The New York Mets are expected to announce their purchase of the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs baseball team as soon as tomorrow, according to a report by Syracuse.com’s Mark Weiner.
The move will help the Mets consolidate their minor league baseball operations, with three of their top five farm clubs playing in New York State as of 2019. (The Las Vegas 51s have been the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate since 2013, but due to travel that has been less than ideal.)
When I was growing up, my father frequently took us out to the Scranton, Pa. area to visit some of his friends. He usually managed to time it so that the Scranton/Wilkes Barre Red Barons were home… and sometimes it worked out that they were playing the Mets’ affiliate, the Tidewater (and later, Norfolk) Tides.
It was a magical experience to be able to sit at field level and be able to ask the players for autographs at Lackawanna County Stadium. If we went out to Shea Stadium, Yankee Stadium or Veterans Stadium, we sat in the upper deck and it felt like we were closer to the players at home watching on TV.
The last baseball road trip I took with my dad was Easter weekend 2006… we watched the Red Barons and the Tides open the International League season. I don’t remember who won the games (although I do recall one of them was played in just over two hours.)
I got autographs from a newly-acquired prospect named John Maine, who would make two starts in the National League Championship Series that fall; from Lastings Milledge, who would earn the ire of some of his teammates when he high-fived fans following his first MLB home run later that summer; from Ray Navarrete, who I’d watched win an Atlantic League Championship with the Somerset Patriots the previous year; and Jose Lima, who’d be pitching for the Camden Riversharks a couple of years later.
In 2007, the New Orleans Zephyrs became the Mets’ Triple-A team — and they play in the Pacific Coast League. Scranton Wilke-Barre became a New York Yankees’ affiliate. For a Mets fan and a Phillies fan, Lackawanna County Stadium lost its appeal.
In truth, the travel had gotten to be too much for him. We went to Atlantic League games closer to home for a few more years, until dad’s health declined too much for that to be possible.
It won’t be the same without him, but I’d like to go see a Mets’ affiliate play a Phillies’ affiliate again. In 2019, maybe I’ll get my chance.