2024 Program - Issue 7

Welcome to Issue 7 of The Official Program of the Binghamton Rumble Ponies!

1-C BALLPARK SECURITY PROTOCOLS

To protect lives and property in the event of an emergency, PDL Clubs should be prepared to immediatelyrespond to any inci- dents by continually evaluating and identifying security threats and vulnerabilities thatcould impact their ballpark. PDL Clubs should establish plans and strat- egies to mitigate, respond to and recover from any identified threats and vulnerabilities. PDL Clubs are encouraged to employ a multitude of security tech- niques (e.g., security personnel, vehicle barricades, bag inspec- tions, magnetometer screening, etc.) both outside and inside their ballpark so vehicular and pedestrian access can be prop- erly managed and controlled. PDL Clubs are also encouraged to promote security awareness in their ballpark through the use of announcements and signage to maximize their ability to reach out to patrons and en- courage the reporting of suspi- cious activity. 1. Fan Behavior Policy In furtherance of the goal of creating a family-friendly and welcoming environment at the ballpark, each PDL Club must adopt a written policy address- ing fan behavior (“Policy”). The minimum requirements relat- ed to the Policy are described below. Each Club must provide a copy of its Policy to the Commis- sioner’s Office by emailing it to PDLsecurity@mlb.com prior to Opening Day. Clubs are free to write their own Policy or modify an existing Policy as long as it meets the The Policy must contain a writ- ten description of how fans are expected to behave and what behavior is prohibited (“Fan Code of Conduct”). The Fan Code of Conduct must explic- minimum requirements. Fan Code of Conduct

itly prohibit, at minimum, the following conduct: • Trespassing on the playing fi eld; • Interfering with baseballs that are in play; • Throwing objects; • Using foul or obscene lan- guage or gestures; • Using derogatory language, which is defined as offensive language concerning another person’s race, ethnicity, gender, religion, disability, age, sexual orientation, or national origin; • Excessive or underage con- sumption of alcohol; • Disruptive, unruly, or abusive behavior; • Accessing areas of the ball- park without a proper ticket, pass, or credential; • Misusing tickets, passes, or credentials; and • Bringing prohibited items into the ballpark. The Fan Code of Conduct must explicitly state that (i) violations of the Fan Code of Conduct will not be tolerated and may lead to consequences including ejec- tion from the ballpark and a ban on attending future games; and (ii) use of derogatory language will result in ejection. The Fan Code of Conduct must also instruct fans how to report violations. Clubs must (i) include a copy of the Fan Code of Conduct on the Club’s website and in the game program (either digital or print); (ii) at least once before a game, broadcast a public service announcement (“PSA”) on the main video board of the ballpark that describes the Fan Code of Conduct, the consequences for violating it, and how to report violations; and (iii) at least once during a game, broadcast a PSA on the main video board that instructs fans how to report a violation of the Fan Code of

Conduct. The Commissioner’s Office strongly recommends installing signage with the Fan Code of Conduct in prominent locations at each fan entrance to the ballpark and at all guest service booth locations. Additional Requirements The Policy must also man- date that: • All relevant Club personnel, including game-day staff, must receive a copy of the Policy be- fore working any games. • All relevant Club personnel, including game-day staff, must receive annual training (at minimum) on the Policy, the substance of the Fan Code of Conduct, and how to respond to prohibited fan behavior, and such training must be docu- mented. • Game-day staff must imme- diately report prohibited fan behavior to a Club security supervisor. • Use of derogatory language by a fan requires automatic ejec- tion of the fan. • Use of derogatory language by a fan toward a player, um- pire, Club staff or their family members must be documented by the Club and reported to the Club’s General Manager and to the Commissioner’s Office via email to PDLsecurity@mlb. com. Clubs must seek to collect the name and identifying in- formation of the fan, and must include in their report a descrip- tion of how the Club addressed the incident and what discipline it plans to impose.

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Alcohol Regulations- e Binghamton Rumble Ponies strictly enforce the following alcohol serving policy: Everyone must be 21 years of age and present valid ID to purchase and consume alcoholic beverages. A two beer limit per ID is strictly enforced. e Binghamton Rumble Ponies reserve the right to suspend service at any time at the sole discretion of the management. PLESE DRINK RESPONSIBLY. ATM- NBT Bank provides an automated teller machine on the concourse level behind home plate. FIRST AID- Fans in need of medical assistance should inform a Rumble Ponies sta member or usher immediately. e First Aid station is located on the rst base concourse. Emergency medical services are provided by Guthrie Lourdes Hospital and United Health Services. Medical Transport service is provided by Superior Ambulance Service. CONTAINERS- Eastern League Rules prohibit patrons from carrying bottles, cans, food containers and alcoholic beverages into Mirabito Stadium. CONDUCT- Patrons who use foul or abusive language, appear in an intoxicated state, or otherwise jeopardize the atmosphere of the park will be ejected from Mirabito Stadium. SMOKING- All traditional smoking and electronic smoking devices are completely banned from the Mirabito Stadium premises. e Binghamton Rumble Ponies are pleased to be a smoke free facility. SAFETY- e Binghamton Rumble Ponies Baseball Club is happy for you to keep any ball hit or thrown into the stands, but we remind you that hit or thrown balls can be dangerous. RAIN CHECK POLICY- In the event that 4 1/2 innings are not played on any given date due to inclement weather (3 1/2 for a 7 inning game), tickets may be exchanged for any non-restricted 2024 regular season game, based on availability. NO CASH REFUNDS WILL BE GIVEN. TICKET INFORMATION- e Visions Federal Credit Union Starting Gate Box Oce windows are open from 9 AM to 5 PM Monday through Friday. When the Rumble Ponies are home, the Starting Gate window will remain open from 9 AM until the end of the game regardless of the day of the week. To charge tickets by phone, with VISA, Master Card, American Express, and Discover, call 607- 722-FUNN (3866). Fans can purchase and print tickets on any home or oce computer by accessing the team website at www.BINGRP.com. A $2.00 service charge per ticket is applicable to all phone and online tickets.Adult ticket prices for Rumble Ponies game are $15.50 for Box Seats and $11.50 for Reserved Grandstand if purchased in ADVANCE OF GAME DAY. Adult ticket prices are $18.50 for Box Seats and $14.50 for Reserved Grandstand when purchased DAY OF THE GAME. All Rumble Ponies tickets are non-refundable or exchangeable. Senior citizens, 60 and over, and children 12 and under, receive a $2.00 discount per ticket. Group ticket rates are available for groups of 20 or more. Call 607-722-FUNN (3866) for more information. MOORE’S TIRE SALES FAN SERVICE WINDOW- e Moore’s Tire Sales Fan Service Window is located on the concourse level behind home plate at Mirabito Stadium Fans may enter and/or pick up contest prizes at this window throughout the game. e window also serves as the stadium lost and found. e Rumble Ponies encourage fans to turn any found items into the Moore’s Tire Sales Fan Service Window. MIRABITO STADIUM PARKING- e Binghamton Rumble Ponies oer one parking lot for fans to park in on game day, charging $5 per car and $10 pr car o n reworks nights. It has a limited number of handicapped accessible parking spots available. PLEASE NOTE- On reworks nights, part of the Henry Street lot is closed o for set-up and launch of reworks post-game. e Rumble Ponies ask you to be courteous to the Parking Lot attendants as you enter the parking lot. THE SOUTHERN TIER BREWING COMPANY PARTY DECK- Fans of all ages are welcome to take in a Rumble Ponies game from the Southern Tier Brewing Company Party Deck near right eld. Fans 21 years of age or older are welcome to enjoy alcoholic beverages. Two beer limit. PLEASE DRINK RESPONSIBLY. Call 607-722-3866 (FUNN) to nd out how your group may have an outing on this deck.

