When we sat down it would start to rain. When we got up it would stop. When we sat down again it would start to rain again.
It was a misty, murky, muddled-up day out at Citi Field — one that started early.
Emily and Joshua and I trooped through the bullpen gate at 11:30 for the Gary Keith and Ron event, which was filled with genial Mets folk buying shirts and raffle tickets for a good cause and lining up to eat hot dogs and nachos and popcorn because why wouldn't you? We met Ron Darling briefly (I admired his genial poise while under siege), said hi to friends, glimpsed Gary Cohen and Howard Johnson and Omir Santos from afar, hooked up with Greg and then made our way through the bowels of Citi Field to stand on the warning track during the national anthem. As was true at Shea, I was amazed by the sheer size of a major-league stadium seen from ground level. On TV it's hard to grasp just how big the field is — up close and personal, you wonder how so few balls can be hits in so vast a space, and appreciate the almost-superhuman skill of even journeyman outfielders and banjo hitters.
From the warning track, the stands are imposingly high, a mountain to be filled with people and with noise. Except, well, there wasn't much of either on this penultimate day of the star-crossed 2009 season — I suspect we GKR minions could have given the rest of the stadium a pretty good fight. The anthem passed and we were herded back to the bullpen entrance, past various itinerant Astro hurlers, to take up residence in left-center near the apple.
Where, very soon, it began to rain.
After a bit of back-and-forth negotiations with the heavens, we wound up in a little knot under the scoreboard, not entirely dry but no longer actively wet. And there we passed the time companionably enough, chatting about the game, saying hi to a welcome number of readers and friends (including a brokered meeting between Joshua and Ross Chapman, who I can attest is impressively polite and grown-up and kind to six-year-olds), and attending to bathroom trips and souvenir outings. Nobody was paying particularly close attention to the game happening out there beyond the tucked-away apple, and nobody was feeling too bad about that.
Or at least nobody was until I started feeling that way.
In 2005, the inaugural year for me and Greg as Faith and Fear in Flushing, the Mets fell short of the postseason but were clearly on the ascent. There was a crackle and spark at Shea until the beginning of September, and an afterglow that lingered even after Willie Randolph's team was turned away. 2006 was magic, a charmed season right up until the final moments, even if they did come 10 days too soon. 2007 and 2008 ended in devastation and disbelief, but their final hours were the stuff of high drama, a tightrope act between joy and agony.
2009, on its next-to-last day, was very different. It was irrelevant. It was the dregs of a season that had been decided in July. It was the motions being gone through. And as such, it was a new experience for me (and I assume for my co-blogger, though I'll let him speak for himself) as a chronicler.
What a terrible thing, I thought to myself. The Mets are down there playing and nobody cares. Not even us.
But then I thought that no, that wasn't quite right. We did care. After all, we were there, flesh and blood amid a sea of phantom attendees. (37,000, ha!) We might have gotten a bit fuzzy on the inning and the score (it did change back and forth due to umpires huddling), but we knew the Mets were winning and we were close to an official game. And we were all having a good time at the ballgame, weren't we? It Didn't Matter, but that wasn't the same as saying it didn't matter.
And so I realized I'd reached the final stage of dealing with the 2009 Mets. It was acceptance. And it felt OK.
And then it began to rain like it meant it, and the players disappeared, and Emily and Joshua and I sought shelter for a time and then decamped for Brooklyn, certain that this one had ended Mets 4, Astros 1 (F-5). When it turned out it hadn't, when I flipped on the TV out of idle curiosity and found Brian Stokes engaged on the mound, I settled in to see how things would turn out. I hadn't been hungering for a regulation-length baseball game, but I knew that in 24 hours the Mets would be gone, so I took what I was being offered. At one point I flipped over to the Royals-Twins game and was startled by the contrast — over there, Zack Greinke was on the mound and Joe Mauer was at the plate and 50,000 Twins fans were cheering and screaming and worrying and praying, while on SNY the clonk-clonk of Cow-Bell Man echoed through a stadium by now absurdly empty. I thought about sticking with the Twins, with finding out how the AL Central would play out, but I decided not to. There would be time for things like that. The Mets — even such unworthy specimens as this year's Mets — deserved my attention during their final hours.
We had to go to dinner and I set TiVo to record the rest, taking some small satisfaction from the fact that it thought it was recording football. (Not yet you're not!) And then, after dinner, I watched the end, with Sean Green antagonizing the couple of hundred remaining fans and Frankie Rodriguez coming in to clean up his mess. And there was a day to go. A day, when we'd once wanted so much more. But also a day when, amid the horrors of late summer, I'd wondered if I'd wind up wanting less.
Nope. One more day, one more game. Seemed about right to me.
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