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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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The Ideal Spring Training Story

At the risk of being a killjoy, I’m already sick of Spring Training coverage. The players show up way too soon and their every move is monitored far too closely. We used to get by on a feature, some notes and a picture of somebody swinging in the cage. On Sunday we’d get a column and maybe a sidebar to the feature, the notes and — if we were really lucky — two pictures. Didn’t matter if the Mets were supposed to be good or not so good; it got me going like no thousand tweets do today. The compact package was perfect for an annual ritual in which nobody kidded themselves that anything was actually going on.

Something like this, repeated daily, is all I really need between now and the middle of March…

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Brooklyn-born Pete Falcone is thrilled to be making his homecoming at Shea Stadium this season and expects the familiar surroundings will tap from his left arm the talent that scouts agree has always been there but has been slow to translate to results on the mound.

“It’ll be great to pitch in front of family and friends,” said the 25-year-old southpaw the Mets acquired from St. Louis over the winter in exchange for outfielder Tom Grieve. “I’m really confident that this is going to be a big year for me.”

His manager agrees with that sentiment. “Pete’s always intrigued me,” said Joe Torre of his Brooklynite neighbor. “We get Pete on the right track and have him alongside Swannie and Zach, we’ll have some of the most formidable pitching in the division.”

Falcone says pitching coach Rube Walker has already helped him adjust his grip, which he believes will make his signature curveball an even tougher proposition for left-handed hitters.

“It’s just a matter of getting comfortable,” said Falcone, who pitched to a disappointing 2-7 mark with a 5.76 ERA for the Redbirds last year. “We have a great bunch of guys here and I just want to fit in.”

Torre — who laughed when asked if he and Falcone might carpool to Shea together — couldn’t have said it any better himself.

METS ‘N’ PIECES: Doug Flynn is experimenting with a heavier bat…Kevin Kobel is working on a sinker…the club announced Fireworks Night will be in June…Torre promised Kobel and Dwight Bernard will each get a long look this spring…a noticeably trimmer Dan Norman arrived 10 pounds lighter, owing his weight loss to cutting back on potatoes…traveling secretary Lou Niss was bundled up against a particularly stiff wind during the morning workout… Elliott Maddox and Lee Mazzilli are getting over colds…Skip Lockwood shagged fly balls alongside fellow veterans Nelson Briles and Wayne Twitchell…several Mets are sporting mustaches…prospect Butch Benton put good wood on the ball, sending a number of Joe Pignatano’s batting practice tosses to the warning track…Ed Kranepool got a cat…Pignatano suggested Krane name him Smoky for the old Pirate pinch-hitter Smoky Burgess, in recognition of the first baseman’s own excellent pinch-hitting skills, but Kranepool says he hasn’t decided on a name…Willie Mays likes the legs on reserve outfield candidate Gil FloresJoel Youngblood is nursing a sore rib cage, which he said he aggravated unloading his rental car…Torre is thinking about carrying three catchers, possibly opening a slot for both Ron Hodges and Alex Trevino…Channel 9 will televise the first Mets-Cardinals game from Al Lang Stadium next Saturday…the Cardinals will be the home team, with the clubs flipping roles the next day…the following day’s Grapefruit League action will be broadcast over WMCA (570 AM)…youngster Neil Allen was late for workouts after driving to the Payson Complex minor league HQ instead of Huggins-Stengel Field, where Met big leaguers work out, but Torre said the live-armed righty wouldn’t be fined…“He better not let it happen again, though,” the skipper warned…John Stearns brought three gloves to camp, hoping to increase his versatility…Tim Foli is an uncle for the second time…rookie Kelvin Chapman continues to impress in the infieldthird base coach Chuck Cottier won the annual team fishing contest by reeling in a 12-lb. red grouper…Stearns was runner-up…Sergio Ferrer was excused from drills early so he could keep a dental appointment…Bruce Boisclair took a few swings from the right side but cautioned switch-hitting’s probably not in his future…Willie Montanez modeled a sharp new suit in the clubhouse.

20 comments to The Ideal Spring Training Story

  • Lenny65

    “Rookie Kelvin Chapman continues to impress in the infield….”, career high point.

  • joenunz

    That is great stuff…heavier bat, mustaches and Lou Niss.

