For baseball fans, the gap from November to the end of February without the game can feel like an eternity. Hot stove talk and obsessing over players’ offseason training programs barely fill the void left by the MLB season, and due to a stagnant free agent market, this winter has been an especially difficult one to trudge through. But this past Saturday, the Queens Baseball Convention (QBC) at Katch in Astoria took the edge off for Mets die-hards.
QBC is easily the best part of the offseason. For the fourth time since 2014, the Flushing faithful gathered to peruse Mets memorabilia (how can you resist a drawing of Mr. Met dabbing?), partake in discussion panels, and brush shoulders with New York Mets past and present. QBC is organized by Mets fans Keith Blacknick and Dan Twohig. Panels this year included Mets Hot Stove talk, “The State of The Mets,” and a uniform panel hosted by my esteemed editor, Brian Erni.
This year, Darren also lugged the Orange and Blue Thing gear to Katch, and recorded segments with media and player guests for the duration of the convention, which you can see on this Thursday’s show.
Where QBC sets itself apart from traditional autograph signings is how it offers a unique opportunity for fans to interact with players on a personal level. QBC ‘18’s guests included former All Star catcher Todd Hundley, and current Mets, pitcher Chris Flexen and outfielder Brandon Nimmo. They each regaled the audience with stories from their respective careers at their panels, and took questions from audience members about topics like the new pace-of-play rules and predictions for the upcoming season.
But for both Flexen and Nimmo, this wasn’t where the afternoon stopped. They lingered around the communal area, and were happy to chat with any fan willing to strike up a conversation. At one point during the event, Flexen inconspicuously took a seat in the audience to take in one of the other panels, and milled about the restaurant hours after his signing session. Nimmo, despite his name being thrown around in trade rumors earlier this week, was all smiles for the event, and his wife Chelsea was equally as amicable.
“Chelsea was kind enough to just chat with MJ Lupton and me about her time in New York, the adjustments of moving, preparing for Port St. Lucie, and honestly, just being a newly married couple," Mets fan Loretta Oberheim said of the two, who exchanged vows this past November. “Having the access to any professional player would make any fan’s day. But getting to see the human side to someone we only really know as someone we see on the field, is something I feel could only happen at an event like QBC.”
That’s the real beauty of the QBC: how it humanizes the attending ballplayers, and gives fans even more reasons to root for the squad once the chill of winter gives way to spring. Now those who got to know Nimmo and Chris Flexen a little better will root just a little harder for the two come Spring Training, which is a great way to personally connect to your favorite team.
And after this little baseball oasis, the three remaining weeks until pitchers and catchers don’t seem quite as daunting.