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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
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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June *

Poster's Note: Asterisks in this post indicate facts/statistics/programs/statements that might not hold up to greater scrutiny.

A few years ago, Emily instituted a sensible rule for herself: No April baseball.

No more freezing through 200-minute marathons with balls dying on warning tracks, pitchers struggling to build arm strength, and long lines for coffee and hot chocolate as vendors proved unable to give away beer. No more announced crowds that provoked horse laughs from anyone lifting their chin out of their coats for a cursory look around the stadium. No more wearing t-shirts and sweatshirts and sweaters and Met gear and a coat and gloves and a rain jacket just in case and then having to run to the clubhouse store for a garish Met towel because it was still too cold.

No more, she said, and I didn't blame her one bit. Since then she's made her Shea debut at a more-reliable point in the calendar. Say, June 3rd. Day game against the San Francisco Giants. Barry Bonds in town, owner of 715 * home runs. Possibly the last chance to see him in the flesh.

You know, June: The trees all have leaves, gardens are bursting at the seams, the water's getting warm enough for swimming, you can wear white shoes. June.


We were meeting up with pals Will and Shari, with loge tickets I'd chosen using online ticketing's Best Available * option. That turned out to be the last row in the loge on the third-base side, with the field viewed through a slot between the seats below and the mezzanine above. If you're an old-school fan, you might like it: You can't see the Diamondvision or any of the scoreboards, so you're on your own when it comes to the score, number of outs and the count. You also can't see the upper part of the parabola described by routine fly balls. If I ever have to watch a baseball game through the periscope of a U-Boat, I'll be prepared.

What we could see was rain. Lots of it. Nearly three hours of it, before the tarp came off and baseball could be played. Being so far underneath the mezzanine we were at least dry. We were also cold, victims of a wind funneled through the mesh behind us so as to penetrate the bones. Oddly, later in the game I was standing on the same side of the stadium on the external ramps and there was barely a breath of wind. Who says Shea has no interesting architectural quirks?

Oh yeah, the game. It was unpleasant too. If ever there was a day one would feel sorry for baseball players now that coffee pots marked PLAYERS are officially verboten, this was it. Both the Mets and Giants looked draggy and dispirited, and I could hardly blame them. Alas, the Giants were slightly less draggy and dispirited, buoyed by young Matt Cain and the heretofore-anonymous Eliezer Alfonzo, just up from Double-A, whose first major-league hit was a two-run shot off El Duque that gave the Giants a lead they wouldn't relinquish. Don't tell Eliezer this was no day to be playing baseball. I suppose on some level I'm happy for the kid. I'd be happier for him if his big moment had been Thursday night, or had waited until Monday, or had come when it was 13-3 instead of 4-3. Of our kids, Jose Reyes and David Wright did all they could, but Lastings Milledge looked awful raw.

Survival was Job One today, but the ninth inning still managed to be annoying. As Armando Benitez emerged, my fuming (which began with Oliver letting the Giants tack on an insurance run) quickly escalated to Old Faithful-like proportions, which was probably some desperate attempt to remain warm by being especially irascible. How is it, I asked Emily, that Armando never recorded a single save for us, * and yet since taking off our uniform has been completely and utterly perfect for everyone else? * I've been waiting to engage in some bitter, finger-pointing laughter at Armando Benitez's expense for nearly three years, and it seemed like this finally might be my chance: He walked Valentin, struck out Castro, but then walked surprise pinch-hitter Beltran. And every time he shook out his shoulder or wanted the catcher to run through the signs again or whirled for a lame pickoff attempt at second, I had flashbacks. Yep, that's Armando disintegrating on the mound. Yep, that's Armando trying, in vain, to reset himself by doing something other than throwing the baseball. Yep, that's Armando going down in flames.

Except then he got Julio Franco to foul out on a 2-1 pitch (ugh) and then Reyes grounded out and we were done. And with the babysitter already deep into expensive overtime and my neck windburnt and the weather miserable, I did the unthinkable: I headed home, despite having a ticket in my hand that entitled me to a free baseball game. May the baseball gods forgive me.

If a good excuse is possible, here it is: 363 days ago, the same Will and I stayed for both games of a doubleheader against these same Giants, and afterwards we agreed that despite our adoration for the game, it had come perilously close to too much baseball. Except then it was 25 degrees warmer, and dry, and we didn't have to wait 161 minutes for the actual baseball to begin.

Sorry, I'm not that tough. Emily and I headed home (accompanied out of Shea by a very large chunk of the crowd) to relieve the babysitter, put the kid to bed, and watch the final 2/3 of the second game from the safer confines of the couch. More soggy, draggy baseball, with rain swirling in gouts/sheets/drifts/spirals across the television screen. At this point the mere sight of rain at Shea made us a little tense. I spent the game spitting and snarling at Jose Vizcaino, that vile and traitorous ex-Yankee pain in the ass, and finished it with a fervent apology to Willie Randolph. When Willie sent Milledge in to run for Lo Duca at third I first scoffed, then wondered aloud why he was burning a player we might need in a marathon. Overmanaging, feh. Then I watched as Milledge came home safe on a play where Lo Duca would have been roadkill. Skip, here's a tip of my giveaway Mets hat. (Which, by the way, doesn't have an orange button. Huh?)

So things turned out OK. And the Phillies lost. And the Braves lost not once but twice. So that's even a little better than OK. But after today, my deepest wish is this: Please don't let it rain tomorrow.

4 comments to June *

  • Anonymous

    The only reason that I don't hate Vizcaino is that I have this adorable photo of my then 4-year-old daughter and Vizcaino at the short-lived Nickelodeon theme park at Shea in 1994. I can never hate anyone who is nice to my kids.
    Yesterday was a lousy day, but at least the Mets salvaged the split. Plus Philly and Atlanta both lost (a double loss for Atlanta), which makes the split better in perspective.

  • Anonymous

    Next-day update: Turns out Alfonzo's 27, a 10-year minor-leaguer, was hitting .230 in Double-A, and his name was misspelled on his uniform. Good for him. But knowing the above…WTF, El Duque?

  • Anonymous

    Two unhappy Vizcaino related facts I discovered when his home run drove me to the internet:
    –the home run was like the 35th of a 17 year career. I swear it feels like 32 of them have come against the Mets, and;
    –how freakin old is Jose Vizcaino, anyway? He's been around forever, played for everybody. He's like Julio Franco right?
    Well, maybe he is.
    He's also 1 week younger than I am.
    Stupid fuckin information super highway.
    Damn you, Al Gore.

  • Anonymous

    You got your Armando-wish today, and Milledge was anything but raw, but somehow it wasn't enough…something's seriously wrong with that.