2023: A Ponies Playoff Run to Remember! By: Jacob Wilkins and Matt Levine

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. – The Bing- hamton Rumble Ponies had a his- toric 2023 season, highlighted by the franchise reaching the East- ern League Championship Series for the first time since 2014. Binghamton, with a surging sec- ond half in which they went 39- 27, reached the postseason for the first time since 2017, and for the 11th time in franchise history. Under second-year manager Reid Brignac, the Ponies went 18-5 over their last 23 games and swept their Subway Series-rival, the Somerset Patriots (New York Yankees Double-A Affiliate) in the best-of-three Eastern League Division Series. The division series was highlight- ed by Jett Williams’ three-run home run in a 9-2 Game 1 victo- ry, which capped off a dramatic six-run bottom of the fourth. In Game 2, RHP Dom Hamel led the way in a 2-0 victory to win the series. Hamel allowed just three hits over seven and two thirds’ innings with eight strike- outs and only two walks. Second-half surge The Ponies’ second half was highlighted by the Mets’ mid- season acquisitions, Luisangel Acuña and Drew Gilbert , being assigned to Binghamton. Acuña, acquired from the Texas Rangers in the Max Scherzer trade, had 57 stolen bases on the year between Double-A Frisco (Texas) and Dou- ble-A Binghamton. Gilbert, acquired from the Astros in the Justin Verlander trade, had a .325/.423/.562 slash line with a .984 OPS over 35 games with the Rumble Ponies. Gilbert quickly established himself as a clutch performer, showcased by his game-tying three run homer in Game 1 of the Eastern League Championship Series against Erie. He also patrolled centerfield with fierce intensity resulting in terrific catches. The 23-year-old was the Astros’ first-round pick in 2022

out of the University of Tennes- see. The Ponies’ offense was also pro- pelled by the second-half return of 1B JT Schwartz. Schwartz, the Mets’ fourth-round pick in 2021 out of UCLA, returned from injury on July 27th and hit .327 with 32 runs batted in the rest of the season. 2023 also saw the late-season call-ups to Double-A of Williams and catcher Kevin Parada. Williams, the Mets Minor League Player of the Year, joined the Po- nies for the final six games of the regular season, along with the playoffs. The 20-year-old short- stop was selected by the Mets with the 14th overall pick in the 2022 draft out of Rockwall-Heath High School in Texas. He played at three different levels in 2023 (Single-A St. Lucie, High-A Brook- lyn, and Double-A Binghamton), racking up 108 hits and finishing with the second-most walks (104) in all of Minor League Baseball. Parada, the Mets’ 11th overall pick in the ’22 draft out of Geor- gia Tech, played 14 games to finish out the season with Bing- hamton, hitting three home runs with 11 RBIs. Infielder Jeremiah Jackson also added power and consistency to the Ponies’ lineup. Acquired from the Angels at the trade deadline for RHP Dominic Leone and cash considerations, Jackson reached base in 28 of his first 29 games with the club and had a stretch of hitting safely in 17-of-19 games. Jackson belted seven home runs and drove in 24 runs over 37 games with Binghamton. Arms race The Rumble Ponies’ dominant pitching staff was led by Mets Minor League Pitcher of the Year Christian Scott. In 12 starts with the Rumble Ponies, Scott pitched to a 2.47 ERA in 62 in- nings, with a strikeout-to-walk ra-

