Baseball: Mets, Yankees looking for Home-Run Derby
By Ben Walker
Associated PressNEW YORK ó Razor Shines marched to the top step of the Mets’ dugout, gazed toward right field at Yankee Stadium and giggled.
Over and over, out loud.
“My first thought is this: You’re going to have a lot of free-agent hitters wanting to come here,”‘ the Mets’ third-base coach said Friday night. “I can’t wait to throw BP to see how far it flies.”
David Wright, Carlos Beltran and the Mets got their first look at the new ballyard in the Bronx, and the bandbox lived up to its reputation ó five more home runs overall as the Yankees won 9-8 in this year’s Subway Series opener.
Both new stadiums in New York had hosted 29 games going into the weekend ó there had been a whopping 105 home runs at the Yankees’ park and only 48 at the Mets’ spacious Citi Field.
“You can’t go out there and change your swing,” Wright cautioned.
Still, many of the Mets took note of the short distance to the right-field foul pole. About two-thirds of the homers had sailed in that direction.
“It ain’t just 314 feet to the corner. It’s 314 to the gap!” Shines howled to Mets manager Jerry Manuel.
Each year, both teams try to play down the six games between the New York rivals, saying it’s important to avoid getting too hyped up. The fans tend to take a different approach.
“It’s bragging rights. It’s two new stadiums. That adds even more interest,” said Yankees announcer David Cone, who pitched for both teams.
Said Wright: “All around the city, people are wearing one of two hats.”
The Empire State Building will be lit Monday night in either Mets’ blue-and-orange or Yankees’ blue-and-white, depending on which team wins this weekend’s three-game set.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi sensed the excitement for the Subway Series.
“You’re going to walk around the city and people are going to ask you if you didn’t win the series, why you didn’t win the series,” he said. “It’s probably a little harder to go out for dinner because people are a little bit more aware of what’s going on. And if you happen to lose the game on one of the nights you go out, people are going to ask you why.”
Manuel, however, said he’s seen more fervent fans. He managed the Chicago White Sox for six years, and was certain the matchups with the Cubs created even more heat.
“For me, I thought the Chicago thing was a little more intense,” he said. “It was real, real, real intense.”
Former Mets pitcher and current broadcaster Ron Darling had already seen several games at Yankee Stadium while doing TBS telecasts. A couple hours before the first pitch Friday night, he stood with Mets outfielder Jeremy Reed and pointed out several features of the park.
Reed, like many of the Mets, wanted to know whether there really was a jetstream carrying balls out toward right.
“Players don’t believe it until they see one,” Darling said.
Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, Hideki Matsui and Robinson Cano homered for the Yankees and Gary Sheffield connected for the Mets. Four of them went to right field.
Before the game, Yankees outfielder Johnny Damon was asked if he thought Sheffield, his old teammate in pinstripes, was looking forward to taking some swings at new park.
“I think every player in the league is,” Damon said, smiling.