NEW YORK – It got dark and ominous as the usual bus ride approached Main Street in Flushing for the trip to Citi Field. We were warned to be careful as this unexpected storm hit this part of New York City. Never been in the battle of such a vicious storm as this was, and it certainly appeared to be a tornado.
Garbage bins went to the other corner, so did the newspaper bins. Wind swept rains gusting like a 100- mph fastball coming to the plate. A bolt of low level lightning and the steeple of historic St. Michaels Church came down. Parts leveled, thankfully on a vacant city bus and parts of the structure blown on Main Street adjacent to stores in that busy business district area of Flushing.
This was going to be another form of reporting and not about a baseball game in Flushing with all of the police activity and closed roads. Rather the carnage left behind from an unexpected storm that in all probability will be diagnosed as a level-1 tornado was going to be the story. Forget about the final game of a four-game series between the New York Mets and last place Pittsburgh Pirates.
The only way to the ballpark, with the 7 train effected with loss of power, a walk down Roosevelt Avenue. Commuters finding an alternative to get home walked past Citi Field under the 7 line to nearby Corona and other neighborhoods in the vicinity of Citi Field.
The ballpark had power. That was noticeable as the lights from Citi Field were clearly visible as we walked down Roosevelt Avenue and made detours around the carnage of downed trees and wind swept broken fences. Destination Citi Field and it looked like a ghost town.
As it was, those who braved the elements witnessed the storm from sheltered areas in the ballpark. There weren’t many in the ballpark when the first pitch, amazingly was thrown at 7:20pm. Only a 12-minute rain delay, because there is a good drainage system at Citi Field and an amazing grounds crew.
“You could not see from here to there,” said veteran reporter Bob Trainor who watched the event unfold from his press box seat where, he of course had the windows closed. “But it was frightening,” he said in the press dining room that also was effected as many members of the media who take the 7 train did not arrive until the sixth inning.
Grace the cashier had to leave because a tree fell in front of her home in nearby Flushing. Maureen the hostess made her phone calls to make sure everything was safe and sound at her home across the river in Bergen County New Jersey.
The official scorer Howie Karpin drove in from Manhattan, battled the gridlock and just made it for the first pitch. Yours truly reviewed the scary ride to Flushing eating the usual and satisfactory Citi Food press meal. And as the first pitch was thrown, there were about 1,000 hearty souls in their seats ready to watch a baseball game.
The upper decks were closed and, later the Mets rewarded those loyal fans to another game to one of the September 27-30 games against the Milwaukee Brewers. Because they got the game in as rain continued to fall, though not as vicious and ominous as the storm that passed.
Later credit Mets management for updating fans about travel conditions that shut down service on most parts of the Long Island Rail Road and an advisory that the 7 line resumed service. Fans felt more at ease, and also pleased about their team even if the sweep was against the worst team in baseball.
“It was unusual playing before so few fans and they are loyal to come out in weather like that,” said third base coach Chip Hale when the night was over. Another Mets win, 6-2 that put them over the .500 mark. A four- game sweep over Pittsburgh and the Mets first over the Pirates since June 19-22 1997
A night to remember this trip to Citi Field, a safe and sound ride home on the usual 7 train ride with Mets radio voice Wayne Hagin who compared the storm to the many he has witnessed in Chicago and the Midwest.
THE GAME AND NOTES: Mile Pelfrey became the 10th Mets right hander in franchise history to win 15 games in a season and improved to 10-0 at Citi Field…. Rookie Lucas Duda snapped a 0-23 streak with a fourth inning two-run double and also double din the sixth inning for the first multi-hit game of his career…
Angel Pagan finished with three hits and drove in two runs, also extended his career high in steals with 34. He also picked up his ninth outfield assist when he as involved in an 8-4-3 double play in the fourth inning. The assists tied him for second in the National League after making a sliding catch in center that was nearly impossible.
“I am used to playing center field,” he said as Pagan has been used in right and left this season. “I couldn’t believe I made that catch.” He added the catch was done with his eyes closed and was glad it kept John Bowker from getting a triple which kept Pelfrey out of a jam…
Mets manager Jerry Manuel got his laugh of the night that was needed also from the small contingent of media members in his post game conference. When asked if Pagan was in the plans as a starting outfielder next season: “Sure would like to make that decision,” said the embattled Manuel who in al probability will not be making that decision next season…
Manuel also said that he and his team look forward to competing against the Atlanta Braves who are battling first place Philadelphia. Atlanta comes to Citi Field for a three-game series that begins Friday evening. “We are playing the best baseball in a while even if it was against the Pirates. We will male them suffer a little and there will be that intensity,” he added about the Mets-Braves rivalry…
Pirates remained winless, 0-7 at Citi Field… Their rookie third baseman, Pedro Akvarez of the Dominican Republic and New York got his first hit in the series, a double, and scored a run as many in the slim crowd were friends, from his alma mater Horace Mann Academy in the Bronx.
“It was good coming home,” he said. “I am optimistic about the opportunity to be playing regularly. A graduate of Vanderbilt University, Alvarez was a fan of the Boston Red Sox and attributed his success to the family atmosphere and competitive spirit of other ballplayers from the Dominican Republic.
“We went through our adversity and made our sacrifices,” said Alvarez who is batting ,233 with 11 home runs and 43 RBI… The Mets have decided to shut down rookie pitcher Jenrry Mejia. Lifted after 2.1 innings Wednesday night, Mejia had an MRI that revealed rhomboid strain of the right shoulder blade….
e-mail Rich Mancuso: [email protected]