I’ve grown up a diehard New York Yankees fan.
And, thankfully, I attribute that to my dad.
Having been in attendance for some of the franchise’s highs -- Reggie Jackson’s three home runs in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series – and its lows – Josh Beckett shutting them out in Game 6 of the 2003 World Series, it was kind of hard to ignore my dad's fandom. So, I adopted it myself.
But, with all due respect to my Bronx Bombers, their crosstown rival outdid them on Tuesday afternoon in Syracuse.
With the Mets acquiring the Triple-A franchise formerly known as the Syracuse Chiefs, the major-league franchise planned a final open workout and practice for fans to attend at the Carrier Dome before Thursday's Opening Day in Washington.
The event gained publicity throughout Major League Baseball after Noah Syndergaard openly complained about Syracuse being in the team’s whirlwind travel itinerary. Several sports writers also seemed to mock the team’s decision to travel upstate.
And, certainly, I get it. At this point in the preseason, the players just want to get home and get their lives in order before the season begins.
However, manager Mickey Callaway hit the nail right on the head during a post-workout press conference in the Dome’s media room.
“The players are going to feel better going into the season knowing that they came here and did something like this,” Callaway said. “This is what this game is all about.”
I’ve always told friends who have never been that I have always enjoyed spring training baseball games over regular season games.
Here’s why: There’s an intimacy that just can’t be matched. Players scour a Grapefruit or Cactus League complex as if it's a college campus and you have the opportunity to see them more up close than you would sitting in the nosebleeds at PNC Park.
That intimacy was replicated at the Dome.
It was refreshing because it made baseball accessible, and it made it real to those who only know it on their Little League and sandlot fields. And while I love the Yankees, I just have a feeling that they would be hard pressed to replicate the same type of event in Scranton, the home of their Triple-A affiliate.
Now, I know that Syracuse is unique – not every major league city is going to have an air-supported dome to prevent weather from factoring in any other type of public relations event.
But, what the Mets did was classy and it worked. It brought fans – particularly hundreds of children who were in attendance from inner-city schools – closer to players they could only dream about meeting or interacting with.
“The fans make this thing happen,” Callaway added. “To see kids happy and smiling because they get to see Noah Syndergaard and guys like that – that’s what this is all about. Without those people, we don’t have jobs and we always try to recognize that.”
And, while Tuesday was surely an additional opportunity to reach out to an area still miffed by the sale of their franchise from the community itself to the ballclub they’ll be affiliated with, it seemed to work.
Players and executives such as second baseman Robinson Cano and general manager Brodie Van Wagenen went out of their way to interact with fans by either signing every autograph in sight or by throwing a ball into the stands.
Said Van Wagenen to the crowd following the practice, “We have talked all offseason about the attitude this city must have – the city of New York, the city of Flushing – and now we can share that attitude in Syracuse that we’re going to be champions. We’re going to win now, and we’re going to win in the future.”
Fan outreach is a great place to start.
Take note, Major League Baseball: That’s class.
Related Content: Mets Treat Central New York to Spring Training Workout in Syracuse
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