New Traditions

The Mets launched the 2004 exhibition season yesterday with a 13-4 loss to the Dodgers yesterday. Following today's game in Jupiter against the Cardinals, the Mets will launch a new Tradition, as they open their new spring stadium on Friday night.

The stadium formerly known as Thomas J. White has undergone a transformation over the last six months, redefining itself as Tradition Field - one of the premier baseball facilities in Florida. The 7,000 seat stadium has been upgraded into a state of the art facility with improvements both on the field of play and off.

The exterior, formerly cold, utilitarian gray cement and chain link fence, has been refaced with warm red stone and blue wrought iron. Covered ticket lines and a huge new souvenir shop are among the immediately accessible upgrades. Big and brightly colored sineage clearly mark entrances and facilities, and entry gates now lead to covered walkway ramps that carry fans up to the main seating level. An elevator has been added to provide easily accessible access to the press level, luxury boxes, and to provide wheelchair access.

The seating areas have been both expanded and improved. Bleachers down the left field line have been replaced with seating and a picnic area. Additionally, bullpens have been moved into foul territory down both lines making them accessible and viewable to fans seated further down the lines from the dugouts.

The scoreboard has been moved from right center to left center and there is now a huge grass covered berm in right field, complete with concession stands, and a huge blue and white awning that provides covered seating protecting fans from both rain and sun.

The Mets have replaced the formerly closed press level with huge open viewing decks and a new press and luxury box level.

Additionally, there are three new rows of premium sitting that extend on to the field of play beyond the front of the dugouts giving fans seating that has views directly into the players seating, bat rack, and a true "field level" view of the game.

The new park provides a much cozier experience for fans viewing games. In addition to the expanded amenities, and the vast improvement of additional covered seating areas, which is crucial for Florida baseball viewing, the park seems more enclosed and invokes a much warmer feel. Players have reported that the berm and scoreboard relocation have reduced some of the wind factors and seem to have improved how the ball carries.

Game Recap: Dodgers defeat Mets 13-4

Despite the final score, the Mets were encouraged by the performance of Aaron Heilman who pitched an effective two innings allowing just two hits and a walk and striking out two. Heilman, who was 2-7 with a 6.75 ERA last season, has worked hard here in St. Lucie throughout the offseason, and in particular has worked with pitching coach Rick Peterson on all aspects of his game, both mental and mechanical.

In contrast, Jeremy Griffiths and Jason Anderson had less encouraging outings, allowing 8 runs between them in the third inning.

Mike Cameron homered in his first at bat, driving in Cliff Floyd, who had plated Jose Reyes in the first inning. Reyes hit the ball hard all three ABs, doubling and getting robbed twice by Dodger defenders. Ty Wigginton added 2 hits including a solo homerun.

The Dodgers were powered by Shawn Green, and 19 year old A-Ball firstbaseman James Loney who went 3-3 with a home run.

The Mets also got solid innings from Royce Ring and Pedro Feliciano, though John Franco and Braden Looper both got hit hard in single innings of work.

Piazza Injured

In a news item that shows how fragile the Mets lineup is, Mike Piazza has slowed down for a couple of days due to a reported "a slight cramp/muscle strain in his upper left leg". It is not considered serious.

PHOTOS: Tradition Field(7), Strickland, Wheeler, Moreno, Strickland, Weathers/Glavine, Botallico, Stanton, Eickson/Trachsel, Peterson, Seo, Trachsel, Baldiris, Weathers(2), J. Diaz, Keppel/Peterson, Moreno, Seo, Peterson, Snead, T. Piazza

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