|The National Pastime Ain't Politics
and John Rocker's Rocky Ride
By: MICHAEL SCHENKLER
PLAY BALL: Gleefully, I acknowledge
that politics is not the national pastime.
Politics, a marvelous diversion, yes! A
national game based on kibitzing that has true impact on real life, politics is up there
with scrabble, bridge, chess and basketball.
But baseball, where the boys of summer
annually carry on sport, fun and tradition, has the unique claim to the title of
Sunday, I shared a very unique baseball
game with a very unique young lady. My (almost) eleven year-old daughter Allison and I
went to see the Queens Kings play at St. Johns.
It was wonderful.
Allison, or Moo as I frequently call her,
has never been to a ball game. Lee, her older brother, and I had gone to Shea when he was
smaller. But Moo never seemed too interested. NSync, Billy Joel or any concerts were
her entertainment destinations of choice. But baseball never seemed to get much play.
A DAY FOR THE KIDS: Allison got the Blues Brothers (Jake
& Elwood) to autograph a large magnet with the Kings schedule.
Sure, wed have a catch
with a "Spaldeen." Shed sit on my lap and watch the World Series
with me. But to go to Shea was just too much effort for too little reward for Moo and me.
Then along came the Queens Kings, the
boroughs newest franchise. For those hearing about it for the first time, the Kings
are the Mets Single A Farm Team. They play for this year and maybe next at a new 3,500
seat stadium on St. Johns campus. The Kings will eventually move to Brooklyn (Kings
County) and the stadium will belong to St. Johns. Instructional leagues, little
leagues and community activities will afford the youth of Queens an opportunity to get
closer to the real thing.
The Tribune became a
team sponsor among other things, we have a major league sign in the outfield of the
minor league stadium. And I told Allison, she just had to see it; and, the Blues Brothers
were performing and I promised we would leave whenever she wanted. So we set aside Sunday
to watch the Queens Kings take on the, get this, the Batavia Muckdogs.
As an aside to sports fans, the NY-Penn
League in which these teams compete has been the training ground for some impressive major
leaguers including: Edgardo Alfonso, Derek Bell, Dwight Gooden, Todd Hundley, Randy
Johnson, Jeff Kent, Al Leiter, Don Mattingly, Andy Pettitte, Bernie Williams and John
Elway. (Yup, the mile high quarterback batted .318 in 42 games in 1982 before choosing
Never having taken her to Shea, I felt the
need to explain the contrasts. As we pulled into the Utopia Pkwy. (just south of Union
Tpke.) parking lot, and parked in the first row just 50 feet from the stadium entrance,
hassle-free baseball was introduced. We walked into the stadium with two of the Kings
players, one of who chatted with Allison.
The (free) parking lot, the concessions
(with reasonable prices), our 2nd row seats (which go for $10 per), were all within
shouting distance of home plate in this intimate 3,500-seat stadium. The franks were made
on barbeques and were exactly what youd expect at a ballpark. Everything was exactly
right, only friendlier and cozier than the big leagues. The players took the time to sign
autographs and chat with the youngsters. The Blues Brothers were there entertaining
between innings and sitting and goofing in the stands during the game. The nameless lion
king mascot was everywhere leading the cheers. In between innings, there were games and
audience participation events. No beer is sold, thank goodness. And the fans are able to
have real old-fashioned fun.
When the game began and the Queens Kings
took the field, their baseball buddies a group of eight-year-old little leaguers
from Mitchell Linden took the field alongside of them and stood there for the
National Anthem. The Kings have done their job of outreach and the community benefits.
The initial uproar of protest against the
stadium seems to be dying down. Its the standard NIMBY reaction to progress and
growth. In reality, there will be minimal effect upon the neighborhood. Hey, this stadium
holds 3,500 and Alumni Hall gets 8,000 for every St. Johns Red Storm basketball
game. The impact wont be noticed. Sure, some very close homes might feel the effect
of the lights at night or the loudspeaker system. Those homeowners have the right to
complain and deserve compensation. Perhaps, the university will buy the 4 or 5 homes that
are really impacted and house some meaningful educational program there.
