Mets Spring Training Experience, Not What It Used To Be
It was nearly a yearly event from 2016 to 2019, that I would take my baseball teams and trek over to the east coast of Florida to visit the Mets Spring Training workouts. Now of course, I did it to bring the game more to life for the kids by having some of my buddies meet with them, like T.J. Rivera, Chasen Bradford, and Dilson Herrera, to name a few. And the overall experience was always great, as my teams got a chance to see how the pros worked out and prepared for games.
It has been three spring trainings since I have traveled over from our home in Cape Coral, FL and one, because of the Covid Pandemic in 2020 that shut down baseball and then just being busy with the family. But it’s a trip that I always look forward to, but maybe a bit more then the kiddos, I mean I am a Mets fan after-all.
So this year, I decided I would invite my Babe Ruth team and take the almost three hour trip to see my beloved Mets.
Upon arrival, I realized very quickly how things have changed over the past four years since my last visit.
The one thing that I have loved about the Steven A. Cohen era, is that the Mets have become a team that the fans can truly love again and not just on the field but how he changed the organization in just a short amount of time to involve the fans in the fun. That’s why it was very odd for me to be disappointed in my visit on Monday to the Mets first day of full squad workouts. Where were the players and why was there a sense that fans were not allowed to get too close?
In previous years, the fans had so much access to the players, that you felt like you were part of the organization, if just for one day. The player’s made time to stop and sign autographs for 5, 10, 15 minutes and some even a half hour and make sure that all fans at least got something signed. It has always been great to see that, because spiring training has always been the relaxing time for the players to meet and talk to the fans.
But on Monday, it was different and I noticed it as soon as we arrived. The Mets did make many alterations to the back fields that seemed to allow for better training sessions, and as we arrived, the pitchers were in their sessions, but where were the other players. It was nearly 10:30 am and all the other bigger fields were empty, where in years past, crowds would gather to watch the stars in their warm ups, then over to batting practice and training sessions. You could see all the news reporters hovered near the dugouts as they watched the players get their work in. But on Monday, those sights were no where to be found.
I can’t say there weren’t any sort of workouts going on, but they were very light and not the names that fans flocked to see. As for me, I am ok with watching any Mets player who is on the 40 Man-Roster or a Non-Roster Invitee work out, but most fans want to see the big names with the likes of Francisco Lindor, Pete Alonso, Max Scherzer, or Justin Verlander. Especially when many fans traveled from further than three hours to see their favorite team. Some even traveling from Queens, New York.
Now don’t get me wrong, its not that I am bitter, its just that I was spoiled and taking my teams to see great pro workouts was always the plan. Today it just wasn’t that.
Not sure if that is just how the Mets are doing it, and not other clubs, but it has to be better. Its a fan first sport, or at least its supposed to be. An organization should want their fans to walk away with an experience, create memories and not feel like only their money for tickets or merchandise matter. Now Cohen may not need their money, but I am sure he does want to keep the fan base happy.
It truly makes sense what Jesse Cole, the owner of the Savannah Bananas, has figured out. He created a party atmosphere on the baseball diamond with his Bananas World Tour, and it may not be the baseball we all want to see, but it keeps the fans engaged. All we could hear fans say on Monday was, ‘Where are all the players and why the private workouts.’ And that’s how it seemed, like a team not allowed to interact with the fans.
Could it be Covid changed the fan interaction? Could it be the World Baseball Classic pulling guys away? Or could it be the organization that preaches fan first, in reality are very hesitant to truly allow the fans to interact with the ball players.
My thought is if you are going to grow the game around the fans and want the kids to love the game and grow with the game, then the fans have to truly be first.
I want to say to the guys that took the time on Monday to sign autographs for the fans, they get it. Thank you for caring that much.
But the organization just needs to do better to keep the fan interaction going every year. I hope my team walked away with some sort of positive experience, but when there isn’t much to see, then it’s very hard to keep them engaged for too long.
I am sure this won’t be the last time I venture over to a Mets Spring Training workout, but I just hope its a better experience next time.