The public address system at Keyspan Park Sunday interrupted its incessant drumbeat of sound effects, song fragments and overbearing Cyclone Morning Zoo demeanor (our one-hundred fifth caller who gives us the phrase that pays wins…AN ADVIL!) to announce something of surpassing importance:
The New York Mets are in first place on September First!
The Mets' win in Miami was a final and the Phillies' win in Chicago couldn't change the math. It wasn't yet September, but we knew that when it would be, it would be the Mets by a length. That's a helluva way to start your final month.
The minor league crowd gave it a major league cheer. It was a most pleasant grace note to a lovely late afternoon/early evening on Coney Island. While my friend Frank's 2003 assessment of Cyclone games as “an A.D.D. patient's delight” has only intensified in its accuracy, the oceanfront setting is still heavenly, the competitive guilelessness is still charming and the company — the Princes were invited by the Frys — proved more sublime than ever. Couldn't tell you if I saw any of the Mets of tomorrow yesterday, though the PA did point out that one of the Met homers Sunday was the first ever struck in the bigs by “former Cyclone Nick Evans!” (Everything announced at Keyspan ends with an exclamation point!)
I'd lost touch with the Cyclones. I hadn't been to one of their games since the night Katrina touched down in New Orleans (hmmm…maybe I should just stay away from these things for the Gulf Coast's sake). When introduced to our single-A short-season unit by Jason seven summers ago, I took them moderately seriously. I watched whatever games popped up on cable and tracked their progress in the New York-Penn standings. Their sadly abbreviated playoff run in September 2001 was a compelling B-story to the baseball season at large. But over the years, the Cyclones and their not immediately accessible to me ballpark faded from view and concern. They didn't do anything wrong; I just got out of the habit.
It was good to have the Cyclones and Keyspan back on Sunday. It was good to see Brooklyn again, the Brooklyn one enters from Queens. That's how I knew the borough of my birth as a child, when I was dragged semi-regularly to visit doctors and relatives and such, mostly by my mother. A graduate of Erasmus Hall High School and Brooklyn College, she would tell me how great it was to grow up in Flatbush way back when, how you could leave your doors unlocked and walk the neighborhood at all hours and boy were “we” lucky to get out just as it was “turning”. In 2002, on my last anxiety-riddled attempt to drive the relatively short distance between Long Island and Brooklyn, I meandered down local roads and was shocked at how much I recognized and remembered from those involuntary trips of my youth. I even kind of knew my way around. It left me feeling a bit proprietary about the streets — Nostrand Avenue, Cortelyou Road, Ocean Parkway — where I didn't grow up but very well could have. Sunday's journey, albeit by rail, reawakened that ancestral corner of my mind.
I also flashed back, as the N pulled into its Coney Island terminus, on my first visit to this part of town. It was the summer I was 10, a day camp outing to ride Go Carts. I reluctantly climbed into one, hit the gas as told and immediately crashed into a wall. No wonder I grew up to eventually fear and loathe driving.
But let's not leave this trip to Brooklyn there. Let's leave it where we came in: the Mets in first place, the Cyclones streaking toward a playoff spot, the sense of knowing where one came from almost palpable. If I could just coax those Gwen Stefani hooks into making a sweet escape from my head, I couldn't ask for a better end to summer.