Wednesday, February 27, 2013

"I've Got A Story And I'm Trying To Tell It Right"

In 2006 SNY was launched and all of a sudden there was Mets coverage out the wazoo, well at least compared to what was there before.  One of the new programs was Kids Clubhouse, a magazine show for kids to learn about the Mets and go behind-the-scenes of many aspects of baseball.  At the time Amanda Cole was the host and every fiber of my being wanted to be in her shoes.

Kids Clubhouse went beyond Mets games.  The episode in Cooperstown lead to a family vacation and a visit to the kids area because I just had to see that room after Amanda made it look so cool.  I wanted to be the one interviewing players and telling David Wright I played "8th base in 3rd grade."  I even remember the bloopers because the second that show started I knew it was what I wanted to do.

Then in 2007, Kevin Burkhardt joined Mets broadcasts.  He took over the role of field reporter and brought all kinds of stories and reports on Mets players and history to the broadcast.  Every time the broadcast would "Check in with Kevin" I knew I wanted to listen.  Every time I found myself wishing I could have been the one to do the research and tell people the anecdotes and information.

That's how I knew I wanted to somehow be the one getting the story.  I wanted to be the one exploring every ballpark and giving the "virtual tour."  I wanted to be the one interviewing Joe Smith on the subway.  I wanted to be sitting in the room listening to press conferences and writing the types of stories Kevin Burkhardt tells.

Writers at the Daily News, and New York Post also took note of Kevin and, for once, he became the story.  Kevin Burkhardt worked his way up to SNY.  And once he got to SNY he never stopped working and he became way more than the regular on-field reporter.

Kevin Burkhardt brings the fans closer to the game than more than anybody else can.  He explains everything from how players started playing baseball to what starting pitchers do between starts.  He shows us the best parts of each road ballpark and the parts of Citi Field fans don't get to see on their own.  He does it all and somehow manages to be so casual with his "back to you, Gare."

Any fan that has met him will tell you he's a class act.  Heck, the fact that a reporter has fans has to say something.  The first time I met him I could only utter "thank you" about 3847 times after taking a picture and he somehow didn't hold that against me during future encounters.  He goes out of his way to talk to fans at games and he always seems genuinely interested in what you have to say.  He's either a really good actor or he actually is one of the coolest people ever.

Lest we forget that he reads every twitter mention he gets and replies to most of them (even the ridiculous ones from me).  Kevin clearly knows how important it is to interact with your audience and it makes every report he does even better.  Who wouldn't like to think they influenced some aspect of their team's coverage (even if it's the ridiculousness that become the influence)?

In the tight-knit Mets community Kevin Burkhardt is one of the biggest celebrities yet he somehow manages to make the "little people" feel important.

Kevin Burkhardt is the best in the business at what he does.  Everything he brings to a broadcast is something I wish I can one day bring to Mets fans and readers.  If I can be half as successful a journalist as Mr. Burkhardt I'll know I did something right.

Kids Clubhouse and Amanda Cole inspired a 6th grader to find her dream.  Kevin Burkhardt kept that dream alive and continues to keep it alive with every report he gives.

Let's Go Mets!

Monday, February 25, 2013

O Canada

Russell Martin dropped out of the World Baseball Classic so the Canadian team is looking for a catcher.

Mike Nickeas was born in Canada, therefore he is eligible for that team.

Let's go Canada, make it happen. This would let Mike complete his international trifecta as he has already represented the USA and Great Britain in other tournaments.

It's not like he's fighting for a Major League role on the Blue Jays so this could give him some fun playing time this spring.

Your move, Canada.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

It's Baaaaack

The first weekend of Mets baseball has finished and even though it may not have been the most exciting, it was nice to see some version of games again.  I followed as much as I could on my computer.  Gary, Keith, and Ron were back in the booth for SNY and of course we checked in with Kevin for the first time this year.  It was fun seeing #MetsTwitter active and tweeting about games again, too.

Shaun Marcum got things started yesterday against the Nationals.  Zack Wheeler, Cory Mazzoni, Darin Gorski, and Bobby Parnell also got in the game.  Admittedly a little amped up, Wheeler threw two scoreless innings to start his season.  Future closer Bobby Parnell even got the save.  Ruben Tejada homered off Stephen Strasburg and Collin Cowgill immediately had fans asking for more Cowgill.

So maybe it was exciting.

Today the Mets played against the University of Michigan baseball team as well as the Astros.  In the game against the Astros the bullpen gave us another taste of what the Mets have been eating since 2007 as they blew a 6-1.  The game eventually ended in a tie, because it's Spring Training and that can happen.  Matt Harvey and Travis d'Arnaud were the starting battery against the Astros and like Wheeler yesterday, they were both ready to play real baseball.  Before the game d'Arnaud said he had to listen to classical music to calm himself down and if he hadn't gone 0-for-3 that might have become his new pregame ritual.

Any day I can spend watching baseball is a good day.  I'm not going to lie and say I wasn't jealous of what looked like beautiful weather in Florida as I sit in still-freezing Boston.  But seeing David Wright and his Mets reminds me that baseball will be up north in a matter of weeks.

It was great seeing Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas play in the same game.  You know, and I got to confirm that they still exist even though they were exiled to that Canadian organization in the American League.  Mike even got a hit today!

