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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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Welcome to Dickey Field

Goodbye to the road. Goodbye to Whatever It’s Called Stadium in The Middle of Nowhere, Fla. Goodbye to that LandPhil where fly balls grow jet-packs in flight. Goodbye, for now, to Roy Halladay who doesn’t seem to mind pitching in that silly little bandbox. Goodbye to early evidence that we can hold our own against iffy teams but may be bound to take our lumps versus the more capable kind. Goodbye to all that.

Hello Dickey Field!

Home is going to look, sound and feel oh so good Friday. It’s only been two series since the season started, yet there’s also been a full Spring Training, an endless winter and a 2010 that wouldn’t exit stage left until Oliver Perez walked in its final run. Ollie loading the bases and then marching in one last National was a perfect capper to two years of live, streaming Met folderol. What a blue and orange period we have just lived through. Then again, there was a true saving grace to 2010, and it should be noted and cherished.

It introduced us to R.A. Dickey. Tomorrow he introduces Flushing to 2011.

This morning, I flipped WFAN on and was prepared to flip it off (so to speak) when I heard R.A. Dickey was going to be the guest in a little while. So I stayed tuned and wasn’t disappointed.

R.A. Dickey has never disappointed as a Met. He’s had a few subpar outings since we’ve gotten to know him, but we had no idea how impressive his par was going to be. Could have you imagined at this time last year that a) R.A. Dickey would be our Home Opener starter in 2011 and b) that would be a bigger enticement to attend than even a Mr. Met bobblehead?

I listened to Dickey in a way I never listen to, say, Ed Coleman. If I’m up on a Saturday morning staying awake against all odds as Richard Neer speculates, conjectures and drones (“maybe Santana thinks, ‘well, I’ve already got my contract and you know, I don’t have to rush back from rehab,’ so he takes it easy in Florida away from the watchful eyes of Terry Collins and Sandy Alderson…”), I’ll inevitably perk up when he tells me Eddie Coleman’s Mets report will come on after the 8:40 update. Great, I think, a full 15 minutes of Mets news, yet come 8:58, I realize I’ve instinctively tuned out everything Eddie is going to the trouble of telling me. Same thing, generally, when a FAN host teases the appearance of some stray Met. There’s always a jolt of anticipation — “Oh boy! Vance Wilson’s gonna be on with Sid Rosenberg!” — and then the words just dissipate into inanity on their way out of the speakers and I’ve forgotten whatever was said before the next 20/20.

But not R.A. Dickey. Never R.A. Dickey. R.A. Dickey remains, in his second year as ours, the E.F. Hutton of Metsopotamia. When R.A. Dickey talks, I listen. I listen for the verbiage (this morning he said “arrest” as in “stop” or “halt” when the rest of us would have stopped or halted at “stop” or “halt”); for the heart (he was practically massaging Mike Pelfrey’s brain after his teammate’s abysmal outing from the night before); for the compassion (how he got to know a woman suffering from Cystic Fibrosis, how she was going to meet him at the ballpark, how she passed away over the winter and how he met her family after the fact and invited them to a game as a tribute to her); for more verbiage (the knuckleball is a “chaotic” pitch); and for the sheer R.A. Dickeyness of the man.

A few years ago, we were amused and a little horrified to learn Keith Hernandez withstood a tornado as a minor leaguer by opting to run “outside into a gully”. This morning, I had a similar retroactive reaction to finding out that as a bored Triple-A pitcher who had made one too many visits to Omaha, R.A. Dickey decided to try and swim across the Missouri River…except being R.A. Dickey, he actually decided to try and “traverse” it. In case you’re wondering, the traversal wasn’t successful, but the pitcher survived the episode.

And now he’s about to bring us another installment in the adventures of The Most Interesting Man in the World. I thought somewhere along the way the novelty of R.A. Dickey would wear off, but it’s only intensified. But novelty is too trivial a classification for this one-of-a-kind wonder. He is an American original — and I rather doubt there are a whole lot of him in other countries.

One more thing I absolutely embrace about this guy is that as he was audibly thinking and then speaking on WFAN this morning, I began to picture him doing what we really like him to do. I pictured him on a sunny day, taking the mound, making his warmups, preparing his game plan and pitching for the New York Mets. And when I did, I pictured him doing so at Citi Field.

Natural portrayal to conjure, right? I suppose, yet as the image formed in my mind, I realized R.A. Dickey may be, in addition to everything else wonderful, the first genuine Citi Field Met of our time. Lots of Mets have worn one or more of the several home uniforms the Mets feature since 2009, but I don’t know that when I consider them, I consider them in their certified habitat. My connection to Shea Stadium is so stubborn that I don’t particularly want to think about David or Jose or any of the long-timers as playing home games anywhere else (not that there are many Mets who’ve made it from 2008 to now). Meanwhile, those who became Mets in the Citi Field era haven’t distinguished themselves quite enough to make me consider them all that much when they’re no longer right in front of me.

