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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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Central Islip Too Far From New York City Blues

Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.

MapQuest pegs the distance from 3 Court House Drive in Central Islip to 123-01 Roosevelt Avenue in Flushing at approximately 40 miles, depending on your route of preference.

Too close for my tastes. And way too far.

If one of your all-time favorite baseball players flashes through your mind hitting like a Met, fielding like a Met, running like a Met and forever looking like a Met, finding out he has become a Duck is pure quackery.

Former New York Met and recent Norfolk Tide Edgardo Alfonzo has indeed been bewebbed, signing with every ex-local Major Leaguer’s favorite halfway house, the Long Island Ducks. It had to happen sooner or later. It’s where old Mets, almost-Mets and Mets-tinged lunatics go to feather their nests for at least one more season in the sun: Kevin Baez, Bill Pulsipher, Carlos Baerga, Juan Gonzalez, John Rocker, Pat Mahomes…in fact, the Ducks traded Mahomes to the Bridgeport Bluefish for Atlantic League rights to Alfonzo. The sharp-eyed among us will recall Fonzie spent about a minute in Connecticut last summer between his release from the Toronto Blue Jays and his hookup with the Tides.

Ah, there’s the rub. It was a great moment of hope here when word came down that Fonzie was going to Norfolk. He’d play himself into shape, he’d get recalled before rosters were set, he’d reinvent himself as Lee Mazzilli did in 1986 and an old Met would spray a few singles as the new Mets marched to their third world title.

Nothing ever works out the way you want it to.

Edgardo lingered as a Tide. He batted .241 at Triple-A in July and August, which — all sentimentality aside — is not the best case one can make for himself for elevation to The Show. Still, the Mets did not have the deepest bench going into the postseason, and I didn’t see any reason not to bring him up and give him a few at-bats with a 12-game lead. At worst, I figured, we could give Fonzie the group hug he earned from 1995 to 2002, he could tip his cap and he could go coach with his brother somewhere in the Met system.

But that didn’t happen. Trying to retrace the steps, I seem to recall the 40-man roster, which sounds so huge in theory, came into play, especially after Ramon Castro went down with a knee injury. Suddenly another 1995 Met, Kelly Stinnett, had to be added to the big club, inciting a chain reaction of other machinations that left no room at the inn for sentimentally favored .241-hitting utility infielders. Well, there might have been, but I kept reading that if the Mets tried to add Fonzie by September 1, they’d have to risk losing Ruben Gotay or Steve Schmoll.

I can’t tell you how little I cared about Ruben Gotay or Steve Schmoll, but I tried to curb my instinct to scoff. Baseball seasons are built on the backs of guys I’ve never heard of, and maybe Gotay, the infielder acquired from Kansas City for Jeff Keppinger, or Schmoll, the sidearmer packaged with Duaner Sanchez in the Jae Seo swap, were too important to risk letting go.
But guess what — we let them go. In the last few weeks, both were dropped from the 40-man, both went through waivers and both went unclaimed. Each accepted an invitation to St. Lucie. In other words, we probably could have loosened our death grip on Schmoll and Gotay last August and been no poorer for it from an organizational standpoint.

I’d probably have muttered about each when they went and came, except I’d been feeling chastened after moaning last September about the failure to recall Alfonzo and saw myself teetering on the edge of ridiculousness if I continued to harp on it. Though I will always believe it was somewhere between a mistake and an insult not to have worked something out in December 2002 to keep him here, I had to admit to myself that based on his long-term performance from 2003 on, that I might have been, as the other Fonzie would have said, wr…wr…wr…you know. I might not have been completely correct in my estimation of his value.

The four-year deal he signed with the Giants expired at the end of 2006. Alfonzo reportedly put his big-ass house in Little Neck on the market. The Mets never effectively replaced him at second, but they seem set at third and I have no reason to doubt as of yet the short-term efficacy of Damion Easley and David Newhan. As a result, Edgardo seemed safely ensconced in the past. Even with the agate-type transactions regarding Gotay and Schmoll, I was willing to let him go once and for all.

Then this minor league outfit comes along and brings Edgardo Alfonzo back to the neighborhood. MapQuest says I’m about 26 miles west of Central Islip as the Duck flies. I suppose that’s pleasant, that if Fonzie wants to continue his career that badly (he’s only officially 33, or younger than all but maybe five Mets), it’s nice that he’s nearby, certainly within reasonable stalking distance, that it’s a lot closer than Bridgeport, let alone San Francisco.

But it’s not that great a thing. Watching Edgardo Alfonzo stride to the plate at Citibank Park in green and orange and standing in against some Somerset Patriot and ripping one up the middle is not the simmering desire I’ve harbored these past four-plus years. He was a Met. He was supposed to come home last year and be a Met one more time. To tease me by putting him one county away in the wrong direction…to make me think that if he regains his stroke that maybe, just maybe, Omar Minaya will take note and ink him again, this time for real…that with the score tied in the ninth and the winning run on third and the pitcher’s spot due up that Willie Randolph will confer with Jerry Manuel and decide, with no confusion whatsoever, to send up No. 13 (Billy Wagner having graciously given up his digits in deference to his numerical predecessor)…that the pitch will be high in the zone and Fonzie will swing…


7 comments to Central Islip Too Far From New York City Blues

  • Anonymous

    And my brother just sold his house… which was located directly across from the Ducks' pond.
    My beautiful niece is a big Ducks fan. She keeps promising to introduce me to QuackerJack if I'll return the favor and introduce her to Mr. Met. I'm not sure if I could stomach seeing my Fonzie in that setting. But I'll do it if you'll do it…

  • Anonymous

    Since we're on the subject of ex-Mets…Kazmir supposedly rejected an offer to resign with TB. Let the praying begin.

  • Anonymous

    Seven going on eight seasons the Ducks and I have shared this Island and I have yet to make the pilgrimage, though this might be the magnet to pull me east at last. If they would just put Central Islip in North Merrick and Coney Island in Oceanside, I'd get to a lot more minor league games.

  • Anonymous

    Funny you should mention the Somerset Patriots — managed by co-1973 New York bullpen stopper Sparky Lyle. Their beautiful ballpark is just a short jog down I-287 from my humble domicile.
    I've been to exactly 1 game, at which my nephew caught a foul ball…right between the eyes.

  • Anonymous

    Don't toy with us, nameless…

  • Anonymous

    Yes, please don't toy with us about Scott Kazmir,
    In his two and a half seasons with Tampa Bay he has has allowed 337 hits in 364 innings. Lifetime ERA of 3.73. Mind you, this is with the Devil Rays and the American League, not the Mets and the National League.
    That one hurts.

  • Anonymous

    I'd wondered what became of Sparky. I LOVED him!! That dude was cool.