A Super Moment For Me…And My Mom!

By MIKE ASHMORE

Special To Digmi

ATLANTA – I’ve told the story before, but I haven’t really got into the “why” behind it.

Growing up not far from Digmi headquarters, I was a part of a very small family.  Myself, my mom and my dad.  Unless you’re counting the cat, too, that was it.

It certainly isn’t a point of pride, but I lived at home into my early 30’s.  We were a family that had to earn everything we got, and even though I suppose we could be considered “middle class,” money wasn’t always in abundance.  

So, when I told my parents that, nine years removed from the only NFL game I’d ever covered, I’d accepted a gig to start covering the New York Jets on game days, the reaction was mixed.  Between that and having just bought Janet Jackson concert tickets – Miss Jackson if you’re nasty – and it’s safe to say that allocation of resources was not considered to be a wise one.

My father was not happy.  My mother was not thrilled either, but more understanding.  She was always my biggest fan, my biggest supporter.

It was sometime in late August of 2015, and we had a lengthy conversation about it on the way home from me covering a Somerset Patriots game.  My career was in a difficult place at the time, and there was always a lot of pressure on me to do better, to do more.  

We talked a lot about how much the Jets opportunity meant to me, but specifically the possibility of getting to do the Super Bowl one day.  At that point, I had three Stanley Cup Finals on my resume and two World Series, and given that pressure I’d mentioned earlier, I said that if I could just get that Super Bowl under my belt that I could be happy with moving on to something else.

I never did go to that Janet Jackson concert.

I DID GET TO WORK A SUPER BOWL THOUGH

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Sports Journalist and Tip Your Cap contributor, Mike Ashmore, arrives in Atlanta for Super Bowl LIII

Funny enough, and I don’t think this is anything I’ve ever revealed publicly before, but I actually got denied a credential for Super Bowl 50.  Too much, too soon.  I get it.

For the 2016 season, I was switched to covering the New York Giants on game days, and made it a point to make a few road trips so as to get some more exposure and hopefully make our case to head to Houston for Super Bowl 51 a little stronger.

I got my first Super Bowl.  It remains one of my two favorite things I’ve ever covered, along with Game 7 of the 2016 World Series.

In 2017, I was back on the Jets, and we really stepped up going on the road that year, hopeful for an opportunity to head up to Minnesota for Super Bowl 52.

I got my second Super Bowl.

This year?  For the first time, I covered every Jets home game – preseason included — in a single season, in addition to road trips to Chicago, Detroit, Foxboro, Nashville, D.C., Philly and the “road” preseason game against the Giants.

And now, here I am,  still at my third Super Bowl, waiting to fly home after another incredible week.  

What’s the experience like?  It’s a delicate balance of running around between press conferences, player availabilities and then simply trying to find things to do on the Friday and Saturday leading up to the game.

This year, I flew in on Wednesday afternoon, quickly checked in to a $300/night, NFL-arranged hotel and ran over to the Georgia World Congress Center, which doubled as this year’s Media Center and “Radio Row,” which is where you see all of the big live TV shows set up as well as where seemingly countless radio shows are there interviewing all sorts of legends and current NFL players.

After picking up my “week of game” credential there, I quickly headed over to the New England team hotel for their media availability, where I spoke to Chris Hogan and Sony Michel for stories you (hopefully) read during the week in The Trentonian.

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The following day, I worked the Rams media availability session in their hotel, and spoke to Sean Mannion for a story we ran on Friday and former Rutgers standout Sebastian Joseph-Day and Ndamukong Suh for a piece on Joseph-Day we used as our big Super Bowl Sunday piece.

I also worked hockey games on Wednesday and Thursday about a half-hour away in Duluth, Georgia to catch up with former Princeton goalie Sean Bonar, who is now with the ECHL’s Atlanta Gladiators.  

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The view from the press box just hours before kick-off

Super Bowl week is a great opportunity to stay out late and go to parties – and trust me, I was invited to more than a few – but I’m there to work, and was happy to travel a bit to do so, even if it wasn’t for my football stuff.

