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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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A Dreamy Afternoon

Ever have one of those days that feels perfectly normal while it's in progress but is totally bleeping surreal once you take a step back from it?

I went to the game today. I have the ticket stub to prove it. The Mets won 2-0. It's in my Log, so I'm duck positive it happened. But everything about it, which proceeded in seemingly ordinary fashion, may have actually taken place in the corners of my subconscious.

Consider:

• I only get a few hours of sleep and relentlessly hit my snooze button until 11:47 so I come close to missing my 12:15 train. (I'm usually up and at 'em when a game is on the line but today I rush like Reyes to get ready).

• Despite worrying that I would cut it close, I find the time to get all three of my papers, including the last Newsday at the convenience store next to the train station (I'm always dreaming about stores selling out of newspapers; it's also worth noting that the Saturday edition of Newsday is a little hard to come by because they try to push an early Sunday version that I have no use for…and I got the last one).

• I'm on the 12:15 with my plan working to a tee — get off at Jamaica and board the train that immediately follows to Woodside, just as I've done several times before this season. Except it's the 11:15 that has a Woodside train trailing behind it; if I wait for the Woodside connection at Jamaica now, I'll be very late in meeting my friend who has the tickets — it's an uncharacteristic commuting mistake, the kind I deep down fear making.

• So I get off at Jamaica and search out the E to Roosevelt Ave./74th St. (something I've never done for a Mets game) where I figure I'll get the 7 to Shea.

• On that E, I'm sitting and reading that Newsday when a pregnant woman steps on and seems to have nowhere to sit. Years ago I read an article in which one expectant mother after another complained that nobody on the subway has the manners to give up a seat. Since then, I've always remained on the lookout for a with-child passenger and today, on a train I had no intention of being on, here's my opportunity. I scoot over. She smiles. My good intentions are rewarded.

• When the E gets to Roosevelt, I wind my way up to the 7 platform (often wondered about connecting this way but had never done it before; it seems to take forever).

• The 7 arrives and the first thing I notice is someone in a Chicago Bears jersey with a name I don't recognize: TERRELL. Then I see a Cubs t-shirt with RAMIREZ 16 on the back. There's even a girl wearing shades and affecting the Ditka look. I see far more Cubs fans than Mets fans. This is displaced déjà vu to last September when I arrived at Shea for what would become The Victor Diaz Game and was overwhelmed by how many Chicagoans had alighted in Flushing. It was spooky then and it is spooky now.

• As we hit Shea, it is inching toward game time. I told my friend I'd meet her around 1 and it's nearly 1:15. I had wanted to swing by the advance ticket window but realize I will have to wait (everybody from Dorothy to Toto has had the dream of being thisclose to a desired destination but not quite making it).

• I meet my friend and she's wearing a black Mets cap from the 2000 World Series and a navy t-shirt that says CHICAGO on the front and MADDUX 31 on the back. Tell me that's not weird.

• My friend reveals she's carrying a Mets shirt to change into once Greg Maddux leaves the game. Tell me that's not weird.

• She has these tickets because her brother got them through work this week. Her brother has the exact same name, first and last, as one of my oldest friends in the world, someone I rarely hear from but did this week because he invited Stephanie and me to a barbecue — which I had to decline because I'm going to a baseball game at the very same time he's lighting his coals…with tickets supplied by somebody with the same name as his.

• We go through the turnstiles and they're handing out Mets binders to kids, but not us, another dreamlike disappointment. What makes it stranger is instead of merely ignoring me, the girl who's handing them out tells me to enjoy the game. I reflexively say “thank you” and she cheerily says “you're welcome!” Now could that really happen at Shea?

• Our seats are on Field Level. Now it's totally a dream because I've been to eleven games this season and every one of them has had me in Mezzanine. Not only is it Field Level, but it's as close to home plate — aligning with the pitcher's mound on the first base side — as I've been in years. Plus, it's in the second-to-last row of boxes, so it's a view I haven't really seen of Shea. After 300-plus games, there aren't too many of those.

