Mets host Military Appreciation Night at Citi Field

NEW YORK -- Days like Sunday force Sandy Alderson to think about his father, his time in the military and the men and women serving in the armed forces all over the world. The Mets' general manager, who served in the Marine Corps, deeply understands the importance of honoring the military.

"I can empathize because I was in the service myself, but they're the ones that are carrying the load. Both those in the military and their families," said Alderson, whose late father, John, served in the Air Force. "I have a tremendous amount of respect for them and what they give up for the rest of us."

On the eve of Memorial Day, the Mets hosted their sixth annual Military Appreciation Night at Citi Field in conjunction with the USO of Metropolitan New York. After budget cuts that resulted from sequestration forced the cancellation of Fleet Week, the Mets wanted to expand their own celebration of the military.

Several organizations sent representatives to Citi Field to offer assistance to military members, including Weill Cornell Medical College's Program for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Studies, St. Joseph's College and Dowling College.

The Mets donated over 5,000 tickets to military personnel and their families for the team's game against the Braves on Sunday night. The event was one of the biggest military gatherings in New York City over Memorial Day weekend.

The event also brought troops and veterans from different generations together. It gave younger troops a chance to speak with Vietnam veterans and older members of the military, offering them the opportunity to share experiences and support.

Steve Castleton, a volunteer with the USO who helped organize Sunday's event, said it's something he enjoys seeing every year.

"And you see the reverence the Iraqi veterans have, they just idolize them because of everything they went through," Castleton said.

Major General Juan G. Ayala, who has served in the Marine Corps for 34 years, said it's a humbling experience to see all the support nights like Sunday offer.

"We've very grateful," Ayala said. "Our country's been at war for 10 years, and I think it's very touching to know that people appreciate what we do."

There were several different events honoring the military before the game.

Children of active servicemen and women read the Pledge of Allegiance, the USO Show Troupe sang for fans and there was a re-enlistment ceremony in front of the third-base dugout.

The Mets and Braves stood among members of the military along the first- and third-base lines for the presentation of colors and the singing of the national anthem.

And a member from each branch of the military threw out a first pitch.

"We're very honored what the community does for us," Ayala said. "We've very honored with the recognition."

Alderson said the Mets are very committed to honoring the military. And it's on nights like Sunday that show how important it is to honor the servicemen and women.

"Whether you go to a parade or just take 30 seconds to thank the person in uniform maybe flying on your plane," Alderson said, "just so they know that they're appreciated."

Mets frustrated, but determined to turn it around

ATL@NYM: Collins discusses Gee's tough start

NEW YORK -- The Mets have reached their boiling point and cooled back down again. Everybody involved with the team is frustrated by the season so far, but the Mets have reached the collective understanding that getting angry and yelling at each other isn't going to fix anything.

Now, if anything, the Mets are only more determined to work together and dig themselves out of their early-season hole. Manager Terry Collins said Sunday that his players have weathered their early struggles with dignity, and he said he hasn't really seen the clubhouse turn negative.

"I've had some sportswriters ask me, 'When are you going to start yelling?' Well, who am I going to yell at?" asked Collins. "Who's not giving me any effort? I see it every day. We just got done having early batting practice. There were six guys out there. That's not the issue. The issue is we're just not executing on the field. That's certainly something you shouldn't be screaming about."

David Wright, the team's captain and most even-keeled performer, said Sunday that the Mets haven't been playing with confidence because they haven't been playing well. But he said that baseball is circular, and that confidence can come from the team winning a few games in a row.

"Everybody -- whether you're a fan, a player, owner, front office or coach -- is probably frustrated with the way we're playing right now," he said. "That's an understatement. The only way to change that is to keep plugging and change the results. You don't get out of the kind of frustration we're at right now by doing anything but winning. I think that's the way to solve that problem -- to start playing better baseball and to execute. It's a lot more fun coming to the ballpark when you win. That's for sure."

The Mets stand 12 games out of first place in the National League East heading into Sunday's action, and only six teams in baseball have a larger deficit. New York has gone 7-14 so far in May, and its 9-17 record at Citi Field ranks among the worst home records in baseball.

The early-season picture isn't flattering, but the Mets are trying not to let it get the best of them.

"We're in a funky stretch right now, but you're never quite as good as you think you are and you're never quite as bad," said second baseman Daniel Murphy. "I think we just got to the quarter-pole a couple games ago. There's a lot of baseball left. We'll keep coming out, keep working hard and hopefully we can get a little more consistent, starting with myself first."

General manager Sandy Alderson met with the media Sunday and expressed admiration for the way the Yankees have held together despite a bizarre spate of injuries. The Mets need to find their own resiliency, he said, and their character will be tested as they try to turn their season around.

"I'm sure there's frustration in the clubhouse," he said. "We're all frustrated, but we have to deal with the reality of where we are. And that requires us to move forward and come up with the answers."

Teammates voice support for slumping Ike

NYM@CHC: Davis' single snaps 0-for-24 hitless streak

NEW YORK -- Ike Davis may be losing the battle of batting average, but he's winning the war in the clubhouse. Davis, struggling with a .148 average entering Sunday, has heard daily questions about whether he'll soon be demoted to Triple-A Las Vegas, and his teammates weighed in on the subject.

