Clover Park got a makeover this winter and the renovated spring training home of the New York Mets provided me with a wonderful experience.
Clover Park casts a baseball spell. Pitchers snipe and bite. The munchies are satisfying. Mystical events occur beyond the entrance steps towards the 2020 New York Mets spring training facility.
One-of-a-kind memories flood on fields that pulse joy. Clover Park is a baseball lover’s luck-of-the-draw. If seeing is believing then this ballpark unearthed empirical evidence that the Mets are the enchanters of the National League East.
Clover Park blossoms out of palm trees, the orange halo crowning a Port St. Lucie street. A stadium tips its magic hat to greet spectators. An optical 3-D illusion shifts beneath it. A shadow off of blue and orange panels tattoos a shade of gray to the wall. From the hat, a red apple rises. It is a little sister symbol in Florida for the Mets homerun fun.
Portraits of Mets legends, matted in orange, border and tower at the entrance sidewalks. A memorial to the New York City Twin Towers, with a bench for reflection, is stationed to the right side of the main gate.
Walk the mini-nature trail to the back training fields, with warning signs about alligators that non-natives disregard. A grove of ballplayers awaits that sticks to punctual closing times, allowing for snack breaks at the car and trinket shopping in the team store before entering the game.
At practice, pitchers’ knees, torso, and arms are covered in black sensors. They toss in their skivvies circled by cameras. It is the behind the scenes to a CGI production and a comedy that players are out of uniform around spectators.
Testing veterans is redundant, but essential for monitoring investments. Old players have access to thick portfolios, mined from previous franchise assessments. 2020 Spring Training activities in collaboration with articulate athletes is an accomplishment for perfecting pitching in the arena.
A grand concrete staircase ascends to the concourse as though going into a great library, museum or theater. All gates open at 11:30 a.m. so ticket scanning and security are brief.
Parents backpack in with their children. When seated, the panoramic vista of the complex feels just like in the movies.
Striped awnings accent the eateries. Hot chocolate, Fried Oreos tacos in a helmet and arepas with cheese or pork give taste buds a birthday party. Pastrami sandwiches, pizza, pretzels, and popcorn also scent the breezeway.
Nostalgic Mets trivia, mixed with 2019 team snapshots, wrap the crescent moon pathway, in a glossy black and white mural, reflecting smiles. The pre-game ceremonies honor outstanding company employees and Veterans. All stand for the National Anthem.
Once-upon-a-time just a boy from DeLand, the Mets’ Jacob deGrom is now one of the most historic icons on a pitching mound. He is solidified in history on the walls of the park. On his 2020 debut, he takes long strides in through the South Gate, a genie out of the bottle. He may have picked this entry to get a boost from seeing all of the fans once again or for a rub of traditional luck.
He knocks a fist in his glove, raises his arms to stretch out his 96mph muscles under the blue uniform. deGrom is cool. He partners with Steve Matz to warm-up. They are like brothers.
Taunters will not let up on cheaters. When the Houston Astros are in town, they get booed like clowns at the circus as toddlers roll down the berm. The concessions stand atop the slope is buzzing with local school district employees vending carnival treats. Volunteering principals and teachers fundraise in tip jars for school programs as they pass a hotdog or fill a cup.
Clover Park’s grounds have secret areas that capture invisible stories. There is a white rock, drain ditch, beyond the outfield wall, that borders the berm. Its short fence is jumped when a home run lands. Teenagers and parents become the heroes to little leaguers that are gifted the ball.
Four little girls gather rocks, dirt, and grass in a pail. They each sink their hands in, stir the elements and take a handful. They run barefoot and toss their blessing as a ritual to call lucky charms to players’ arms, or for fixing a curse needing to be dispersed. They are immersed in a story. Baseball backs their fairytale.
Boys play catch and shout out uniform numbers at the change, for their glove or balls to be signed. A three-year-old convinces her grandmother she saw a man with a baseball head. He IS real! He has a baseball-shaped golf-cart that he drives around the track while waving to the seats. He is styling at his snowbird village. He and his family are photogenic. Say, “Hi”. He’s the mascot, Mr. Met.
A sound garden harvests beats over a corner balcony. A harmony of baseball noises coming from a glowing pitching pen below and a cracking-batting cave, beyond a black Mets banner shadowing the sun, soothes baseball’s audio slaves. The Mets teach cursive. The sidewalk whispers in anticipation for the epic echo, the hypnotic trance, the ENCORE.
deGrom cools down from his heated innings. Watchers are eager to witness the blast of the white cannon in his hand. The catcher’s glove aches. Coaches observe and converse. Pencils take notes. Edwin Diaz is in a nearby diamond throwing first base drills. Tim Tebow runs a warm-up before his turn at-bat.
It is recommended to wear sunscreen, sunglasses, and sunhats. The Mets generate heat in this zone- Create clear jewels. Coach Ricky Bones tosses souvenir balls to hands reaching from rails. The Mets are synced. There is a microphone at the bullpen for either a data experiment, ASMR recordings, or the mlb.tv broadcast.
The stands have a memorable beer yeller like all parks should, to snap hypnosis back for the need to hydrate. He saves lives. There’s a lady Sheriff with a pierced neck for rowdies. Mrs. Mets’ lines for the bathroom are shorter than Mr. Mets’ lines. Granting wishes is built into the program.
Zany crowd games include; Mets trivia, golfing hole-in-one, a car wash winner, game attendance multiple choice: 5221, 6494, or 6906. A marriage proposal was arranged on top of the Home dugout. The witnesses cheered and then louder for Pete Alonso’s at-bat. A child then starts a chant for #20 and encourages the jeers towards cheaters, too.
This is a place to shoot the pool about work. Meet a mate. Take a business call in the corner and not disturb anyone. Smokers do not listen to the rules, no one minds because most are NYC rebels-Old-timers who have lived their life milestones in step with the Mets since the 60s.
Diehards debate the designated hitter change on the horizon. They claim that it will ruin the league’s beauty for profits. Seeing the pitchers bat is like watching heads-up-poker in baseball and some flamethrowers are bursting to show their jackpot hits.
The COO, Jeff Wilpon, General Manager, Brodie Van Wagenen, sit behind home plate with an entourage, including the Capitan #5, David Wright. Relaxed, they trust the Spring Training visitors and interact with supporters. No one cares about spit.
Mets upper management is present, approachable, and comfortable. The park is a baseball equivalent to Tara, Pemberley, or Downton Abbey, and no doubt worth fighting to own. This is a special set for vintage baseball, honest and innocent. Polite. Fashionable. Memorable. Over for now, but believe it will return. Villainous viruses banished!
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Baseball fields are living libraries with stories luring listeners. The setting delights until the end. The Mets brand is stunningly in tune with a childlike heart. Statistically impossible events happen at Clover Park, which proves it holds enchantments. The ground is a storyteller and leaving the grass feels like leaving a piece of lore. Clover Park is a Mets magic kingdom.