Two Side to a Future

It isn’t often when fans at an All-Star game can sincerely root for both teams without guilt, but that’s what transpired at Citi Field this afternoon as Mets fans, who primarily made up the fairly well attended Futures Game crowd, as they were there to cheer on three Mets prospects with healthy futures – Noah Syndergaard and Brandon Nimmo for the USA team, and Rafael Montero for the World Team.

The Mets connections even extended themselves to the coaching staffs. The USA team was managed by Mookie Wilson. His batting coach was Howard Johnson, who now serves in that capacity for the Tacoma Rainiers, the Triple-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners.

The World Team was managed by Edgardo Alfonzo. His pitching coach was Neil Allen, who Mets fans remember primarily as the chip that brought Keith Hernandez to New York back in 1983. Allen is now the pitching coach for the Durham Bulls, a Tampa Bay affiliate.

USA topped the World club, 4-2, backed by a solid pitching staff that limited the international squad to just three hits. And a longball by Diamondback future infielder Matt Davidson.

The scoring began in the second, when USA’s DH, Christian Yelich, a Marlins prospect, belted a doubled to left center, scoring the Dodgers’ Joc Pederson, who had singled.

Syndergaard started the game for USA, and was impressive as advertised, picking up one strikeout – Arismendy Alcantara, who later homered off Boston’s Anthony Ranaudo. Syndegaard yielded one hit in his brief one-inning scoreless stint, but the runner was erased trying to steal.

The lanky righthander exhibited distinctive poise and confidence when dealing with the herd of media prior to the game.

“This is a great opportunity,” said Syndegaard. “I’m here to have fun with it, learn as much as I can and work on getting to the next level.”

Nimmo was the proverbial kid-in-a-candy-store, soaking it all in and enjoying every moment. “I’m loving it. There’s a lot more going on here, a whole different experience.”

After a first half with the Savannah Sand Gnats in the Sally League, Nimmo was thrilled to be voted onto the prestigious squad. “I feel like this is a good reward for a good first half (.261, one homer, eight doubles, five triples, 23 RBIs), I’m happy with it, and just want to soak up this atmosphere, learn what I can, keep working hard, and the rest will take care of itself.”

He was even assigned David Wright’s locker. “All I can say is, David, thank you, and hope that I can have an amazing career like you’ve had.”

Ex-Met Mike Piazza was a welcomed guest, on hand to play in the celebrity softball game which followed the Futures Game, and was met by the media with an eager group of cameras and recorders.

Asked about his days in New York, Piazza recognized that when you retire, there’s something missing.

“Playing golf never replicates that excitement,” Piazza pined. “I hold my time here very fondly. I was blessed to play here, and to have had the tremendous support of the fans.”

No. 31 still follows the Mets closely and knows they’ve been going through a rough patch. “I love the character of this organization, with its history and fans, but as I’ve said many times before, sometimes the hard times define you. When you have had that roller coaster history, it’s about character.”

Of course Piazza creamed a home run in the softball game that followed, helping his National League collection of former ballplayers and celebrities beat an AL roster, 8-5.

The orange-clad NLers, “managed” by WFAN’s Boomer Esiason, who is also better known as an NFL quarterback, “drafted” a team filled with ex-Mets and Mets fans, including Piazza, Darryl Strawberry, Doc Gooden, and which was “captained” by Johnny Franco. The roster also featured Kevin James, Andre Dawson, Jennie Finch, George Lopez, Ozzie Smith, Miss America Mallory Hagan, and Alyssa Milano.

The AL team, managed by Esiason’s morning radio partner, Craig Carton, lined up ex-Met Rickey Henderson, Bernie Williams, Frank Thomas, Fred Lynn, Rollie Fingers, AJ Calloway, and actors James Denton, and Chord Overstreet.

James was named one of the game’s MVPs, for a headfirst slide into second that extended a rally. The other MVP was Josh Wege, a member of the nation’s Wounded Warrior softball team, which plays over 100 games per year. Wege lost both legs in the service of his country, but continues to play on prosthetics. He hit a home run in the game, too.

