This past Friday NYsportSpace and MetsMerizedOnline.com were fortunate enough to earn a Press Pass from the New York Mets PR department. What this entitled us to was the ability to go on the field and interview any Mets player or Manager that was gracious enough to allow it. Here is a description of my experience.
I approached the VIP/First Base side entrance of Citifield with butterflies fluttering in my stomach cavity. Since my full time job is in Sales, I have a decent amount of experience conducting interviews but that barely had me prepared for what was in store. After some minor confusion on who I was and what media outlet I represented, I was able to enter the confines of Citifield.
Mets Manager Jerry Manuel was in mid pre-game press conference mode when I tentatively walked into the room. Not many folks were in there but Gary Cohen and Kevin Burkhardt were up in arms and they asked Jerry questions about what he planned to do in the upcoming game vs. the Cubs. I am typically not someone who is starstruck, but after watching these guys on TV for years it is definitely a surreal experience to see them in person.
The presser ended shortly after took my notebook out. I spoke to our media relations contact and she instructed me on what I could do and where I could go. I also met her boss who works directly under Jay Horowitz, the famed PR boss of the Mets. They told me how to get on the field which I subsequently forgot 30 seconds later.
Meandering around the tunnels in the bowls of the stadium was an interesting ordeal. All of the food and beverage people prepared and security spoke of what they planned to do for the upcoming Labor Day weekend.
You would think it would be difficult to get lost in a tunnel there being that there is only two directions to go but I managed to do so anyway. I eventually found my way onto the field. Armed with a cardboard badge strung to my belt - I was also equipped with a camera, a digital recorder bought the day before, and a list of questions our Twitter followers and the readers from MetsMerized sent in.
The Mets players were in right field warming up with some long toss. I was eager to get my first interview out of the way so I could relax a little bit and get acclimated with the area and the tasks at hand. As a life long Mets fan, actually standing on the playing surface was KIND OF a big deal but the last thing I wanted to appear as was a nervous fan. I promised myself that I wouldn't put any of these guys on a pedestal. Knowing that I am older then most of them helped.
Many of the position players started to head towards home plate to prepare for batting practice (BP). The sun was glaring and it may seem odd, but having my sunglasses on helped me calm down a bit - similar to how an ostrich sticks its head in the sand I suppose. Not to say I was about to sh*t my pants or anything, but I wanted to make sure I did my job as best as I could. I leaned on the dugout fence and contemplated who I wanted to talk to first.
As a result of proximity, Jerry Manuel seemed like the best person to talk to first. He stepped out of the dugout and I got in his way him like a bully about to ask some kid for his lunch money.
Me: Hey Jerry, may I ask you a few questions
Jerry: Well I do have to...
Me: It will only take a second
Jerry: Um Ok...where are you from?
Me: My name is David Ponte and I am from MetsMerized
Jerry: What is that?
Me: A Website and you know, like back in the 80's, the song?
Me: it doesn't matter. So I am here with Jerry Manuel....
I then fumbled around with my digital recorder as Jerry looked at me like he was watching a Cat video on YouTube that his niece made him watch. You can listen here
. Each question I asked Jerry was a question that readers sent in so I was glad to I could do that for them.
I wouldn't say that I spoke with the diction and linguistic fortitude of say, Barack Obama, but I was slightly better then an 8th grader asking the prettiest girl at school for a date. Somewhere in the middle I'd imagine.
Phew. Ok, got that out of the way. Now that I have gained confidence talking to the Manager of the Mets, I was ready to talk to anyone. How about David Wright. He was standing right there seemingly waiting for something to happen so I figured that this was the best opportunity.
Me: Hey David, you got a few seconds for a couple of questions?
David: Well, uhhh, I have to do Batting Practice...
Me: it will only take a minute and I would really appreciate it
David: Ok Well, I gotta do BP but come grab me after and I will
Me: yeah, Ok
Right after that I went back towards the front of the dugout. I wasn't necessarily discouraged as one thing that sales experience taught me was how to handle rejection. To my right, Jeff Francouer sprinted into the dugout and gave me a "head nod". Since he was on my target list of people to talk to, I considered this an invitation to approach him but he was soon confronted by Kevin Burkhardt, a member of the Mets broadcasting team, before I could get in his face.