• We arrive just as the game is starting. There are lots of people surrounding us but nobody seems all that interested in the Mets. There are scattered applause for the Cubs, but it's nothing like last September. These people just aren't into baseball. They're talking on cell phones and yakking about their jobs and playing with their hair. There's this one woman in particular who's squawking like a barnyard bird about everything but the Mets. She sounds like this horrible person named Myra we used to work with. My friend makes me all the more aware of these people by pointing out how annoying they are but for some reason it doesn't bother me that much. Strange, I'm usually sensitive to non-Mets talk at Mets games.

• My friend in the Maddux shirt and the Mets cap won't quite root for the Mets but won't quite root against them as they build a run in the first. She seems to be on both sides of the aisle but without a foot planted firmly in either. Not too many people root the way she does.

• She hands me something from her bag. It's a plastic cup that with a holographic image of the 2004 World Series trophy, and the cup says the Red Sox are World Champions. What's this doing at Shea? Wait, there's something in the cup. It's a t-shirt (oddly, the second time this week that somebody has thoughtfully given me a t-shirt at Shea). It says YANKEES CHOKED: WORST COLLAPSE IN SPORTS HISTORY! I get a big kick out of it. She tells me she got both of these items at Fenway Park. Huh? We're at Shea Stadium. How does a person just go to Fenway Park? She explains that she went with a friend from Minnesota. Minnesota? What an odd state to bring up. They went to see the Twins and the Red Sox. The Twins? But we're Mets fans. What are you talking about? For the rest of the game, she peppers her running commentary on the game and the annoying people around us with what Twins fans think and say and such. I must be imagining this. My friend is a Mets fan. I mean she's a Cubs fan. But now she's telling me about Bert Blyleven and Michael Cuddyer…and Fenway Park!. It's so weird!

• Jae Seo is pitching for the Mets. Jae Seo? I last saw him at RFK Stadium. He isn't even on the team anymore, is he? Why am I dreaming about Jae Seo? But Jae Seo is pitching brilliantly. He's outpitching Greg Maddux. For a while, he doesn't give up a hit to anyone except to Greg Maddux. (How freaky!) And then Greg Maddux steals a base on Jae Seo. (How freakier!) When Jae Seo finishes another strong inning, the DiamondVision shows a whole section of fans waving ThunderStix with Korean writing on them. (How freakiest! I remember seeing those the only other time I was here for a Jae Seo start, but where did all those ThunderStix suddenly come from?)

• Aramis Ramirez, the guy whose shirt was being worn on the 7 train, fouls off one of Jae's pitches. It's coming back toward us. It's landing in the Loge boxes above us and some guy is about to catch it in his glove, but he drops it and it falls in behind us. Who should get it but that squawking Myra woman? She immediately starts babbling about how she needs to get it autographed or it should come autographed or something. OK, this is too bizarre. It HAS to be a dream.

• I suddenly realize I'm on the Field Level, an area that always seems so forbidden when I'm in Mezzanine. I want to get something to eat, but not just anything because I know they must sell really special food on this level. So I get up to walk around and see what's available. I find the Daruma stand. It's the one that has Japanese food. I love Japanese food! It's my favorite! I remember this place from seasons past. It used to be in the right field food court. Then it was in the “international” food court in left field. Now it's just standing by itself. Hmmm… I look at the menu and the prices are all obscene, except for one. The Bento is $10. I love Bento boxes! Who'd have thought they'd have them at Shea? So I ask the lady for one. I expect it to come out from a refrigerator, but she just hands me the one that's on the counter and tries to interest me in some shumai. I decline and take my Bento, worried that it's been sitting out too long.

