The thing that never shows up in the boxscore or even The Log (10-7 on the season, likely clinching a winning record for the year; woo-hoo!) is how easily irritated I get at a Mets game. It has nothing to do with the outcome, which on Sunday was dandy, but rather the actions of those in my immediate sensory sphere.
My companion and I arrived in our seats by 12:20 for the 1:10 start because we didn't want to be Nos. 25,001 and 25,002 when Willie Randolph Bobblehead Dolls were only going to the first 25,000 (we needn't have worried). That gave me 50 minutes before first pitch to get riled up by my most peevish peeve: people who can't find their seats.
I'm sure there was a time I made the wrong turn, wandered into the wrong section, sat in the wrong row and had to be redirected. I know that when I visit a foreign ballpark, it takes me a moment or more to get my bearings. But as a fan who has entered those pearly Shea gates 300 or so times, I feel I can find virtually any seat blindfolded. Our 2001 Tuesday/Friday plan made me a master, learning by rote repetition and needing something else to think about besides Todd Zeile. When we were going to games twice a week (at least), I began to notice how clueless the plurality of daytrippers were. For every time I've been asked or, more likely, felt compelled to interpret a section, row and seat for some bewildered soul holding a ticket whose only hint of destination was the clearly marked section, row and seat printed right there in readable, bold, black ink, I could be an usher there.
No, I take that back. To be an usher there, I'd have to make myself scarce when needed to perform my duties. Then I'd have to expect a tip.
Sunday was Kiwanis Day at Shea Stadium. It was also Scout Day (the Cub and Brownie kind; Gary LaRocque was nowhere in sight). And Tropicana Batboy/Batgirl Day. And Crohn's & Colitis Awareness Day. And Sterling Awards Day. I forgot that when you show up real early for a weekend afternoon game, you are subject to a stream of ceremonies that, no matter how worthy the honoree or admirable the cause or influential the sponsor, is not why you came.
Anyway, it was Kiwanis Day. The Kiwanis have supported the Mets for “more than a decade,” which I found amusing in that the Mets have been around for 44 seasons and the first Kiwanis Club was organized in 1915. The Kiwanis do fine things and I invite one and all to learn more about their mission of service. What I found out Sunday before the game was I would be sitting one row in front of several rows of Hicksville Kiwanis members. I figured that out when various local chapters were being recognized on the field and a cheer went up behind me for Hicksville. (It's my reporter's training.)
Somewhere between the end of the Kiwanis plaques being handed out and, oh, the third inning, dozens of Hicksville Kiwanis and guests made their way up the steps of Mezzanine Section 21 to find Rows K, L and M. It was a chore for most of them. I grant you Shea Stadium has its mysteries (like the elevator that Does Not Stop On This Floor), but each section is reasonably designated these days. They even upgraded it a couple of years ago. There are two entrances to each section and sometimes somebody with Seat 24 will come in where Seat 1 is, but it's navigable. The newly stuck Row-letter appliqués have already peeled off in some places, but if you discern Row C and Row E, you can bet the one in between is Row D.
Look, it's just not that hard, people. Find your seats. Need a role model? Look no further than some of your favorite Mets: Doug Mientkiewicz, Kaz Matsui and Miguel Cairo.
Blessedly, each of them found a place to sit on Sunday. On the bench. No offense to any of them. We never really got a full dose of Minky, Kaz has been hitting and Cairo was never supposed to be more than one of Rando's Commandoes. But as the season has gone to seed, there has been less and less reason to see any of those gentlemen do anything more than sit and offer encouraging words of wisdom to their younger, more athletic, less stale teammates.
Miracle of miracles, the home team's lineup was freshened by a delightful breeze of hope floating in from Flushing Bay. Didja notice something strange about the infield Sunday?
It didn't creak.
Left to right, David Wright, Jose Reyes, Anderson Hernandez and Mike Jacobs all started. Each of them was born in the 1980s (surely a Mets first). Two of them we're happily familiar with, the other two — both 2005 Sterling Award winners — we're suddenly meeting in real time. I don't know whether Jacobs or Hernandez is the future and I doubt we'll divine their fate and ultimate functionality right away. We've seen Jakey get in and out of and back into the buggy already. Which end of the horse will he look like when it's all over? Hernandez was awfully slick with the glove but didn't do anything with the bat. Is he all that in the field and might he be a little more than he appeared to be at the plate? Let's get a taste of an answer. In mid- to late September, with a pennant race gone and two weeks remaining, the last thing Actualhead Willie needs to do is affix their butts to pine.
That Glavine kid was pretty good, too. I wish we'd had him from the time he signed his contract instead of just the last couple of months. He threw 118 pitches and only got stronger (the same could be said for my constitution when the bullpen gate didn't swing open between the eighth and the ninth). While Tommy (Tommy?) toyed with a lineup laced with a classic mix of old and new Braves poison (they even trotted out Brian Jordan to remind us that a lovely September Sunday afternoon at Shea is never but a Mets closer removed from utter ugliness), his 118 pitches were complemented by four in a row from 2002 Wild Card bolsterer John Thomson in the bottom of the sixth:
1) Ball four to Reyes
2) Double by Diaz
3) Double by Beltran
4) Homer by Floyd
Four pitches, four runs, a 4-1 lead, a 4-1 win. It's a special day, indeed, when the Mets find their way over the Braves more easily than their fans find their seats.