Burkhardt then walked up the dugout steps on I asked him how he was doing and shook his hand. If there was one person I wasn't nervous talking the least bit, it was Kevin. He was definitely friendly and we talked for a good 15 minutes about his trip to Colorado, what he does to prepare for games, and how he was so tired after getting in at 2:00am the night prior. I offered him not one, but two 5 hour energy drinks (or as I labeled it 10 hour energy) to offset his fatigue but he respectfully declined as he wanted to avoid a heart attack that day. I suggested to him that because he was having trouble trying to find out what to talk about during his telecast, that he mention how MetsMerized and NYsportSpace finally got a press pass from the Mets organization after 4 years of inundating the PR department for requests. He said he consider it, but since no one called me during the game, I assume he found other things to talk about.
One thing Kevin and I discussed was the whole "after BP" angle that the players would say to me after I asked them for an interview. I suggested to him that they said this in an attempt to ward me off for the time being, while then avoiding coming in contact to me when it BP ended. He laughed and agreed with me on my assumption.
Two minutes later, Josh Thole, the Mets rookie catcher who a lot of readers sent questions in for, departed the dugout. I went to him and asked him for a minute of his time only to hear the following response. "After BP" as he ran towards the field, not the batting area. My sleuthing proved my conspiracy theory to be correct.
Two players who did grant me a quick interview were Nick Evans and Angel Pagan. Both were quick but should be thoroughly entertaining to the listener. MetsMerized will have the exclusive audio and shortly after I will post to NYsportSpace. it may sound silly, but It took me a while to generate the strength to step into the dugout. I saw some SNY guys and other press folks take drinks out of the Gatorade cooler so I dabbled and let me tell you, it was the most refreshing drink known to man. Purple Gatorade (not water) that seemed to taste a little stronger then if you just bought it at your local convenience store. I spoke with a camera man whose job it was to take pictures that would appear in the media guides and other Mets-approved publications. I figured that I might not have the opportunity to take a photo of me sitting on the dugout so I asked this professional to take a snapshot, to which he willingly obliged.
Nelson Figoroua probably signed over 100 baseballs that day. He was border line signing baseballs for the Cubs players. I warned him that if he continued to sign baseballs like he was, he would get writers cramp and potentially hurt his hand. This earned me a small smile. Ok so it was a little corny, give me a break.
After the Mets players filed in to the locker room, I wanted to find my way back to the tunnel and to the Writers Press Pox where I was told to watch the game. It's located in the excelsior section of Citifield which would be the equivalent to the upper deck of Shea. I had about an hour to kill before the game started and figured this would be a good time to eat some overpriced food. Only thing was the food was not overpriced, it was fairly priced. Why you ask? Because the Press have its own dining area and there are a myriad of eating choices. Keith Hernandez must cherish the assortment of goodness that ranges from Chicken with mushrooms to burgers with show string garlic fries. I was eating when Ron Darling bursted into the room. It was funny because he didn't really have any particular reason to enter the room with such authority like he did. It was almost like "Behold, I am Ron Darling and I have arrived"
The game was about to begin and I was previously told that I could sit anywhere that didn't feature a media companies name plate. I found a nice spot in the 1st of 3 rows and planted a seat. They have at least 10 different game note print-outs describing each team and anything relevant to the game so I grabbed all of them and spread them out in front of me as if I was actually going to use them for something.
Little did I realize that the nice quiet seat I found myself in was actually where Jay Horowitz sits every home game. Oops. He politely asked who I was and what media outlet I was from before regretfully telling me to move to the third row. Clearly, I was in no place to argue with a guy who has worked for the Mets organization for over 20 years and tell him my reasoning of why I would dare to sit in his seats. I swiftly obliged, got my ass up, and moved to the 3rd row.
I watched a great Mets game from the Press Box without clapping or complaining about a crappy umpire call once - a first for me. There is no cheering in the box and although it seems like a generalization, the majority of the writers and press people in there seemed like they would've rather been anywhere else but there. I couldn't blame them though. There sole purpose was to report on the game or record each mudane statistical nuance that occurred. Whether it be a foul ball to the third base stands or a 6-4-3 double play.
Overall, it was an amazing experience. I hope I get the opportunity to do something like this again so that I can ask more questions on behalf of the fans. Paying $3.50 for a burger would be a nice change from the $16.50 sausage and peppers with a beer that most of us pay (along with the price of a ticket). Of course with that Beer you get the right to cheer for your team as much as you want.
See all the pics I took HERE
My Interview with Angel Pagan
My Interview with Nick Evans
My Interview with Jerry Manuel