• I bring the Bento Box back to my seat and my friend warns me that I may have made a bad choice given my delicate constitution. She may be right, I think. I'm always choosing the wrong thing to eat at the ballpark. I always regret it. But I say, no, Japanese food has never steered me wrong before. Yeah, she says, but it's Shea. Hmmm…

• I start to eat the contents very fast. It's a very unusual Bento Box. It has a big chunk of salmon. I don't notice any chopsticks (which I can't use anyway) and I didn't think to ask for a fork, so I start to eat the salmon with my hands. I start to eat everything — some fried chickeny thing, some vegetables, some grapes (what are grapes doing in a Bento?) — with my hands. And I eat fast because although we are in the second to last row of this section and it's now 3 o'clock, the sun is suddenly beating down and I'm beginning to worry about the salmon and everything going bad in the heat. I finish quickly and my friend hands me a tiny bottle of Purell, that hand-sanitizing lotion. I pour a little on my hands but she tells me to use a lot, that she has two big bottles at home. I don't ever recall discussing Purell at a baseball game. Or using Purell.

• As I shove the mostly empty box back in the bag, I find a fork was in there the whole time. Where did that come from?

• Although the Mets are winning 2-0 and Jae Seo is beating the great Greg Maddux, all I can think about is how I may have made a terrible mistake in eating what I ate. I just want the game to be over. All at once I hate all the people my friend hates. The Myra woman. The hair twirler. The cell talkers. There's a guy a few rows ahead of us wearing a Piazza shirt and he gets up every few minutes to stretch which blocks my friend's view of Greg Maddux warming up. She points this out each time he gets up. Then she shows me the shirt she brought to replace her Maddux shirt is a Piazza shirt. And Mike isn't even playing.

• “Look,” she says. “Fred Wilpon is throwing Cracker Jack to the fans from his luxury box.” And he is. What is Fred Wilpon doing in my dream?

• I can't concentrate on any of this anymore. I have to wash my hands and get more water. Both will keep me from getting sick. I take my radio with me. Dae-Sung Koo is replacing Jae Seo. Koo? The guy who didn't pitch for two weeks is now pitching every day? HUH? Gary Cohen says something about how the Mets' Korean interpreter, a man named Lee, is sure to be a busy man after the game. Who is Gary talking about? Lee? Like Carlos Lee? Derrek Lee? Usually you clear things up, Gary. Now you're just confusing me.

• I wash my hands and drink my water. I feel a little less anxious, a little less restless. Koo gets an out but with Derrek Lee due up, Willie replaces him with Roberto Hernandez, appearing for the first time since pitching so poorly earlier this week. Out of nowhere, one guy in our section, a section notoriously not interested in the Mets, stands up. He's wearing a blue Mets cap and he too looks a little like Ditka. He starts screaming at Willie to not bring in Hernandez, that he stinks. And in a manner I can't imagine I would affect in real life, I start passively-aggressively yelling back ostensibly at nobody but essentially at him: “JESUS CHRIST! HOW CAN YOU GET DOWN ON ROBERTO HERNANDEZ? HE HAD A BAD WEEK? WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?” I'm completely incensed. Even the Myra woman notices my shouting but that guy doesn't. Regardless, I don't get this way.

• Hernandez strikes out Derrek Lee. He preserves the lead so Seo can still get the win. I take a few steps down from my seat so I can be parallel to the guy who was yelling at Willie and I start screaming “NICE CALL WILLIE!” Truly, I don't do that sort of thing.

• Braden Looper works a 1-2-3 ninth and the game ends, but the dreamlike quality of the afternoon doesn't end with the win. I now insist to my friend that we have to go to the advance ticket window. It's been in the back of my mind all afternoon. I was going to buy tickets for one game, but now decide to do it for two — one of them is Umbrella Night, something the Mets haven't held in years. Our tickets to today's game, the one we just saw, include Diamond Club passes. We've never been to the Diamond Club, not really. Just earlier this week I wrote something about the Mets Hall of Fame and how it's near the Diamond Club but I say, no, we have to go the advance ticket window now. After games, it's become my custom to make haste to the subway so I can get to Woodside. Today that would be helpful because Stephanie will be taking a train home from the city and if I play my cards right, I can meet up with her and we can go home together. But no, the advance ticket window is more important than anything. I must go there now!

