LI Pulse: Who’s On First?

April 1, 2010

Long Island Pulse magazine. April 2010: Baseball ProspectsTitle: Who’s On First?: Never fear baseball fans, the next big thing is warming up in the on deck circle
Publication: Long Island Pulse magazine
Author: Jason Molinet
Date: April 2010
Start Page: 44
Word Count: 893

With a vicious uppercut swing, the baseball jolted off the bat and sailed over the right fielder’s head. He stopped giving chase after only a few steps toward the outfield wall. Fans on the grassy berm began to back peddle, attempting to track the flying object. But it sailed past them too.

The mammoth grand slam landed beyond the picnic tables and bounced over yet another fence before disappearing into the palm-filled Florida landscape.

“A bomb for Ike Davis!” SNY announcer Kevin Burkhardt shouted excitedly, as if it were 1986 all over again.

No one made a bigger splash at Spring Training than Ike Davis. The New York Mets prospect sprayed the field and showcased game-changing power throughout his March audition in Port St. Lucie, Fla., doing his best to lay claim to the first base job.

His March 4th grand slam against the St. Louis Cardinals was just one of the many promising moments for Mets fans everywhere. It also highlighted a central theme of America’s pastime: Prospect watching. Whether your team is in first place or on the way to losing 100 games, promising minor leaguers keep the faithful going.

“Wait ‘til next year!” was once a popular refrain in Brooklyn among Dodgers fans. The Mets have picked up the torch of late. No team suffered more cruel and freak injuries a year ago, prompting a flood of not-ready-for-prime-time rookies to take the field.

Carlos Delgado was just one of the veterans who broke down and left a void. The Mets opted not to bring back the slugging first baseman, handing the job to Daniel Murphy during the off-season and dispatching former great Keith Hernandez to work with the youngster at fielding the position.

But first base is not Murphy’s natural spot and it may be only a matter of time before the Mets turn to Davis, the 18th overall pick in the 2008 draft out of Arizona State. The left-handed Davis, 23, batted .309 with 13 homers and 43 RBI in 207 at bats last season at Double-A Binghamton. He’ll likely start at Triple-A Buffalo. Who’s on first? Look for Ike Davis to relocate to Flushing at some point in 2010.

No rookie made an impact for the New York Yankees on the road to a 27th World Series championship. Sure, Francisco Cervelli filled in admirably for catcher Jorge Posada last May and Ramiro Pena hit for average at third base while Alex Rodriguez was out. Those were the highlights.

The Yankees, as always, used their best prospects as poker chips in off-season trades to acquire Curtis Granderson and Javier Vasquez. So talented outfielder Austin Jackson and hard-throwing pitcher Arodys Vizcaino are gone. Barring injury, you won’t see many players shuttle between Scranton, Penn., and the Bronx this summer, either.

But the Mets are another story. If recent history is any indication, expect a revolving door of endless possibilities. Truth is, there are plenty of youngsters to get excited about for Yankees and Mets fans alike, starting with Ike Davis. With that in mind, here is Long Island Pulse Magazine’s prospect watch:

New York Mets

Ike Davis, 1B: This power hitter is the son of one-time Yankees pitcher Ron Davis, and a former hurler himself in college. His career path compares favorably with Brewers star Ryan Braun. The lefty lengthened his swing and kills right-handed pitching. Outlook: Citi Field by the All-Star Break.

Fernando Martinez, OF: Not to be outdone by Davis this spring, Martinez maintained his status as one of baseball’s brightest prospects with a strong March. He’s already seen time in the big leagues and been sidetracked by injury. But people forget Martinez is just 21 and still developing. He was the Caribbean Series MVP in February. Outlook: He’ll be the first injury replacement from Buffalo.

Jenrry Mejia, RHP: Manager Jerry Manuel compared the 20-year-old Dominican to Mariano Rivera. Perhaps an overstatement, but not by much. His pitches touch mid-90s and Mejia possesses the same cutter Rivera dominates hitters with. But the Mets must balance his overall development with filling an immediate need in the bullpen. Outlook: September call-up.

