Baseball Summit I

I’m not doing a good job with the idea of posting timely updates here, that’s for sure. It’s Thursday, five days after a doubleheader I undertook involving four teams in three leagues in two ballparks in two boroughs in the same day. It’s four days after a third game in two days in a third park in another state.

When Mets tickets went on sale online in February, I logged on to get mine for Opening Day, as usual, but those were the second set of tickets I sought. The first were for July 3: Mets-Yankees, Shea Stadium, Fox television. I invited Matt and Brad up from D.C. and offered the fourth ticket to Dave, who’s been going to Opening Day games with me for five years. We arrived before noon and wandered around the field level seats during Mets batting practice, which went longer — or at least later — than usual because the Yankees either elected to skip it or took it at their own stadium. They didn’t need it, that’s for sure.

At some point Friday night or Saturday morning, I made a prediction to Brad that we were in for a slugfest, a 10-8 final. The starters were Matt Ginter and Jose Contreras, so it wasn’t a stretch to think that the bullpens would be a factor in this one. I’m one to think that Contreras’ Yankee Stadium start against the Mets was more an aberration than an indicator of things to come.

It was a fabulous game, and I can say that because the Mets eeked out a 10-9 win in the ninth on a bases-loaded dribbler by Shane Spencer. But with five home runs (two by Tony Clark, one each by Cliff Floyd, Ty Wiggington and Richard Hidalgo) and three lead changes, the cheers went back and forth. I love the Subway Series games because you hear 100 percent fan participation on those late-inning full-count pitches with runners in scoring position. Bases loaded, two out, top of the ninth, 3-2 count on Jorge Posada, and the Yankee fans are cheering for a hit or a walk, the Mets fans for a strikeout.

When John Franco throws a second straight change up down and in at the knees, right where the previous pitch was called a strike, and Posada takes it for called strike three, it’s the Mets fans who become louder.

I’m now 2-1 in Mets wins against the Yankees, all at Shea. If you count the April 1989 exhibition game I saw, it’s 2-2, but I won’t count that until I can find a box score for it. As it stands now, it was my 90th major league game and Clark’s two home runs moved him past Piazza into the lead in games I’ve attended. He’s got five now, the other three coming during the three-game Tigers-Red Sox series I attended at the old Tiger Stadium in 1999.

There was no way we were leaving Shea early, and we managed to get to the subway quickly enough that the platform wasn’t packed and neither was our car. Six stops later, we transfered to the F and settled in for what would be a nearly 75-minute sojourn through Queens, Manhattan and Brooklyn to the end of the line at Coney Island, arriving at 7 p.m. for what we thought was a 5 p.m. Brooklyn Cyclones game. When I handed Brad the ticket, he noticed that I was wrong and the game started at 6, so we made it in the bottom of the third.

KeySpan Park is in a wonderful setting, just west of the heart of Coney Island. The cool breezes come off the ocean, and the ballpark — particularly the outfield bleachers, where we sat — smell sweetly of salt air and sand. Behind the metal stands in right-center sits the tower for the old parachute ride and the beach. The lights atop their towers are encircled with neon, mimicking the artificial daylight along the boardwalk just steps away.

Intent on grabbing grub at the Old Town Bar in Union Square, we ducked out in the 10th inning after Brooklyn plated two runs in the ninth to tie the game and grabbed hot dogs and fries at Nathan’s, because we had to. It’s famous.

On Sunday, after Brad boarded Independence Air to head back to Washington, Matt and I headed down to Little Silver for a Fourth of July barbecue at my uncle’s. We stepped inside now and then to catch the Mets score, and I watched as Ty Wiggington fielded Alex Rodriguez’ weak grounder to complete the sweep. THE SWEEP! As a co-worker — and Yankee fan — told me yesterday, the Bombers’ backers won’t admit it (they’ll brush it off), but it was a demoralizing sweep. To the Mets.

From the barbecue, we went to Lakewood along with Casey, Kerry and my sister and watched Lexington’s Beau Hearod hit two monster home runs to left field as the Legends rolled to an 8-1 victory over the BlueClaws on Fireworks Night.

Last week, when I learned I had Monday off, I considered extending the trip a day and a ballpark, driving to Philadelphia for the Mets-Phillies game on Monday night. But then that would’ve included a two-hour drive (with no traffic) up the New Jersey Turnpike at the end of a holiday weekend, and I was already tired from two afternoons in the sun and lots of traveling around New York City and New Jersey. So we saved Philadelphia, perhaps for later this summer.

Perhaps for the pennant race.

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