tio of 77-to-8. Scott finished with the best WHIP (0.86) and K/BB ratio (8.92), among 640+ Minor League pitchers with at least 70.0 innings pitched in 2023. He was selected by the Mets in the fifth round of the 2021 draft out of the University of Florida. Along with Scott and Hamel, 2023 saw the Double-A debuts of right-handed pitchers Tyler Stu- art and Blade Tidwell. Stuart was called up to Bingham- ton after posting a MiLB-lead- ing 1.55 ERA in 14 starts with High-A Brooklyn. Over his first four starts at the Double-A level, Stuart went at least five innings and allowed three runs or less. In 24 games between the two levels, Stuart finished 7-2 with a 2.44 ERA. Possessing an impos- ing 6-foot-9, 250-pound frame, the 24-year-old was selected by the Mets in the sixth round of the 2022 draft, out of Southern Mississippi. Tidwell, the Mets’ second-round pick out of Tennessee in 2022, showed glimpses of what made him such a prolific pitcher in Knoxville. On September 9 on the road against Somerset, he allowed just two runs over seven and two-thirds innings with no walks and seven strikeouts. On September 12 against Reading, he allowed just three hits over five scoreless frames with no walks and nine punchouts. One of the unexpected stars of the Ponies’ playoff surge was Joander Suarez. Suarez threw the eighth-no-hitter in franchise history in the first game of a doubleheader on September 7 against the Hartford Yard Goats at Dunkin’ Park. The 23-year-old allowed just one base runner, via a leadoff walk in the first inning, and faced the minimum over seven no-hit innings with four strikeouts. Suarez became just the fourth pitcher in franchise history to

throw a no-hitter individually. It marked Binghamton’s first in- dividual no-hitter since Miguel Pinango did it on July 23, 2006, at Portland. For his mastery, Suarez was named Eastern League Pitcher of the Week in back-to-back weeks. He was one of seven Rumble Ponies players to earn East- ern League recognition during the season. OF Agustin Ruiz and Stuart swept the weekly EL awards for the week of August 21-27. RHP Luis Moreno was named EL Pitcher of the Week for the week of June 19-25. RHP Mike Vasil was named the EL Pitcher of the Month for May, IF José Peroza was named EL Player of the Week for May 8-14, and IF Luke Ritter was named EL Play- er of the Week for June 5-11. Vasil was the leader of the pitch- ing staff over the first two months of the season he spent with Bing- hamton. Over a stretch of three starts in May, he allowed only one run over 21 innings, going at least six innings in each outing. A highlight of the season was Vasil’s May 11th start against Hartford, in which he surrendered just one run over eight innings with no walks and seven strikeouts. The 6-foot-5, 225-pound right-hander was the Mets’ eighth-round pick in 2021 out of the University of Virginia. Hamel, the Mets 2022 Minor League Pitcher of the Year, made great strides in his first year at the Double-A level. He set a career-high with 11 strikeouts in three different starts and finished the year second in the Eastern League in strikeouts (160), third in opponents’ batting average (.230), and fifth in WHIP (1.27) and ERA (3.85). The right-hander was selected by the Mets in the third round of the 2021 draft out of Dallas Baptist. Moreno over four starts in June pitched to just a 1.23 ERA and a 28-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

On June 15, Moreno allowed two runs on four hits over six innings, striking out 10 in a win at home over Portland. On June 20, More- no did not allow a hit at Akron over five scoreless frames with one walk and nine strikeouts. Much of the pitching staff’s suc- cess is a credit to Mets Minor League Staff Member of the Year and Rumble Ponies Pitching Coach AJ Sager. In his first sea- son with Binghamton and second in the Mets’ organization, Sager’s staff set a Binghamton franchise record with 15 shutouts. Ponies’ pitchers also had a trust- worthy backstop in Platinum Gold Glove Award winner Hayden Senger. The Hamilton, Ohio, native led all Mets Minor League catchers in caught stealing rate (30.5%) and logged a career-high 597.2 innings behind the plate in the regular season. Well-deserved recognition A staple of Brignac’s teams has always been defense. Late-sea- son call-up Rhylan Thomas was honored by the organization as the Mets Gold Glove outfielder. Thomas appeared at all three outfield spots across three levels of the organization. In 91 games, the 2022 11th -round pick out of USC committed just one error this season and has only two er- rors over the first two seasons of his professional career. Thomas also impressed with the bat, ending the season on a 17- game hitting streak. The 23-year- old USC product adjusted to the Double-A level seamlessly, hitting .353 with 27 RBIs in 20 games with Binghamton. The Rumble Ponies were also well-represented in the Arizona Fall League with eight players selected to represent the Mets. Pitchers included RHP Nolan Clenney, RHP Jordan Geber, and RHP T rey McLoughlin. Para- da, Schwartz, and versatile IF/OF

Rowdey Jordan also were on the Glendale Desert Dogs. Additionally, the Rumble Po- nies coaching, and support staff played an integral role in their historic season. Development coach Jeremy Cologna and ath- letic trainer Austin Dayton were selected to be on the prestigious AFL coaching staff. Performance coach Ryan Orr was named the Eastern League Strength Coach of the Year, which is voted on by the strength coaches around the league. Looking ahead While the Rumble Ponies may have fallen short in the Champi- onship Series to Erie, 2023 was an incredible year for the fran- chise filled with individual and team accomplishments. Mets fans have a lot to be excited about on what’s happening up in Bingham- ton!

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Championship Baseball ushered in the era of the Binghamton Mets By: Jim Maggiore

The 1992 season saw minor league baseball return to the Binghamton area after a 24-year absence, as the Binghamton Triplets (named in honor of the towns of Binghamton, John- son City, and Endicott) last played in town in 1968. Baseball returned with a flourish, with two Eastern League Championships being brought to Binghamton within the first three years of this baseball redux. This September, those two championship teams of 1992 and 1994 (along with the championship team from 2014), will be inducted into the Binghamton Baseball Shrine. Players from that 1992 team who went on to big league careers in- cluded right-handed starting pitch- ers Bobby Jones and Pete Walker, as well as catcher Brook Fordyce. The team won the Eastern League Championship, at home, in front of a standing-room only crowd, behind a complete game win from Bobby Jones, who hailed from Fresno, Cal- ifornia—the same hometown as Tom Seaver. The 1994 team also won its Eastern League Championship at home, also behind another sellout crowd, cour- tesy of the standout pitching of lefty Chris Roberts, who won 13 games during the season, second on the staff to the 14 posted by Bill Pulsi- pher. That 1994 team sent 14 players on to big-league careers, including second baseman Edgardo Alfonzo, shortstop Rey Ordonez, center fielder Ricky Otero, and pitchers Jason Isringhausen, Bill Pulsipher, Robert Person, and Joe Roa. (Outfielder Jay Payton joined the team just in time for the playoffs as well.) Fans of a certain age who attended the opening day game of the 1992 Binghamton Mets still can be heard talking about it to this day. In a way it was only fitting, that, after wait- ing for almost a quarter of a century for minor league baseball to return to Binghamton, Binghamtonians had to wait out three–that’s right— three consecutive days of rainouts! The season was scheduled to start the Thursday before Easter Sunday and a sellout crowd was in place to celebrate the opening of Bingham- ton’s brand new stadium. The host of celebrities visiting town that day included Governor Mario Cuomo, and various representatives from the New York Mets, including former All-Star shortstop Buddy Harrelson and for-

