Saturday, March 14, 2015

Port St. Lucie

On Needing and Getting

Tradition Field
Tradition Field, 2015
Saturday, March 14, 2015
Washington Nationals vs. New York Metropolitans
Grapefruit League (Spring Training)
Tradition Field
Port St. Lucie, FL
1:10 PM

Outside the Game:
Back at my parents' condo, I was gratefully only awakened once by my father getting up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. As he wasn't playing golf because he would be going to the game with me, I was spared the second awakening. I spent the morning looking at the rest of my trip and working out all the times I could justify staying in a hotel to avoid staying with my parents--while nursing my sore back from the fold-out couch. It was a relatively early start, and I was out the door by nine.

On the hour drive north, I ran into the largest speed trap that I'd even witnessed in person. It was almost comically large. It started with on cop on the side of the road just before the exits to Port St. Lucie, so it was clearly geared to nap New Yorkers who may be speeding up to the game. I thankfully saw the first cop early and slowed down, but in the course of the next two miles, there were at least six cop cars involved in tagging and running down supposed speed offenders on the way to the game. It was a big haul that clearly made the patrolled area richer... um, safer. Of course, I meant safer.

I eventually parked up on another lawn, guided by more people in reflective vests, though the elaborate rope cattle-channels that had been arranged at Tradition Field so far paled anything I'd previously encountered. I eventually found my personal slab of grass, called my father to warn him about the speed trap, put on my sunscreen, and head out into the mid-Florida morning.

Since the last visit, they had opened up the practice fields to fans, so that, of course, was my first stop. I ran into pitchers doing fielding drills and one of the practice squads taking some batting practice. It is then that the warning battery light ominously came on my camera. I carry a spare, of course, but something about the light struck an uncanny chord, perhaps realizing somewhere in my hind brain that I hadn't recharged that backup battery since last year.

Autograph fields

Regardless, I went about my business and got inside, and after two pictures, the battery faded to black. I put in my replacement and saw it was on the warning cycle as well. I took as many pictures as I could before it, too, went to black. So, the only field where I technically didn't need to take more pictures but desperately wanted to take more pictures found me without an operating camera. Hurrah.

Heading out after the game entailed a small amount of congestion to get out to the main road, and then smooth sailing back south. Desperately out of clothes, I threw in a load of laundry as soon as I got back, took a shower, and got dressed for the family pizza party that evening. My clothes got out of the drier minutes before the guests started to arrive, so I quietly folded in the back room and then came to join the festivities, such as they were.

The party was endured, barely, but went on far too long. Exhausted from the day's events, I had passed out in my parents' bedroom long before the last guest belatedly left. After midnight and facing under seven hour's sleep as it was, I yelled at my mother until she stopped cleaning up to prevent "ants" and went to bed in the living room.

Stadium & Fans:
Home to center, Tradition Field
Home plate to center field, Tradition Field

Tradition Field in lovely, downtown Port St. Lonely hadn’t really changed much since my last visit. The big new thing was that the practice fields behind the park had been opened up to fans, mirroring the trend around the Grapefruit League to give fans more access to the players and prospects. The slapdash nature of this opening was very much in effect, as there were a couple of non-committal signs pointing in the general direction of the entrance, at the back of one of the parking lots.

You then must tromp across a field and dried-up riverbed to get to the practice area set up in typical Spring-Training arrangement, with practice fields interspersed with skills areas for running, fielding, bunting and the like. In a nod to making it slightly fan-friendly, there are street signs naming the various paths in the facility after Met luminaries such as Gil Hodges and Tom Seaver, though the practice fields themselves are recipients of boring numbers as opposed to names of former greats as you find in other Spring Training parks. Still, some progress is still progress.

The rest of the park remained largely the same, with some vendors changing a tiny bit, and the sponsorships for some of the bars and party zones doing the inevitable cycling that happens year-over-year. The park had a pretty good turnout for the contest against the Nationals, and now with the reduced time between innings thanks to the new rules, there was even less going on for interstitial entertainment than before. Mr. Met, sadly, remained up north.