Friday was supposed to be a fairly light day, but turned into one of my more productive ones.  I headed back to the Media Center to pick up my “Game Day” credential, which is different than the one that gets you in various places during the week and is only good for entry to the stadium on Sunday.  But, I also spent some time on Radio Row, and ended up landing a chat with Tiki Barber for a story on how the running backs were sharing carries that went with the conversation I’d had with Michel earlier in the week.

Saturday?  In Houston, I’d tried to work NFL Honors, the league’s annual awards show, but got shot down.  Last year in Minnesota, I gave up on trying to go and instead worked the Minnesota Timberwolves game that night to get a feature on Karl-Anthony Towns done.

This year, however, I got in.  I ended up speaking with Patrick Mahomes, who was just named the NFL MVP, as part of a print piece we ran on Monday since deadlines don’t allow getting the game in the paper, as well as Carson Palmer for some notes for that story.  

Truthfully, the experience of adding another of the NFL’s “jewel” events to my resume meant a lot.  I’ve never wanted to live a life or have a career where I had to wonder “what if” or what it’s like to get to do something.  I’d always wondered what it was like to get to work the Honors show.  

Now I know.

What’s the big day like?  All week I hear from the players how it’s just another football game, and that was the approach I tried to take heading into Sunday, especially having been there before.  But, you wake up that morning and…you’re just giddy.  This is one of those things you work all year for, and for the day to finally hit, there’s such a sense of accomplishment to get to do another “big game.”

I took the earliest scheduled media shuttle from the hotel to the stadium, made the lengthy trek through security into the stadium, got to my seat in the main press box as soon as I could and just wanted to soak it all in as much as I could.

I thought about everything I’d done in my career that helped get me to this point, and more specifically the people who believed in me to help get me here.

I wanted to call my mom.  But I can’t anymore.

She passed away unexpectedly on September 22, 2015.  While she got to see me get back to the NFL, she never did get to see me work a Super Bowl.  

She’s been with me at each one, though.  

After the national anthem of any game I work, no matter how big or small, you’ll see me put three fingers to my chest in the shape of an “M” for “Mom” and raise them up to the sky in honor of her.  We have a quick chat before every game, and it’s been a system that’s worked to help get me through the last three and a half years of my career.

Live, dream, be?  You bet.  I do it for my mom.  

I know she’d be proud.

 

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Mike Ashmore prepares to ask 6 Time Super Bowl Champion Tom Brady a question following the New England Patriots victory over teh L
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STARTED FROM THE BOTTOM, NOW I’M HERE…AGAIN!

By MIKE ASHMORE
Special World Series Coverage exclusively for TIP YOUR CAP WS-square

BOSTON – Started from the bottom, now…well, you know the rest.

The “Live-Dream-Be” mantra of Digmi would seem to apply to my own incredible journey of lucking into a job covering the Somerset Patriots back when I was 20 years old starting in 2003, and turning that into a career where I’ve been fortunate enough to cover some of the biggest events in sports, including the last six World Series.

LIVE?  Oh, I have.  I’ve lived through some incredible moments, including those experienced over the last few days at Fenway Park, which was actually the site of the first World Series I got to work back in 2013.  Having a few of these under my belt now, I think I was able to really appreciate getting to come back to what may very well be the best stadium in baseball for the biggest games of the season.

What’s it like getting to do it?  Even from the moment you pick up your credential, there’s an incredible, surreal feeling…maybe it’s from spending the year covering the game on the smaller stage of independent baseball, or maybe it’s still not believing something like this could happen to you after all these years, but there’s still a feeling of relief when that credential is actually there.  That this isn’t a dream. That it’s real. You’re really getting to do this.

Walking through the concourse and then getting your first look at the field – and yes, I’ve been there before, but there’s such a “larger than life” feel to Fenway – and it all starts to settle in.

After that, though…it largely becomes a job.  There’s so much happening around you at such a big event like that, but it’s all mostly just noise.  About two rows behind where some of us lesser-known media folk were sitting in the auxiliary press box in right field, SportsCenter set up their set for the night.  Anybody who’s anybody in baseball is seemingly just trying to blend in – hey, there’s Tony Clark just strolling through the concourse…well, there’s Rob Manfred just hanging out before the Roberto Clemente Award press conference in the interview room – and you’re really trying to do the same, even though you’re more “nobody” than “somebody.”

