In a post to Gotham Nation, Mark Healey advocates for a Mets Fan Fest, which would be similar to what the Reds have been doing for their fans since 2001, all in an effort to bring fans and players together, build momentum, sell tickets and promote the coming season.
Mark is right, and there lots of fans who have been pushing the same idea, as you can see by following #MetsFanFest on Twitter.
According to their team's website, RedsFest is described as:
"Redsfest is the official annual winter warm-up of the Cincinnati Reds. Traditionally held in early December at the Duke Energy Convention Center, this event features games and activities for kids of all ages, including interaction with past, current and future stars of the Reds."This past Redsfest included: Player autographs, photographs with players, an indoor baseball field where players give lessons, a celebrity poker tournament for charity, all sorts of fan activities, a Hurricane Sandy Relief drive and more.
The Mets used to do a Mets Caravan every winter, just after the New Year, that was equal parts roving press tour and meet-and-greet with fans at local events. It was fun... but not exactly what is described above in Cincinnati. I don't know for sure, but I believe the Caravan ended in 2006 because that front office didn't want to bother their big-name talent with publicity at a time of year when they were wrapping up their off seasons, spending time with family and readying for Spring Training. As I understand it, the argument was: these guys do so much outreach and media during the season, they're reluctant to take part in more events (on their own time) in the off season). I guess that's fair, but these are different times...
These days, the Mets are doing all sorts of things to try and sell tickets and promote the team (not just to casual fans, but to die-hard fans as well). Morale is low. Also, instead of veteran, high-priced, unapproachable players, the team now boasts a roster of young and relatable players, who I think fans would enjoy connecting with... just as I think the new players would probably enjoy the opportunity to connect with their newest fans.
Now that this post is up, I'm sure someone from the team will soon call me to explain all the logistical and financial reasons why doing a Mets-style Redsfest in New York City is difficult. And, though they're all probably valid, it doesn't change the fact that I imagine such an event would be really fun, good for players and fans, and great for selling things. There has to be a way to square that. Frankly, they should let Darren Meenan and Shannon Shark organize it, because Mets fans love being Mets fans, and the team should encourage that... especially in a time when they don't necessarily make it easy to be a Mets fan.