You snooze, you lose — and miss Hughes

Those grand plans I laid out last week — four games in four ballparks in four days — never came to be. I made it halfway, unable to raise myself out of bed on Tuesday morning to hit the road (and figuring four hours of sleep before a late-night shift in charge of the room would not be a good career move), but bounced back on Wednesday to see Phil Hughes’ rehab start for the Trenton Thunder. Thursday would be another cop-out because I stayed home to help my dad and uncle install the ceiling fans we’d asked them to take care of for us.

Hughes is still a prospect, a rookie with just two Major League starts in his career, but his appearance in Trenton was as big as the rehab appearances made previously by Bernie Williams, Hideki Matsui, Derek Jeter and others. OK, maybe not as big as Jeter’s, but it was an event. It was a Wednesday afternoon, a park filled with summer camp kids, but the media turned out in force. Or something close to it.

The big right-hander looked good, recovering after a rough first inning to cruise into the fifth. By then, the heat and humidity had chased me into the press box for a break, and I happened to be standing directly over the center of home plate to get a perfect view as Hughes snapped off a majestic curveball to freeze a helpless Binghamton Mets batter for strike three. At the lower levels of the minor leagues, the good pitchers tend to make most hitters look silly at times. But as they move up the ladder, only the better pitching prospects consistently baffle the hitters to such an extent.

Hughes’ rehab appearance and the opponent meant that the two most powerful general managers in baseball were sitting in adjoining rows behind the plate — Omar Minaya and an assistant or two were seated directly in front of Brian Cashman and his crew. Minaya managed to look cool in a long-sleeved dress shirt and canvas cap; Cashman seemed to be roasting in jeans, a polo shirt and what appeared to be a pair of $7.99 sunglasses from Target. Reggie Jackson was also there, but I missed him — probably because he stayed a bit closer to the action.

But after a late night at work and another shift that evening, I had to head home and work in a nap before departing for the city, so once Hughes’ day at the ballpark was finished, so was mine. I drove home just as a few raindrops began falling on Waterfront Park, and I disengaged the cruise control on the Turnpike when the deluge began.

It didn’t turn into the week I envisioned, but the two games were worth it — and they satisfied my happy feet for the moment. I’ve yet to make the time to get the photos online, but again, when I do, there will be some samples here.

This week has been about big-league ball, with the Mets home again and playing well. We went out to Shea on Tuesday and I’m up bright and early tomorrow for the nooner against the Pirates. Taking mom for her birthday. More on Shea later.

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