mer Mets’ pitcher Al Jackson. In his introductory speech as part of the dedication ceremonies, Cuomo poked a friendly jab at then Bing- hamton Mayor Juanita Crabb, ex- plaining that she threw a “few high hard ones his way as she fought for the stadium to be built.” (For the record—that championship season began with right hander Joe Vitko getting the win in a 1-0 game against Harrisburg during the first game of the doubleheader on Easter Sunday.) The team went 79-59 in its inaugu- ral season, finishing in second place in the eight-team Eastern League behind the Canton-Akron Indians by one game and ahead of the third place Harrisburg Senators by a half game. The Mets beat Canton-Akron in the first round of the playoffs, three games to one. The team re- peated its feat by beating the Har- risburg Senators (Montreal Expos affiliation) in the finals by the same three games to one tally. Steve Swisher had the honor of man- aging the team and his then 12-year- old son, Nick, spent his summer patrolling the diamond during batting practice at what was then known as Binghamton Municipal Stadium. That summer left an indelible impression on Nick. “That team was loaded,” he said in a short interview before he participated in an old-timer’s game in Cooperstown in 2022. “I remember seeing Bobby Jones pitch for them. They won it all!” Longtime season ticketholder Eileen Plunkett remem- bers Swisher was not always wel- comed by those ‘92 Mets. “He could be a real pain in the butt, always running around and getting in their way,” she recalled recently. Tom Wegmann, Apalachin resident since 1995 and now an executive with the Mathews Auto Group right here in Binghamton, was a spot starter and reliever for that ‘92 team and has some great memories from that historic season. “That team was so tightly knit. Often with a team you have groups of four or five guys hanging out, but on that team, we all went out to dinner together and hung out as a group, 15 or so guys getting together. We won with pitching and defense and played sound, funda- mental baseball.” Long before the 2003 film Finding Nemo came out, the 1992 Bingham- ton Mets had their own “Niemo,” in

their pitching coach, Randy Nieman, who was a member of the 1986 World Championship Mets team. Niemann had a stellar staff to work with that season, including future big leaguers Joe Vitko, Pete Walker, and John Johnstone. “He knew the right things to say, he understood per- sonalities, had a calming approach, talking you through things and help- ing you, make adjustments,” recalled Wegmann in a recent phone conver- sation. “Swisher was a tough man- ager, he expected you to be locked in and ready to go, he was an old school type of person. We respected him and played hard for him,” elabo- rated Wegmann. In 2022, Wegmann reunited with many of his teammates when the Rumble Ponies honored the 1992 team in pre-game ceremony. To- day, many of the members of that team are still involved in baseball. Shortstop Tom Allison is a scout with the Dodgers and utility infielder is director of scouting for the Pirates. Pete Walker is a longtime pitching coach for the Toronto Bluejays and first baseman Alan Zinter is a batting instructor in the Chicago White Sox organization. Only two years after the success of that ‘92 team, the 1994 team, led by manager John Tamargo, came to town and put together arguably the best season in the history of Bing- hamton’s affiliation with the Mets. By then the Eastern League had split into two divisions, the North and South, with the Mets finishing with a record of 82-59, winning the North division by 4.5 games over the New Haven Ravens, then affiliated with the Colorado Rockies. The division win was the first for Binghamton since the Triplets captured a division title in 1967. Jason Isringhausen and Bill Pulsipher, two-thirds of the trio known as “Generation K” for their strikeout totals (Paul Wilson, the third member, would pitch for Binghamton in 1995), anchored the pitching staff while the double play combination of Rey Ordonez (short) and Edgardo Alfonzo (second) provided defensive highlights every night. Alfonzo also led the way with the bat, hitting .293 with 15 home runs and driving in 75 runs. He teamed with center fielder Ricky Otero (.294 with 7 homers and 57 RBIs) and first baseman Frank Jacobs (.285 with 13 homers and 67 RBIs) to form a solid lineup. Alber- to Castillo provided stellar defense

defense behind the plate. As great as the season-long per- formance of the team was, how- ever, it was in the playoffs that the team’s greatness truly ex- pressed itself. Perhaps the high- light of the season came on Sep- tember 12th in the second game of the semifinal series against Harrisburg, which had won the South Division with an incredible .633 winning percentage, posting 88 wings against only 51 loss- es. Harrisburg was led by future MLB All-Star Mark Grudzielanek, who hit .322 for the season and provided solid defense at short- stop; closer Alberto Reyes, who had 35 saves; and pitcher Ugueth Urbina, who would be converted to a reliever and go on to save 237 games over an 11-year MLB career. When Bill Pulsipher strolled to the mound to start Game 2 of the Series, the Mets were down in the matchup, having blown a 3-1 lead in the seventh inning as Harris- burg’s Phil Dauphin hit a three- run homer in the seventh to take the lead in Harrisburg’s eventual 5-4 win. Pulsipher was deter- mined to get the Mets even in the series and he turned his deter- mination into domination, as he struck out eight Harrisburg hitters and twirled a no-hit shutout! So complete was his dominance that he allowed only three balls to be hit out of the infield! Pitching coach Randy Nieman played the role of “Captain Obvious” when he told the Binghamton Press “To come up with that kind of game under these circumstances is unbelievable.” Pulsipher’s sterling effort was supported with a ho- mer hit by second baseman Doug Saunders and catcher’s Alberto Castillo sacrifice fly, providing Pulsipher with two runs for the win. The Mets returned home for the second game of the series and one of the all-time great games in Binghamton history was played on September 14th. The Mets were trailing, 4-2, in the bottom

