TRAVELPALOOZA PART 1: NYC
Why waste time with excuses for my inexcusable absence of late? (But if you must know, it’s just been a matter of travel-travel-travel and usually when I was actually back at my computer I was either wiped out from exhaustion or working) … SO … I will try to make up for it now by catching you all up over the next few days on the last 10-plus days of my work-life. Though if you’ve been reading Jonathan and Joe’s blogs, you’ll probably already know half of it!
Got into NYC (my hometown, if you can call it a town) last Thursday afternoon and had the added bonus feature of bringing my daughter Dana with me for the New York portion of the trip (don’t worry, bosses, needless to say I paid her way). With her leaving for school in six weeks, I looked forward to having a little extra one-on-one time with her, while she looked forward to catching up with some of her old friends who were in the city so it was a win-win situation.
Thursday evening, on something of a short-notice whim, we caught “Spring Awakenings” which she adored beyond all belief and I liked a lot. It didn’t compare to shows like “Avenue Q,” “The Last Five Years” or “Ragtime,” probably my three favorite contemporary musicals, but I liked it a lot, especially the number “The Bitch of Living”
(and I have no idea if that will get past the cybercensor). Dana now wants to play Ilse and write a rock musical.
We also did a LOT of walking that day, as we (okay, I) decided to stroll down from our midtown hotel to our Chelsea office. Noble decision but in the long run a stupid one as the three huge blisters on my foot reminded me incessantly for the next several days.
On Friday we really got our Futures-Palooza started. Headed over to the FanFest at the Javits Convention Center first thing and after making a few wrong turns and wishing I had a GPS system for that place, I found the MLB.com set-up. Jonathan and I spent an hour on the stage there talking Futures and prospects with Petey Mac (Pete McCarthy to most people but Petey Mac to us) and as always, when we talk Minors, the time flew by.
As soon as we were done, we walked uptown about a half mile (ouch) and, after grabbing lunch at an outstanding Turkish restaurant on 9th in the mid-40s (I wish I knew the name so I could give it some love but it is apparently called “The Turkish Restaurant” according to the receipt) we met up with our intrepid co-workers and the stars of the day, Futures Game participants Luke Hughes, the Australian-born third base prospect for the Minnesota Twins, and Scott Campbell, the Toronto Blue Jays’ second baseman of the future who will soon become the first New Zealand native to play in the big leagues.
And the fun began.
In years past, the way we’ve handled what we call the “hometown tour” has been to pair up with a Futures Game participant from (or near) the host city and let them give us a tour of their hometown. In 2006, for example, in Pittsburgh, Pirates catcher-turned-third baseman Neil Walker showed us his Steel City. Last year in San Francisco we paired up with Cleveland pitcher and northern Cali boy Chuck Lofgren. But this year, we didn’t have a New Yorker so instead we invited our two Eastern Leaguers on a double-decker tour bus trip of the big city, flip-flopping the tradition a bit, and it was an absolute blast. The weather was gorgeous, all blue skies and pleasantly dry though VERY hot. Believe it or not, having spent the first 25 years of my life growing up in midtown Manhattan, I’d never taken one of these tours so I think I enjoyed it as much as the guys did! Our entourage of Luke (that’s him on the left) and Scott (on the right) along with Jonathan Mayo, our producer Kyle Casey, our intrepid cameraman extraordinaire Joe Cronin and fabulous photographer Danny Wild got to see the Empire State Building, Times Square and
Madison Square Garden (obviously totally ready for the Yankees to host the All-Star Game!) from the perfect setting, then headed downtown where we got to see Greenwich Village, the Washington Square Arch, my favorite cousin Millie’s apartment building (OK, that wasn’t actually highlighted in the tour but the bus broke down there and we got to see a crazy guy screaming alot outside of the building so it brought back memories), and then continued downtown through Noho and Soho, Little Italy and Chinatown. We passed by Ground Zero which, nor surprisingly, was one of the most memorable moments for Luke and Scott, and continued into the Battery Canyon where we disembarked and walked down to the Staten Island Ferry to take the trip back and forth so the guys could see the Statue of Liberty a little more up close and almost personal.
You can check out the video diary we made of the day over at MiLB.com right here.
After taking about an hour to let my feet recover and return to their dainty Size 3 size, it was time for dinner and where better to take visiting world travelers than to a great New York City steakhouse? We dined (and rehydrated) at Sparks Steakhouse, one of the best in Manhattan (where my husband took me for our first anniversary, in fact). If we weren’t already won over by Luke and Scott’s amazing talent, personalities and awesome accents, their senses of humor and charm made fans for life at that dinner table. And I learned a lot more about the “rivalry” between the Aussies and the Kiwis.
Saturday dawned hot and sunny and once again I was grateful for the cool air-conditioning at the Javits Center as we were back “on the air” in a manner of speaking … this time, with fabulous host Noah Coslov, we had the special treat of special guest Kevin Pucetas, one of the top Minor League pitchers over the last three years who had come to New York to pitch for the US Futures Team. Pucetas, a San Francisco prospect who led the Minors in ERA last year with a 1.86, has been one of the aces at Advanced A San Jose, which has sported one of the best records in the Minors the first half of the summer.
Pucetas is an absolute delight … funny, friendly, chatty and humble. Maybe being the oldest of 11 kids will do that for you! No, that’s not a typo. A late-round pick out of Division II Limestone College in South Carolina, he is the kind of guy that you cannot help but root for as soon as you meet him, and he definitely didn’t hurt his cause with a scoreless ninth inning of work the next day.
The afternoon was spent hopping on the 4 train up to Yankee Stadium to get a chance to chat with Futures Game managers Davey Johnson of the US team and Tino Martinez of the World Team about their starting pitchers, lineups and general Futures Game-type stuff a day in advance of the big event. One 4 train trip later, I was ensconced at my hotel room desk writing up my preview and while my daughter was off watching movies with her camp friend in Brooklyn, I treated myself to a light Italian dinner for one at Fagiolino’s with a bowl of pasta, a glass of chianti and a good book and went to sleep early, knowing there would be an early wakeup call on Futures Game day …
And with that, I will sign off for now and catch you up on Futures Day tomorrow!