Baseball season is finally here in Syracuse.
After the entire 2020 season was canceled in Central New York, the Syracuse Mets returned to the diamond Monday for their final tune-up practice ahead of Tuesday's season opener.
For the Mets, Monday's media opportunity was a chance to meet several new players and staff, including new manager Chad Kreuter. Kreuter was hired prior to the 2020 season but due to the COVID-19, his debut as Syracuse's bench boss would wait a full year. He made it clear how excited his ball club was to get back on the diamond, while also noting that "many of these guys haven’t played meaningful baseball since 2019... guys are excited to get back to what we do. We've been doing this since we were 10-12 years old. We are baseball people."
That baseball people sentiment was shared by Mets pitcher Corey Oswalt. Fortunately for Oswalt, he was one of several players who in fact did play baseball last season, as he did spend time with the big club in the New York Mets. However, even for him, the lack of a 2020 season and all the different protocols of this season has made things difficult. Oswalt noted that despite getting work in at the alternate site camp, it's "hard to simulate real live game action."
The team, however, did use their time wisely this spring. The Mets scrimmaged against Worchester for four games while they remained in Brooklyn training before arriving this past weekend in Syracuse. Kreuter mentioned these games were hugely beneficial in terms of players getting their timing down.
"Early in camp, we had 17 pitchers and 11 position players. It's hard to play a baseball game without a full roster, but we can at least challenge our pitchers with live batting practices," he said. "I think the scrimmages could work both ways for teams. Some teams might be ahead of the game since they've played more, while others might be a little behind."
Syracuse will open their season Tuesday when they host Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for six straight games as part of the new MiLB format this season. Kreuter said that he's unsure of how the players will react to the new format, noting that "teams will really get to know each other well. Games could get chippy later in the series, as guys are competitive and want to win."