But you’re there.  

DREAM?  I genuinely never did dream this big.  I don’t think I really knew what I was getting into when I took this on 16 years ago.  2,312 games later, and I’m still not sure I can ever really wrap my head around everything I’ve been able to accomplish.

Friends would joke around with me earlier in my career and say one day I’d get to do a World Series, one day I’d get to do a Super Bowl, one day I’d get to do a Stanley Cup Final…and I’d laugh them off.  Not to be humble, but because I genuinely never thought I’d get to be a part of anything that big.

But there I was the past two days, shoes in the dirt at Fenway Park at a historic and somehow first World Series meeting between the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers.  With all the storylines heading into the week, there was no shortage of things to write about; Babe Ruth being on the last Boston team to face the predecessor to the Dodgers back in 1916, LA manager Dave Roberts authoring one of the greatest moments in Red Sox postseason history with his dramatic stolen base back in 2004, and all the rest.

BE?  Be in the moment.  Sure, that history is great.  Truly, it is. It’s impossible to look anywhere in Fenway Park – and I made sure I took the time to explore as much as I could, from the concourse to a pre-game walk out to the Green Monster – and not be overwhelmed by over a century of baseball having been played there.

But I wanted to be in the now.  

Even from my spot deep behind Pesky’s Pole, I was glued to the Game 1 showdown between Chris Sale and Clayton Kershaw.  Of all the postseason pitching matchups at Fenway Park over the years, that would have to rank up there as one of the most anticipated.  

Every pitch, every swing, every…everything.  I worked hard to be in a position where I could be there myself to see it all, and I wanted to soak it all in.

Live.  Dream. Be.

Don’t be afraid to do any of it.  You never know where you might find yourself because you chose to live your dream and be yourself.

 

HARPER HOMERS

The All-Star Game will have a tough act to follow.

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Bryce Harper won the Home Run Derby at Nationals Park on Monday night with an unforgettable performance; he smashed nine home runs in less than a minute to tie Kyle Schwarber, and then sent his hometown crowd into a frenzy with a bonus time blast to take trophy home.

“It’s unbelievable,” Harper told reporters after the game. “I think just having the crowd out there and really feeding off them. We have some of the best fans in all of baseball, and to be able to that with my family out there, that’s an incredible moment, not only for me but for the organization and the Nationals fans, and I’m very blessed and humbled.”

Even with Harper as the hometown hero, the atmosphere was somewhat unexpectedly electric given a perceived overall lack of star power in the event.  But, in what could be his last big moment in a Nationals uniform, Harper, decked out in red, white and blue from head to toe, captured the crowd with a dramatic display in which he closed an 18-9 deficit in under a minute.ASG2

He then sent them into a frenzy with his bonus time blast, with his homer and subsequent celebratory bat flip electrifying an event that can sometimes fall flat in person.

Making it even better?  Harper’s dad, Ron, was the one throwing to him.

“I mean, I couldn’t be more fortunate than to have him throwing for me and just so blessed, and, I mean, I don’t know, I’ve got one of the best families in all the world and just so happy to be able to share that moment with them and with my family and this crowd and these fans,” Bryce Harper said. “Man, they did a great job.”

Nationals fans will have plenty to cheer about as well on Tuesday with Max Scherzer set to get the nod as the National League’s starting pitcher for the second consecutive year.

“When (manager) Dave (Roberts) told me that he was going to give me the nod, so many emotions (come out) when you know that you’re pitching in your home park,” Scherzer told reporters at a Monday afternoon press conference.

“This is such an honor for the All-Star Game to be here.  In previous experiences of being in the All-Star Games, you know, seeing the hometown players and how the fans get behind the hometown players, it’s always been a special moment just watching that from afar and being on the other side.  So, I can only imagine what it’s going to be like to have the Nats fans here supporting all of us, Bryce and (Sean) Doolittle, as well. It’s just an honor to be able to have that recognition and go out there and start this thing again, because this is just a dream come true.”