• There are two lines when we get there. One is long. One is short. The long line is filled with Cubs fans. We get on the short line. The short one moves quickly but just before I get to the window, my friend points out Fred Wilpon again. He's leaving through the executive entrances and is being escorted to his limo. Two Fred Wilpon sightings in one day — two more than I've had in my entire life up to now?

• I buy two pairs of tickets, one for Umbrella Night and one for the night before. It's tremendously discounted. Seriously, there's an LIRR discount. And now I have to go to the LIRR. I have to get on the 7 and get to Woodside and reach my wife and see if there's any way we can go home together. Yet I don't move all that fast because I don't want to deal with the clock. I didn't want to deal with the clock when I was supposed to wake up and I don't want to deal with it now even though the railroad runs on a tight schedule.

• We get to the 7 and get on a car that is to the right of where I almost always make sure to get on when I'm going to Woodside. I try to grab us two seats but can only find one. I give it to my friend. When she gets off at 74th St. (where I got on earlier for the first time ever), I'm about to sit down in that seat but see a woman who, except for not being pregnant and being older, looks like the woman I scooted over for on the way to 74th St. earlier today. So I say, “please, sit down,” and she does. She's wearing a blue Mets cap adorned with all sorts of Mets pins. I start to tell her how much I admire her collection. She tells me all about it, how she changes them constantly. I ask if she takes out the pins for the players who have been traded. She says yes, except for Tom Seaver and Darryl Strawberry. The I start telling her that I have a pin collection but it's in a frame. I'd tell her more, but I have to get off. Woodside is here.

• At Woodside, I look at my watch. My guess is Stephanie is on a train that is about to leave Penn Station. I will call her in a few minutes. But before that, I'm going to leave the station and go across the street to get some ice cream at Baskin-Robbins. I've never done that in Woodside but I reason that if there's any problem from the Bento Box (and none has revealed itself) that ice cream will soothe it. Did I mention I'm wearing my 1997 ice cream cap — the style modeled by Bernard Gilkey and John Olerud if you scroll down far enough — for the fifth game in a row that I've gone to and the Mets have won all five and now I'm buying ice cream in Woodside instead of being upstairs on the platform? That same friend who was with me today, incidentally, was with me the day I bought the cap more than eight years ago.

• I choose Rocky Road. One scoop. I get back on the escalator to the LIRR. It's a long ride. I stake out a space on the platform, finish the ice cream and call Stephanie. It rings several times before she answers. She is indeed on a 4:36 out of Penn Station. It's about 4:42. I tell her where I am and that I'm waiting for a 4:50. I also tell her that her train should probably whiz by me any minute. It does. She tells me she can see me and she waves to me. But I can't see her. Hey, I say, I know — instead of you going home now and me coming home later, get off at Jamaica and I'll meet you there. Sit in that spot where we sat a couple of Sundays ago when we took the Wolfs to the game. It will be great! She agrees to do so.

• I briefly turn my radio back on. A caller to WFAN is going on about the 1992 World Series between the Blue Jays and the Phillies (it was 1993) and how the Phillies let Wild Bill pitch so much (it was Wild Thing) and his point was that pitching coaches like this guy on the Mets, Anderson (Peterson) don't know what they're doing. I shut off the radio.

• The 4:50 comes to Woodside. I get out my ten-trip ticket. I remember that earlier, because I got off at Jamaica for the E, they never punched that trip a second time. This means if I can avoid a conductor, I can save a trip, so to speak. It becomes the most important concern in my world at this moment. But shortly before Jamaica, they call for Woodside tickets. I reluctantly give in to the system. Then, moments before we arrive, another conductor shows up and asks for the ticket again. No, I say, you already got me. (They never ask for a ticket twice between Woodside and Jamaica.)

• I get off at Jamaica. I'm making my way to where I told Stephanie to wait for me. As I approach the escalator, I see two people. They're not Korean. But they're holding those Korean ThunderStix.

