JUPITER, Fla. — Want to see some diehards?
Looking for the greatest show of unconditional love ever?
Head to the unsubtle-named Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium, where the future of Major League Baseball is currently being debated and decided. Where about 15 members of the media stand outside the gates of the baseball stadium – we too are locked out – and find ourselves joined by about 20 people who are not here by profession, but rather by passion.
“Oh yeah. I love baseball,” said Richie Nestro, 75, a retired Yonkers firefighter who winters here while owning a home in Westchester. [Mickey] Mantle, but it was easier back then because you only had 16 teams.
It was easier back then for the fans, of course, who didn’t have to worry about labor agreements, competitive balance taxes, or the percentage of the 2-3 year service time class. who would be eligible for arbitration. This small sample of sidewalk, however, sided more with the players, whose autographs they sought as they entered and left the venue. New Met Max Scherzer rewarded a few people on Tuesday, as did MLB Players Association executive director (and longtime big league first baseman) Tony Clark.
“I blame the owners,” said Justin Pecoriello, 22, a Mets fan from Westport, Connecticut, who is a senior at Central Florida. “They’ve had enough.”
“I was a union rep for firefighters,” Nestro said, “so I’m pro-union.”
“[Rob] Manfred. I blame him for everything,” said Hayden Weintraub, a 13-year-old Mets fan who lives in Flushing and was on hand with his father, Evan, and grandmother, Gail. “He’s just the easiest person to pin on everything.”
Pecoriello not only drove the two-plus hours from school here, but also stopped in Port St. Lucie en route to buy a baseball for potential autographs.
“It sucks,” he said. “Mostly in Florida, my grandparents live in West Palm. It’s kind of our thing to go to spring training.
“It makes me sad,” said Gail Weintraub. “It just makes me sad that they couldn’t come to an agreement when there were so many millions of people who really depend on baseball to lift their spirits. Especially with COVID. … You would think they would learn of the COVID season what life is without baseball. And I just wish they weren’t so stubborn.
Despite her frustration, Gail Weintraub said, she has already secured her 2022 Mets season tickets for if and when this mess will be resolved. Pecoriello, who created the Twitter account @MetsSpongebob who combines his two joys in a very entertaining way, conceded that he would continue to follow the sport with ardor, “but I think the casual fan might turn them down.”
“I’m annoyed with both sides because I know they both have pros and cons. I just want to watch it,” said Grayson Eleftheriou, 23, an aspiring professional golfer. “Even if I complain, I’m still going to watch it.”
Eleftheriou, who grew up as a Dodgers fan in Southern California and then moved to Florida in 2014, occupies his own “diehard” category. Unlike other fans, who camp near the Lost Players parking lot looking for personal interaction with stars like Scherzer, Gerrit Cole and Francisco Lindor, Eleftheriou (that’s Greek) mostly hangs out with media people as we We’re monitoring the whereabouts of MLB lawyers and owners so we can document how long the two sides meet, caucus and then meet again. He hits the links in the morning, then joins us for the start of the talks in the early afternoon.
“I want to be here when it happens, if it has to happen,” he said, “that” being a deal done. “I’m going to read everyone’s articles, anyway, all day. Might as well see it happen live.
Players and owners have had these supporters say hello and won’t get a goodbye no matter how stupid things get. It would be nice, however, to see the enthusiasts get their act together already and let them into the stadium to see major league baseball games.