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FROM FAN TO FOE – BACK TO THE BRONX

Growing up on Staten Island, NY you are a fan of either the Yankees or Mets. No, seriously, I do not know anyone from Staten Island that is not either a Yankees or a Mets fan. For me, I grew up a diehard Yankees fan. I was always watching games on TV and even went to a few games each year. Those games were always exciting to watch, not only because they were winners, but the team had an incredible rivalry with the Red Sox. As a child watching the the “Core Four” (Jeter, Rivera, Posada, and Pettitte) was astounding. My love for the Yankees even motivated my family to name our dog “Jeter”.

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Born in 1992, it was a perfect time to be a Yankees fan, especially having an older brother who loved sports. His love for baseball influenced my love for the Yankees. There was a lot of winning and a lot of role models to look up to at that time. Going to games was my favorite thing to do. Since the age of five, all I ever wanted to do was play baseball. My family and I would go to games and sit right behind home plate. I remember one game, we were so close to home plate that Paul O’Neill fouled a ball straight back and I thought it was going to hit me in the face. Luckily, they had a net right there because it would have hit me square in the face (which wouldn’t have ended well for me). The guy behind me was no lucky as but not so lucky, as I had a big soda in my hand and when the ball was coming my direction, I flinched and spilt my drink all over that him. (Whoops)

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As I got a little older my brother and I would go to games via public transportation and sit in the bleachers. We would take the train to the ferry, ferry to Manhattan, then walk to the subway and take the 4 train to Yankee stadium. We would bring food with us, well because “Bleacher Creatures” were allowed to do that (haha). I remember it was the second to last game in the old Yankee stadium and I would run up to the bullpen every inning trying to get a ball. It was about to be the last inning and Mariano Rivera was warming up, so obviously there were a lot of people around watching him throw. I remember he threw his last warmup pitch and the music came on, “Enter Sandman” by Metallica. The crowd started to go crazy, as he’s leaving the bullpen and everyone is watching him, I see the bullpen catcher toss the ball up into the stands and while everyone is watching Mariano run out to the field. I’m the only one who sees this ball coming my way. Of course I catch it and immediately run to my brother speechless. I remember how happy I was. I just caught a ball that Mariano Rivera threw. I mean, what are the chances, right? My brother didn’t even believe me a first. It was one of the coolest moments I ever had being a Yankees fan.

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In 2013, following my collegiate career at Seton Hall University, I was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 14th round. Flash forward four years through my journey through the minor leagues, and I find myself in the big leagues playing against the New York Yankees. They came to Minnesota to play a big series against us and I had my first two RBI’s against the Yankees and my first Gatorade shower after the game. It did not really hit me that we played the Yankees until we went to Yankee Stadium in September. Walking into the ballpark I got the chills. I grew up here, as a fan, and now I get to play against this team. First thing I did when I got into the clubhouse was walk out and see the field. I walked out to the outfield and just stared at the field. It was a dream come true. I went inside Monument Park and checked out all the legends that came through the organization and it was so special to see. The amount of family and friends that came out to support me made this moment even more unbelievable. It was a great feeling to see all of them there and cheering for me, even though most of my friends still wore Yankees gear.

IMG_7999We end up back in the Bronx for the one game playoff. It was cool playing them in the regular season but now it was business. I did not care that it was the New York Yankees. We wanted to win and they were trying to stop us. We got out to an early lead but gave it back in the next two innings. The way I describe that game is like a boxing match. Every pitch means so much and is so intense for four straight hours. It was an awesome atmosphere and a great experience. I got to go in the game midway through following an injury. It was crazy, I remember running out to center field like a kid in a candy store. I was playing the New York Yankees in the postseason.