of the ninth when Alfonzo came up with one on. On the mound for the Expos was their closer, Al- berto Reyes, who had finished an astonishing 53 games during the season. Reyes got ahead in the count with a first-pitch strike. He then spun a slider to Alfonzo, but he got too much of the plate, letting Alfonzo get plenty of his barrel on the ball, sending it far over the left-field fence. As Alfonzo circled the bases, fans jumped, slapped hands, and screamed into the night, forming a coryban- tic chorus along Henry and Lewis streets. Some had still not settled back into their seats when, only three pitches later, Jacobs hit a game-winning homer to right. With a 2-1 Series lead, Chris Roberts, a crafty lefty from the University of Florida, pitched the Mets to a 3-1 victory, clinch- ing the series and kicking off a champagne-filled celebration on the diamond. In the post-game celebration Steve Phillips, future general manager of the Mets and then the Mets’ minor league farm director, took to the microphone to congratulate the team. He told the fans “This was a superbly talented team. You may never see a team as talented as this one again.” During the on-field celebration, then N.Y. Mets Direc- tor of Minor League Operations Steve Phillips remarked, “It will be a long time before Binghamton sees a team with this much talent again.” Thirty years later, notwithstand- ing the 2014 team, we’re still waiting! Note: Jim Maggiore has authored seven books on the local sports scene.

A Run to Remember

By: Tim Heiman

When the temperature dips in Septem- ber and Friday night rolls round in the Southern Tier, the Binghamton Mets, and professional baseball for that matter, aren’t exactly high on the local’s list of things to see. As the summer weather is put in the rear- view mirror, so too are the boys of summer. Their time has passed. The days of humid August nights watching the future New York Mets were sweet, but those days are gone. Shorts and T-shirts have been replaced with jeans and hoodies. First pitch has given way to the opening kickoff of the local high school football game. The seventh-inning stretch has ceded to the cheerleading squad’s halftime perfor- mance. The B-Mets log another season, they fail to claim the Eastern League title and everyone moves onto the next attraction in September. It’s an annual cycle that every- one became accustomed to. That all changed in September 2014. The Stage is Set It is Friday, September 12th. Under overcast skies and with the ther- mometer just barely touching 49 degrees, Joe Pascarella opens the windows to the NYSEG Stadium box office a few minutes before 9:00 AM. As manager of ticketing for the team, he is prepared to oversee the biggest moment in the stadium’s history since 1994. Before he can even settle into his chair, a fan has already made his way to the box office window. Why is he here so early? He wants to purchase tickets to tonight’s game; Game 3 of the Eastern League Championship Series. The B-Mets own a 2-0 series advantage and they are just one victory shy of clinching the league title, something no team in the Southern Tier has done in two decades. Just as soon as Mr. Pascarella completes the transaction, another fan approaches the window. And then another. And another. The steady stream of ticket seekers continues through- out the day.

on June 10, the B-Mets outscored their opponents 18-6, while collecting 22 hits and blasting five home runs. The victories started a six-game winning streak and a 17-3 stretch. Just a week later, the B-Mets clubhouse would install a revolving door. On June 19, Binghamton welcomed five former Florida State League All-Stars from the St. Lucie Mets. Each would play a large role in the second half and some would etch their names into Binghamton baseball lore in the postseason. With contributions from the reinvented Jayce Boyd, young-and-eager Dilson Her- rera and tried-and-tested Brian Burgamy, the B-Mets clinched the second spot in the Eastern Division by mid-August. Despite punching their ticket to the post- season, trying times awaited the B-Mets at the conclusion of the regular season. The B-Mets normally steady bullpen blew back-to-back ninth-inning leads in their final two home games. On August 29, the B-Mets lost Dilson Herrera to the Major Leagues. Without their offensive sparkplug, the punchless B-Mets were swept by the Rich- mond Flying Squirrels, closing the regular season on a six-game losing streak. The outlook appeared bleak for the sud- denly-struggling B-Mets as they prepared for the Eastern Division Championship Series matchup against the Portland Sea Dogs, the top team in the Eastern League.

Forget high school football. Forget cheer- leading performances. Forget about the weather. Southern Tier residents had one thing on their mind that fateful Friday: The Bing- hamton Mets winning an Eastern League title. “Six More Wins” The goal for the 2014 Binghamton Mets was set by their manager Pedro Lopez on the first day they reported to the ballpark in early April. As he greeted the media and prepared for his third season steering the ship in the Southern Tier, Lopez declared he wanted six more wins out of his ballclub. Six more postseason wins. His team the previous season rewrote the B-Mets’ record books. Using a stellar starting rotation, a shutdown bullpen and a high-octane offensive attack, the 2013 Binghamton Mets scorched the Eastern League with a record-setting 86-55 record. Despite their stellar regular season, the B-Mets postseason proved to be a disas- ter. In Game 1 of the Eastern Division Champi- onship Series, the Trenton Thunder scored three runs with two outs in the bottom of the tenth inning to stun the B-Mets. Two games later, the Thunder completed the sweep, blanking Binghamton at NYSEG Stadium. It was a shocking and rapid fall from grace for a B-Mets squad that most deemed unbeatable in the postseason. Lopez was not prepared to see his team Before the B-Mets could fulfill Lopez’s postseason request, they had to make it back to the postseason, something no B-Mets team had ever done in back-to- back seasons. Despite heavy production from veterans Matt Clark and Brian Burgamy in April and an other-worldly performance from Kevin Plawecki in May, the B-Mets sat just two games over .500 by the second week of June. fall like that again. Getting Back In It took a trip to Akron, Ohio, home of the newly-minted RubberDucks, to jumpstart their season. In a doubleheader sweep

