Thomas Friedman’s Mets Spring Training PreviewBy: Sean Pidgeon
One thing I can tell you about Port St. Lucie: It is not Las Vegas. What happens in Port St. Lucie does not stay in Port St. Lucie.
Thanks to the Internet, news from Mets spring training camp can be viewed all over the world, even from call centers in India…oh, did I tell you about how I called the Mets’ ticket office for game info and who answers the phone but Raji from Bangalore? He makes $2.50 an hour, which is like CEO pay over there, and he’s paying his way through college, all while getting to watch his favorite team, the Mets. He grew up watching Mike Piazza thanks to SNY: Masala, the web based digital outlet SNY placed in its Asian markets.
But Raji’s Met fandom hit the apex of the ice cream sundae when young Jose Reyes joined the team in 2003. Raji felt a connection to a player with a similar complexion. Reyes’ story is fascinating because he grew up playing in one of the Dominican’s famed baseball academies. The American educational system has a lot to learn from the Dominican Republic.
As I walked back to my hotel room while pitchers and catchers finished their afternoon workouts, I began thinking about how 9 different teams have won the World Series in the past 10 years. Mets VP of player development Paul DePodesta said something striking to me this morning as we watched Mets ace Johan Santana, first discovered by an Astro scout who spotted him pitching in Venezuela through a webcam in his Houston apartment, throw warmup tosses to catcher Josh Thole, who learned to play baseball as a teenager watching the Japanese World Series online at 3 a.m. in his Breese, Illinois bedroom.
We were discussing Billy Beane’s sabermetric revolution, which fought for the freedom of small market teams to compete with the big money market Yankees and Red Sox. DePodesta said to me, “Tom, the baseball playing field is being leveled.” As I rode the elevator up to my Marriott third floor hotel room suite with its eco-friendly hot tub, I had a brilliant idea. Level playing field…level…hmm…flat. Aha! The baseball world has been flattened. Ole Christopher Columbus discovered that our world is round. But now the baseball world is flat.
The next morning I took part in a charity run around the bases at New York’s Port St. Lucie complex. David Wright placed a mock tag on me just after I slid into third base. I was safe—but impressed. Think of how great American industry could be if businesses modeled themselves after Major League Baseball’s flat world.
Thomas Friedman is a bestselling author and award winning columnist for the New York Times. When not on assignment in Israel or Egypt, he can be seen every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon at Six Flags in Bowie, Maryland, where it’s “all aboard” for Tommy’s famous mustache ride.