David Wright, captain of the Mets, spent a few minutes fielding questions about Davis, and he spoke earnestly of the first baseman's value as a clubhouse presence. Wright, in essence, said that Davis has caught some bad breaks and too much outside scrutiny for his slow start.

"You feel for a guy because you do understand how hard this game is," said Wright. "Ike's certainly going through that, but throughout the process -- as I've mentioned a million times before -- he's been a great teammate and continues to do what he can to help this team win.

"He's gone through the struggles, but he's been stand-up about it and taken a lot of the blame on -- and probably unfairly. We've had quite a few of us struggle these first couple months."

Davis went through similar struggles last season but ultimately hit his way out of the slump, and the Mets have patiently waited for him to right himself this year. The hard part, said Wright, is being constructive and not trying to overburden Davis with too many ways to fix himself.

"Sometimes, you've got 25 different hitting coaches and all sorts of different suggestions," said Wright, a six-time All-Star. "The biggest thing is he knows this clubhouse supports him. This team and these guys in here support him. We have his back. Hopefully, the next thing we're talking about is how hot he's getting and how he's going to carry this offense like he did the second half of last year."

The Mets have all seen the press clippings regarding their teammate, and they know that ultimately a demotion might be needed for Davis to find himself. But until it happens, they want Davis to know that they support him and that they would like nothing better than for him to start hitting again.

"He's a pro," said Daniel Murphy, who dresses two lockers down from Davis. "Ike is always so willing to ask for help. As you can see, he's at his locker every day. That's a pro right there. That's a man that comes to work every day. I think he's a lot closer to where he wants to be. He looked good yesterday, and there's not a guy on this Earth that I'd rather go to battle with than Ike Davis."

Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said that Davis has garnered more attention for his adverse start because the team isn't playing well collectively. Things would look a little better if the Mets were winning, he said, but the bottom line is getting Davis back to being a productive player.

"Whatever we do, it would be with a view toward getting him back here and back to his level of performance as soon as we can," Alderson said. "Whether that's here over the next few games or somewhere else if it comes to that, the goal here is to get Ike back to the player we know he can be."

Mets hope to feed off energy of Subway Series

NYM@CHC: Wright gets Mets started with a solo jack

NEW YORK -- With their cast of veteran fill-ins and up-and-coming studs, the Yankees are bringing a tough test for the Mets to Citi Field on Monday night for the start of the 2013 Subway Series.

While they're scuffling heading into the four-game slate, the Mets see this as an opportunity to try to pick up some quality wins against a first-place team.

"Usually they're one of the premier teams in baseball, so I guess it's a good measuring stick as far trying to win a series against those guys, or beat those guys," Mets third baseman David Wright said. "You know if you're playing pretty quality baseball."

Even the Mets have been impressed with what the Yankees have been able to do despite a litany of injuries. From across town, they've watched the Yankees' disabled list become increasingly expensive with the number of high-priced stars that have gotten hurt. But instead of sinking in the standings, the 30-19 Yankees have managed to stay in first place with veteran castoffs like Travis Hafner, Vernon Wells and Lyle Overbay, as well as younger players like infielder David Adams and reliever Preston Claiborne.

The Mets have had their share of struggles with a stagnant offense, one that's going to need to break out of its malaise and hang some runs on the board against a quality Yankees lineup.

"They've got a good club. One thing they've always done, when they have issues, they find people to step up and they do step up," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "We've got our work cut out for us, there's no question."

Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said he's been impressed with what his Yankees counterpart, Brian Cashman, has been able to build this season.

"They've gotten tremendous contributions from many of the players whom they acquired late in Spring Training, or early in the season," Alderson said. "You have to admire that. I think it's shone a different light on the Yankees and the Yankee franchise and what Brian Cashman's been able to do."

For the first time, the series will be four games in four days -- two at Citi Field and two at Yankee Stadium. Wright said that could add a bit more excitement to a series that certainly isn't lacking much already.

Perhaps an added jolt of intensity and energy is what the Mets need to get back on track, and that's exactly what the Subway Series will bring. Even though the Mets and Yankees are currently sitting at two very different spots in their respective divisions, the Subway Series is still an exciting time for the players, and even more so, the fans.

"It's a lot of energy, a lot of electricity. It brings the city together, which is always a good thing," Wright said. "It's always fun to play in front of those big crowds, those loud crowds. It obviously gets the adrenaline going."

Worth noting

• The Mets are still watching top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler closely, and if he pitches well in his next outing, he could be ready for a promotion. Alderson said that the Mets would like to cap Wheeler at about 180 innings this season, and he also said the youngster could be on the move soon.

"I wouldn't say there's a timetable," said Alderson. "At the same time, I would say that if he continues to pitch well, he'd be here sometime in the near future."

• The Mets believe veteran Scott Atchison might be back in the Major Leagues after one more relief appearance in the Minors, and they will slot right-hander Jeurys Familia at Triple-A Las Vegas for a few injury rehab appearances before he's ready to come off the disabled list.

"We've got three guys out of the 'pen on the disabled list," said Alderson. "We'll just have to see how things go. Obviously, Familia is someone we're counting on long term. We'll just have to decide what's best for that long-term development, whether he pitches here or pitches there for a while."