New York Yankees

Jesus Montero, C: Called the organization’s best hitting prospect since Derek Jeter, an injury by Nick Johnson may be all it takes to get Montero to the Bronx. ranked this Venezuelan as baseball’s 19th best prospect and projects him to first base or DH. He boasted a .539 slugging percentage at Double-A Trenton. Just 20, he’ll start the season in Triple-A Scranton. Outlook: September call-up.

Austin Romine, C: Jorge Posada is getting old and Francisco Cervelli suffered a concussion this Spring, which means an opportunity could be just around the corner. The Yankees’ minor league player of the year, Romine, 21, hit .276 with 13 homers and 72 RBI in 442 at bats at Class A Tampa. He is a defensive catcher with a solid bat and could develop into a fixture behind the plate. Outlook: September call-up.

Zach McAllister, RHP: With Arodys Vizcaino traded, McAllister becomes the best pitching prospect in the system. The Yankees’ minor league pitcher of the year, the 22-year-old starter opens his fifth pro season just an injury away from the fifth starter spot. He went 7-5 with a 2.23 ERA and 96 strikeouts in 121 innings at Trenton. Outlook: With the aged Andy Pettitte and fragile A.J. Burnett one pitch away from breakdown, who knows?

LI Pulse: New Yorker’s Guide To Spring Training

March 1, 2010

Title: New Yorker’s Guide To Spring Training: Take in a Yankees and Mets exhibition while enjoying Florida’s warm distractions
Publication: Long Island Pulse magazine
Author: Jason Molinet
Date: March 2010
Start Page: 39
Word Count: 1,041

Forget that heart-warming parade through the Canyon of Heroes. There’s another good reason to thank the baseball gods Spring Training is finally here: It’s been a damn cold winter.

For New York baseball fans, the Grapefruit League offers an excuse to make a March pilgrimage to Florida, the land of sun, sand and amusement parks. The Yankees call Tampa home while the Mets make spring camp on the east coast in Port St. Lucie, part of MLB’s 15-team contingent in the state. The rest play in Arizona.

Whether you drive down or jet in, there’s nothing like a week chasing your favorite baseball team groupie-style through the Sunshine State. And the economic downturn—Florida has been particularly hard-hit—means everything is on sale and seats are aplenty.

Catching big league stars and rookies alike in the relaxed atmosphere that is Spring Training has been a favorite pastime of mine going back to my days as a teenager in Tampa Bay. I showed up an hour before game time in Kissimmee last March and got a first-row view behind home plate to the Marlins-Astros. Former President George H.W. Bush sat two sections over. More importantly, it was my first look at unknown Chris Coghlan. He homered, and by season’s end was the surprise NL Rookie of the Year. Score!

Of course, some tickets are tougher gets. The two-time NL champion Philadelphia Phillies have a state of the art complex in Clearwater and a rabid fan base. And I paid a premium (but hardly New York prices) for a Phillies-Blue Jays game in Dunedin a day later. Basking in the sun while chomping on peanuts and watching Chase Utley homer was worth every penny.

Newly renamed Steinbrenner Field, off busy Dale Mabry Highway in the heart of Tampa, used to be an impossible ticket. Not in recent seasons, although the Yankees bringing home world championship No. 27 in November, their first since 2000, may change the equation.