Revived by Rivera

Tyler Pill got the ball for the B-Mets in Game 1 and cruised in his first trip through the Sea Dogs batting order, facing the minimum through three. Sean Coyle busted the stretch by belting a solo home run in the fourth. Pill dodged further damage in the fifth, but was burned by a two-out three-run homer by David Chester in the sixth. Trailing 5-1, Binghamton looked for an of- fensive pulse from the heart of their order. They got it. TJ Rivera, who had already collected an RBI in the third inning, doubled with one out in the sixth. Jayce Boyd brought him home two batters later with a single to left. The B-Mets turned to Hansel Robles to keep them within striking distance. The

A Run to Remember

By: Tim Heiman

right-hander had been bumped to the bull- pen at the All-Star break when Binghamton welcomed three starters back from the Las Vegas 51’s and needed to make room in the rotation. Robles was the odd man out. Robles went from being the odd man out to The Man for the B-Mets. In his first outing as a reliever in the postseason, he blanked Portland over 2-1/3 innings. In the eighth, the Sea Dogs started to unravel With Wilfredo Tovar on second fol- lowing a leadoff double, Rivera stroked an RBI two-bagger down the right-field line. After a walk to Brian Burgamy, Boyd shot a potential inning-ending double play ball to second. Sean Coyle fielded cleanly, but his shovel to Ryan Dent was off-line and allowed Rivera to score. Darrell Ceciliani capped the rally and tied the game with a sac fly to center. Cody Satterwhite ran into trouble in the ninth, but preserved the 5-5 game by fan- ning Mike Miller to strand two aboard. The table was set for the B-Mets to set the tone against the first-place Sea Dogs. Yet again, Portland opened the door. With one out Xorge Carrillo reached on a fielding error by Miller at third base. Tovar laced a single to left, pushing the winning run into scoring position. Brandon Nimmo, hitting in the leadoff po- sition in the batting order, fulfilled the goal of every leadoff hitter; see as many pitches as possible. The left-handed hitting out- fielder engaged in a nine-pitch battle with reliever Noe Ramirez before striking out. Despite going down, Nimmo had done his job. Rivera, who had been waiting on-deck, saw everything he needed to see out of Ramirez. The unheralded infielder who had gone undrafted out of college calmly dug into the box. The Bronx native blasted the first pitch he saw from Ramirez over the left-field wall, sending the 1,625 diehard fans in atten- dance into a frenzy. The B-Mets had completed the comeback and Rivera had led the way. His walk- off, three-run homer capped a personal four-hit, five-RBI game. Binghamton had overcome a four-run deficit with seven unanswered runs while earning their first postseason win in ten years.

Unfortunately, the B-Mets failed to build on the momentum, falling in Game 2 by a 7-0 fi nal. The series shifted to Portland, Maine, where the B-Mets lost Game 3 by a 6-3 score. Binghamton would need to win in enemy territory in Game 4 to keep their season alive. Hemlock Field Hadlock Field, home to the Portland Sea Dogs since 1994, had not been hospitable to the B-Mets in the 2014 regular season. An April visit that included a loss and two postponements due to a snow storm was just a sign the difficulties ahead for the B-Mets. The club returned in mid-May for six-game series for first place and lost five straight games, capping the slump with a walk-off loss. The Sea Dogs defended home turf again by taking two of three at home in late July. On top of this, history was on the Sea Dogs side. Back in 1996, in their only pre- vious postseason meeting, the Sea Dogs defeated the B-Mets at Hadlock Field in Game 5 of the North Division Champion- ship Series. The B-Mets would have plenty of adversity to overcome. Earning Every Inch Lopez’s message in 2014 was, “Six more wins.” However, the message he has preached throughout his managerial career has been, “Quality at-bats.” Make the opposing pitcher work. Don’t swing at bad pitches. Find a pitch you can drive. Make him come to you. It is the foundation of a strong offensive at- tack. It was something sorely lacking from the B-Mets’ efforts in Games 2 and 3. The Binghamton Mets would need to go back to the basics for Game 4. With a powerful thunderstorm forecasted for Saturday night, the two clubs agreed to push the start of Game 4 up to noon on Saturday, September 6. The teams traded a run through the first three innings before Portland grabbed the

lead by plating a run in the fourth against B-Mets starter Rainy Lara. Trailing 2-1, the B-Mets prepared for the top of the fifth. It would prove to be the most pivotal two-inning stretch of the sea- son for Binghamton. After two straight hits to open the inning, Rivera shot a sinking line drive single to left, plating Tovar with the tying run. Reliever Mike McCarthy took over from Augliera after a walk loaded the bases and issued a free pass to Ceciliani to force in another run. McCarthy capped the inning by uncorking a wild pitch, prompting Rivera to dash home. After grabbing the lead with three runs in the fifth, Binghamton broke the contest open with a seven-run sixth. The B-Mets sent 11 men to the plate, collected four hits, cashed in on three walks and walked away from the 38-minute frame with an 11-2 lead. The first seven batters of the inning all reached and scored against relievers McCarthy and Pete Ruiz. The B-Mets had followed Pedro Lopez’s plan. They had made every plate appear- ance count. They did not give an inch to any Portland pitcher. They grinded it out and shifted the tide of the series. Lara capped his start, the first quality one from a B-Met in the postseason, with a blank sixth. Jon Velasquez surrendered a two-run homer to David Chester in the eighth before Randy Fontanez posted a perfect ninth. It was an 11-4 win. It bought another day of life to a B-Mets team that wanted no part of watching their season come to an end. There was still work to be done, though. Winner-take-all Game 5 was played at Hadlock Field on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon, 18 years to the day that the Sea Dogs bounced Binghamton from the postseason in 1996. In a link to the past, that contest had also been a Game 5 at Hadlock Field. This time the B-Mets would not repeat history. Leading 2-1, Binghamton broke the game open with a six-run fourth inning. After a single and a sac bunt, Tovar extended Binghamton’s lead by lining an RBI single into center. Nimmo followed by punching a single into right, Tovar took third on the hit and scored when Jonathan Roof’s throw skipped into the seats.