• I come up the escalator. As it rises, who do I see sitting and reading a book but my beautiful wife. It's the best sight I've seen all day in the least likely place. She and I have been through Jamaica countless times in our lives together and separately but never have we decided to meet like this. It's so new. It doesn't seem real, but it is.

• And we head home and get home and here I am, only now noticing how surreal a seemingly normal day can feel sometimes.

Especially the part about Looper working a 1-2-3 ninth.

7 comments to A Dreamy Afternoon

  • Anonymous

    I was starting to swoon from your narrative..waves of alpha dancing in my cerebrum… falling into a trance induced symapthetic vibration…and then the rocky road snatched me out of it…marshmallows and walnuts dancing now in front of my now wideawake and super-real chocolate consciousness..as I head out the door in search of 31 flavors, I glance back at the pixalated screen and yell ..”this is not a dream”

  • Anonymous

    Stop calling me a Cubs fan!! I HATE the Cubs!!!! It's not my fault he's there!! I never rooted for the Cubs yesterday… I just didn't root against Greg Maddux. There's a difference. My Cubs-hating pedigree is indisputable. Die, Cubs, DIE!!! Just not every fifth day.
    And it was both satisfying and vindicating to see you finally getting as upset about the senseless, illogical booing as I am. It's absurd, unnecessary and tiresome. As for me talking about the awful squawking woman, she was way too loud and continuous for anyone to have heard a word I said to you. Or anything they attempted to say for each other, for that matter. What a horrible, horrible woman. And she was quacking/cackling in that searingly annoying voice nonstop, at dog frequency!! The only time she shut up was to drink. Then she was off to the races again.
    And if you're not used to my Maddux and Twins affinities by now… there is no hope. Maddux of course is my own fault (so sue me, I have taste) but the Twins can be dumped squarely in the lap of Steve Phillips. Matt Freaking Lawton in the house should have been a reminder of how the whole thing started. I didn't get here on my own, you know. Just add it to the list of stupid situations Steve Phillips has landed us in. I hate him.

  • Anonymous

    Cubs fan. (Silence) (Silence) (Silence) (Silence) Cubs fan. (Silence) (Silence) (Silence) (Silence) Cubs fan….

  • Anonymous

    BTW, John Harper in the Daily News has a very nice reconstruction of Roberto's confrontation with Derrek Lee.

  • Anonymous

    Ah, but I AM used to your Maddux and Twins affinities. It seems completely logical that my friend the lifelong Mets fan idolizes the pitcher who's beaten the Mets more than any other active pitcher. And the Twins? I practically think of them as the Mets' other 25-man roster thanks to you. That's why it seemed so normal while it was going on.
    Only when I stepped back and thought about it did it seem…unusual.
    I didn't even connect the presence of Matt Lawton with all of that. Wow, it really was a strange dream.
    As for the squawky lady, I'm duck positive she's forgotten she was ever there.

  • Anonymous

    Just being down there with all those people who seemed to not notice a ballgame was going on was indeed surreal. It's been so long since I've been down there with them that I'd forgotten how different it is. Makes one want to run shrieking to the baseball-friendly confines of the upper deck. I mean, those two girls next to us never turned their heads toward the field once all day, and the only times they even acknowledged the Mets' existence were during the endless string of phone calls they made to their friends to announce they were at a Met game. Which was only technically true… they might as well have been at Starbucks.
    God, has he really beaten us more that any other active pitcher? I'm sorry. All those little details are blurred for me. But I still worship the water he walks on. And probably 6 years from now, I'll be at Cooperstown to usher him in.
    LGM!!!!!!

  • Anonymous

    Oh, and I'd just like to point out in my defense that I probably wouldn't have even noticed Standing Piazza Guy and Obsessive Hair Twirler if Greg Maddux had not been pitching. These two minions of Satan stood (one quite literally) between me and my own personal Jesus all day. I had a perfect view of the mound from my seat, and they were spoiling it. Long after they have forgotten who pitched that day, I'll still be savoring the memory of it.
    So yeah, I was pissed. This baseball stuff actually means something to me. Go figure.