Showing up at the box office shouldn’t be a problem (that means you, Mets fans), especially on the road. But a little planning goes a long way. And if you happen to start your journey in South Florida, don’t forget to visit the loved ones in Century Village. Here is Long Island Pulse Magazine’s guide to Spring Training:

New York Yankees

Home: Tampa, Fla.
Stadium: George M. Steinbrenner Field
Capacity: 11,000
Tickets: $17-31
The Skinny: The defending champs will be a top draw, so prepare to battle crowds—and the media—if you stop by to watch morning workouts. At least this camp should be controversy free. Getting autographs is an art. BP and main fields after workouts are best bets. The minor league complex across the street is good too for up-and-comers. Just bring a Sharpie and patience. As for games, it’s rare to see a full lineup. But one tip is to look for ace pitchers C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. When they pitch, the regulars should start. The Yankees face NL champ Philadelphia five times this spring. Sorry haters, the Mets and Red Sox aren’t on the schedule. But get a first look at new additions Nick Johnson, Javier Vazquez and Curtis Granderson. Also, a great alternative is an Orlando vacation. The Yanks play the Braves and Astros in Kissimmee and the Tigers in Lakeland. You might book a cheaper flight there, too.

Five Key Games: Rays at Yankees, March 5, 1:15pm; Yankees at Twins (Ft. Myers), March 7, 1:05pm; Yankees at Phillies (Clearwater), March 22, 1:05pm; Phillies at Yankees, March 26, 7:30pm; Orioles at Yankees, April 2, 1:15pm.

Top Attractions: Adventure Island, Tampa (water park); Busch Gardens, Tampa (theme park); Lowry Park Zoo, Tampa (zoo); Salvador Dali Museum, St. Petersburg (modern art); World Woods Golf Club, Brooksville (world-class golf); Pass-A-Grille Beach, St. Pete Beach (nicest beach).

Worth Noting: Florida Strawberry Festival, Plant City (March 4-12); Spring Breakers flood Clearwater Beach; Hooters off Gulf-to-Bay Blvd. in Clearwater is the original; Ybor City is famous for hand-rolled cigars (try La Herencia De Cuba); March offers great snook, redfish and speckled trout fishing in the Bay area.

Swank Accommodations: Renaissance Tampa International Plaza, Tampa; Renaissance Vinoy Resort & Golf Club, St. Petersburg; Don CeSar Loews, St. Pete Beach.

New York Mets

Home: Port St. Lucie, Fla.
Stadium: Tradition Field
Capacity: 7,160
Tickets: $6-25
The Skinny: After a pair of disastrous seasons, the hopeful tone of Spring Training should prove soothing. Also, there will be plenty to see, from the arrival of Jason Bay to the recovery of stars Jose Reyes and Johan Santana (Carlos Beltran will most likely still be inactive). According to one beat writer, autographs are easy to get. Arrive early, roam the open grounds and be on the lookout because David Wright could be lurking around the next corner. Game day traffic is horrific. As with the Yanks, scan the probable starters for Johan Santana. The Mets will field star power whenever their ace pitches. Just remember, there’s not much exciting about Port St. Lucie other than the games themselves. But it will be Spring Break in Daytona. So hit the road with the Mets instead. The Cardinals and Marlins share a facility to the south off I-95 in Jupiter while the Nationals play just north in Melbourne. The family-friendly Orlando area features the Braves, Astros and Tigers. Fly Southwest from Islip to West Palm Beach for convenience and a good deal. Or into Fort Lauderdale if you plan on hitting South Beach. And the Miami waves are surprisingly warm compared to say, Daytona.

Five Key Games: Mets at Braves (Kissimmee), March 3, 1:05pm; Red Sox at Mets, March 11, 1:10pm; Cardinals at Mets, March 15, 1:10pm; Twins at Mets, March 19, 1:10pm; Mets at Marlins (Jupiter), March 26, 1:05pm.

Top Attractions: PGA Golf Club, Port St. Lucie (golf); Navy Seal Museum, Fort Pierce; Manatee Observation and Education Center, Fort Pierce (wildlife tour).

Worth Noting: Drive A1A, one of America’s most scenic roads; The St. Lucie Inlet is diverse and offshore fishing promises sailfish and dolphin; Bike Hutchinson Island trails or kayak the St. Lucie or Indian rivers.