In the first two seasons of the place that’s been tough to call home, there have been passing fancies I can picture there and picture fondly in snapshot form: Gary Sheffield swatting his mercenary 500th homer; Omir Santos emerging from nowhere and touching cult hero status; Liván Hernandez completing what he started (once anyway); Cory Sullivan totally getting the born-to-triple dimensions of his temporary environs; the accidental closerhood of Hisanori Takahashi. There have also been a few Shea Mets who evolved into breakout acts in the new venue; Angel Pagan, Jon Niese and poor, abused Pedro Feliciano became much bigger deals in our world once Citi Field opened. And, of course, there are the youngsters — Davis, Thole, Tejada (I hope) — who have begun to make a mark on Citi bricks without ever having set foot inside an official Shea Stadium game.

But it’s R.A. Dickey I see when I want to close my eyes and see Citi Field at its idealized best. The sky is bright. The ballpark is full. The seats are occupied. The pinstripes are in effect. The Jane Jarvis recording of “Meet The Mets” fills the air. And the bearded righthander, wearing No. 43 with a verve and panache even Jim McAndrew couldn’t match, crosses the first base foul line, finds the rubber and seeks out his catcher.

I open my eyes. The home season is about to start. R.A. Dickey is about to start. Citi Field is about to start.

For keeps.

FAFIF readers: Save the date of April 21. Details coming Monday.

18 comments to Welcome to Dickey Field

  • Thanks for the link! We need to be vigilant and help protect Pedro Feliciano from being abused by another baseball organization. His abusers MUST be brought to justice!

    This is a beautifully written article, by the way.

  • Andee

    Whenever I hear Dickey talk, I wish he’d record audiobooks. That syrupy, Southern-college-professor voice.

    Can a knuckleballer be a stopper?

  • Will in Central NJ

    Finally, it appears that the prime number of #43 has been bestowed some Mets gravitas in terms of talent and personality. None, that Jim McAndrew, Paul Siebert, Randy Niemann, John Gibbons, Doug Simons, Toby Borland or Jaime Cerda could ever have hoped to bestow. Thanks, R.A. Let’s go Mets!

  • pfaue

    I really do love the dude. He’s great. After his interview today during the game I just sat there and smiled. Thank God for Omar, right?

  • dmg

    thanks for the update. i too heard the tease about the coming dickey interview but was called away before it began and never got to hear it.

    beyond all else, the man’s a mensch, if they have those down south. in total keeping with his essential dickeyness is his offseason travel plan:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/03/sports/baseball/03dickey.html?_r=1&scp=3&sq=dickey&st=cse

  • mikeinbrooklyn

    Had some bad insomnia last night, so I reached over and put on the radio. Richard Neer! I was out in no time, and only woke up once more during the night, for about 5 minutes. Caught a little of Malusis and his condescension-to-cover-up-for-my-lack-of-knowledge routine, but fell right back to sleep, so strong was the narcotic that is NEER!

  • Compared to Craig Carton, Richard Neer sounds like he’d be great at, y’know, a rock station, but I tuen in for the Eddie C. I stumbled on that interview Thursday and was very glad my fingers defied my “no FAN before 10 a.m.” edict. R.A. had me laughing, thinking, hoping, and almost crying, and I only heard the last seven or eight minutes. And it is great when a ballplayer with real talent actually gets how lucky he is and then takes it to a higher plane to help others while always deflecting light away from himself, and also providing new vocab words for the kids at home getting ready for the SATs. I never thought I’d say this, but the guy is downright Olerudian.

  • Florida Met Fan Rich

    Have a great opening day in N.Y. today!!

    Lets Go Mets!!…Surely we can beat the “NOTS”!!!

    I’ve got my broom out!

  • Lenny65

    Well, that’s two rather lifeless outings in a row, but no reason for serious panic. We have holes and it’s going to take time to see if solutions will emerge from within as the season progresses. Still, I hate losing the home opener. Citi Field isn’t really going to feel like “home” to me until we hang up a few notable victories there.

    Gary, Ron and Keith have been as terrific as ever so far this year, though. Only Keith could get away with wearing that fur thing he was sporting today.

  • Joe D.

    No matter how many runners the Mets left on base (with called strike threes to boot) today was as unexpected glorious for me and the Mrs. as could ever be expected.

    How would you feel if around 1:30 PM you’re at your desk in the office doing two tasks at once when a colleague walks in and suddenly hands you a pair of $189 tickets in the Champions Section? We even got there in enough time to get our Mr. Met Bobblehead and eat in the Champions Lounge before the Mets were introduced on the field. Not only was the food and drink free, but as it became colder we went back into the lounge and watched the rest of the game in a comfortable, heated environment.

    I heard that people couldn’t even give Met tickets away but this was ridiculous!

    • dak442

      Nice! Decidedly better than our experience… tickets in Promenade section 509, row 14 that looked a LOT better on the seating chart. At least one of the group of five next to us got up for beers or micturating every 10 minutes, at least until the guy next to me slept for three innings. It was chilly, the Cascarino’s hero surprisingly blah, the baseball moribund. On the plus side, it was Opening Day, and the Mr. Met bobblehead is spectacular.

      • Joe D.

        Yeah it was chilly but we knew it was even more so where you sat because we had the stands blocking us from the wind.

        Even though he threw out the first pitch, it was sad seeing Ralph Kiner being helped onto the field.

        Snookie was sitting near us and posing for pictures with the fans.

  • Patrick O'Hern

    Another great Dickey fact,and I may be late to the party with this- He walks to the plate to VanHalen’s Panama!