This past Sunday, the Mets hosted their first annual Women’s Baseball Clinic at Citi Field for fans ages 16 and up. Instead of stereotyping their female fans by holding an event that may shy away from the actual game — like the Hockey ‘N Heels night I learned some teams hold — the Mets succeeded in giving us a true baseball experience for the day.
Arrival time was at 7:30 am, and after signing in, roughly 50 other participants and I waited in the Mets’ press conference room before the day’s festivities began. In the room, which was much smaller than I expected, we were given complimentary water and Gatorade before being escorted onto the field. Donovan Mitchell — a former coach in the Mets minor league system and the team’s current Manager of Player Relations and Community Outreach — began by leading us with various warmup exercises. He was not easy on us; in fact, we did the exact stretching and running moves that each player does before the game.
After 30 minutes or so, we were divided into groups by the color of our nametag and assigned to five different baseball stations. Throughout the day, we would learn various fundamentals of the game like hitting, running the bases, and playing the outfield — all with a photographer and videographer in tow to document our fun.
My first station was pitching in center field, where I was partnered to throw and catch with my friend, Kellie. Led by bullpen coach Ricky Bones, we were taught the proper way to hold a baseball, as well as exactly how to wind up and throw it for the best speed and accuracy. I struggled heavily with both my pitching and catching — the latter, perhaps because Kellie can throw nearly 70mph — but I ended up receiving help from Bones as he improved my form. He did a great job of giving individual attention to each set of partners and was very patient with us in the process.
The infield station was instructed by Mets third base coach Tim Teufel, who taught us how to field a ground ball and gave us throwing advice when necessary. I was most impressed by Teufel’s eagerness to answer any baseball-related questions we had. It seemed like he genuinely wanted us to gain something from our time on the field.
After this, we learned base running techniques from Mitchell, who showed us the different ways players run to first base depending on the in-game situation. For example, on a ground ball to the shortstop, players are to run straight down the line and through first base. For a ball in the gap, it is best to run to first base on an angle and continue towards second base in case there is an opportunity to stretch the hit into a double. Although we were not able to run on real bases — they were being set up for the game — it was still great to be on the field for the exercise.
Up next was the hitting station with Bob Geren, which was special because participants were able to use the Mets’ batting cages inside their clubhouse. In this area, the team not only hits prior to games, but also watches video of the opposing starting pitcher. Also, during games, both pinch-hitters and pinch-runners use the facility to warm up. We had the opportunity to hit off a tee and with soft toss using the bats of current players like Anthony Recker and Travis d’Arnaud. While hitting, Jay Horwitz and Ray Ramirez stopped by at different times to say hello, and when exiting the station, we waved to a smiling Terry Collins.
My group’s final station was the outfield with Tom Goodwin. He and other members of the team’s coaching staff would throw baseballs far into the outfield, and we were to catch it and throw it back. While it sounds easy, it was actually difficult — at least for me. Timing how fast I had to run while tracking the ball (sometimes in the sun!) was not easy.
After we finished with the interactive clinic portion of the day, we were allowed to take pictures on the field and inside the Mets dugout, which was the biggest perk of the day. The coaching staff was even gracious enough to take pictures with any fan who asked.
Then, following a group picture on the field and thanking our instructors, we headed inside for a Q&A session with Mets personnel: John Ricco (Assistant GM of the Mets), Josh Lewin (Mets announcer on WOR), Leigh Castergine (Senior VP of Ticket Sales and Services), and Holly Lindvall (Executive Director of Human Resources).
Each speaker made a point to answer our questions very candidly. It was interesting to hear from the perspective of women in the sports world and Ricco’s thoughts on Sandy Alderson’s “plan.” Castergine also mentioned that it was likely the team would do another baseball clinic for women next year, possibly with more fans allowed to attend.
On our way to the complimentary, all-you-can-eat brunch in the Caesar’s Club, we were given gift bags filled with Mets goodies — a t-shirt, batting helmet, cereal bowl, and 2014 team yearbook — before departing to watch the afternoon game against the Texas Rangers.
Overall, the experience was most certainly worth the cost: just $100 for the clinic, brunch, and a ticket to the game in the 300s section. For $60, family and friends were allowed to watch the clinic from designated seating areas.
I was a little nervous coming into the day. After all, I hadn’t played any form of baseball since I was 14. The encouragement we received from every coach, though, was enough to put me at ease.
I also liked that I was surrounded by a great representation of diehard female fans of all ages and backgrounds. My friend Kellie, for instance, played baseball growing up until just a few years ago, and there were a few others who it was apparent had played in the past. There were also plenty of participants who had never played at all. The best part was that experience and talent did not matter. The day was suitable for and enjoyed by everyone, and I will definitely be in attendance next season.