A Run to Remember

By: Tim Heiman

Burgamy walked and Boyd was hit by a pitch with two outs, loading the bases for Ceciliani. The hobbling outfielder greeted reliever Dayan Diaz by belting a bas- es-clearing, three-run double off the Maine Monster in left field. Taijeron followed with an RBI single to right, giving Binghamton an 8-1 advantage. B-Mets starter Gabriel Ynoa lasted until the sixth before Robles took over and carried the game into the ninth. Closer Satterwhite worked a shutout ninth inning, inducing Keury De La Cruz to bounce out to short to punch Binghamton’s ticket to the Eastern League Championship Series. With their backs against the wall, the B-Mets had fought back and survived. In- stead of heading home, the B-Mets would be heading to Richmond, Virginia to take on the Flying Squirrels. But first, it was time to celebrate. After the final out, Satterwhite leaped into his catcher Xorge Carrillo’s arms. The rest of the B-Mets joined them near the pitch- er’s mound. In a mixed state of euphoria and relief, the B-Mets made their way to the clubhouse to spray champagne and spill light beer. Although the bubbly made some eyes burn and the beer may have been a little warm, it had all never tasted so good to a B-Mets team heading to the championship series. Before the champagne could be washed out of their jerseys, the B-Mets focus shifted to their next opponent, the West- ern Division champion Richmond Flying Squirrels. The team had a twelve-hour bus ride from Maine to Virginia to collect their thoughts. 650 miles later, the Binghamton Mets arrived in Richmond. The Eastern Division champions were welcomed to the South by the sun rise and a much-needed day off. Keeping It Up Down South Just a week removed from an embar- rassing regular season-closing four-game sweep at the hands of the Squirrels, the B-Mets were back at The Diamond seeking revenge. The Squirrels claimed the Western Division by beating the Akron RubberDucks in four games in a pitching-dominated series. The two squads combined to hit a measly .196 and scratch out a combined 18 runs. Binghamton’s starter in Game 1, Tyler Pill,

had fired 15 scoreless innings against the Squirrels in the regular season and picked up where he left off in the postseason, posting two blank frames. The B-Mets supported Pill with an RBI sin- gle by Nimmo in the second and two runs in the fifth, highlighted by a run-producing single by Ceciliani. The Squirrels scratched out single tallies in the third and fifth, and the one-run game sailed into the seventh where the B-Mets bullpen took over. Right-hander Paul Sewald, who made just three Double-A appearances in the regular season, sand- wiched a pop out with two walks before ceding to Chase Huchingson. The left- hander added more fuel the fire by issuing a free pass to load the bases for pinch-hit- ter Mitch Delfino. With just one out and the tying run just 90-feet away, Huchingson induced Delfino to dribble a grounder to second. Rivera scooped up the roller, stepped on the base and fired to first to complete a game-sav- ing, inning-ending double play Robles and Satterwhite solidified the win, combining for two scoreless innings of relief. As opposed to their stumble in Game 2 against the Sea Dogs, the B-Mets did not let up in their second game against the Squirrels. For a team that had homered just twice in the previous 17 games, the B-Mets picked the right time to find their power stroke in the Eastern League Championship Series. With one aboard in the second, Xorge Carrillo, the owner of just two home runs in the regular season, belted a two-run shot over the left-field wall, putting Binghamton on top. After a gritty, hard-nosed performance in the Division Series, Darrell Ceciliani and his body finally reached the breaking point. The B-Mets outfielder ceded to his injury after striking out in the first inning of Game 2. His replacement, Kyle Johnson, stepped in and stepped up immediately producing two sparkling catches and throwing out one runner from left field. The Squirrels scratched out a run in the second against Greg Peavey, but fell short of a big inning by leaving two men on base. It would prove to be the last time the Squirrels would send more than three to the plate in an inning against Peavey. The

righty settled down and got some help from his defense in facing the minimum over his final five innings. Despite their sparkling defense and domi- nant pitching, the B-Mets still clung to just a one-run lead entering the eighth. Squirrels reliever Edwin Quirarte issued a free pass to Brandon Nimmo and intention- ally walked Brian Burgamy to face Travis Taijeron with two outs. The move back- fired as the B-Mets outfielder threaded a game-sealing three-run homer inside the left-field foul pole. With a four-run cushion, the B-Mets bull- pen put a bow on Game 2. The most memorable, and arguably most successful, road trip in franchise history was complete. After six days, five games and 1,500 miles, the B-Mets headed back to the Southern Tier with a 2-0 series advantage. Just five days removed from having their backs against the wall, the B-Mets need one win to secure their first Eastern League title since 1994.

One Night in September It is Friday, September 12th.

It is a day that already has significance to the B-Mets franchise. On September 12, 1994, left-hander Bill Pulsipher tossed a no-hitter against the Harrisburg Senators in Game 2 of the Eastern League Champion- ship Series, the first of three straight wins the B-Mets collected to earn their second league title. Fast forward twenty years and the Bing- hamton Mets have sold 5,904 tickets and NYSEG Stadium is jam-packed as left- hander Steven Matz strolls to the mound for what will become the game of his life. This is not a new situation for the Long Island native. Last September he toed the rubber for the Low-A Savannah Sand Gnats in the championship-clinching game. Nearly a year ago to the day of this start for the B-Mets, Matz was striking out nine Hagerstown Suns over 5-2/3 scoreless innings, guiding Savannah to the South Atlantic League championship. Tonight his opponent is Richmond, a team he baffled in his last start a week earlier to the tune of a season-high ten strikeouts. As the largest crowd of the season at NY- SEG Stadium settles into their seats, Matz sets the tone with a scoreless first, issuing

