Mets autograph of the moment: Omar Quintanilla

Yesterday’s mail brought a signed baseball card of former New York Mets shortstop Omar Quintanilla.

Quintanilla will never be remembered for the stats on the back of his baseball card – he has a .220 lifetime average with 8 home runs and 74 RBI in 402 major league games over nine seasons.

Now he did have his moments, with the odd game-winning hit here or there… but on-field accomplishments are only one reason to appreciate a baseball player.

When I remember Quintanilla, I will think of the times he signed autographs for fans at Citi Field on days when the “better” players wouldn’t even stop long enough to wave. And I’m not the only one who remembers Quintanilla for his fan-friendly attitude.

When I posted a photo of my signed card on Twitter yesterday, I got this response:

Best of luck to Omar Quintanilla on the Albuquerque Isotopes this year.

Omar-Quintanilla

I got to watch my first full Mets game of the season last night, aided by a timely rain delay that allowed me to get home from a meeting before the first out was recorded. And the Mets cooperated by getting that first loss of 2015 out of the way.

There’s been a lot of griping about the batting order Terry Collins has used over the first two games of the season, and I admit it’s not the one I’d write down if I were filling out the lineup cards. I’ll chalk up the lack of offense in the first two games to facing great pitching, but if the struggles continue in Atlanta I’m going to be concerned.

I also wasn’t thrilled with the botched rundown play in the bottom of the seventh inning. Sure, it didn’t cost the Mets a run… but it was bad fundamental baseball – what exactly were the Mets working on in Port St. Lucie for the last six weeks?

Allan Dykstra plays for the Binghamton Mets in 2011 (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)

Allan Dykstra plays for the Binghamton Mets in 2011 (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)

Congratulations to former Mets farmhand Allan Dykstra, who was called up by the Tampa Bay Rays yesterday when 1B James Loney went on the disabled list.

Thunder, but no rain

Free-Event

The rain stayed away from Trenton yesterday afternoon so a few hundred baseball fans could meet this year’s Thunder team.

There were free hot dogs and sodas, quick tours of the ballpark and a chance to watch the players take batting practice… but I think everybody came to get autographs.

And this early in the season, almost all of the players seemed happy to be signing autographs for fans – not that they had much choice at a team-organized autograph session.

Dante Bichette Jr. asked my friend Bart – dressed in Boston Red Sox gear as always – “Do you root for us?” Bart answered, “Of course I do – I root for all you guys to make it to the major leagues because that was my dream.” Bichette asked, “But do you root for us to beat the Red Sox?” “No,” Bart answered truthfully, and they both laughed.

The session was well-organized, with players set up in four different groups on the concourse because of the weather concerns. (Last year, the autograph stations were set up on the field where they could be spread out more.) Fans were given a map identifying who would be signing where as they entered the ballpark, and it was possible to get through all four lines if you were close enough to the front of your first one.

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When I got home, I caught the Angels’ 2-0 victory over the Mariners. It was definitely a win for the “we want faster games” crowd, ending in just a little over two hours. But I don’t know how many people found it exciting television – C.J. Wilson and Huston Street held the Mariners to just two hits and no runs, while James Paxton and the Mariners bullpen were almost as stingy. The game’s only offense came from a David Freese two-run homer in the fourth inning, and neither side really had many other scoring chances.

I guess we can breathe a sigh of relief that an MRI found no structural damage to Jenrry Mejia‘s elbow, but I still wonder if a second Tommy John surgery is in his future.

Opening Day, Interrupted

Bartolo Colon pitches against the San Diego Padres at Citi Field on June 13, 2014 (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)

Bartolo Colon (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)

My Opening Day experience consisted of catching pieces of the third and eighth inning of the Toronto Blue Jays’ 6-1 victory over the New York Yankees, and parts of the eighth and ninth innings of the Mets’ 3-1 victory over the Washington Nationals.

The most memorable moment was hearing the fans at Yankee Stadium embrace Alex Rodriguez with a loud ovation during his first MLB plate appearance since 2013. (He walked, so that wasn’t especially exciting… but at least he had a better day that most of his teammates – A-Rod had one of three Yankee hits against Drew Hutchinson.)

Masahiro Tanaka had a terrible pitching line, allowing four earned runs in just four innings. I didn’t get to see him at all, but it doesn’t seem as though his new pitching style is nearly as effective as the old one that led to damage in his left ulnar collateral ligament. It’s a shame – I enjoyed watching the 2014 Tanaka.

Bartolo Colon proved that he was up to handling the Opening Day assignment for the Mets, even though fans wanted to see Matt Harvey. Jeurys Familia looked dominant – and that’s good, because he might become the closer for the immediate future. And at least this year, Terry Collins sent healthy pitchers to the mound to defend a ninth inning lead, although having Buddy Carlyle earn his first career save wasn’t in anyone’s Opening Day plans.

Let’s hope that today’s MRI doesn’t reveal any serious problems with Jenrry Mejia‘s arm.

Today, when I could actually sit down & watch a baseball game, neither the Mets nor the Blue Jays are playing.

New York Yankees catching prospect Gary Sanchez (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)

New York Yankees catching prospect Gary Sanchez (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)

But that’s ok – I’ll get my baseball fix at the Trenton Thunder’s “Welcome North” event at Arm & Hammer Park in Trenton this afternoon. The 3-6:30 p.m. event offers fans a chance to meet the 2015 Trenton Thunder team and get autographs, eat free hot dogs and take a tour of the ballpark.

Trenton’s roster this year includes four of the top five prospects in the Yankees’ farm system as judged by Baseball America: pitcher Luis Severino (#1), outfielder Aaron Judge (#2), first baseman Greg Bird (#4) and catcher Gary Sanchez (#5).

Maybe I’ll see some of you there.

The beauty and ugliness of baseball

BaseballThe Opening Night curtain is about to go up on the 2015 Major League Baseball season, and we’ll have six months of pennant races, record chases and amazing achievements to enjoy.

For the first time in a generation, there is more excitement about the New York Mets than the New York Yankees. (For posterity, I will note that the Mets had the best record in the Grapefruit League this year at 19-12… since we are already sensibly forgetting about exhibition game wins and losses.)

And it’s a good thing that the games will be underway soon, because we badly need something to talk about besides the ugly stories that have dominated the baseball discussion for the past week.

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Bernie Williams bobblehead, Star Wars night highlight newly-announced Trenton Thunder promotions

Arm & Hammer Park, home of the Trenton Thunder (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)

Arm & Hammer Park, home of the Trenton Thunder (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)

The Trenton Thunder announced several additional promotional dates this week. Highlights include:

  • Star Wars night is scheduled for Monday, May the Fourth, with costumed characters from a long time ago in a galaxy far away visiting Arm & Hammer Park. Star Wars themed t-shirts and jerseys will be available for purchase at the Thunder Company Store. (I wish I was going to be able to go to this one – I love Star Wars promos at baseball games.)
  • On Friday, September 4th, Trenton will give out Bernie Williams bobbleheads to the first 2,000 fans through the gates. Now we’ll ignore the little detail that Williams’ only played five games for the Thunder in 2003 as part of a rehab assignment… this is the best of the three bobblehead giveaways on Trenton’s schedule in 2015. CC Sabathia (July 24) only made one rehab appearance with Trenton last year, and while Dellin Betances (Aug. 5) was a real member of the Thunder in 2011 & 2012, he needs to build upon his rookie season before he truly becomes a star.

You can check out the Trenton Thunder promotion schedule at www.trentonthunder.com.