Perhaps you share my conviction that there’s Opening Day and then there’s Everything Else. We just had Opening Day. It was real and it was spectacular. But by Saturday, it was over.
So on to Everything Else! Onto the second game of the season! Onto Citi Field at Shea Stadium! If they’re having more than one baseball game this season, it would be rude to not go back for seconds immediately.
If it wasn’t exactly Opening Day II for the team that entered 2012 not getting much respect (and, before Thursday, not doing much to merit it), getting in the first game of the year that isn’t the first game of the year is a milestone unto itself. While Opening Day’s charms are considerable, the second game is when baseball offers up baseball. Limited introductions, no ceremonies, more routine — just the rest of the next chapter of your life as a fan.
Sounded good to me and it didn’t sound bad to Stephanie who got caught up enough in my post-Opening Day glow to be lured into an invitation to the ballpark before it’s particularly warm out. StubHub (or StubHub!) cooperated in a manner that undercut Met dynamism, so off we went on Texting Gloves Day.
Texting gloves…what will they think of next? Perhaps I should have asked the fellow to my left in the dividerless men’s room in the eighth inning. He was texting with both hands and no gloves. Infer for yourself what thus became his de facto hands-free device.
Anyway, we got to the park plenty early and were two of the 25,000 to receive our texting gloves. Outside the men’s room, I saw a lot of people wearing them. It was a big upgrade over 2011’s plan to give away factory irregular gloves — manufactured without fingers — and see if anybody complained too much. A little clever marketing goes a long way.
As does the popularity of the main Mets store. I could barely squeeze into it on Opening Day. Still pretty busy Saturday. Tell me there isn’t a reservoir of barely tapped goodwill for this baseball team. Three consecutive losing seasons, following two year-end implosions, following…oh hell, you know the post-1986 litany and its varying degrees of despair. Yet you get Mets fans in that building, plenty of them will line up and invest in the Mets logo, no matter who’s on the counting end of the proceeds. Maybe it’s still just early-year enthusiasm at work, but how unappealing could the Mets be if people are crowding into their retail outlets for more Mets stuff?
Fine merchandise in that main store but one item bugged me after I paid for it, brought it home and realized what I now owned. Every year I purchase the in-stadium set of Topps Mets cards. I grabbed what I thought was the 2012 set even though the design struck me as verrry familiar. It was actually the 2011 set, pushed out onto the shelves for a second go-round. Shame on me and my baseball card roots for not recognizing the 2011 design (I’m out of practice). But shame on the Mets for selling these cards as a set a year later WITHOUT several of the cards that were in the original set. No Reyes, no Beltran, no Rodriguez, no Pagan. This set wasn’t renumbered or reissued or priced to move. It was just depleted because god forbid you should be reminded that certain former Mets aren’t Mets anymore. Yet they still charged a pretty enough penny for it. Caveat Mets fan, I suppose (nice to know a buyer need be beware in what he likes to think is his own ballpark).
On the other hand, Stephanie picked out a luscious new Mets t-shirt and I found a pack of standard-issue Topps with a Duda, a Davis and, somehow, an Isringhausen. “Fan” must be Latin for “easy mark,” because though we aren’t crazy about supporting ownership, boy do we love supporting their team.
Our team, in theory.
We didn’t come to shop. We didn’t come to eat (though we did, relatively sensibly). We came for the same reason we came to Shea in its best days: to watch the Mets build on their winning record. And build they did. Saturday’s 4-2 win was constructed on addition by subtraction, namely the way management took its inane “pitcher’s park” dimensions and reduced them to reasonable. When Wright blasted his first-inning homer to right-center — let’s call it Wright-center — it didn’t matter that it would have cleared the old fences. David now knows that he can take aim at what was natural territory for him pre-2009 but then became anathema to his approach, which in turn got all screwed up. The mental walls that used to tamp down David’s confidence came crumblin’ down all over Jair Jurrjens at the moment of impact.
I don’t know if my amateur psychology is as on target as Wright’s ferocious contact was, but I do know the Mets’ second home run of the day, Lucas Duda’s first, wouldn’t have been a home run from ’09 to ’11. And I can guess Lucas’s second was probably monitored in the White House Situation Room. When was the last time you saw a laser like that? Is it possible for us to harness its power on a regular basis?
Modell’s sponsorship notwithstanding, National League pitchers better call (or text) Kenny Loggins. ’Cause when Lucas Duda is up, they, along with everyone sitting in the right field stands, are in the danger zone.
Somewhere between the texting gloves and the hitting shoes, R.A. Dickey outwitted the elements, Josh Thole outwitted Michael Bourn (throwing him out at home on a non-passed ball to choke off Atlanta’s best chance for a fast start), Ike Davis and Ruben Tejada outwitted tricky defensive challenges, Bobby Parnell, Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco (who doesn’t seem to believe in personalized warmup music, bless his untheatricality) outwitted those of us who just assume bullpen equals disaster and Kirk Nieuwenhuis outwitted whoever has probably already printed Andres Torres’s name on a hundred-million million N.L. All-Star ballots. Or as we are prepared to ask based on a tiny but satisfying sample size, “Andres Who?”
The Mets are 2-0. The crowds are robust. The fences are fair. The season, like Duda, is in full swing.
Opening Day III anyone?