A Run to Remember

By: Tim Heiman

one walk and garnering one strikeout. In the second, he strikes out the first two batters he faces and ends the perfect frame with a ground out. Just seven batters into the game, it is already clear that Richmond cannot touch Matz’s fastball. His curveball is sharper than it’s been all season. Matz’s third inning is also perfect. He adds two more strikeouts to his collection, cap- ping the frame by fanning Daniel Carbonell to raucous applause. The B-Mets faithful are beginning to realize that something special is unfolding before their eyes. In the fourth, Matz gets another weak groundout before walking Blake Miller. He strands him at first by retiring Mario Lisson and fanning Davin Harris, already his sixth strikeout of the night. Meanwhile, Flying Squirrels starter Ty Blach matches Matz zero-for-zero. That stretch ends in the fourth when the B-Mets finally push a run across against the lefty. Travis Taijeron starts the frame with an infield single to third. After Dustin Lawley strikes out, Brandon Nimmo shoots a bouncer to the left of second base. Shortstop Kelby Tomlinson slides to his left to field what could be an inning-ending double play. Instead, the roller, on its last bounce before reaching Tomlinson, skips off the infield lip, bounces over his glove and bounds into centerfield. Taijeron races to third on the single and scores on a sac fly by Xorge Carrillo to get Binghamton on the board. Matz cruises through a 1-2-3 fifth inning. Every out elicits a louder response from the crowd that has filled NYSEG Stadium anticipating history. Strikeout number eight starts the sixth for Matz. Number nine closes the inning. The K’s sandwich a fly out to right by Daniel Carbonell, the first Squirrel to hit a ball out of the infield against Matz. The southpaw has not allowed a hit through six innings. The B-Mets fans are fully aware. The run continues in the seventh. A fly out by Miller. Another fly out by Lisson. Matz works to a 2-2 count on Devin Harris. The lefty rears back and blows a fastball by the Richmond left fielder. It’s his tenth strike- out. Matz’s no-hit bid has now survived

seven innings. NYSEG Stadium has been put into a frenzy. With Binghamton still clinging to a one- run lead, Matz returns for the eighth and strikes out Angel Villalona looking. His eleventh strikeout marks a new ca- reer-high. It also pushes Binghamton to within five outs of the league title. However, Richmond’s offense finally awakens. Elliott Blair, punches a 1-0 pitch into right field that falls safely in front of Taijeron for a single. The no-hit bid has come to an end after 7-1/3 innings. All in attendance rise to their feet and salute Matz for his sparkling effort. With a no-hitter off the table, Matz’s focus shifts solely to keeping Richmond off the board, but his very next pitch is poked through the hole into right by Tyler LaTorre. It’s the end of the road for Matz. Pedro Lopez heads to the mound and takes the ball from the lefty. As he strides to the dug- out, the fans that have taken nearly every seat in the ballpark leave those seats once more to shower praise on their star pitcher. The fate of this game will now lie with the B-Mets bullpen. Robles gets the call from the pen with two aboard and one out. The hard-throwing righty who has fully embraced his new role as a reliever fans pinch-hitter Tyler Horan. One out shy of getting out of the jam, Robles gets ahead of Carbonell. The new- ly-signed outfielder fights off an 0-2 pitch from Robles and sends it into right field, plating Blair with the tying run. Pinch-run- ner Skyler Strosmoe, representing the go- ahead run, dashes for third, but is nabbed by Burgamy who had cut the throw off from right. With the game now tied, the B-Mets put two aboard in the eighth against the Squirrels bullpen. Richmond chooses to in- tentionally walk Burgamy to face Taijeron, a plan that backfired in Game 1. This time it pays off, but not without a little help from Elliott Blair, who makes a spar- kling sliding catch in right to rob Taijeron of a go-ahead hit. With the bases still loaded, Lawley strikes out and this thrilling game heads to the ninth tied at one. Satterwhite takes the reins and strands a runner while posting a scoreless frame. It’s off to the bottom of the ninth inning. Similar to Game 1 against the Sea Dogs, the B-Mets ninth-inning rally starts with Carrillo. The catcher laces a one-out single to left. Tovar follows by shooting another single into right.

Lopez calls upon Gavin Cecchini to pinch- run for Carrillo at second base. Cecchini, who was barely eight months old when the B-Mets won their most recent Eastern League title, represents the Champion- ship-clinching run. Lopez also selects Jayce Boyd to pinch-hit. It has been a comeback season for Boyd. He suffered through a case of thoracic out- let syndrome so severe it forced him to DH for the final two months of the 2013 sea- son. After a slow start, Boyd asserts him- self as one of the top hitters of the league by compiling the best batting average over the final two months of the season. The first pitch from Richmond left-handed reliever Steven Okert is a fastball that clips the outside corner. Okert misses with a slider on his next offering. A “Let’s go Mets” chant rings out from the crowd. They are almost imploring the B-Mets to win, not just to earn the title, but to alleviate all this built-up anxiety. With the potential winning run on second, the outfield plays shallow to prevent a bloop by Boyd from beating them. The eyes of 5,904 focus back to the matchup of Boyd versus Okert. The lefty comes with a fastball on 1-1. It misses inside. The crowd approves. On 2-1, Okert gets Boyd to chase an offspeed pitch low and away. Boyd’s off-balance swing sends groans through the crowd. The count now sits at two balls and two strikes. Cecchini leads from second. Tovar strolls off first. Boyd stares at Okert. Okert peers to his catcher Eliezer Zambrano. 5,904 B-Mets fans hold their breath, almost too nervous to cheer, as the lefty kicks and delivers. Okert’s 2-2 pitch is a fastball. He’s aiming for the inside corner. Instead, it tails to the plate, into Boyd’s wheelhouse. Boyd squares up the offering and drives in the air to right-center field. The fly ball hangs in the air for four sec- onds. It is the longest four seconds the B-Mets and their fans have ever experi- enced. Center fielder Daniel Carbonell is the only thing that separates the B-Mets from a championship. Having set up in shallow center, he’s forced to race back to his left in attempt to track down Boyd’s drive.

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