I’m playing in a playoff game, is all I kept thinking about. People go their entire careers without making it to the playoffs. I remember getting a hit off Dave Robertson on a cutter that snuck through the “4 hole” and I remember how fast my chest was beating. Getting a hit in a playoff game was as cool as you can imagine. We ended up losing the game and the weirdest part for me was getting in my friend’s car and having him drive me home. We just lost a playoff game to the New York Yankees, my first season in the Major Leagues was over, and just like that, I was already home. No plane ride back to Minnesota, just an hour drive from the Bronx to Staten Island. I’m not going to lie, for the first time ever, it wasn’t cool that the Yankees won. It actually sucked losing to them. I grew up watching them beat so many teams so many times. But this time, it was different. It’s definitely different when you’re the one on the field and not a fan in the stands.  Its crazy how quickly things can change when you put on a Major League uniform. You go from fan to foe real quick. Either way, the best part about baseball is there is always another day and another season to look forward to. And even though I’ll always be a kid form Staten Island who used to cheer, “Lets Go Yankees”, now I’m a guy who plays in Minnesota yelling “Lets Go Twins”

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Digmi  Contributing Author

Zack Granite

“NEVER LOST MY HUSTLE”

What exactly is a constant? Do we see it as a foundation for what we base our lives on? Is it a routine that we acclimate ourselves to through repetition? With so many definitions, one thing that remains true is that a constant will occur continuously through time. With everything else in life shifting, situations that alter decisions we make, something that remains constant in my mind are these words to remind me where I come from, who I am, and what will guide me through all obstacles:

“Never Lose Your Hustle.”

I spent four years as a part of the Seton Hall University Baseball Team. This was my identity. I lived, dreamt, and focused on baseball those four years, and learned to love the game. In addition to falling in love with the game, I learned to embrace the culture of Seton Hall Baseball. The history, the “Seton Hall Way” was learned, and through that I matured into who I am today. “Never Lose Your Hustle” has been a phrase that is more than preached, it’s practiced. You’ll find it posted all throughout the locker room, batting cages and offices of the coaching staff. Ask any SHU Baseball Alum, and they’ll have a story about what those words meant to them. Here’s the story of how “Never Lose Your Hustle” greatly influenced my life.

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2017 had its fair share of twists and turns for me, as life was sure to change. Graduation, dreams of being drafted were getting closer, and my career would end, hopefully with a Big East championship. What I hoped and thought would happen, didn’t.

April 13th, 2017, Seton Hall vs. Xavier on FS1. The top of the 2nd inning, I felt discomfort in my right hand. As the game went on, this discomfort didn’t go away. By the end of the game, I could barely twist my wrist. I spent hours awake in the hotel, with my hand in and out of an ice bucket to try and relieve some of the swelling until eventually I had fallen asleep in the chair. The next day, I couldn’t play catch. My hand was swollen and I had to sit that game. Later that week, I found out that I had broken my hamate bone.

I had a decision to make. Having broken my hand on a swing during the second week of conference play, I didn’t want to abandon my team and get surgery. I wanted to do everything I could to finish out the season with the boys. I had to try to contribute as much as I could for the remainder of the season. On the flip side, this could really hurt my chances of ever playing professional baseball. Deciding to play through it was my decision.

I was out for what felt like the longest 17 days of my life. Trying different braces to relieve the stress off my hand, different tape wraps to make sure my wrist couldn’t move. The pain level had me believing I would never hit a ball over the fence again. I never gave up on trying to get back on that field.

April 30th, after 17 days figuring out how to make this work, I laced up the spikes, and DH against St Johns. Battling through pain, and discomfort, I would do anything for my teammates. Finishing out the rest of the year, playing 11 more games ended my career as a Seton Hall Pirate.

As time passed, the pain decreased and I was able to perform at a high level again. At the same time, the 2017 MLB First-Year Player Draft had happened and I had not been drafted. I ended up applying for a job outside of playing baseball. Not having a clue about what life after baseball had in store for me. Thinking my days being a ball player were over, I step foot in a familiar place in my hometown of New York.

The Baseball Center was a place I had been to countless times to workout as a ball player, but for the first time, I was going, looking to become a coach. I sat down and spoke with Michael Lombardi, Executive Director of The Baseball Center. After telling him about my injury, and explaining what seemed to be the end of my career, he gave me these words that I’ll never forget: “Play until you can’t anymore, because you can never get this time back.”

