To pick up on the theme of Met hesitancy turned Met happiness described so well by my partner, I was indeed running late Tuesday night. Earlier in the day, I wasn’t so much running as sitting…sitting, then standing, then pacing, then growling into a telephone at the ironically named Action Repair, a firm I’d enlisted to hopefully fix an air conditioner that was running not so much late as warm.
It was classic “hurry up and wait” stuff. Action Repair promised me a home visit by no later than 11:30 AM — “You’re their first call,” the dispatcher assured me. Then, because “The routes got screwed up,” I would see them by 3:00 PM. Then, because “The boss made them do two installations,” they’d show no later than “before” 6:00 PM.
The only two lines the dispatcher didn’t feed me were “The dog ate my Freon” and “They’re on their way right now.”
Action Repair arrived at my home at approximately 6:40 PM, more than seven hours after they were due and half-an-hour before first pitch. Despite the grand annoyance wrought by their callous disregard for other people’s time, the technician and his assistant, who indeed appeared to have been shuttling from one demanding job to another all day — jobs so demanding they apparently couldn’t take two seconds to call the dispatcher with an updated ETA to pass their customer’s way — sprung into Action of the most effective sort. Seven hours in the waiting, thirty minutes in the fixing; they were miraculously done making my office cool just as the Mets’ bats were beginning to defrost in Flushing
That mission accomplished, my ticket, courtesy of Jason, was still in my wallet and still good for admission to the night’s baseball game. It was diminished in the sense that I wasn’t going to be able to use it to its fullest potential and see the first, second, third or probably fourth inning of said game, but it was still good. My next possible train and its various connections would land me at Citi Field’s doorstep no sooner than 8:40, which seemed unconscionably late on one level, yet a fine consolation prize on a higher level.
My day, like Action’s routes, had been screwed up, but now there was a chance to make everything cool.
I rode my rails: to Jamaica, to Woodside, to Willets Point. On the final approach to the final stop, I was genuinely surprised by what I saw to my left: Citi Field all atwinkle, its parking lot formerly known as Shea Stadium dense with cars, its sky brightened by the lights I’d never seen turned on from this perspective before.
As evidenced by my figurative (and literal) lack of worms, I’m no early bird, yet it’s become my Citi Field custom to arrive at least an hour before a game begins. In the first season of Citi, it gave me a chance to explore the new environs. Since then, it’s allowed me to purchase food and beverage and enjoy it peaceably before getting fully in the swing of baseball things. It’s just worked better for me when I can manage to get there early.
But it wasn’t going to work for me Tuesday night. I could only get there late. Very late. As late as I can recall showing up for a non-doubleheader. Circa 7:10, I had briefly thought of texting my air conditioned regrets to Jason — I’d waited so long for climate control and now I was a bit reluctant to abandon it in favor of two LIRR trains and one 7 local — but I didn’t like the idea of a valid ticket becoming a bookmark. I also didn’t want the first Phantom Game of the Citi Field era to occur so soon. A Phantom Game is a game for which I’m supposed to go but simply can’t. Those don’t get put in The Log. Those don’t get put anywhere except atop my towering pile of regrets once that game gets played without me and my unused ticket. Maybe the Mets lost, maybe the Mets won, but I always wish I could have gone after I couldn’t/haven’t.
Tuesday night was going to be a loss, I was pretty certain. The Streak had been too strong and gone too long. It was a relic of the first half of 2010, like the best of Rod Barajas and the last of John Maine. It would be too much to ask it to continue into the second half, not when runs ceased to be scored in Los Angeles, not when Adam Wainwright loomed from sixty feet, six inches away.
But The Streak, if it was to go down, was going to have to go down honorably. I didn’t like the idea of a valid ticket becoming a bookmark, sure, but I also didn’t like the message I’d be sending the baseball gods, that I had a something of an out — the pliable relationship Action Repair has with time and the way it would make rushing to Flushing something of a fool’s errand — and I took it so as to artificially preserve my winning ways.
Couldn’t do that. It would be unfair to The Streak. It would also be unfair to me because I like to go to Mets games, particularly with Jason.
So screw Adam Wainwright and the chances he’d shut us down as he had in April (to say nothing of a distant October). Screw sitting on thirteen consecutive wins. Screw the odd feeling one gets joining in progress a game that started seamlessly in your absence ninety minutes before. Delight, instead, in a ballpark all aglow with baseball, knowing you can still get in on four, maybe five innings before it’s all over.
Comprehensive testing has shown four, maybe five innings are better than none.
The Mets were losing when I left the house. They tied while I waited for my first train. They went ahead Frenchy-style between Jamaica and Woodside. And they built a definitive lead as I made my way from the Rotunda to the elevator to the Promenade. I stood with Jason and watched the Met margin increase to 6-1 on the food court big screen, messily cramming a rack of Blue Smoke ribs into my meathole in the process because I missed my leisurely pregame meal opportunity and never thought to eat while I awaited Action. The chewing and viewing continued from there as Jon Niese pitched out of his last jam in the top of the sixth. This has worked out beautifully, I thought, but there is still one problem:
I haven’t seen any of the game in person.
The code of The Log is a game counts once I’ve seen one pitch live. The rule was put in place on the occasion of a twinight doubleheader I couldn’t make until the seventh inning of the first game — the Robin Ventura two Grand Slam doubleheader from 1999, as you Mets Classics aficionados might recognize it. I only caught three innings of that twinbill opener, but I was at Shea and I witnessed a chunk of it. Witnessing any of it, even a fragment, I decided then and there, would have sufficed. And witnessing it means watching the field, not an HD monitor.
Still gnawing on those imposing yet delicious ribs, I told Jason I needed to go watch a live pitch, any live pitch. Gotta go take advantage of this unforeseen abundance of runs. Thus, at the beginning of the bottom of the sixth, I stood behind a Promenade box and observed Fernando Salas deal ball one to Jeff Francoeur. Well, now I’d seen everything…or everything I needed to see. It was, for me and The Streak, an official game.
I also would have been on the hook had the Cardinals rushed back into contention, but this wasn’t a night to think like that.
Naturally I hung around to take in more than just one pitch. Four or so innings bought me Reyes’s two-run homer to the Pepsi Porch; Billy Joel’s wistful Last Play at Shea rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” on what I should refuse to refer to as CitiVision; Mike Hessman’s low-key Met debut; and Frankie Rodriguez not blowing a six-run lead. By the time K-Rod was uneventfully finishing off those pesky Redbirds, I was wishing a little bit that I could have more baseball before saying good night to Citi Field — but more baseball when you hold an 8-2 lead with two out in the ninth is neither a viable nor desirable option.
With The Streak, the win and the air conditioner all properly serviced, everything at last looked good on Tuesday, at least until I barely missed the 10:17 at Woodside, not two hours after having transferred there in the other direction for my four or so innings of action, having lost most of the first five innings to Action. I wasn’t too happy with the LIRR not giving me an extra fifteen seconds’ grace as I trundled down its stairs, but honestly, what’s one more screwed up route when you’ve made it, at last, to your fourteenth win in a row?