On deck: The main events, the Home Run Derby, and the All-Star Game on Tuesday.

Posted under Andy Esposito, Anthony Ranaudo, Durham Bulls, Edgardo Alfonzo, Exper, Joc, Longball, Mets Fans, New York Mets, Pederson, Pitching Coach, Proverbial Kid, Seattle Mariners, Strikeout, Tacoma Rainiers, Top Story, Usa Team

Two Side to a Future

It isn’t often when fans at an All-Star game can sincerely root for both teams without guilt, but that’s what transpired at Citi Field this afternoon as Mets fans, who primarily made up the fairly well attended Futures Game crowd, as they were there to cheer on three Mets prospects with healthy futures – Noah Syndergaard and Brandon Nimmo for the USA team, and Rafael Montero for the World Team.

The Mets connections even extended themselves to the coaching staffs. The USA team was managed by Mookie Wilson. His batting coach was Howard Johnson, who now serves in that capacity for the Tacoma Rainiers, the Triple-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners.

The World Team was managed by Edgardo Alfonzo. His pitching coach was Neil Allen, who Mets fans remember primarily as the chip that brought Keith Hernandez to New York back in 1983. Allen is now the pitching coach for the Durham Bulls, a Tampa Bay affiliate.

USA topped the World club, 4-2, backed by a solid pitching staff that limited the international squad to just three hits. And a longball by Diamondback future infielder Matt Davidson.

The scoring began in the second, when USA’s DH, Christian Yelich, a Marlins prospect, belted a doubled to left center, scoring the Dodgers’ Joc Pederson, who had singled.

Syndergaard started the game for USA, and was impressive as advertised, picking up one strikeout – Arismendy Alcantara, who later homered off Boston’s Anthony Ranaudo. Syndegaard yielded one hit in his brief one-inning scoreless stint, but the runner was erased trying to steal.

The lanky 6’ 6” righthander exhibited distinctive poise and confidence when dealing with the herd of media prior to the game.

“This is a great opportunity,” said Syndegaard. “I’m here to have fun with it, learn as much as I can and work on getting to the next level.”

Nimmo was the proverbial kid-in-a-candy-store, soaking it all in and enjoying every moment. “I’m loving it. There’s a lot more going on here, a whole different experience.”

After a first half with the Savannah Sand Gnats in the Sally League, Nimmo was thrilled to be voted onto the prestigious squad. “I feel like this is a good reward for a good first half (.261, one homer, eight doubles, five triples, 23 RBIs), I’m happy with it, and just want to soak up this atmosphere, learn what I can, keep working hard, and the rest will take care of itself.”

He was even assigned David Wright’s locker. “All I can say is, David, thank you, and hope that I can have an amazing career like you’ve had.”

Nimmo went 0-2, with a groundout and a liner out to short.

Montero started for Fonzie’s World Team, setting down the USA team in quick order in his one inning appearance – fly out, popup, groundout.

Ex-Met Mike Piazza was a welcomed guest, on hand to play in the celebrity softball game which followed the Futures Game, and was met by the media with an eager group of cameras and recorders. It was announced that Piazza would be inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame on Sept. 29.

Asked about his days in New York, Piazza recognized that when you retire, there’s something missing.

“Playing golf never replicates that excitement,” Piazza pined. “I hold my time here very fondly. I was blessed to play here, and to have had the tremendous support of the fans.”

No. 31 still follows the Mets closely and knows they’ve been going through a rough patch. “I love the character of this organization, with its history and fans, but as I’ve said many times before, sometimes the hard times define you. When you have had that roller coaster history, it’s about character.”

Of course Piazza creamed a home run in the softball game that followed, helping his National League collection of former ballplayers and celebrities beat an AL roster, 8-5.

The orange-clad NLers, “managed” by WFAN’s Boomer Esiason, who is also better known as an NFL quarterback, “drafted” a team filled with ex-Mets and Mets fans, including Piazza, Darryl Strawberry, Doc Gooden, and which was “captained” by Johnny Franco. The roster also featured Kevin James, Andre Dawson, Jennie Finch, George Lopez, Ozzie Smith, Miss America Mallory Hagan, and Alyssa Milano.

