The I-Am-a-Baseball-Fan Fitness Plan™
Major League’s postseason is about to start. If you’re into the sport like I am, you know that, whichever team you pull for, following this game is a workout.
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If someone mapped my brain, 80 percent of it would glow a steady blue and orange, with the synapses simmering down during the off-season, then firing on all cylinders from spring training through to the playoffs and World Series. My team—the New York Metropolitans—do that to me every year. They’re in my blood, their wins and losses affect my moods, and I once told a date I didn’t feel well so I could go home and watch the game. This wasn’t true, but I had to do it, because the bar we were in didn’t carry the channel airing the action. Is this attachment emotionally healthy? Maybe not. But, physically, being a fan can be one of the healthiest things you do for yourself. Let’s break it down.
Step Count: The Long, Long Trip to the Yard
I live in suburban New Jersey, and the team whose heart I wear on my sleeve plays in Queens, so it takes significant physical activity just to get to the ballpark. On a typical game day, I leave home and walk a block to catch the NJTransit train to Secaucus, where I then walk upstairs, across a platform, and then downstairs to another train that takes me to Manhattan’s Penn Station. From there I walk to either the A,C,E or the 1,2,3—routes on the New York subway system—and ride that for one stop to the Port Authority terminal on 8th Avenue. And then I walk some more and switch to the esteemed 7 Line.
The 7 is the Mets train, in that it deposits you right at the Citi Field stop (Willets Point), except … when it doesn’t. Sometimes I think I’m on an express train (faster service, fewer stops!), but the 7 surprises me by converting to local service (too many stops!) at or near the Queensboro station, then going out of service altogether at 103rd or 111th streets, unceremoniously dumping a cadre of Mets fans onto the platform, forcing us to walk the rest of the way to the house that David Wright built. Our unexpected pilgrimage is punctuated with chants of “Let’s go, Mets” as I lay down an additional 1,000 steps on top of the 5,000 or so I’ve already done. Phew!
Let’s Play Ball! And Be Ready to Go On the Air.
Under the innovative direction of John DeMarsico, the SportsNet New York (SNY) broadcasts of Mets games have consistently been the best show in all of Major League Baseball. The dream for fans like me is to score an Ichiro Girl moment, having an SNY camera land on you in the stands, prompting announcers Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez, and Ron Darling to make favorable comments about your look as part of their award-winning banter. Like Ichiro Girl herself—a young woman named Iris Skinner, who was well-dressed and well-coiffed when her date with destiny happened—you need to prepare. That means going to the gym regularly, dressing right, and applying some make-up. After all, you’re going to a Mets game. Not a Jets game.
This past summer, I went to a road game in Pittsburgh, and I achieved the dream when GKR discussed the grammatical correctness (or lack thereof) of the Gary & Keith & Ron T-shirt I was wearing. (Gary wasn’t sure about using ampersands instead of commas; they all wanted to know if the name of Mets field reporter Steve Gelbs was on the back [no]; and Keith said he liked my shirt’s color scheme.) The possibility of another shining moment is enough for me to stick with a steady routine of working on my deltoids and biceps at the gym. The hope is that the fit of my Mets shirts is so good that being on TV will make some hot Mets fanboy propose to me on the Jumbotron, and then my mother can finally stop nagging me about not marrying the gorgeous furniture designer I dated in my twenties.
“Utah, Get Me Two!” A Fan’s Notes on Performance Nutrition.
I’m usually a traditionalist at the ballpark, so I’m perfectly content with a hot dog and fries or a simple sausage and pepper sandwich that’s about a foot long. But even traditionalists like options once in a while, and Citi Field has long understood the necessity for delicious snacks that take things to a higher level—for times when the game is stuck in rain delay, or we’re routing somebody 12 to 3, or an ace pitcher just experienced a season-ending injury and I need comfort food, stat.