Swank Accommodations: Hilton Garden Inn at PGA Village, Port St. Lucie; Courtyard by Marriott, Jensen Beach; Marriott Hutchinson Island, Stuart.

LI Pulse: The Cheap Seats

June 1, 2009

LI Pulse magazine June 2009 Minor League Baseball

Title: The Cheap Seats; Can’t afford tickets to see the Yankees or Mets? Try a minor league game instead
Publication: Long Island Pulse magazine
Author: Jason Molinet
Date: June 2009
Start Page: 48
Word Count: 1,167

So you couldn’t afford those $55,000 seats the New York Mets were offering up at newly minted Citi Field. Well, even Bernie Madoff had to eventually turn his—and himself—in. Speaking of rip-off artists, the $5 bottled water at the reincarnated Yankee Stadium ain’t much better.

And let’s not get into how much the Yankees ponied up for three free agents this offseason. For the record, slugger Mark Teixeira and pitchers C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett netted a combined $420 million. Ka-ching!

Then there is the eww factor. A-Rod’s steroid scandal. Roger Clemens’ petulance in denying ever using performance enhancers. A-Rod’s messy divorce. The Mets refusing to drop the toxic naming rights deal with bailout boy Citigroup. A-Rod’s twisted fling with Madonna. We love to hate A-Rod. The list goes on.
Yet there is an alternative universe where the grass is just as green, the crowds manageable, prices downright cheap and the outrageous acts are choreographed. We’re talking minor league baseball, of course, where the boys of summer never grew up.

The Mets and Yankees ensured New York remained a minor league dead zone for decades. Then in 2000 came the independent Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League, along with New York-Penn League franchises in Brooklyn and Staten Island. In fact, 18 minor league teams lie within a four-hour drive of Long Island.

Each has parks filled with character and teams populated by characters. Where else can you see rising stars and venerable veterans take hacks from just five rows away? Views of the Coney Island boardwalk and the New York City skyline—from Brooklyn and Staten Island, respectively—are breathtaking. And the promotions—from the sensible all-you-can-eat plan in Staten Island to regular fireworks displays courtesy of Grucci after Ducks games and the Lamaze-inducing “salute to pregnancy” night in Brooklyn—offer something for everyone.

The money you spend on gas will be more than offset by the price of admission. And the experience? Priceless. Road trip anyone? Start with these three local gems:

Long Island Ducks

Where: Citibank Park (seats 6,002) in Central Islip.
When: 70 home dates, April-September.
Cheapest Ticket: $10.
The Skinny: Baseball might lay claim as America’s pastime, but for cash-strapped Long Islanders, the Ducks offer an affordable alternative to the pinstriped barons in Flushing and the Bronx. Despite having appeared in just one championship series since the team’s inception in 2000, the Ducks have consistently been one of the top draws in the minors. Citibank Park may have an unfortunate name, but it’s easy accessibility and great sight lines make it family-friendly. For the more adventuresome, go see the Ducks in Bridgeport. The Port Jefferson Ferry docks next to the ballpark of the rival Bluefish. The caliber of play in the Atlantic League is generally considered somewhere between Double- and Triple-A. But you never know what will happen, such as the August 2007 day when former All-Star Jose Offerman charged the mound and attacked the pitcher with his bat. Offerman was banned from the league, but former Mets great with an occasional bloated ego Gary Carter has signed on as the new Ducks manager.
Player Watch: Follow Ducks outfielder Preston Wilson, 34, as he tries to work his way back to the bigs. The former Met farmhand and stepson of New York icon Mookie Wilson slammed 36 homers for the Colorado Rockies in 2003. MLB teams regularly dip into the Atlantic League talent pool to sign players with a hot hand, a fact Wilson is banking on.
Best Promo: Ehy! Italian heritage night celebrates the Island’s preeminent culture from a flag giveaway to food, music and more. June 13 vs. Newark Bears.