Baseball is back and it's not going away until the month that has Thanksgiving.  It is a wonderful feeling.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Warm Welcome

Maybe his new skipper was wishing him a happy birthday.
I hope Mike Nickeas had a great day.  He seems to love baseball more than almost anything so I'm sure he was just happy to be playing today.

Happy birthday, Mike! 

The First Look

I guess it's all real now.

Happy Birthday!

Mike Nickeas turns 30 today and I find it noteworthy.

Happy birthday, Mike!  I hope all your dreams of being teammates with Josh Thole and being on the Bisons forever come true!

Here's to an awesome year in the Blue Jays organization and maybe possibly some eventual return to the Mets one day.

Now get out there and play ball!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Memory Lasts Forever

I have only seen two different teams at Spring Training, the Mets and the Yankees, but it was still interesting to compare the environments.  One of the biggest differences was the accessibility of the players for autograph opportunities.  In Port St. Lucie, the Mets have many short fences and areas that are simply chained off, providing easy access for autographs.  In Tampa, the Yankees have high fences around most of the practice fields, some of which have slits built in for autograph-seekers to pass baseballs/cards/pictures/etc. through to the players.

This piece about Derek Jeter adds an element to the Yankees side that I didn't experience firsthand.  The only autograph I recall getting at Yankees Spring Training is Chris Woodward so there really wasn't security or much of a crowd around.  Reading what the guard was saying to Jeter's fans was awful.  Realizing that Jeter did nothing to help the situation was worse.

Derek Jeter has created a pattern that allows him to skip out on autographs.  At some point years ago he decided some amount of fans was his limit.  He's not the only superstar that doesn't oblige every request.  I have seen David Wright sign for only a fraction of hopeful fans.  But that doesn't make it right.

Baseball players tend to start their careers saying they will sign every autograph because they all remember when players didn't stop to sign for them.  They go through the minor leagues signing as many autographs as possible.  They get to the big leagues and continue to sign countless autographs.  Yet once they find success and they have to stay and sign for an extra minute or two many stop signing at all.

Those two seconds spent with a fan can make the day, the week, the month, the life of a kid (or even an adult).  That could be their first autograph, my first was from Endy Chavez and my second was Juan Padilla.  That general greeting towards the crowd could turn a random player into a favorite player, 'sup Mike Nickeas.

Those two seconds spent walking past the crowd could ruin that fan's opinion of the team for life.

No player should be in the habit of not signing or rarely signing.  There is no way they have an appointment or obligation immediately after every single Spring Training workout or they are always too busy to spend a few minutes before a game interacting with fans.

The autograph may fade but the memory will last forever.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Zach Lutz: Outfielder

Zach Lutz has apparently arrived in Port St. Lucie and begun to work with Tom Goodwin on becoming an outfielder.  He participated in outfield drills and came out of them feeling pretty good.

My main concern with Lutz in the outfield is his speed and athleticism.  He has never been particularly swift but hopefully he will be able to work past that.  Mets fans are used to seeing these outfield experiments blow up in their faces, as they have with Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda.  However, if we want a positive projection maybe we can look at Alex Gordon.

It isn't impossible for Zach Lutz to find some measure of success as an outfielder.  He's a corner infielder like Gordon, a big guy like Duda and Gordon.  Also like Gordon, Zach is a corner infielder and it has always been important for him to be somewhat fast on his feet.  So even though he may not have the running speed of the Jordany Valdespin experiment, he has more potential than Duda ever really had.  As Gordon adjusted to the outfield he got in better shape and gained a step or two, so that's another possibility with Lutz.

I honestly don't think anything will really come of this.  I'm expecting to see him in left field for the '51s for a good amount of games this season.  It stinks that the Mets have first and third base covered for years to come.  It stinks that the Mets have a million and one outfielders in camp.

Zach Lutz has had so little luck in his career.  It's hard not to root for something to go his way.  Maybe this will be what swings it.

Let's Go Mets!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Much Needed Perspective

It's always a little weird when you think about how your parents and grandparents and teachers and every adult ever was once a kid and a teenager and how they went through high school and college.  It's even weirder when you realize your favorite athletes fit in that category.

But that's why I thought this article was particularly interesting.  TV shows and movies make you think going to college is easy.  They make the transition seem flawless.  They never show anyone figuring out how to do work or talking to a million different people and only maybe becoming friends with two of them.  So even though this isn't something out of a show or a movie it is still nice to read.

I only go to school 200 miles away from home and I feel like I'm a world away so I can't imagine going across the country.  All these baseball players and other college athletes are still kids when they go away.  They may have chosen a certain school because of that particular team but that doesn't mean the transition is nonexistent.

My roommate last semester was on the basketball team.  She had to get up for 6:30 AM workouts more than once a week.  She also had regular practice and her classes and she tried to talk to people that weren't on the team.  I can't imagine the schedule for a Division I athlete when that D-III athlete had a full schedule.

Even the people that you look up to went through adjustment periods. Everything didn't just fall into place.

Every college athlete is a student.  They are all human.  Sometimes people need to be reminded of that.

I know this has close to nothing to do with baseball.  I know most people reading this are past college age.  I just happened to find this today and I'm glad I did because it made me feel a little bit better about my situation.

Let's Go Mets!