Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Daytona Cubs 3 at St. Lucie Mets 4 (12) - June 26, 2012


The town of Port St. Lucie is a great destination for sports travellers. It is the home of the PGA Museum of Golf and of course, the New York Mets' spring training location. Like many of the Grapefruit League stadiums, Digital Domain Park doubles as a Florida State League venue, hosting the St. Lucie Mets, who have been the High Class-A affiliate of their New York namesakes for 25 seasons.

Digital Domain Park



Opened in 1988 and originally named Thomas J. White Stadium after the local politician who worked to bring the Mets' spring training to the area, Digitial Domain Park took its current name in 2010. The stadium is located just east of exit 121 on I-95 in what is mostly a commercial and industrial area. As a fairly large ballpark for this level, it really stands out as you approach along Peacock Boulevard.



Parking is free and plentiful. The box office is located on the Thomas J. White Plaza, which was dedicated in 2004 when the stadium changed its name to Tradition Field. Before entering, take the time to check out the sculpture made from steel from the World Trade Center that stands out front. From behind, it is rather nondescript; it is only when you go to the front and read the plaque that you realize the importance of the piece.



Tickets are $6 for general admission or you can fork over an extra couple of bucks to sit in the first three rows. Once inside, you walk up a ramp with photos of Mets' historical moments and famous players. At the top, I found the concourse to be relatively narrow, not a problem during the summer but I would expect it to be an issue with over 7,000 fans in the spring.



Concessions are somewhat interesting here, you can see the Fried Oreos stand in the photo above; I did not want to try these though. What caught my eye at the main stand was the knish for $3. I've never had a knish before, and although I knew them to be some sort of potato concoction, I didn't know exactly what to expect. So I ordered one. The lady behind the counter said "They didn't make any today I think, let me check". She disappeared for a minute and then came running back with a knish in her hand, smiling like she had won the lottery. "They did make one, just one, you are so lucky!", she exclaimed. I couldn't bear to tell her that I actually don't like potatoes and was just trying the knish as I was tired of hot dogs. As it turned out, it was pretty good and likely healthier than the other options.



The seating bowl is bisected by a concourse with 24 rows of blue seats all around. There is also a large roof above the press box that provides shade on those hot days and made a huge difference at the afternoon game I attended. Below the press box are a couple of party decks and some suites, but these were not in use while I was there.



I should mention that it was camp day, which meant a 10:30 am start and a crowd of 1,686, with about 1,600 of those kids. As such, much of the venue was closed off, including the tiki bar along the third base concourse and the Party Zone down the right field line.



The scoreboard is great, with full lineups before the game and player results and pitch counts during. Even better, the guy keeping track of the pitch counts was accurate all day long, a welcome change from Roger Dean Stadium where the numbers were essentially random.



Overall, Digital Domain Park was very enjoyable. Doubtless this was helped by the young and energetic crowd and the Fun Patrol who kept them entertained, with the most interesting promotion being the Water Balloon Toss where the "catcher" had to use his pants instead of his hands. For those of us more interested in the game, that turned out to be a very memorable one as well.



The Game

This was the first of three games for me on the day, with the other two taking place in Fort Myers at 5 pm. It is just under 3 hours between the two cities, so I was hoping for a quick contest here to allow me some leeway in the cross-state drive.



Tyler Pill (4th round in 2011, above) started for the Mets and was very accommodating, pitching 6.2 scoreless innings. His opponent was P.J Francescon (40th, 2010) who was nearly as efficient, giving up a run on two 5th-inning doubles. With the first six stanzas taking just 90 minutes, it looked like I wouldn't have any trouble making it to Fort Myers on time. When St. Lucie added another run in the 7th on an Alonzo Harris (39th, 2007) RBI single, I started to relax. Stupid move.



Pill had been replaced by Jack Leathersich (5th, 2011) who gave up 2 runs in the 8th, the second scoring from second base on an infield single by Rebel Riddling (25th round in 2008, above) when the Mets defense got caught napping. Oh-oh. Game tied late. Please no extra innings!



Things looked up as Daytona scored a run in the 9th when Arismendy Alcantara (above with a broken bat) tripled home pinch-runner Dustin Harrington (34th, 2010). As long as the Mets didn't score exactly one run in their last chance, I would be fine. Of course, Harris led off with a double and was singled home by Rylan Sandoval, who was stranded. Yep, extra innings. The game was still around 2.5 hours old, so I decided to stay for a while as I hate leaving games early, especially if the result is yet to be determined.

Neither team scored in the 10th but the Mets threatened in the 11th when Travis Taijeron (18th,  2011) led off with a single and advanced to second on a walk. Harris singled hard to right and Taijeron was unwisely sent home, only to be out by a mile as the game passed the three-hour mark. I figured there was about 20 minutes to spare that would still allow me to make it to Fort Myers by 5:00, which meant one last inning. After Daytona was retired in order, the Mets rallied when Taijeron was hit and moved to second on a two-out single. Again Harris was in place to be the hero and again he singled (below), but this time the outfielder bobbled the ball and Taijeron scored without a throw, leading the Mets to an exciting 4-3 win. I was ecstatic that I could see the end of the game and fairly bounded to my car to head east.



Notes

Props to the campers who stayed for the whole 12 innings. Most left after 7 or 8 but one group waited for the result.

I made the drive to Fort Myers in about 2.5 hours, arriving 5 minutes before first pitch. More on that in the next post.

Best,

Sean

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