Summer in the City: MLB All-Star Game and Culture for Free

Just two months ago, my humidity-hating, sweater-loving self was dreading another sticky summer in New York City. Thanks to a number of recent events, however, I’m changing my tune.

Saturday night, I went with a group of friends to the Mariah Carey/New York Philharmonic concert on the Great Lawn in Central Park. I hadn’t worked myself up with excitement over this show; while I don’t dislike Mariah Carey, I don’t know much of her music beyond “All I Want for Christmas is You,” which she is unlikely to sing in July. But, it was free, the weather cooperated, and I tagged along with some Mariah-loving friends.

It turned out to be more of a New York Philharmonic concert (Mariah only sang three or four songs), but it was wonderful. Some of the Phil’s set included classic New York songs such as “New York, New York” and the song from On the Town (which I guess is also titled “New York, New York”? Never pondered that before.), and some of the score from the recently released 42.

My favorite part, though, was former Yankees manager Joe Torre reading “Casey at the Bat,” the famous baseball poem, with the New York Philharmonic providing musical accompaniment. I had no idea this would be part of the program, and when the number was announced, I winced and thought it might be a little cheesy. On the contrary. Torre delivered the poem perfectly, and the Phil’s background music – mimicking players’ movements and crowd excitement with its sound – added an element of emotion to the story I’d never felt before with just a straight reading. (My iPhone video of the last part of the performance is too big to deal with here, and I’ve had trouble uploading it to YouTube. I’m a little surprised MLB hasn’t put the entire thing online, but this clip will have to suffice for a link. Just trust me; it was great, and indelible New York memory for me.)

Hope and me at FanFest

Hope and me at FanFest

Thanks to a friend who works for a PR firm handling lots of ASG-related events, I scored two tickets to the All-Star FanFest at the Javits Center. I forced my sister, only marginally interested in baseball, to come with me (though we did clear up the difference between a no-hitter and perfect game for her, so it was a success) and we enjoyed the experience. I would have found FanFest to be the absolute coolest thing in the world if I was a wide-eyed 12-year-old, for whom baseball was a relatively new obsession, traveling to the game with my dad who’d be willing to fork over $$ for a cool new t-shirt and autographed baseball. I may be a little too old to be blown away by the spectacle, but it really was a cool set-up, and they had some especially great displays on the history of the Mets and the Negro Leagues.

Plus, since I wasn’t going to the Home Run Derby or the game itself, I loved getting to be immersed in some part of the All-Star experience while it was in New York. I live right off the 7 line, the train that’s carried thousands of fans to and from Citi Field the past few days, so it was cool to see all this – baseball-crazed kids toting loot bags through FanFest, tourists sporting their team jersey, thousands of passengers trickling onto the 7 train for the ride out to Flushing – happening in my backyard.

Aside from ASG events, I’ve also been able to enjoy a couple of NYC music events in Central Park lately. Yesterday, the New York Philharmonic played its annual show in the park, so I made another trip up to the Great Lawn to hear the performance. Then, tonight, the Metropolitan Opera performed various selections at the park’s SummerStage, and it was lovely. Just enough of the day’s heat had subsided that it wasn’t totally miserable outside, and I loved how the show featured only three singers, each performing a number of songs, like the Met was giving a few of its young stars a chance to really show their chops. My favorite part was their final number before the encore: a three-song West Side Story medley.

Both events were absolutely free, too (as was the Mariah concert)! Amazing free music, enjoyed in the company of friends on a warm summer evening, under the shadow of skyscrapers. This summer in New York is turning out to be about as perfect as it gets.

Getting Way Too Excited About Michael Pineda as an All-Star

It happened. Michael Pineda pitched in the All-Star Game, to rave reviews from the only critics that really matter – the people of Twitter. Tweets from casual fans and respected writers came flooding in, praising Pineda’s performance.

But don’t take my word for it.

ESPN’s Buster Olney:

Olney later tweeted that Pineda made the “biggest first impression” of any player at the game.

Fox’s national baseball writer, Jon Morosi:

The Mariners’ official account:

The three hitters Pineda faced in the second inning went 1-2-3: Troy Tulowitzki flew out to center (side note: I secretly wish Curtis Granderson was a Mariner), then Pineda struck out Scott Rolen and Rickie Weeks.

And no, I’m not ashamed to admit that I took a picture of my TV to commemorate this momentous occasion.

That’s my boy. Here’s to many more All-Star Games for #36.

Three for the weekend (and week ahead)

Ahhhh, here we are again. Another Sunday night, another blog post. I’d like to blog more consistently, so I feel a twinge of guilt every Sunday night when I realize that I haven’t posted in a week, but I remind myself that my time spent not blogging was spent working and exploring NYC. Both good things, I would like to believe.

I will make a concerted effort to post more this week, but for now, you’ll have to live with this random post detailing three great things about this past weekend and the week ahead:

1) Rainy day movie viewings

While my walk home from work on Friday was dry, the skies opened up later in the evening and the idea of going out wasn’t very appealing. So, we settled for a trip to Pinkberry and headed back to our building to watch the greatest romantic comedy of all time, “When Harry Met Sally…”. It’s definitely one of my top 5 favorite movies (trust me, I’ve ranked them). I LOVE it. Everyone was annoyed impressed with my ability to recite whole scenes from memory.

Michael Pineda sporting the best alternate jersey in baseball.

2) Michael Pineda as an All-Star

My new favorite Seattle Mariner, rookie phenom pitcher Michael Pineda, was named to the American League All-Star team today as a replacement for Justin Verlander. The guy is a freakin’ stud, outpacing King Felix as the team’s ace. I doubt he’ll get much playing time in the All-Star game (who does?) but it’s cool to see him named to the team so early in his career.

The All-Star game will be on FOX at 8 p.m. EST on Thursday. This year it’s being played at Chase Field in Phoenix, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and I think we can all agree it’s a real shame that the park can no longer be called the BOB (a nickname the park enjoyed during its years as “Bank One Ballpark”).

3) Bananas

I hate bananas. I haven’t eaten once since maybe age four (and even then, I probably just ate the chocolate off of a chocolate-covered banana). But, my dad sent me this interesting Wall Street Journal article on banana consumption in New York City, and it’s worth a read if you’re interested in bananas and/or the economy and/or New York. Apparently, New Yorkers are banana-crazed. This article takes a look at how the NYC banana business runs, how much they cost at different locations and what types of bananas people want to buy.

Well, I hope you enjoyed three bullet points about three completely unrelated topics. If you have three (or one or two) funny comments, links or thoughts to share about your weekend, please share; I’d love to read them!

Photo credit: NBC Sports Hardball Talk