Inside the experience of MLB’s London Series, which mattered much more than the Mets vs. Phillies scores

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webnexttech | Inside the experience of MLB's London Series, which mattered much more than the Mets vs. Phillies scores
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LONDON — I planned my honeymoon around the Mets, which in hindsight (and at the time of booking, if I’m being honest) was a terrible idea. Jet-lagged, dehydrated and somehow slightly sunburned, I headed into London Stadium, prepared to watch the National League-leading Phillies stomp the Mets in front of crowds of 55,000 people. It felt like I was being punished for some mortal sin I didn’t know I’d committed. The London Series, it turns out, was perfect. The baseball wasn’t particularly good, unless you consider ninth-inning chaos good (which I do, to be clear, but your mileage may vary). But The Baseball, that joyous, life-ruining, addictive part of our soul that we can’t seem to rid ourselves us, was good. The Brits may not understand baseball but they know how to put on a show. The concourse around London Stadium, built for the 2012 Olympics and now home to the West Ham United of the Premier League, was packed with the English idea of American food: disgustingly overloaded two-foot hot dogs and pizza that looked like cardboard and Philly cheesesteaks topped with a sauce I’m pretty sure glowed in the dark. There were jugglers and dancers and a marching band that didn’t march and batting cages and a DJ and beer bats taller than me (I’d unfortunately learn on the tube ride home that selling people that much beer AND a makeshift weapon is a terrible idea). It felt more like a Phillies home game inside, which would have been fine and a credit to the fandom had that not resulted in raucous booing of Quad-A relievers they’d probably never even heard of and definitely had no reason to boo other than the shirt they wore. But the main takeaway is that everyone was happy to be there, even as Sean Manaea gave up a three-run home run to Whit Merrifield and Jose Alvarado imploded to a level that should be considered treasonous. None of that particularly mattered. The boxscores say Mets and Phillies split the series. Great. Good for them. If the season continues on a stable trajectory, neither those wins nor losses is likely to affect either team. What made those games matter was the reminder that this is all supposed to be fun. I bonded with a Scottish man in the row behind me who thought the inning break after the first was halftime, and with the Philly bro in front of me who turned around to mock me over how much I was paying Starling Marte (I mostly graciously reminded him that Steve Cohen was cutting the check, not me). I saw jerseys emblazoned with the names of Keith Hernandez, Roy Halladay and Shohei Ohtani, but also of Stephen Nogosek, Dom Brown and Philip Humber. I saw more than a few Wawa T-shirts too. I found friends I hadn’t seen in years, thousands of miles from home, and eavesdropped as my sister politely, calmly explained foul balls to her boyfriend a dozen times. I sang along to “Mr. Brightside” and “Sweet Caroline” with tens of thousands of strangers. I debated whether an MLB team in London could work (my husband insists it could, I think the travel would make it impossible, even if the TV deals would make it worth it). At a Friday event at Trafalgar Square, I watched Shane Victorino and Ryan Howard take batting practice in the cage against Home Run Derby pitching legend Dave Jauss before giving way to a competition between Chase Utley and Daniel Murphy (Murphy, who took the entire thing way too seriously, dominated). Mike Piazza and David Wright were there. So was Dellin Betances for some reason. We were all there for some reason. Some of us were on vacation. Some of us jumped at the chance to see baseball in the land of soccer, rugby and cricket. Some of us just wanted a day out of the house. But we were all there together and for 18 innings nothing outside mattered. It didn’t matter if you could name the 2007 triples leader or recite Dedniel Núñez’s splits. The London Series counts for two games in the books, but it was an event more than it was a series. The Brits may not have gotten great baseball, but they got a great event.

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