This morning I drove down to the Opening Game of the Mets’ 2010 season. I was in an excellent mood, the kind of anything-can-happen-and-I’m-on-board mood I’ve been in for the past few days contemplating the upcoming Mets season. It was a beautiful, uncharacteristically temperate Opening Day. The traffic wasn’t bad. To put myself even more in the mood, I turned on the radio station that broadcasts my team and listened to the Boomer and Carton show. I listened the whole way down, hoping something would happen or change. I must report that listening to Chris Carton being a funny Mets fan didn’t put me in the mood for Opening Day. It put me in the mood for murder.
That was the only bad thing that happened all day. Listen to me. I went to Opening Day, saw the changes to the new stadium, saw a whole ballgame, saw lots of people I knew and didn’t know, and the only thing all day that made me unhappy was Chris Carton. This is what we call a good Mets day.
The Home Run Apple, the old one, the real one, the one that is bunged up from three decades of being cranked up and cranked down, was sitting proudly at the entrance of the Mets’ stadium. Surrounded by concentric circles of blue and orange pansies, it looked gorgeous and gleaming in the April sunlight. It greeted everybody walking up to the stadium like an old-fashioned friendly New York City apartment doorman. The sweet, honored apple was no longer hiding like a troll under a bridge, secretly photographed by fans who remembered its now forgotten fame. It was right out in front, as if it was supposed to be there all the time. It was the main event. This thing behind me, it seemed to say, the thing with the pretty arches and the now a little less ugly ads, is my friend. Have you met it yet? It’s still a little awkward around Mets fans, but I am here to introduce you!
Hello, Citi Field. It is nice to be introduced to you. I think I met you last season. So! You’re a friend of the Home Run Apple? Me and the Apple go way back. Any friend of the Apple is a friend of mine.
I go inside and guess what I get to see? A terrific little museum (I say little museum because if the world were perfect, I could happily spend a few hours in a Mets museum say, the size of the Whitney). But the world isn’t perfect and the world doesn’t share all of my obsessions, and this museum, folks, is just wonderful. It has a Mets Hall of Fame that looks just like the one at Cooperstown except with considerably less formidable admissions standards. It has objects of major importance and pathos. It has wonderful video streams, with glorious footage. It has literate, informative text. It shows every sign of having been put together by people who knew something about the Mets, and who knew how to select the few details and images that could most effectively represent the whole. As I was there, Jeff Wilpon walked through the place and if I had not been worried about security, I would have liked to have patted him on the back.
This is how good a mood I was in, having been welcomed by the Apple, having been able to visit the museum. I am a Mets fan because I like being a sucker about something and not feeling bad about it. I am sucked in again. Oh, how differently I would have felt if all of this had greeted me when I came here, full of mistrust, at the opening of last season. Oh how differently I feel now, coming to Citi Field now that the Apple is there to welcome me home, now that I know that within the stadium is the frightening smile of the original Mr. Met, an astonishing little sculpture of Casey Stengel, and momentous eternal black and white film of the New Breed marching slowly and forever with their banners. How I enjoy the slightly sepia posters they now have everywhere of great Mets moments and players. It feels as if the Mets past inhabits the building. Koosman leaps onto Grote at the entrance to the Champion’s Club, from which I feel slightly less resentful being excluded than the Ebbets Club. Everywhere there is memory, honor, and home. And the Jackie Robinson Rotunda now feels like a welcome part of it all, a component, not a strange reminder of what is missing.
I met lots of my Mets friends. And everyone seemed to feel good and to be happy with the changes. The Carvel mosaic bathroom floors came in for particular praise. I visited the Shea Bridge, and had the new crabcake sandwich at Catch of the Sea. It was wonderful. Lot of actual crab, hardly any filler stuff or onions. They feed us well in our new home.
It is my new home. Until its small capacity prevents me from going to a playoff game, me and the rehabilitated Citi Field are on the very best of terms.
And the team that plays here. Didn’t they look marvelous today? David hitting a home run in his first at-bat. Bay’s single and triple. Barajas’s double. That inning when all the runs blossomed and you saw that Johan’s wonderful pitching would not be wasted? The way the ball would go looking for that Bermuda triangle in the Marlin’s shallow center field. The way their balls all found their way into Gary Matthews’ mitt. Everything was good and solid and promising. And the broad bank of fans in the bright sun, whipped by the wind, roaring their pleasure, eating and drinking and slapping their hands, all made me feel that feeling that a good Opening Day blesses us with. That feeling that would have survived a whole afternoon of Mike Francesa saying “Folks! It’s only one game!” had I been foolish enough to turn the radio on on my way home. That feeling that we are in the morning of the world, at a moment that has never been lived before, that is waiting to be lived, by us, by those of us who are left, by those of us who can see the crooked smile of the first Mr. Met … and smile back.
A special thanks to Terri Herschlag, who enabled me to have the ticket for today, as she made it possible for me to get a ticket for the last game at Shea, and to Ed Marcus for taking the above picture of me. It was a pleasure to see all of the many Mets friends I saw today. I think we have a special and rare community. You can hear some of my impressions of the stadium improvements on The Happy Recap Radio Show this Sunday, 4/11, at 6:15 pm.