NEW YORK — Welcome to interleague schedule world headquarters, a Modell's sporting goods store on 42nd Street. It's not far from Times Square, roughly typical home run distance for Alex Rodriguez.
Or David Wright.
Or Reese Havens, the former South Carolina shortstop and freshly signed New York Mets' No. 1 draft pick. Havens suddenly knows all about Big Apple interleague intensity.
Baseball's interleague concept has its flaws, as Chipper Jones knows too well. The Braves' future Hall of Famer complained early last season about the unfairness of an unbalanced schedule that had Atlanta playing the Boston Red Sox in two series plus the Twins, Indians and Tigers from the rugged American League Central while other National League wild-card contenders got softer interleague foes. Indeed, the Braves in a tight wild card scramble suffered from their 4-11 interleague record.
And who cares about Royals vs. Pirates?
But at Modell's there are rows of Yankees jerseys and T-shirts next to rows of Mets gear, and gobs more of the same stuff in youth sizes on the second floor. Business is good with the second Mets-Yankees interleague series of the season coming up this weekend.
The highlight of the 2008 interleague schedule is Friday, when the Yankees and Mets play a doubleheader, a day game at Yankee Stadium (make-up date from a May 16 postponed game) and a night game at Shea Stadium.
Mix in a knish and a falafel, and New York baseball doesn't get much more fun.
But subway access and street vendors are only part of what makes interleague play unique in the sports town that Ruth built. The extra layers are the major minor league boom towns of Brooklyn and Staten Island.
The Brooklyn Cyclones, a Mets farm club, and Staten Island Yankees are rivals in the short- season Class A New York-Penn League.
Both play in splendidly located new ballparks.
Brooklyn's Keyspan Park is on the beach at Coney Island. The famed, old-school amusement park is visible from most Keyspan seats.
Staten Island's Richmond County Bank Ballpark is next to the St. George Ferry Terminal, where commuters and tourists catch the free ride to Manhattan on the Staten Island Ferry. Home plate faces perhaps the best backdrop in baseball, the Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty.
Havens' whirlwind New York City tour started with signing with the Mets and taking batting practice at Shea Stadium before a Mets-Texas Rangers game. His parents, Brent and Nancy Havens of Sullivan's Island, were watching when he smacked a pitch off the huge scoreboard on the money side of the right field fence.
"Awesome," Reese Havens said. "I was a little nervous at first."
Then it was off to Brooklyn to join the Cyclones.
"New York City is a little different than you imagine for minor league baseball," Brent Havens said. "When you think about someone going off to play their first year of minor league baseball, you think about "Field of Dreams" or somewhere in the Midwest. But those people up there, they really get after it."
Reese Havens has adjusted well, packing his sense of humor for a long trip into his first professional summer.
"Everything is a lot quicker than it is in South Carolina," the 21-year-old told reporters on the Cyclones' media day the afternoon after his Shea Stadium debut. "You can probably tell because I know I'm not talking as fast as y'all want me to."
Brooklyn opened its season on Tuesday with the first of three games against the Staten Island Yankees, two in Brooklyn and one in Staten Island. All three games were sellouts, 7,171 in Staten Island and 8,200-plus in Brooklyn.
If you're scoring at home, that's Yankees-Mets interleague fever in four of New York City's five boroughs this month, and plenty of baseball buzz in Manhattan.
Havens, nursing a tender elbow, took in the first week of the season from the dugout. But he is expected back at shortstop soon and probably will be in the Brooklyn lineup as a designated hitter sooner.
His next step might be playing for the Savannah Sand Gnats, the Mets' affiliate in the Class A South Atlantic League, against the Charleston RiverDogs, the next step on the minor league ladder for ambitious Staten Island Yankees.
And later, of course, the New York Mets vs. the New York Yankees at the Mets' new Citi Field and the new Yankee Stadium.
Or maybe both on some same doubleheader day soon when Reese Havens jerseys are hanging in a store window on 42nd Street.
Reach Gene Sapakoff at firstname.lastname@example.org