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Dinged-up Home Run Apple available for Game 2 of NLCS

The New York Mets put a bandage on

The New York Mets put a bandage on the Home Run Apple after catcher Travis d'Arnaud hit it in Game 1 during batting practice before Game 2 of the NLCS against the Chicago Cubs at Citi Field on Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015. Credit: Jim McIsaac

First things first: The Citi Field Home Run Apple entered Game 2 of the NLCS Sunday night in excellent working order despite its dramatic run-in with a ball hit by Travis d'Arnaud Saturday night.

"The apple is fine," Tim Gunkel, the Mets' executive director of entertainment, marketing and production, said four hours before the first pitch was to be thrown. "It's pretty durable."

Gunkel then invited a Newsday reporter to see for himself by pushing the buttons that make the apple rise and recede into its home in centerfield. All systems go.

"We check it every day pregame just to make sure it's good, its hydraulic system," Gunkel said. "But [Saturday] it went up for Travis d'Arnaud's home run and then again in the seventh-inning stretch when we sing 'Take Me Out to the Ball Game' and then again at the end of the game when the Mets won.

"So we had it up three times, so we knew it wasn't damaged."

What about dents, though? Gunkel said the apple regularly is cleaned and inspected for damage, and there was no evidence of dings after d'Arnaud's dinger.

"A couple of people did walk out today to look at it and see if there was a mark or anything, hoping to find something interesting," Gunkel said. "But I went out and saw it and I didn't see anything."

Just for fun, though, during batting practice the Mets put a large bandage on the spot where d'Arnaud's homer struck the apple and tweeted out a picture of it.

Gunkel said it is rare for a ball to hit the apple in a game. He and other members of the scoreboard crew discussed it and the most recent Met they could recall accomplishing the feat was Ryan Church in 2009 -- the first season at Citi.

"It gets hit during BP sometimes when nobody's watching," Gunkel said. "And it got hit during the Home Run Derby when we had the All-Star Game [in 2013). But it's a really strong metal."

Beyond the apple, the Mets have added touches for the postseason, including fireworks that shoot from the scoreboard after Mets home runs and victories. They come from Bay Fireworks of Bethpage.

Gunkel, who has been with the Mets since 1993, said the biggest difference when it comes to the playoffs is tone.

"Our job here is to entertain," he said. "That's the music, mascot, the scoreboard show. We like to do that during the regular season. But during the postseason it just seems more important. Everything is more dramatic. The crowds are more excited, more vocal.

"So I don't know whether we're feeding into that or they're feeding into this or it's a little bit of both, but we try and do a lot more rah-rah stuff like action highlights. It's a tremendous amount of fun for us. These are the games you hope to work when you work for a team doing ballpark entertainment."

During the regular season the scoreboard might display interactive games and contests and such. Not so in October.

"For the playoffs, because it's more of a serious competitive environment, you're seeing a lot more action highlights, highlights from the last game, from the big wins in the NLDS," Gunkel said. "The same things the fans are excited about, we're excited about. So that's become the basis of the show.

"The mascots, the Fan Fest area for kids, those things are always great, but the thing we have now is a packed house that's on the edge of their seats, screaming and just hanging on every pitch. In that environment the action highlights and the great plays, seeing a replay of [Daniel] Murphy's home run or d'Arnaud's home run, those just get everybody excited and that's what we're here to do."


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