The AL team, managed by Esiason’s morning radio partner, Craig Carton, lined up ex-Met Rickey Henderson, Bernie Williams, Frank Thomas, Fred Lynn, Rollie Fingers, AJ Calloway, and actors James Denton, and Chord Overstreet.

James was named one of the game’s MVPs, for a headfirst slide into second that extended a rally. The other MVP was Josh Wege, a member of the nation’s Wounded Warrior softball team, which plays over 100 games per year. Wege lost both legs in the service of his country, but continues to play on prosthetics. He hit a home run in the game, too.

On deck: The main events, the Home Run Derby, and the All-Star Game on Tuesday.

Posted under Andy Esposito, Anthony Ranaudo, Candy Store, Diffe, Durham Bulls, Edgardo Alfonzo, Exper, Joc, Longball, Mets Fans, New York Mets, Pederson, Pitching Coach, Proverbial Kid, Seattle Mariners, Strikeout, Tacoma Rainiers, Top Story, Usa Team

Gem By Hernandez Good As One Thrown By Lee

Cliff Lee the Seattle Mariners left hander did his job going the route and took care of the New York Yankees the night before. Wednesday night it was Felix Hernandez the right hander pitcher of the Mariners who did his part. He also went the distance but his pitching gem may have been better than the one Lee threw.

It was a two-hit complete game 7-0 shut out over the potent Yankees lineup, 115 pitches and everything in his arsenal. As he said, “the slider, curveball, just tried to throw as many strikes as I could.” The Yankees could do nothing and seemed frustrated as they returned to the dugout.

Hernandez would not compare his performance to Lee. What mattered was the Mariners once again got two consecutive complete games from Lee and Hernandez.  And it was the second time this season that Lee and Hernandez won back-to[back games.

It was the third straight complete game for Hernandez, two of them going as a win. Lee got the win Tuesday evening in the Bronx, his third consecutive complete game. “It happens, it happens,” said Hernandez about what he and Lee accomplished over the Yankees the past two nights.

Was there an incentive to top what Lee did? “We’re different pitchers,” said Hernandez who has a career 15-3 record in the month of June. The 24-year old native of Valencia Venezuela also had 11 strikeouts and as play concluded moved to second in that department in the American League.

More importantly, as the Yankees have discovered, if the Mariners continue to get this type of pitching from Lee and Hernandez, well they can make some noise in the second half of the season.

“You talk about the impact that Lee has on this pitching staff, I think it pushes Felix,” commented Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu. “I thought it was the best pure stuff that Felix has shown in a game.  He really dominated and kept their hitters off balance. It was a tremendous performance.”

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said about Hernandez “He’s as good as we have seen all year. His slider, changeup and curveball, he had it all working tonight. He’s got electric stuff.”

Hernandez finished the month of June with a 4-1 record and a 2.36 ERA and over his last four starts is 3-0 with a 1.26 ERA. “We knew his ability was there,” added Wakamatsu. “The key thing was getting the complete games.  Every time you have an outing like this it’s something to look back on and learn from it.”

The last time the Yankees had back-to-back complete games thrown against them was back in April of 2000 when Toronto’s Chris Carpenter and Kelvin Escobar did it up in Toronto. And it has not happened in consecutive home games since 1991.

Said Girardi, “Good pitching will always beat good hitting; that’s the bottom line.”  For the Mariners the bottom line is getting the rest of their pitching staff to follow in the footsteps of Lee and Hernandez.

e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

Posted under Complete Game, Complete Games, Curveball, Dugout, Felix Hernandez, Game 7, Joe Girardi, Left Hander, Manager Don, Month Of June, New York Mets, New York Yankees, Pitchers, Pitches, Seattle Mariners, Second Time, Slider, Top Story, Tuesday Evening, Valencia Venezuela, Wednesday Night, Yankees Lineup

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on July 1, 2010