I thought to myself, “Maybe I can still play…” Sometimes you just need to be reminded that your time isn’t up yet, that you need to keep fighting for what you believe in.

Sure enough, later that night, I received a call from the Rockland Boulders, inviting me to an open tryout. Excited and inexperienced, I gathered all my strength to remind myself that those words, spoken so frequently the pass four years of my life, “Never Lose Your Hustle,” and do anything in my power to become a professional baseball player. I was selected out of a tryout of 72 guys, and was offered a contract and given the opportunity to further my career as a Rockland Boulder.

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Through all of the ups and downs, keeping that hustle can land you in places you’d never thought possible.

If I had lost my hustle, if I had forgotten the words etched into my DNA, and if it weren’t for being reminded that I determine when my career is over, not my setbacks, I would have never had my first professional hit June 30th 2017, or my first home run, July 12th 2017.

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Maybe the road you’re traveling down is a detour from the path you had set out planned to take, but just like a road trip, staying the course will still get you to your destination. Still on my journey, it is really cool to see how far I’ve come as a ball player since the night I broke my hand. But I truly believe that this detour in my life has made me a better person.

When that time comes, when you’re tested both physically and mentally; when that river you’ve been rowing down turns to a waterfall, you can plunge within the rapids, or you can fight upstream and swim yourself out of danger. We are given the choice, an opportunity, to react to something that is out of our control. The choice you make is what we have control over.

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This is how “Never Lose Your Hustle” has changed this Seton Hall Baseball Alum’s life, to build on this opportunity, remembering the words that have paved the way for me to battle adversity, and consistently keep that one attribute a mainstay in our lives. The word that made it all possible, Hustle.

Digmi Contributing Author 

Mikael Mogues 

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My Second Super Bowl

MINNEAPOLIS – I’ve been doing this a long time now. 16 years, all over the country, covering events big and small…I thought I’d seen it all. On the smaller end, I’ve worked minor league and college events with a few dozen people in the stands. At the bigger end of the spectrum? I’ve got the last five World Series, last six Stanley Cup Finals, the Daytona 500, a bunch of big UFC events and a lot of other big games under my belt since I started this career at the ripe old age of 20. It’s hard for me to find new experiences, it’s simply now working hard to get to repeat the old ones in a new setting. So, I’m not sure I was quite prepared for this week, when I flew into Minneapolis to work my second Super Bowl, and discovered that the media center was set up in a shopping mall. Of course, it isn’t just any mall, it’s the Mall of America, a 4.2 million square foot retail palace that takes the better part of a day to walk through. But still, seeing “radio row” set up in the middle of the food court was a bit jarring to say the least. For example, last year, the media center in Houston was in a convention center, and it made for a far more intimate setting even if there were still plenty of fans around. Here? Between the crush of people shopping at the mall who don’t care about football and the thousands of media who have descended into town for the event, it’s been difficult to make your away around sometimes. With that said, this has been an amazing week. Growing up back home in New Jersey, I never thought I’d go to a Super Bowl. When I started my career, I never thought I’d get to cover one. So, to now be working my second straight means a lot…in my opinion, with the possible exception of the Olympics, there’s nothing bigger you can do in this profession than work this game – and the week leading up to it, of course – and it’s all a nice reminder that all of the hard work it took to get here was worth it.

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Celebrity sightings? I’ve heard about far more than I’ve actually seen myself. My Uber driver met Kevin Hart. I’ll have to settle for waiting outside the mall next to Cleveland Browns offensive lineman Joe Thomas. While there are plenty of events and parties that go with the game itself, I’ve kept myself focused on work; I covered the Minnesota Wild game Friday night and will work the Minnesota Timberwolves game on Saturday night. There’s certainly plenty of fun to be had – I made it a point to find the original “Jucy Lucy” burger while I was up here – but this isn’t the time of year where work should just stop.

