, as it was cheaper that way, so we drove straight up to the parking deck and were out and about.

I parted ways with my companions to do my regular stadium looksie. While I was tramping around outside, some unseasonable rain hit this part of Florida. It started off and on, but by the time I had gotten done inside, it was a steady downpour that had the good graces to stop about a half hour before gametime.

Our way out was as seamless as our way in. It was a short drive to drop off my cousin's kid at home, and then my father and I headed back to the condo for some serious napping. Another cousin's offspring was having an engagement party that evening, so we eventually had to shower and get dressed for that.

As family gatherings went, it was largely uneventful. I got to see some relations I had not seen in decades, for better or worse. The evening passed, and it was back to the condo for another night's slumber.

The Stadium & Fans:
Home to center, Roger Dean Stadium
Home plate to center field, Roger Dean Stadium

Roger Dean Stadium is an odd sort of beast. Named for a car dealership owner (never a good start), it is a facility that is split between the Marlins and the Cardinals (after the original cohabitants, the Expos, left once they became the Nationals). On paper, one can hardly argue the split isn't fair. The Marlins get facilities on the left-field side of the outer rim of the park, and the Cardinals get identical digs on the right-field side of the park. The only reference to the Expos is on a plaque dedicated to season-ticket holders in the exterior walkway. The park even has three nearly identical gates, one on each side of the park, as well as a central entrance near a brick fan walk.

Once inside, it is a fairly standard low-minor level park. A single seating bowl extends from right to left field, horseshoeing around home plate. A row of luxury boxes, party decks, and press boxes extends above the lower seats from about first to third base. A second row of seats extends up to those decks for about the same distance. A lone set of bleachers sits detached and perched out in left. In right field, the "Cassidy Cool Zone," an air-conditioned party area, is located above a picnic hill berm up against the outfield wall. The office complexes for both residents sit in left (Marlins) and right (Cardinals).

The seating bowl is raised above the exterior walkways that run from outfield to outfield around the park. A small golf pitch shot tent sits in right in a nod to the PGA course down the street from the park. Outfield concessions sit in plazas at the terminus of each wide walkway, and the covered area behind the infield has further concessions and merchandise stores. They even have food-ordering kiosks around the park that let you place an order for pick-up, or even delivery if you're in the expensive seats.

And speaking of which, this place is expensive for Spring Training. The tickets are at a premium, and all the concessions and beer were at major-league prices. None of the cost was justified by the experience, which was nice, but still decidedly single-A.

And the crowd didn't do the Marlins proud. Mets fans outnumbered fans of the Fish easily two to one. Heck, there may have been more Cardinals fans than there were Marlins fans, and Miami is considerably closer than St. Louis. The real dagger to the heart was the fact that the Cardinals had more fans waiting for autographs on their side of the facility on a day the team wasn't even playing than the Marlins managed when they were at home.

At the Game with Oogie:
Super Dean Dog, for science

As with all of these trips, I was with my family for this game. Roger Dean has precious little in the way of cover, so I managed to secure tickets in the back three rows behind home plate, which was just on the edge of the minor overhang that passes for shelter in the park. Needless to say, I wasn't expecting to need shelter from rain, but there you go. Our seats in the third row from the back were just on the edge of the sheltered area, except for the fact that there was a hole in the rain gutter that was dripping water directly down onto two of our seats. Luckily, the seats to the right of us were open, so one of my cousins (the last to show up) would not have to sit in the dripping with his date.

The Game:
First pitch, Metropolitans vs. Marlins
First pitch, Metropolitans vs. Marlins

Where Spring Training games are concerned, you can only care so much. A split-squad contest between the Mets and Marlins in Spring Training lowers that bar even more. You can try and immerse yourself in the minutia of the prospects and how far players how progressed, or you can just sit back and wait for some absurdity to present itself. I went for the latter.

The Mets' first epitomized the "I Dare You To Care" way these games are played. David Wright got hold of a two-out double, and the next batter singled to right. Wright was waived home even though he had no shot, and he was nailed about a half mile up the line from the plate to end the inning. Bartolo Colon, the "ageless" AL pitching giant, was starting for the Mets this afternoon. He set the feckless Marlins down in order, but his time was yet to come.

In the top of the second, a leadoff walk was brought home by a two-out homer to center, making it 2-0, Mets. Colon came up for his first at bat after this. His bat did not leave his shoulder. He waited patiently for the Marlins' pitcher to throw three strikes so he could go back to the dugout. The crowd went wild on him. Undaunted, he only gave up a leadoff single in the bottom of the second. The Mets got another leadoff walk and nothing else in the top of the third, and the Marlins only managed a two-out single in their half of the frame.

