On The Road With Petey Pete: Wet & Soggy In New Britain
With respect to Bisons lefty Chuck James who told me a few weeks ago in response to my somewhat facetious comment to him, “Everyday’s a beautiful day for baseball.” Yesterday in New Britain, CT it wasn’t exactly a beautiful day for baseball as it rained right up until game time, and then the B-Mets lost a frustrating affair to the RockCats by a score of 10-7.
When I arrived at the ballpark, I picked up my pass and made a quick survey of the stadium. I was the guy marching around in the rain. It suddenly occurred to me that there were B-Mets hanging out in the third-base dugout, and here I am lost in the right-field grand-stands with the rain drumming down on my Kingsport Mets hat.
It didn’t take me long to figure out that if I were going to wait out the rain storm, I might as well do it where it was relatively dry, in the dugout with everybody else. So I made like an otter skirting the marshes and lakes and rivers that were the warning track, and made my way to the other side of the field.
There were just a few people in the dugout. Gonzalez Germen was on a phone call at the end of the bench that went on the entire time I was there, so I will try and catch up with him today or tomorrow. Zack Wheeler was being interviewed by a local beat writer. Tim Heiman the voice of the B-Mets was also conducting an interview. Joe DeMayo of St. Lucie To Flushing was doing an interview with Matt den Dekker.
But I didn’t pay attention to any of those things, because I saw the guy I wanted to talk to. He was sitting there on the back of the bench all by himself watching the rain come down like cats and dogs onto the tarp-covered infield. I walked up to him with a big smile on my face, because I have been lucky enough to talk to him once before, and I really like the guy. He remembered me too. And I was able to engage a real baseball man in a real baseball conversation, and boy was it fun. The man I was talking to, is the underrated hitting coach of the Binghamton Mets, Luis Natera.
Natera is a warm, friendly guy with an engaging personality. Since he’s a coach, he expresses himself very well, so if you really want to get into a nuts and bolts conversation about hitting, a coach like Natera is just the guy. I started off by telling him he should be happy with the way many of his hitters have been squaring up the ball lately. That he now has five or six players at .275 or better for the year, and a few in the .300′s. He smiled and modestly deflected any credit to his hitters, saying “they have to do it.” But I told him players need coaching and it’s perfectly fine for him to take a little bit of the credit.
We talked about Reese Havens, and I asked him why Havens hasn’t hit yet? He said the guy had such a long lay-off that this is really like spring training for him, and that the game is “very fast” for him right now. He said when the game is very fast for you as a hitter, you have a tendency to try and speed up your swing to match it, and that throws your swing mechanics off. I thought that was a fascinating observation by Coach Natera. He does feel he’s starting to see signs that Haven’s bat is coming around.
We went on to talk about the solid, consistent season Jefry Marte is having with the bat. I also said it was nice to see Juan Lagares coming on strong, and also Pedro Zapata beginning to show some signs of life after a very slow start. I asked him why a big, strong guy like Zapata doesn’t hit more home runs? He said he needs to incorporate more of his lower half into his swing, and that when that happens he should generate a lot more power. I asked about Zapata’s pronounced back-load when the pitch is being delivered, and if that robs Petey of some of his power? He said no that it is basically a timing mechanism, but that Zapata does move his hands too much there, and they are trying to quiet them.
After speaking to Coach Natera, I spotted new B-Met reliever Adrian Rosario sitting by himself on the bench-back. I didn’t know for sure if it was him, having only seen a tiny little photo of just his face, with a baseball cap. I didn’t want to say “hey Rosario!” and have it not be him, so instead I walked right up to him and said, “who are you?” That works every time, and it worked this time as well because he got a surprised look on his face and said “Rosario.”
I said wait a minute, and I held my hands up to make a little tiny box around his head and squinting through the small opening at him I proclaimed, “your right you are Rosario! I’ve only seen a little tiny picture of you.” And we both laughed. Turns out the guy is a delight to talk to. He’s funny, friendly, out-going and very confident in his abilities as a pitcher. Joe DeMayo asked him about being traded in the KRod trade.
He said being the player-to-be-named later to complete the trade, there was a lot of speculation as to who the PTBNL would be. He said a lot of his buddies were teasing him that it would be him, so he didn’t really believe it when they told him it was him. And that when he realized it was true, it was a shock. I asked him if he was happy or sad to be traded? He said happy, especially after getting here, because the Mets organization is first class all the way. From the coaching to the accommodations and clubhouses, to everything across the board, he loves the way he is being treated as a Mets player. Wait until he meets the fans!
I told Adrian I heard his fastball sits at 92-93, and if that was accurate. He got this hurt look on his face, and shaking his head no he told me that wasn’t exactly correct. I asked him how hard he does throw, and beaming a wide smile he said “I sit 93-94, and top out 95-96.” I asked him to detail his fastball, and he said he throws a four-seamer only, with natural sink and arm-side run. Wow that sounds pretty nasty. No wonder this guy has been so hard to hit this season. Rosario could go down as a very significant addition to this organization, and for a little known and basically forgotten PTBNL last year in the KRod trade, the Mets have done very well for themselves in getting this guy.
Well, guess what? It’s raining again, and I have to head out for the 90-minute drive to New Britain. I was really hoping for some warm sunshine and batting practice today, but I fear it is not to be. Now, I’m only hoping they get the game in tonight. Wish me luck, and the B-Mets too, and keep checking back for more thrills, chills, and adventures in: On The Road With Petey Pete.
About the Author: Peter Shapiro
The first time I went to Shea was not for a Mets game, it was for the Beatles concert there in August of '66. My first Met game was '67, a guy named Salty Parker was the interim-manager then. My first pennant race was 1969. As a 12 year-old that summer and fall, I managed to get to the park for 3 games. The first was the beginning of the Miracle which actually started on Tuesday July 8, 1969 with a day game against the Cubs. I was there a lot in '73. I saw games 3 & 5 of the 1973 NL Playoffs against the "Big Red Machine", from the upper deck behind home plate. It was from there that I witnessed the fight between Bud Harrelson and Pete Rose, and the mayhem that ensued. And that sweet victory in game 5! I saw a couple of WS games at Shea that year against that legendary Oakland A's club. I was there in 1985 for every single game Dr. K pitched including his two 16 strikeout performances, and the day he one-hit the Cubs on an infield single and the Mets won 1-0. I loved being a Met fan in those days. Hopefully we are once again preparing to emerge from the darkness.
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