Mets Open Camp

Spring has sprung. Fresh off several hours of organizational meetings on thursday, the 2004 Mets took the field officially for the first time this morning and began working towards opening day.

With Pitchers and Catchers scheduled to report to camp, Mets' brass made the media rounds filled with optimism for the upcoming season. Though position players aren't scheduled to report until next week many of the Mets everyday players are already in camp and some have been for quite awhile. And while much of the talk focused around the big league Mets making their first appearances in St. Lucie, the heart of the Mets plan to improve is quietly coming to the fore.

Already many of the Mets top prospects are here in camp and working out. Scott Kazmir, David Wright, Justin Huber, Craig Brazell, Tyler Yates, Victor Diaz, Mike Jacobs, Bob Keppel, Matt Peterson, Jeff Duncan, Bobby Malek, and Prentice Redman are already here and working out with the big leaguers.

The whispers you hear around camp are about "acceleration programs" and moving the promising Mets youngsters quickly through the upper levels of the system. The Mets have coordinated special programs not just for pitchers who have been adopting new pitching guru Rick Peterson's regimen, but also for hitters as the top hitting prospects in the organization have been invited to attend early instructional clinics designed to accelerate their progress and promotions.

So while fans swarmed around annual favorites like Mike Piazza as he strode from a back field where he worked on taking grounders at first base, and as John Franco and Vance Wilson as usual tirelessly signed every requested autograph, and as everyone oohed and ahhed as Matsui and Reyes were able to showcase their pre-camp work around the infield, the real story may be that, without the usual hype and hoopla, the Mets are pushing the kids.

Quietly, with as little public pressure as possible, the plan is unfolding. The Kids are coming. And while the public posturing may focus on the new faces the Mets have brought into camp, the players who are in camp, the integrating of the top prospects into the big league workouts, and the focus of the coaches on working with the young players are all key indicators that pushing the kids quickly through the system is a big part of the program.

PHOTOS: Heilman, Yates/Roberts, Yates, Kazmir(5), Looper(2), Wilson(2), Levis/Jacobs, Huber, Franco, Jacobs, Huber, Jacobs, McEwing, Wilson(2), McEwing, Kazmir(2), Roberts, Huber, Kazmir(2), Phillips/Piazza, Piazza, Phillips, Piazza(5)

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