To get to the specialty menu offerings, you must go to the top level (called the Promenade), which means climbing five flights of stairs. Yes, there are elevators, but they’re slow and small and COVID still exists, so you tackle the first set of steps and start climbing. “This is nothing, just a handful of single-leg step-ups,” you think as you breeze along, comparing your effort to something easy you do at the gym.
“OK, fine, these are more like weighted step-ups,” you say shortly after that, as the water bottle that security miraculously allowed you to bring in starts to feel as heavy as a kettlebell.
Then comes: “How am I not there yet?!” You internally scream as you realize that you kind of want to take a rest, but there’s nowhere to sit. And then you remember what awaits at the top: a Jacob’s Pickles fried chicken biscuit sandwich, Pig Beach BBQ’s “bases loaded” fries, or Murray’s buffalo mac and cheese. And did I mention cookies and ice cream?
So you charge ahead, with one more level to go to reach the promised land of deliciousness, knowing your butt and calves—and maybe your core if you are engaging!—will hate you tomorrow.
Dance Till You Drop: “Narco,” by Blasterjaxx and Timmy Trumpet
What was the song of summer, you ask? It was “Narco,” the entrance music that was used whenever elite closer Edwin Díaz jogged onto the field to blow away the opposition and lock up a game for the Mets. The song became synonymous with Edwin’s incredible skills, so hearing it and seeing him come in generated excitement and delight in every sentient person who was in the stadium or watching at home.
Timmy Trumpet himself was on hand to play it one night, just as Díaz left the bullpen during a game against the Dodgers. I was watching that game at home, and when the entrance happened, SNY made it clear that the atmosphere at Citi Field had become a full-on dance party—which I joined by bopping along solo in my living room. “Narco” is a song that makes you get up, and we all looked like we were rocking out at a bar mitzvah by the time the trumpets chimed in; awkward and slightly off beat, but with boundless joy and energy. Even if you don’t like to dance, you have no choice but to move your body when “Narco” plays. Maybe you’ll jump up and down, maybe you’ll shake your ass, but you will never be standing still. Dancing is excellent for your cardiovascular health! It builds endurance and enhances flexibility and balance!
The Axe Method for Relieving the Stress and Frustration of Enemy Teams
The 2022 Mets season has undoubtedly been a special one: 101 wins; Jeff McNeil earning the National League batting title; Max Scherzer getting his 200th win and Edwin Díaz his 200th save. Mark Canha was so charming and delightful when they mic’d him up for a game that he almost made us forget that this was for an ESPN broadcast instead of SNY.
But it’s baseball, it’s a long season, and it’s also the Mets—so, alas, there will be times when fate makes you want to punch things. A better alternative is ax-throwing, something I tried toward the end of the regular season, when the Mets were embroiled in a dramatic pennant race with the Atlanta Braves that we ultimately lost—still making the playoffs, mind you, but not winning the coveted crown to the National League East.
One Saturday afternoon, I, accompanied by another Mets fan, went to a place in Paramus, New Jersey, called Bury the Hatchet, where they offer the best indoor game there is. (And, as a bonus, Sebastian—the axe master on duty—was also a Mets fan.) It’s really the perfect way to burn off your anxiety and resentment. You’re working your shoulders, your lats, your core! And, little by little with every strenuous toss, you’re chipping away at how mad you are that they couldn’t win just one game in Atlanta in their last road series, or that they gave away a reliever you liked at the trade deadline. Even anger contributes to our fitness! We are the healthiest fandom by far! And an added bonus if your throwing companion happens to be tall, strong and handsome, watching him fling axes at the wall is hella sexy and helps you forget the pain.
This team has undoubtedly caused me to suffer over the years. My earliest memories are from 1987 at Shea, a season coming off a World Series win, when I was six years old and I already loved these guys (mainly because one had the last name Strawberry). But even at a young age I could feel the energy and excitement in the air. I’ve felt that energy and electricity again in the early- and mid-aughts, then in 2015, and now this year. I’m all in for these guys and always will be. But, on the off chance that my October baseball get cut short, you can find me throwing more axes in Paramus, toning my arms for SNY broadcasts in the spring of 2023. LFGM!