Brooklyn Cyclones

Where: KeySpan Park (seats 7,500) in Coney Island.
When: 38 home dates, June-September.
Cheapest Ticket: $8.
The Skinny: This short-season Class A affiliate of the Mets is where top draft picks usually get their first taste of pro ball. Connected to the boardwalk, and with the Wonder Wheel and the Coney Island seascape as the backdrop, this picturesque park has one of the best atmospheres anywhere. Start in the neighborhood. The oldest continually-operated aquarium in the United States is the nearby New York Aquarium. Get a hot dog at the original Nathan’s Famous a block away. Hit boardwalk staples such as the paintball-charged “Shoot the Freak.” Take a tour of the Brooklyn Baseball Gallery and Brooklyn Dodgers Hall of Fame housed at the park. Perhaps even spot a former Dodger great signing autographs. But the best part of the Cyclones experience is their free-spirited promos, from a Barack Obama bobblehead to a pot-luck “Garage Sale” giveaway. Oh, and there’s the beach. Whatever your excuse, the Cyclones are a must-stop on any minor league tour.
Best Promo: “A salute to pregnancy” featuring pre-game Lamaze in centerfield, a craving station of pickles and ice cream, and many other tie-ins. And if you agree to name your child Brooklyn or Cy, the team promises free tickets for life. July 19 vs. Auburn Doubledays.

Staten Island Yankees

Where: Richmond County Bank Ballpark (seats 7,171) in St. George.
When: 38 home dates, June-September.
Cheapest Ticket: $6.
The Skinny: The Yankees have won four New York-Penn League titles since relocating to Staten Island in 1999. The short-season Class A affiliate of the Yankees has cultivated a fierce rivalry with the Cyclones. Like Brooklyn, Staten Island is usually the first stop for touted Yankees prospects. Robinson Cano and Chen-Ming Wang are two current big leaguers who started off as Baby Bombers. Take the scenic route to the game: The Staten Island Ferry terminal is next door. The dense neighborhood has also been designated a historic district. Season ticket holders get all-you-can-eat concessions, and by season’s end begin resembling the mascot, Scooter the Holy Cow. Cross the Verrazano at your own risk, but the park is worth a visit.
Best Promo: The Yankees put on a fireworks display after each game. And with the Statue of Liberty in the distance—who could ask for more? For an unforgettable seat to the Independence Day fireworks over New York Harbor, get tickets to the July 4 game against the Lowell Spinners.

Road Trip

Minor league baseball is thriving in the Northeast and within an easy drive of Long Island. Most are within three hours, including several Yankees and Mets affiliates. So hit the road and see tomorrow’s stars today. The list:

Triple A—International League


Team Location Affiliate
Pawtucket Red Sox Pawtucket, RI Boston
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees Moosic, PA Yankees
Lehigh Valley Ironpigs Allentown, PA Philadelphia
Syracuse Chiefs Syracuse Washington
Rochester Red Wings Rochester Minnesota
Buffalo Bisons Buffalo Mets


Double A—Eastern League


Team Location Affiliate
Binghamton Mets Binghamton Mets
Connecticut Defenders Norwich, CT San Francisco
New Britain Rock Cats New Britain, CT Minnesota
Trenton Thunder Trenton, NJ Yankees


Class A—South Atlantic League


Team Location Affiliate
Lakewood Blue Claws Lakewood, N.J. Philadelphia


SS Class A—New York-Penn League


Team Location Affiliate
Brooklyn Cyclones Coney Island Mets
Staten Island Yankees St. George Yankees
Oneonta Tigers Oneonta Detroit
Tri-City ValleyCats Troy Houston
Batavia Muckdogs Batavia St. Louis
Hudson Valley Renegades Wappingers Falls Tampa Bay


Independent—Atlantic League


Team Location
Long Island Ducks Central Islip
Bridgeport Bluefish Bridgeport, CT
Newark Bears Newark, NJ
Somerset Patriots Bridgewater, NJ
Camden Riversharks Camden, NJ