I've felt the strangest sensation this week that I'm watching neutral-site games. It feels like those March mornings when I struggled to stay awake as the Mets and Cubs visited Tokyo to open the 2000 season. Even a little like the time Dallas Green led his ragtag troops to Monterrey as guests of the Padres in '96 (though nobody from San Diego has copped to nausea or Snickers bars this time around). Everybody in 42 was weird enough last night, but at least that gave me instinctive flashbacks to Butch Huskey hitting and Ron Taylor pitching — no kidding, I actually thought both at stray, inattentive moments. But the place where the Taylors and Huskeys were suddenly activated, on TV…where the hell was that?
My two preseason trips inside Citi Field blessed me with a touch of working knowledge about what's where when actually there, which will come in very handy tonight for my regular-season debut (FYI, a new Log has been secured for the occasion). I'm glad I got my walkarounds in two weekends ago because I don't want navigation to be shrouded in mystery tonight. I want to watch the game. I think I know how to do that.
Yet watching on television is far more bizarre than I would have imagined. And that's where I'll be taking in most of the Citi Field action for the rest of my life. I won't have to worry about a Mets museum being constructed in some far-off nebulous future when I'm looking in from home since I live in something of a Mets museum (albeit amid a mostly uncatalogued collection), but getting a feel that I'm watching the Mets where they play is going to take some doing.
I had Extra Innings on my digital cable for five years partly for the thrill of watching clubs in their new surroundings. I loved the peeks at the parks that opened between 2003 and 2007. It was fascinating to ascertain “wow, Kentucky sure is close to where the Reds play” or “too bad the Philadelphia skyline isn't closer to Citizens Bank” or “who knew there was a city in San Diego?” I've watched the Mets play twice at home on SNY and all I can think — after incidental exposure to the black fence, the brick backstop, the powerful lights and everything else on the camera picks up — is “where the hell is this being televised from?”
Time will take care of that, as I imagine it will all of our concerns that can be achieved via addition as opposed to renovation. During my dry runs at Citi, I saw how one couldn't see all from certain angles. That'll be a tough fix. It is, however, the nature of the Mets fan to adapt. We adapt to surroundings, we adapt to disappointment, we adapt to devastation. Then we queue up and ask for more.
When Stephanie and I attended the open workout, with thousands of other Mets fans happy to be in our new venue on the eve of our new season, all of us wearing our old colors (blue and orange, in case anyone's forgotten), I was thinking we're either the most loyal people in the world or the biggest chumps in captivity. The Mets, as has been well documented, pulled one of the most Amazin' choke job in baseball history the September before last. They replicated the feat to a certain degree a year later. Both times made us miserable and angry and swearing that we couldn't take it anymore. April 2009 has arrived, and we're gonna take it; yes, we're gonna take it…as long as we can find it and afford it.
Paid attendance last night was 35,581. Pretty good by traditional standards for the second chilly date of the season. Lowest home gate since May 2, 2007. That's not a function of Mets fans not coming. That's a function of building it small and thereby assuring not as many will come. But that's just another quirk to grow accustomed to. It's a brave new Met world on TV, a brave new Met world in person. Still, I feel that old sensation of leaning forward toward 7:10 tonight. Some things never change.
Oh, we Mets fans…read all about us in Faith and Fear in Flushing: An Intense Personal History of the New York Mets, available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or a bookstore near you. Keep in touch and join the discussion on Facebook.