NEW YORK – Hurricane Irene reduced the Braves’ three-game weekend series with the Mets to just one game Friday, and created a strange and hectic day for Braves players and coaches.
The Saturday and Sunday games were postponed because of the storm approaching the New York area, and will be made up as Sept. 8 doubleheader at Citi Field that will start at 4:10 p.m. The Braves will squeeze that in between road series at Philadelphia Sept. 5-7 and St. Louis Sept. 9-11.
“You just go with the punches and play it,” Braves second baseman said. “That’s the way it’s going to be. It’s not the first time we’ve done it before. Not that big a deal. We’re going to have September callups then, so we’ll be able to stay fresh – hopefully.”
But having the next three days off – including Monday’s open date – was not what the Braves preferred. Not after winning 15 of their past 20 games before Friday, including three of four in a series against the Cubs in Chicago to begin the trip.
“The only time I experienced something like this, when the season stopped, was 9/11,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “I’m not comparing the two at all, just comparing how the season stopped all of a sudden for a few days.
“But we’ll get through it. We’re playing pretty good going into it. You want to make sure you stay that same way coming out of it. There’s nothing much you can do. You can’t control mother nature.”
Gonzalez had seven Braves players come into his office and stressed to them to get the word around to the others, to make sure everyone handled the break well and stayed focused. The Braves will have a workout Sunday at Turner Field.
“It’s not ideal at all,” second baseman Dan Uggla said of the break. “But for me, the way it’s looking, if we get into the playoffs we’re going to have some days off, and I’ve never gone more than one day in-between games [except when hurt]. So this will kind of be like a little thing I can use to see what that’s going to be like.”
The Braves heard early Friday that the Sunday afternoon game had been cancelled, which had been expected since the full brunt of the storm is supposed to arrive Saturday night through Sunday afternoon. But most players and coaches didn’t know the Saturday game had been cancelled until after they had already left for the ballpark Friday afternoon.
Earlier Friday, the Mets’ plan was to move the game up from 4 p.m. to noon in an effort to play before the deterioration in the weather. That plan was scrapped when New York City announced it would shut down its subway system at noon Saturday in preparation for the hurricane.
Gonzalez was on the 7 Train when Braves general manager Frank Wren called him with the news.
“I was on the subway, one exit from the stadium,” Gonzalez said. “Frank said, ‘Where are you?’ I said, on the subway. He says, ‘Don’t get off!’ I said, what happened?”
Gonzalez got off, stepped on the subway platform at 103 St. and Roosevelt Ave., and waited for the next train going back into Manhattan.
“I got the train going back, got packed and came back,” said Gonzalez, who ended up arriving at Citi Field after 3 p.m., more than three hours later than his usual.
A few players got calls or texts before they left the hotel, and were to avoid doubling back. But most players and coaches had left for the ballpark earlier.
Via cabs and limos or the subway, one by one Braves players arrived, then were told they needed to go back to the team’s hotel in Manhattan to pack, because the team would be flying back to Atlanta after Friday night’s game.
The trip from the Manhattan hotel to Citi Field can take 40 minutes or more in traffic, and nearly that long on a local (non-express) train.
Brandon Beachy and Derek Lowe were already beginning their workouts at the stadium when they were told. They took a cab back, still wearing their workout shorts and shirts with Braves logos. They got some stares walking through the lobby of the Grand Hyatt team hotel.
Eric Hinske said he spent about two hours in cabs, going back and forth.
“It’s the worst day I’ve ever been a part of in the big leagues, as far as travel goes,” he said. “Especially in this city. But you know, what are you gonna do? Roll with it and try to get a win tonight.”