Is This What It Means To Be a Mets Fan?

One of the best things about being a Mets fan is being able to watch Jacob deGrom pitch every fifth day. (via slgckgc)

I have some thoughts about Mets Dog. I’m retroactively angry about the 2015 World Series. I have never been more ready to argue the de-emphasis on wins when it comes to the Cy Young award.

I think Mike Piazza is the best offensive catcher in the history of baseball. I think it’s a travesty what Dick Young did to Tom Seaver. I think Yankee Stadium is, most of the time, a hollow pit of a soulless echo chamber. I will never question why Flushing, Queens, has a baseball team and why, say, Brooklyn doesn’t. I find the big seam-headed baseball man to be unabashedly endearing.

Most importantly, I am ready to get hurt again.

I am a Mets fan.

Am I doing this right?

***

I moved to Queens in April. My roots are in Boston, and I’m still a Red Sox fan, too, but that’s my American League team, and, besides, anyone can root for a winning team. I needed the type of team the Red Sox were in my life from ages zero through 11, when Aaron Boone’s name still stung like the pain from an old wound. I needed a National League team. A team where the pitchers still bat, for some reason. A team that still carried the urgency of pain.

And the moment I knew the Mets were for me was on April 27, a few games into my baseball fan free agency.

In an eventual 8-6 loss — in what turned out to be journeyman Travis d’Arnaud’s final game in New York — the meek but impressionable crowd was growing restless with his defense behind the plate; it had been a story over the past few days, a growing cause for hand-wringing. A passed ball by d’Arnaud in the top of the seventh inning led to a healthy amount of boos.

But all was forgiven, then unforgiven, in the time it takes for a 30-year-old catcher to run from first to second base. d’Arnaud roped a hit down the left-field line. The crowd, like a narcoleptic grandpa, awoke with a start and cheered — like they had always been cheering, like they had always been just this enamored with the guy now sprinting for his life in the infield dirt.

Then, buoyed by the noise of the crowd, d’Arnaud’s eyes grew big. He tried to turn his single into a double. He was promptly thrown out at second base. The boos rained down once again. The crowd went back to sleep.

That was the level of dark comedy I was hoping to get behind.

d’Arnaud was cut the next day, at which point it all started to turn around for him. He was eventually picked up by Tampa Bay, and hit .263 for the rest of the season, with 16 home runs, and now he’s playing in the American League Division Series. So Mets.

***

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What, exactly, are we all here for?

By June and July, I had settled into a perfectly mediocre season. And I was OK with that. The tickets were good and plentiful and under 10 dollars. Buy a seat in the 500s, and you just might have a section to yourself. Plus, Citi Field allows you to bring outside food into the park for free — something the ancient cathedral in Boston won’t allow. And that was important for me, as my Mets fandom has coincided with a time of personal economic downturn.

On July 24, in a home game against the Padres, the stars of my tight-walleted dreams aligned. I found the ultimate equilibrium of ballpark cheapness: free tickets from a SeatGeek promo code; free train rides to Citi Field and back (just tell the attendant in Flushing that you swiped in on the wrong side); no $12 beer at the game; and peanuts from the grocery store near my apartment, in Sunnyside.

Grand total: $2.68.

And, oh, then, there were the giveaways. The sweet tackiness of charming Americana. The Noah Syndergaard Game of Thrones bobblehead. The 1969 World Series replica jerseys. The Brandon Nimmo gnome that I simply could not have lived without. The Mr. Met emoji shirt. My one regret? The Jeff McNeil T-shirt giveaway. The black T-shirt depicting McNeil with a squirrel tail — that was the one that got away.

***

By August, the manager-reporter scuffle was less the story than the unusual amount of winning: 16 of 18 games to get back into the Wild Card race, and into our hearts. On August 7, I texted the most jaded Mets fan I know: Where was he on the optimistic scale?

“10,” he wrote back. “They have what it takes and are only a game out. Pitching is incredible.”

Foxed us again.

That run was good enough to reel me back in, too. To the point where I got that rare, organic feeling of happiness every time the team played — the type of dopamine hit only baseball can give you. Day-in. Day-out. The type of feeling every Red Sox pre-2004 can relate to, when Fenway Park was more angsty than kid-friendly.

Of course, that run had an expiration date, and New York’s National League team, while the other one ran away with its division and assumed its general role of big brother, fell down to earth and spent the next month and a half gearing up for a run that sort of almost happened, but never did.

The Mets stayed alive by the rules of technicality until September 25, when they beat the Marlins, 10-3, with Jacob deGrom throwing seven shutout innings. Pete Alonso hit his 51st home run. They were eliminated by virtue of a Brewers win over Cincinnati. I made it to that game, too, for the cool price of $7.

That night, I saw Mets Dog, the guy with all the pins, and spent way too much on a Shake Shack burger. I did the free train trick, and watched The Machine (the pull-up maven who destroys normal people in physical feats on the big board between innings), and finally asked a friend what I had been thinking but keeping to myself all year: Why are all the banners hanging in left field foul territory, for World Series and division titles, so small?

***

The season ended with a victory to make the Mets’ final record 86-76. The obvious story to wrap up 2019 — and the one that still resonates, even with the recent dismissal of manager Mickey Calloway — was Pete Alonso’s home run chase that ended with 53, the most for a rookie, narrowly beating Aaron Judge’s record from two years ago.

Alonso’s historic rookie year briefly transcended the niche world of baseball fandom. Even outsiders suddenly had reason to note the existence of the Mets. And I don’t say that lightly. I say it with proof: A few days ago, my dad, who dropped out of the rigors of following baseball day-to-day years ago, called me with a question.

He asked: “Have you heard of this guy, Pete Alfonso?”

So, in a way, things really are looking up for my Mets.


Sam is a writer living in New York City. He grew up in Somerville, Massachusetts and graduated from Emerson College in 2015.
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Dennis Bedard
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Dennis Bedard

I missed the boat somewhere. What did Dick Young do to Tom Seaver?

iancal
Member
iancal

As a Mets fan for fifty years I love a man who’s a glutton for punishment….Maybe some of that recent Boston magic will rub off

caminante11
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caminante11

You can bring food into Fenway Park. I do it everytime. You can’t bring glass or cans but just about anything else is ok.

BennyandTheMets
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BennyandTheMets

As a Mets fan, the only thing I hate more than the Yankees is myself.

Moltar
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Member
Moltar

I don’t know, I’d put my hatred for the Yankees in a tier below the Phillies and Braves. This second tier would probably be the Yankees and Cardinals. The Dodgers and Nationals are the next tier below that (the Dodgers seem to shift around based on their proximity to Buttley).

Sidebar, this postseason has been brutal.