The crowd inside the Carrier Dome came to life as the over-sized “S” flag paraded around Ernie Davis Legend field on Tuesday.
The hometown basketball team on a big run?
Maybe the football version of the Orange connecting for a touchdown?
Nope, the nearly 4,300 people in attendance all wearing a slightly different hue of the usual orange and blue were yelling and screaming as the flag made its trip around the exterior of the playing surface for a completely different reason.
These fans weren’t rooting on the usual teams or anything capital “O” Orange at all. They were cheering for their own team and its pitcher, Noah Syndergaard.
He the very same pitcher who days earlier said he wasn’t exactly happy about having his New York Mets make a trip to central New York so close to the start of the Major League Baseball season. An opener set to take place in Washington, D.C. tomorrow.
That didn’t matter much once the New York faithful made their way inside the Church of Orange for the Meet the Mets Open Practice. And when Syndergaard waived the flag at midfield, well, let’s just say the man known as “Thor” probably could have also gone by the moniker of Mr. Syracuse... err, Scranton?
The fans, lining the lower bowl of the Dome, had been waiting for something, anything to truly cap the day off. And they got it in Syndergaard’s antics.
That’s not to say the franchise from Flushing didn’t put on a good show.
The Dome itself was decked out in full for the Mets, with all scoreboards promoting the team, and its colors and logos on display. Players also made sure to sign autographs, give out baseballs and pose for photos.
As for the on-field product? Let’s just say they did what they could in a limited setting.
There were some infield drills, and a couple of pitchers, including Syndergaard, threw off of a makeshift mound for a bit.
Totally normal day at the Dome... pic.twitter.com/bUrw104y9f— Matthew McClusky (@MatthewMcClusky) March 26, 2019
There were also cages for light BP and other baseball-related sights to take in. It was baseball in the Dome. A first. A must-see for a lot of Mets fans and non-Mets fans alike. Sure it wasn’t quite baseball in its truest sense , but it was as close as it’s ever been inside the on-campus setting.
Overall, however, the most attention-grabbing moments outside of Syndergaard’s flag-carrying run were t-shirt giveaways and trivia contests.
The day wasn’t for any true practice or workouts anyway. It was to A) have real-live MLB play of some form inside the Dome, and to B) promote the new-look Syracuse Mets, the city’s Triple A club that was formerly known as the Chiefs.
“It’s a Holy Grail in college athletics,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said in his post-practice press conference about the nearly four-decades-old facility. “I know the guys walked out and were like, Oh man, they did a great job.”
Callaway said he knew and loved Syracuse from his minor league days playing with different organizations that came into the city. He also added that he went to Ole Miss and that college football stadiums across the country, like in Oxford and with the Dome, are a part of the fabric of sports.
Brandon Nimmo echoed his skipper’s sentiments about the festivities.
“It was good and it seemed like everyone was having fun out there,” said Nimmo.
Outside of aesthetics, branding the Syracuse Mets as the baseball team for the region is something the New York Mets attempted to drive home. That carries even more weight as opening day for the affiliate is set for Thursday, April 4.
The Mets’ Triple-A outfit used to be located in Las Vegas, but switched locales after the MLB club’s ownership made a play for the Chiefs last year. Moving operations to Syracuse is an “ideal” situation according to Callaway. The hope is that shuffling some of the players around from different levels throughout the long season (a common practice) won’t be nearly as taxing. In fact, the Mets now have three affiliates within the state — a list that also includes the Binghamton Rumble Ponies and the Brooklyn Cyclones.
“A lot of guys came through Binghamton,” potential first baseman Dom Smith said. “We’re pretty familiar with upstate New York.”
(Smith also got some post-practice media laughs when he said he and his teammates talked about what they would do before the flight out of Syracuse. When asked for their possible plans, Smith said what most out-of-towners likely would: “we might go to the mall.” One member of the media throng suggested cruising what’s left of Marshall Street instead.)
Nimmo, who worked his way up to the Bigs over the last few years, claimed he was excited that Syracuse was the new Triple-A home for the franchise.
“We’re really excited about our partnership with Syracuse. I was one of those guys who was in Vegas.”
The six-foot-three outfielder suited up for the team formerly known as the Las Vegas 51s (now the Aviators) 139 times between the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Nimmo experienced firsthand the exhausting nearly cross-country flights which were combined with also trying to mentally, and physically, prepare for Major League games.
The real question everyone is waiting to see answered is how the rebrand of the minor-league team in the Salt City will do over the course of the coming season and the following years.
That will have to wait. For now, the Meet the Mets Open Practice appeared to be a hit.
And all things considered, it was probably a proper Spring Training send-off for the for everyone to have the most recognizable Met in the house grab the “S” flag and salute the fans.
“That was his (Syndergaard’s) idea,” Callaway quipped to the press after the event. “He got a lot of conditioning in running that flag around.”
Having the Mets come to Syracuse, if only for a couple of hours, appeared to be a worthwhile venture. That goes for the fans and for the players, probably even for the ones who didn’t want to make the trip at all.