The fourth inning dawned, and a leadoff double by the Mets was followed by a walk and then a three-run homer to center, making it 5-0, Mets. Again with two outs, Colon again came to the plate. Stung, it seemed, by the crowd's reaction to his first at bat, he lamely swung at the first pitch he saw, accidentally laying down a perfect bunt to third. Anyone walking normal speed to first would have beat the throw. Colon, lurching like a wounded elephant down the line, was out by five feet. To be fair, this gave me a little hope in my life. If Colon, only a few months younger than me and woefully out of shape, could hit big-league pitching, perhaps my dreams of playing in the MLB aren't all yet dashed.


Perhaps winded from the exertion, Colon gave up a leadoff double and then a homer to left in the bottom of the fourth. A one out single got erased on a double-play to end the inning 5-2, Mets. Both sides went in order in the fifth, but the Mets went right back to scoring in the sixth. A leadoff single moved to second on a balk, and then came home on another one-out single. With two outs, Bartolo Colon waded up to the plate again. Clearly limbered up by his first two efforts, he laced a single to left that scored the run from first. As the relay came in, he was in real danger of getting thrown out at first base if the throw didn't go to home. The next batter bounced one over the wall in center, thus ensuring that not only wouldn't Colon be thrown out at second, but he would also be required to go all the way to third. Sadly, a pop-out to right ended his magical adventure around the bases, with the Mets up, 7-2. The Marlins managed a base-runner on a two-out error before ending their half with a fly out of their own.

The Mets weren't done scoring. Next inning, a one-out hit batsman was followed by a double to make it second and third, and a passed ball scored a run and moved everyone up, before Ike Davis cleared the bases with a two-run home run. Another single went for naught, and the half ended at 10-2, Mets. The Marlins went in order in the bottom of the seventh (and Colon made his exit from the game), and the Mets went quietly in the eighth. The Marlins got a walk in the bottom of the inning, the Mets got a solitary single in the top of the ninth, and then the Marlins mercifully went in order to end the game at 10-2, Metropolitans.

The Scorecard:
Metropolitans vs. Marlins, 03-22-14. Metropolitans win, 10-2.Metropolitans vs. Marlins, 03-22-14. Metropolitans win, 10-2.
Metropolitans vs. Marlins, 03/22/14. Metropolitans win, 10-2.

The Spring Training program with scorecard for the Marlins was an outrageous $6. This is more expensive than many pro teams regular-season programs, and while this was a nice full-color, magazine quality program, it topped out at just over 30 pages.

The scorecard itself was a nice enough centerfold, with an adequate space to score and built-in room for replacements. The slick magazine paper made scoring with pencil harder than it needed to be, however. It had lots of slots for data and made proving out on the easy side.

Scoring-wise, there wasn't much of particular interest. Most of the runs came on long-balls, with the exception of some Mets singles in the sixth, including Colon's improbable ribeye. There was also a Japanese-level spate of pinch runners in the sixth and seventh innings to make way for late-inning replacements. Speaking of which, I managed to keep all of them in order, including a double-switch for the Marlins' pitcher in the eighth, which is very hard to do without some scoreboard support not found in Spring Training.

I had hoped for an instant replay call to see how I would score it (as an appeal play, I figured), but I had to settle for an out-of-shape pitcher trundling around the bases.

The Accommodations:
I was once again at my parents' condo. Nothing of note on this front.

On Unremarkable Returns

Ft. Lauderdale
Sunday, March 23, 2014
Hoboken, NJ

Outside the Game:
Perhaps too quickly, or perhaps not quickly enough, it was time to head back north. I had a leisurely morning of wallowing in bed, tending my virtual zoo, and watching TV before getting motivated enough to take a shower and pack. Before going to the airport, we headed out to the country club where my father had a seasonal membership to get some brunch.

It was a respectable enough spread, and we had our fill of the buffet and each had our own excellent omelets created for us by the omelet chef. After our relaxed grazing, we headed back out to Ft. Lauderdale airport to put me on my giant metal tube back to Jersey.

I arrived with a decent amount of time before my flight. I got my boarding pass, went through the expedited security line, and spent a little time to see what limited fruits the small airport had to offer. Soon enough, it was time to board the flight. Early on, they began the announcements that the flight was overbooked and that not everyone would be able to use the overhead compartments. They then followed that up with an announcement that people shouldn't line up early. I'm not sure if they even understood how at cross-purposes they were to themselves, but there was a veritable stampede to get into the group lines as soon as the arriving plane was egressed.

As I had bumped myself up to group 2, I wasn't too worried about my bag, but since I was there already, I lined up early. We eventually had an orderly boarding onto what appeared to be a brand-spanking new 737. It seemed to have just had all the shipping plastic stripped off the thing. It had new styled overhead bins, new seats, and what appeared to be all LCD lighting. Not to mention electric outlets in every row. We live in a brave, new time.

Boarding finished up, and one or two standby passengers even managed to sneak on. The flight began without an issues, and we even got two drink services. We zipped off the plane a little early, and a short taxi ride had me back at my apartment doing laundry in no time.

The Accommodations:
Home, Sweet, Hoboken

2014 Stand-Alone Trip