Mets pitchers and catchers will have their first official workout of Spring Training on the back fields of First Data Field on Thursday, Feb. 14.
The games, which start Feb. 23, are fun to watch. It's a sunny, upbeat, breezy environment as you're surrounded by true Mets fans and local old-timers that have been going to games here for over 30 years.
For me, though, if I had to choose, I prefer to attend the workouts, which begin this week.
The two-week stretch of pitchers and catchers and position players reporting and working out is a no-pressure, intimate, casual environment allowing fans to focus their attention on specific skills, strategies and moments of the game. If you have kids, it's a perfect time to talk about the game in a skill-oriented way that is difficult to do during an actual game, let alone a fast-paced, in-season game at Citi Field.
Key things to know
- The team holds their daily workout and practice sessions starting around 9-10 a.m., though this can vary depending on weather, team meetings and other requirements. That said, they work out seven days a week, with each lasting about 90 minutes to two hours. Note that the team will work out before games, but the the back fields close to fans at 11:30 a.m.
- There is no charge to enter the back fields and attend workouts. Parking for just workouts is usually free, but I keep hearing that may change at some point.
- The team trains on five to six practice fields and two main bullpens behind First Data. It's wide open beneath beautiful palm trees and well organized with pathways to walk from field to field.
- In the middle of the four big practice fields are risers to sit, shaded benches, bathrooms and a concession stand with a grill, hot dogs, burgers, chicken sandwiches, drinks, chips, etc. Here, fans are able to lean against the fence, be inches from players, their benches, equipment and hear conversation between coaches and players. It's also quite common to see Mickey Callaway (like Terry Collins before him) stroll back from the field and talk with fans, answering questions and listening to -- in some cases -- pretty honest feedback.
Obviously, autographs are a major focus this time of year considering there are many occasions when players and fans are separated by only a few feet.
Occasionally a player will quickly stop between drills when running from field to field on pathways blocked off by ropes and monitored by security guards. However, that's not always the case. It's important to remember that these young men have a job to do. So, respect their time, especially since there may be a coach judging them on punctuality.
It's best to catch elite players at the end of practice when they exit through the center field door on the main practice field (the one with the big, blue wall in the shape of Citi Field).
Here's a map I drew to try and show where fans are able to walk, starting when camp opens to the public each day, and where groups of players often center their training after stretching...
Other advice? Dress in layers. The mornings can be cold and windy, but it quickly gets hot and humid. Bring sunscreen and a hat. Bring whatever you want to be autographed, not just baseballs, hats, cards, pictures, etc. When you're creative, guys tend to notice you more. Also bring a marker!! Also, for whatever reason, the Mets dugout is on the third base side of the stadium.
Here's a Basic FAQ with more about St. Lucie, games, etc...
When can I start attending workouts? The first pitcher-and-catcher workout
What's the closest airport? Palm Beach (PBI), which is 40 miles away
How much do game tickets cost? It changes yearly, but usually $15-$30
How do I buy tickets? At the gate, Mets.com, or call (772) 871-2115
What's the address? 525 NW Peacock Boulevard
What is there to do in St. Lucie? The main drag is Port St. Lucie Boulevard and Highway 1, which are surrounded by a variety of local and chain restaurants, grocery stores, bars, Walmart, hotels, pharmacies and more or less anything you would need on a trip away from home.
The closest beach is Hutchinson Island, which is roughly 30 minutes from PSL.
The more popular bars and restaurants include, Duffy's Sports Grill (gigantic sports bar, bowling, batting cages, etc.), Vine & Barley (craft beer and wine), Berry Fresh Cafe, West End Grill, Tutto Fresco (outstanding Italian food) and Hokkaido (hibachi). It's not uncommon to see players and coaches hanging out or dining at the above. You may also run in to players and executives at the Starbucks on the corner of Peacock Boulevard and St. Lucie Blvd.
If you're into golf, the PGA runs a course and facility that is quite popular with the team's coaches and players. Most of the courses are private, though you'll find a few public courses, including the popular Fairwinds Course in Fort Pierce.
A few miles south of St. Lucie West, you will find Tradition, which is recently built, pristine with restaurants, local shops and a small community feel. Also, Downtown Stuart (further south of St. Lucie) is fun and casual and has an old-world, beachy, Florida vibe with a several very good restaurants and shops.
Where can I stay? There are several hotels within just a few miles of FirstData Field, including the Sheraton PGA Vacation Resort, Marriott Residence Inn, Mainstay Suites, Springhill Suites, and the Hampton Inn. There are also hotels in Tradition, such as the Homewood Suites, where you may find the team's zero-to-three players staying for the spring.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!