    I’d ask “where do you come up with this stuff?”, but I know EXACTLY where you come up with it…

  • You don’t get fun coverage like this these days. These days, you’ll get stuff like, “Wilmer Flores currently leads the Mets in spring training WAR.”

  • Dave

    I used to look forward to those types of articles every March…everybody got their turn, so even the most marginal players got their starring role on about March 10th or so, before their miserable season on a lousy team. Like one with a “formidable” rotation that would include Pete Falcone.

    Those articles were the first signs of the renewal that a new baseball season always represents. Now every sport is 24/7/365 if you want it to be.

  • SkillSetsMets

    Has a kind of a Dick Young feel to it, or Phil Pepe. Notes section great, like the NYDN’s Diamond Dust from the Young era. How about Ask Red [Foley]?

  • open the gates

    Sorry, Lenny65, but wrong. Kelvin’s high point was the second of his two career homers, a 1983 grand slam that tied up a game that the Mets eventually won. It ain’t Mike Piazza, but not too shabby for a career highlight. Just ask Taylor Teagarden.

    • Lenny65

      Excellent, I stand humbly corrected. Those names really resonate with Mets fans of a certain age, don’t they?

      • Kelvin Chapman’s re-emergence in 1984 remains one of the oddest phenomena in the history of this franchise. I had no idea he’d been hanging around the minors for five years, and then he comes up and contributes to a contender. It was a beautiful thing…but for some of us, he’ll always be 1979’s surprise Opening Day second baseman.

        More surprising than Brad Emaus 32 years later, even.

        • Lenny65

          Didn’t John Stearns pop up again suddenly in 1984 too? Speaking of catchers, isn’t it amazing how Ron Hodges began his career with the ’73 Mets and hung around all the way through 1984 when they finally started getting good again? You just don’t see backup catchers having that long a tenure with a team anymore, you know? It’s probably safe to say that Ron Hodges was the greatest backup catcher in Mets history, no?

        • dak442

          Kelvin Chapman make a great, between-the-legs snag on a grounder up the middle in what might not even have been a regular-season game. That, and his wearing my favorite number, put him at the top of my list for a brief time.

  • Joenunz

    I am going to read Mets ‘N’ Pieces every day until Opening Day.

    Sergio Ferrer! Uncle Tim! Willie Montanez’ new suit!

  • Doug6986

    This reminds me of those 30 minute classic Mets Yearbooks that SNY shows. Have you seen the one from 1978 (which is when this article is from, I believe)? They couldn’t sound more optimistic about the future, with fine young future superstars like Tom Hausman and Mike Vail and Dan Norman. 1978 and 1979 look promising, Mets fans! LOL. Misplaced optimism.

  • Will in Central NJ

    Good stuff. Can Mettle the Mule be far behind?

  • Mike Hayes

    “Willie Mays likes the legs on reserve outfield candidate Gil Flores” Imagine the headlines this would garner today?? LOL!

  • Nick D'Arienzo

    Greg, Jason – Love, love, love this. Spring training should always feel more like those thrilling days of yesteryear than the over-caffeinated of-the-moment coverage that should be reserved for the regular season! Thanks for sharing this chestnut. Taking issue with one thing, though… what the hell did Kranepool ever name his cat?! Can you let us know, please?! Bravo, and may I say, Happy 10th Anniversary to you both! Here’s to many more…

    • Ed Kranepool decided to name his new cat Manny for Dodger pinch-hitter deluxe Manny Mota…“Maybe Manny’ll take it easy on us this year,” Kranepool joked…the Mets sent a scout to Clearwater to watch Richie Hebner but say no trade with the Phillies is imminent…Steve Henderson shot an 81 to lead the team during the Mets’ annual golf outing, edging Tom Hausman by two strokes…Lenny Randle is day-to-day with a mild hip flexor.

  • open the gates

    Oops – Did I say ’83? I meant ’84. 1983, of course, was the year of forever second baseman of the future Brian Giles. That was the first time the Mets left Wally Backman on the farm.

  • […] my partner, spring training’s barely arrived and I’m already tired of it. It’s been that way for me for a while — pitchers and catchers reporting is a nice […]

  • Bellafia

    Great stuff… Love the notes from ’79. I thought it might be 1980 but then I read Kranepool was still active. BTW, Kelvin Chapman was my favorite guy “down on the farm” all those years simply because we have the same birthday! Crazy that he hung in til ’84.