Allison and I sat next to Edith and Howard
Schaerf of Bayside. Howard, a Met season ticket holder, had given away those duckets in
order to come see some real baseball at St. Johns. As soon as Allison pointed out
the Tribune banner in left field and explained our connection to the paper, the
Schaerfs shared a protest of their own.
Seems Bayside Village, just south of
Baybridge is bombarded by the noise of the Clearview Expressway. With sound barriers going
up all over major thoroughfares, it seems only reasonable to the Schaerfs that their
community of 800 homes be buffered by a sound barrier along the northern end of the
Clearview. Sounds fair enough to us.
Well as we munched on a variety of ballgame
snacks, played some in-between inning games, listened to Jake and Elwood Blues, we also
saw some fine baseball: good pitching, a couple of 350 plus foot homers and real sharp
fielding except for the Kings right fielder who ran like Gary Ackerman.
As the innings passed, I asked Allison if
she had enough. She said no; we stayed. Jake Blues sat next to her; we stayed. Extra
innings; we stayed.
In the bottom of the 11th, the best team
won. The Kings took a 7-6 victory to lift their record to 4-2. This was great minor league
ball. It was fun more fun than the big leagues.
Next Sunday, the Yankee Farm Team from
Staten Island will cross the Verrazano to take on the Mets team the Queens Kings. This
bridge (not subway) series has excited us King devotees. Allison has asked me to take her.
Join us at the game. Weather permitting,
well be in our Tribune seats Section 5, Row C, seat 4,5,6,7. Stop by
and say hello.
Too bad theyre going to move to
Lets go Kings!
Speaking of baseball, John Rocker is back
in New York. As you read this or shortly before, the Braves horrible hurler, pitcher John
Rocker took the No. 7 train to Shea (Thursday, June 29).
According to NYPD sources, the City
provided protection to him the way they safeguard diplomats and folks from Intel.
There was an NYPD detail of 700 cops per
day for the four days Rocker was in Queens. Police shutdown the airport when he arrived,
and halted traffic on the Grand Central Parkway and the Long Island Expressway during his
ride to his Manhattan hotel. Sources told us the protection rivaled that provided to
President Bill Clinton during his visits to the Big Apple. There were two cops on each
highway overpass during his trip, sources said.
Insiders also said there were 10 cops in
each section at Shea Stadium (where the sale of beer was limited), along with two cops on
every subway platform that Rockers "special" express train whizzed by.
Sources tell Not 4 Publication that
the NYPD had reassigned Transit cops a whole subway car of them to ride with
the rowdy Rocker as he made his way on the train from the Hyatt Hotel on 44th Street in
Manhattan to Shea.
Regular straphangers were to be kicked off
the car, our sources say, to be replaced with cops.
At Shea, Rocker, weather permitting, met
with a rally protesting his "tirade against immigrants, Latinos, African-Americans,
Asians, Gays and all decent and fair minded people."
The Latino Action Center had secured a
permit and together with a variety of organizations (including the NYCLU, Quisqueya Little
League and the Gay Officers Action League) that represent diverse New York minorities,
planned a protest a short way from the Shea Stadium station on #7 line.
From what we understand, Rocker is a
regular at the Hyatt during his stints in New York and on board the #7 train from the
basement of the hotel where he rides it to Queens.
Hmmm . . . so this time, could the rocky
Rocker be looking for trouble or maybe, attention.
And just how much will this high-level
escort cost Mets-rooting, tax-paying New Yorkers?
PITCH: The Padavan Powder Puffs beat
the Weprin Wranglers 12-8 in the annual Legislative Trophy game of the
Hollis-Bellaire-Queens Village Little League.
We received a press release from Padavan.
None from Weprin.
of The Week: I Can See Clairly Now!
|This picture of Rudy Giuliani throwing out
the ceremonial first ball at the Queens Kings season opener is taken from their website: www.queenskings.com.
The Mayor is flanked by team GM Steve Cohen and Borough President Claire Shulman.
The online caption reads,"NYC Mayor & Queens Council Woman open new
Do the Queens Kings know something about Claires future plans? Hmmmm?
Liz Goff contributed to this column.
Michael Schenkler can be reached at: MSchenkler@QueensTribune.com
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