At the Game with Oogie:
Hot dog and souvenir soda

As I had my own car and had to do a review, I hit the beaches early, unfettered by parents and relations. Before their arrival, I got a hot dog and drink, as well as a batting helmet full of meatballs, because how can't you, really?

At the appointed time for everyone else's arrival, I went to a place that had a view of the ticket area to see if I could see them. They spotted me first, as they were right below me waiting to get in line for the elevator. I had thought my father was being particularly lazy, but it turned out that a family friend attending the game with us had just undergone surgery and was in a cast.

Thus united, we were off to our seats on the first-base side, under the merciful shade of the overhang. I had already grabbed food earlier in my ramblings, but everyone else grabbed food and drinks (many getting the meatballs in a batting helmet), and just before the game, the later contingent of my relations showed up to fill in the seats. The talk was limited to the play on field and the nice day we had in the shade.

The Game: 
This meaningless Spring Training matchup had the Washington Nationals facing off against the New York Metropolitans. As it happened, this pre-season match-up of NL East rivals was a walk away by the New York squad, signifying absolutely nothing about the season ahead.

The game started slowly, with Washington only getting a walk in the first, and the Metropolitans going in order. The Nationals managed to get a guy to third in the top of the second thanks to a one-out double and a ground out, but there he stayed. New York again went in order. Washington took their turn going in order in the top of the third, but the Metropolitans decided to score some runs, getting four of them in with a double, single, sacrifice fly, walk, and a David Wright three-run homer to dead center, leaving them with a 4-0 lead after three innings.

The Nats again went in order in the fourth, and New York joined them in the bottom of the inning. Washington finally got another base runner with a walk in the top of the fifth, while the Metropolitans had a solitary two-out double of their own. Despite a leadoff single, the Nationals managed to go in order in the top of the sixth thanks to a double play, while New York tacked on two more runs with a leadoff homer to left and a triple followed by a single to make it 6-0.

Washington finally got on the board in the seventh with a single, a double, and another single, driving in two runs to make it a more respectable 6-2. The Metropolitans promptly got those runs back with a double and a homer to left, extending the lead to 8-2. The Nats just had a single in the top of the eighth, while New York continued to feast on the Washington bullpen. Five more runs came in the bottom of the eighth thanks to three straight singles to start off the inning, then a walk, a double, and a two-base error on the shortstop, leaving them with a 13-2 lead. Washington went down swinging in the top of the ninth with a leadoff single and a homer to right, but three outs closed up the meaningless win at 13-4 New York.

The Scorecard:
Nationals vs. Metropolitans, 03-14-15. Metroplitans "win," 13-4.Nationals vs. Metropolitans, 03-14-15. Metroplitans "win," 13-4.
Nationals vs. Metropolitans, 03/14/15. Metropolitans "win," 13-4.

The scorecard was part of the $5 full-color magazine program. It took over the centerfold spread of the program on semi-gloss paper that made it difficult to write in pencil and especially colored pencil. In addition, there was printing behind the scoring area, which smudged easily and made it difficult to erase.

Each batting line had a colored space for a replacement batter, batting totals were at the end of each line, and inning totals were at the bottom of each column. However, the batting lines at the end of each line were labelled "A," "B," "R," and "H," and assuming that was "At Bats," "RBIs," "Runs," and "Hits," it was, at best, an unconventional alignment and ordering. Also, there were no pitching lines, although I entered them in in some blank space at the bottom. The scorecard took up only about a half of the area, leaving some baseball art at the top and scoring rules and stadium rules at the bottom. The background was white, but there was no easy white space for notations. There was nothing in scoring boxes except for the background printing, so it was comfortable enough to score.

There were mercifully few plays of note. The two-base error in the bottom of the eighth by the Nationals shortstop lead to a run, and the ceremonial swapping out of the starters ran its course between the eighth and ninth inning for the Nationals and the fourth and eighth for the Metropolitans, with only one player on each team not getting a rest.

The Accommodations: 
I was back at my parent's condo again, wishing that I wasn't.

2015 Grapefruit League

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