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Keeping your eyes on the prize is important for everyone involved. Of course, the grind continues for the two teams here, the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles made it to Minnesota in somewhat improbable fashion, recovering from the devastating loss of Carson Wentz to rally behind Nick Foles in getting to the big game; they defeated the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship Game, preventing the first ever “home game” at the Super Bowl…so much for a “purple reign,” although there are rumors of halftime performer Justin Timberlake having a Prince hologram next to him on stage. As for New England…well, of course they made it. Tom Brady led the Patriots to the AFC Championship Game for an incredible seventh straight season, and they came back to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars to advance to the Super Bowl for the 8th time in the “Brady Era” and tenth appearance overall. The Patriots have been here before, and it shows. From the demands of the week with media requests, tickets and the extra week of preparation to the actual game itself, New England showed a cool, calm and collected approach throughout the week. While much has been made of the Eagles defense, it’s hard to bet against TB12 and company this time of year, with their first-hand knowledge of what it takes to succeed. I expect a close game, but I’ll take Brady and the Patriots in a 27-17 win over the Eagles on Sunday.

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“Same CITI, Different SHEA”

Lets get right down to it. I was born on Long Island in 1986. The New York Mets owned the Big Apple at that time. I mean, how could I not fall in love with the boys from Queens, right?  As a young kid, I watched highlights of that World Series Championship team over and over. It got to a point that I was able to recite most of the announcers in those video clips. Man, what a team. The Kid, Doc, Straw, Mex, Nails and HoJo.
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 I became a Mets fan primarily because I was born into it. My grandparents were fans, as were my parents. My Dad and grandfather went to a 1969 World Series game between the Baltimore Orioles and Mets, where they and thousands of other fans ran on the field after the game. The history of Mets players started to grow on me at a young age, especially my uniform number, #14. All I knew was the #14. My Dad wore it. I wore it. My younger brother wore it. The story goes, my Dad’s favorite player was Ron Swaboda, who wore #14 in the 60’s. In 1968, when former Brooklyn Dodgers legendary first baseman Gil Hodges, who wore #14 in his playing days, came to manage the lovable losers in Queens, Swaboda switched his jersey number to #4 and gave Gil #14. Hodges’ #14 is one of four Mets numbers retired by the organization, along with Manager Casey Stengel (#37), pitcher Tom Seaver (#41), and catcher Mike Piazza (#31).
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Shea Stadium; the big ballpark in Queens. My home away from home. For a kid on Long Island there was nothing like walking up to Shea and hearing the song “Meet the Mets” blare throughout the old speaker system outside the entrances. Or walking up those long ramps to your seats before the games, and following a big win, walking down the ramps with a raucous pumped up crowd. I enjoyed listening to the 660 the FAN, WFAN to and from the games in the car. How could you not have spent many a game in the red Upper Level seats? We all did. It was cool when a “fake uncle” would let me know, “Hey after the third inning go down the first base line in the Field Level and find Tony the usher. He will hook you up!” And sure as hell, he did. Tons of games were watched down the first base line, just passed the infield. My fondest memories of Shea, however, is walking through the tunnel, whatever level you were at, and laying eyes on the greenest and most manicured grass I ever saw. It made my eyes light up. This is the Big Leagues. This is Shea Stadium.
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I’ve been lucky enough to have been at some historic moments in the history of Shea. During the NLCS of 1999, my grandparents, dad, and myself sat in the Upper Deck, down the first base line, where you could see the Mets bullpen and beyond the outfield fence wall. That was the walk-off “Grand Slam Single” by Robin Ventura; the ball was a no-doubter soaring through the rain beyond the right center field fence. This walk-off was most notable because of catcher Todd Pratt running to the second base line and hoisting Ventura up in his arms before he could touch second base; hence the Grand Slam Single. That night I thought the Upper Deck was going to collapse. The Stadium was rocking so much. I had visions of looking at the third base line loge and seeing it bounce up and down. “Rock Like Shea” began to be used in the normal language of Mets fans.
