Eppley, Nieuwenhuis take subway to the series

Eppley, Nieuwenhuis take subway to the series

Eppley, Nieuwenhuis take subway to the series
NEW YORK -- "Easy Al" Joseph of the Bronx was sitting on the 4 Train, heading uptown from Grand Central Station to Yankee Stadium. He stepped off the subway at 149th Street, and before leaving, he shouted diplomatically to the two uniformed Major League rookies onboard: "Gotta get off here. Hey, y'all win that game!"

Mets center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Yankees reliever Cody Eppley were straphangers at around 1 p.m. ET on Friday, having agreed to participate in an MLB Fan Cave video showing a player from each New York team actually riding the subway to the opener of the Subway Series.

Nieuwenhuis and Eppley started at the Fan Cave on Fourth Street and Broadway in Greenwich Village, where they donned full regalia. They walked to the Astor Place stop and rode to Grand Central, where they changed trains. A video crew was taping them the entire way, mostly with hidden cameras, to see what kind of surprised and natural reactions passengers would give their local players in a social experiment.

"I wouldn't really believe they were actual players going to the park," Nieuwenhuis said when asked how he would have reacted had he been the ordinary passenger. "It was just fun seeing their reaction, getting some looks. They'd say, 'Are you guys players? What's going on?' I think everybody was too shocked. They didn't really know what to say.

"Somebody said, 'Why are you guys taking the subway to the park?' I said, 'It's the Subway Series, right?'"

At one point, Eppley -- who usually takes the D train to Rockefeller Center to Yankee Stadium on the day of a home game -- got off the middle of the train during a stop and then walked to the end of the car so he could jump on and look like he was running into a Met.

"It's a blast," Eppley said. "To be able to get a little feedback from the fans and see what they're thinking, and get the excitement that they're coming into the series with, it's fun. You play for a series like this, just because of the enjoyment, fans wanting to be out there every pitch and every at-bat.

"People are just excited for the series coming up. It's a big series, especially with the way both the Mets and us have been playing. There's a lot of excitement in the city going into this series. The whole experience was a blast ... being able to interact with the fans. It was a lot of fun."

Joseph, the fan who wished both players luck, was wearing a Yankees cap and shirt. He appreciated what the players were doing. He spends much of his time with a group of R&B singers and rappers who perform inspirational songs at schools and in ways that reach inner-city youths.

"It's cool. They're normal people just like us -- they're just in a better position," Joseph said. "I do something to entertain people, too. It's a nice experience. I'm glad they're here."

Nieuwenhuis was seeing the new Yankee Stadium for the first time. He visited the old stadium in 2008, when the Yankees gave him a pre-Draft workout in the ballpark's final year. In this setting the Mets' leadoff hitter sometimes felt a little bit shunned, but he expected that.

"I think it might have been a little bit different if we were going to Citi Field taking the 7 [train]," he said. "It comes with the territory."

One Mets fan engaged him in conversation for a while. What did he say?

"He was saying he's a diehard Mets fan, he had been a fan since '68, stuff like that," Nieuwenhuis said. "We had a few [Mets fans]. You know, going uptown to the Bronx is Yankee territory."

While standing on the Babe Ruth Plaza, Eppley signed the left sleeve of a jacket worn by Aisha Bolden, who lives one block from Yankee Stadium.

"It's bananas here now," Bolden said. "I'm rooting for the Yankees because I live right here next to the craziness. But everybody's going to be going against each other in this city."

Both players went to their respective clubhouse and settled in for a monumental series. Both East divisions have been up for grabs all season, and the intensity level of Mets vs. Yankees is definitely amped a little more in 2012 -- like it used to be in the days of Mike Piazza vs. Roger Clemens.

"When you have such a good team like the Phillies in last place, it says something about the division," Nieuwenhuis said. "I think everybody's over .500 [except Philadelphia]. It definitely makes it a grinder season. We're in it for the long haul, and hopefully we'll be right in it at the end."

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.