Other than Piazza, players that I drifted to growing up were, Todd Hundley (a catcher before Piazza), Jay Payton, and David Wright. I always watched videos of Gary Carter in the ’80s, and then fast forward to 2009; he was my manager with the Long Island Ducks; surreal to listen and learn from a Hall of Fame catcher and World Series Champion. Also, spending four seasons with the Ducks from ’09-’12, Buddy Harrelson was and still is a coach and owner. For you Mets fans, a little trivia, Buddy is the only man in Mets history to be in uniform for both World Series Championships. He was the short stop of the 1969 Miracle Mets and the third base coach for the 1986 squad.
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9/21/01. The first sporting event in New York since the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01. I was not at this game, although, I wish I was. To see New Yorkers unite together is always a thing of beauty. The Amazin’s were down 2-1 in the 8th of a flat, erie game to the division rival Braves, when Piazza walked up to face Queens native, Steve Karsay. Piazza drove a pitch to deep dead center, which bounced off the TV camera station, and Shea erupted with immense emotion of happiness; something New Yorker’s had not experienced for ten days prior. The Mets won the game and that historic home run in America’s Pastime, helped start the healing process for New Yorkers.
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In July of 2008, Billy Joel played two concerts at Shea, donned, “The Last Play at Shea”. This was the final performances of the big blue ballpark. My family and I, along with a few friends went to the second of the two shows, the real last play. Billy had notable musicians help him close the Stadium down including Garth Brooks, Roger Daltrey, Steven Tyler, Tony Bennett, and Sir Paul McCartney. An unbelievable experience with a few combined passions of mine; family, Billy Joel, Mets baseball, and Shea Stadium.
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Once the Mets were eliminated from playoff contention, on the final day of the regular season in 2008, and the crains were awaiting to start demolition of Shea for the new shiny Citi Field in the background, I felt a part of me was gone; part of my childhood, and part of my college days, as I played college ball at Queens College down the road from Shea. We went to so many games those years as well. A family friend was head of security at Shea and I randomly texted him that I was sitting in my car right in front of the Shea Stadium sign entrance. He told me to meet him behind the plate and took me in. The day before was their final out, and they were already tearing it down, but I got a few keepsakes; a few great photos of myself in the dugout, on the pitchers mound, and behind home plate.
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I never was able to attend a Mets World Series game. In 2000, watched the fall classic from home. But in 2015, in part of hustling with Digmi, we were able to attend Game 3 at Citi Field; the game when David Wright hit a 3 run homer and 4 had RBIs. That game at Citi felt like the old days at Shea. You see, when Citi Field first opened, you would have had no idea that it was the home of the Mets. It had no murals of any past history of the organization and rarely any blue and orange. It looked like it was a neutral ballpark, not too intimate for Mets fans. But over the years, the Mets took notice to the fan base and their desire to bring tradition back. The outfield fence is now blue with orange trim, there are Mets greats plastered all over the walls of the concourse, the original Home Run Apple, is not hidden back behind the bullpens like the first year, and now is out in from of the Citi Field entrance; a great spot for fans to meet prior to the games and a perfect photo op.
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I’ve been hustling with Digmi since 2009 and to watch the ever growing list of Big Leaguers wear the line is amazin’ to see. From Mets believers early on such as Jose Reyes, Dillon Gee, Eric Young, Jr., and Rene Rivera to Noah Syndergaard, Jacob DeGrom, Travis D’arnau, Curtis Grandson, and Yoenis Cespedes to name a few. The steam Digmi has received the past few years after the public seeing these Big Leaguers wearing the brand is still rolling and extremely fulfilling.
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The 7 Line has helped invigorate Citi Field over the years. Not only has it been the pulse of the Mets fan base, but they have done an amazing job setting up 7Line Army outings at visiting ballparks across the Country. The Digmi team has taken a few of these outings in, a couple at Citi Field, and one on the road in Washington, D.C. The energy that this group of die-hards bring is off the charts. You can never go wrong with attending a Mets game at Citi Field in which the 7 Line is having an outing, posted up in centerfield, just to the right of the Home Run Apple.
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Citi Field has its own identity now and Shea is still there in spirit; The Shea Bridge and the original Home Run Apple, the city skyline from Shea’s scoreboard, sure do make it feel like home. Year after year, the Flushing Faithful is coming out to Meet the Mets, along with the more winning baseball on the horizon, the times and teams may change, but it is becoming the Same Citi, Different Shea.