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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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The Rhythm of the Saints

Old habits get put away but a few never fully die. About once a year, usually on a Sunday afternoon, I’ll reflexively tune in Channel 9 looking for the Mets game; the Mets turned to Channel 11 in 1999. When the Giants bump the Mets from the FAN during football’s encroachment on baseball’s final Sundays, I check 1050 on the AM dial, forgetting there’s no longer a WEVD there to accept our spillover business (and hasn’t been since 2001). Only recently did I find myself able to spit out “Citi Field” without first stopping myself from saying “Shea Stadium”. And what’s this I hear about the Mets no longer getting their running in in St. Petersburg?

Next thing you know, you’ll be telling me my beer isn’t Rheingold the dry beer.

Port St. Lucie is still, according to me, the new Spring Training Home of the New York Mets, despite the scoreboard indicating it’s caught up with its predecessor’s depth of experience. The Mets prepared for their first 26 seasons on the west coast of Florida and are now in their 26th spring on the other side of the state. St. Pete is essential to the Met narrative historically — Huggins-Stengel Field is where the franchise went into labor before a bouncing Baby Metsie could be delivered in St. Louis — and quintessential aesthetically. The Mets were introduced as an athletic endeavor in St. Petersburg; their original manager introduced them to the bases one by one, for goodness sake. Casey first declared the Mets Amazin’ there. Gil conceived of them as something more than ridiculous there. Davey decided they were capable of dominating there.

Yet St. Lucie’s got the numbers to match St. Petersburg and has built its own quirky history, even if none of it has led to a world championship or leavened the lousiness between periods of pennant contention. Actually, most of what’s transpired in St. Lucie, at least as it’s filtered north across 26 springs’ worth of selective memory, has seemed more embarrassing than uplifting. Bobby Bo led a media boycott in St. Lucie. Karim Garcia and Shane Spencer showed their talent for relief in a St. Lucie parking lot, even though they weren’t relief pitchers. In the last few springs, the Mets have gone bowling in St. Lucie, which seems to engage some people’s interest, though not mine. As a friend suggested, ballplayers go to strip clubs, too — how come the Mets aren’t breathlessly Tweeting those scores?

Maybe what makes St. Pete feel charming and St. Lucie brazen, besides the sepia-toning in which a person occasionally indulges regarding days he stubbornly deems good and old, is that when we were updated from St. Petersburg, it was daily and thus special. When we’re updated from St. Lucie, it’s constant, thus overwhelming. Perhaps that’s an allegory for society at large in an ever more supercharged technological age, but to paraphrase Prof. Stengel from his expert testimony before the United States Senate’s Anti-Trust and Monopoly Subcommittee, I am not going to speak of any other sport or any other thing. There’s plenty I want to know from Spring Training. Bowling results aren’t among them. How every side session and every swing against live BP went doesn’t thrill me, either, because it’s frigging February and reading into any of what a Met does right now offers few signposts toward the trail at large. The blanket coverage of Jenrry Mejia putting on his pants one leg at a time strikes me as a tad superfluous, too.

What do I want? A little color. A little news. An informative feature. Moderate doses of the rookie everybody’s buzzing about and the veteran who’s oozing wisdom, but not overkill if you can help it. The new arm angles and batting stances in due time, once they’re put into action and produce a sample size worthy of modest examination. I don’t care what anybody had for dinner or what they’re doing afterwards. Terry Collins’s briefings don’t have to be dissected like Jay Carney’s (unless Collins is unleashing unmanned drones on the Nationals and Braves). Lucas Duda should be left to swing in the cage in peace. The families of lieutenants don’t get as hung up on potential promotions to captain as those monitoring David Wright’s provisional status do. As long as David’s uniform is emblazoned with “Mets,” the addition or nonexistence of a “C” doesn’t amount to a hill of anything.

This is all howling into the Florida wind, of course. Spring Training is an exercise in minutiae, and minutiae fits neatly into 140-character bites. (Imagine the kinds of Tweets Casey Stengel would have inspired…for that matter, imagine how many.) If the most minute detail masquerades as information, it is transmitted. If it is transmitted, I’m bound to receive it and sort through it. I’m a total hypocrite that way, trust me. Spring Training, on whatever coast it’s held, is good stuff, and I’m a sucker for the whole if not every facet of its parts. My desire is to savor the appetizer portion of our seasonlong meal, not gorge on early spring’s unlimited breadsticks just because somebody keeps coming by and refilling our basket.

15 comments to The Rhythm of the Saints

  • Kevin from Flushing

    Maybe this year you’ll join me in enjoying the WBC instead of waiting for Spring Training to be fulfilling?

    • I’m honestly not completely against it this year, probably because we’re only losing one player of note to it and I trust him to come back whole.

      U-S-A?

      • Kevin From Flushing

        This year I might actually be fully behind USA, especially when R.A. is starting. But I can’t promise I won’t fall in love with Japan and Korea all over again when I see them hustle every single play.

        • Will in Central NJ

          With all due respect to the crumbling schools and infrastructure in New York City, part of me had secretly wished that, yes, the original 1998 version of what became CitiField had been built. Specifically, I refer to the grass playing field on rollers and most importantly, the retractable roof. (It was once featured on the front page of the NY Times.)

          Then, game delays, rainouts and snowouts would have been a thing of the past, and—most intriguingly—this New York venue coulda/woulda/shoulda been a host to future World Baseball Classic tournaments.

  • When Keith Hernandez talks about Port St. Lucie, you hear in his voice that it’s about work. When he talks about St. Petersburg he goes off on all these tangents on what he used to do, how the fields were set up, where the Mets stayed, where the Cardinals stayed, and how fun it was catching up at Al Lang Stadium. I never went to Al Lang, but I still feel the same as Keith. And I have to believe that there is more to do in St. Pete than for everyone–be they fan, journalist, ballplayer, or beachcomber–to congregate at Duffy’s (not that there’s anything wrong with it).

    • Someday somebody will talk wistfully and romantically about good old Port St. Lucie, which was so much more idyllic than wherever the Mets wound up next.

      And of course they’ll be right, according to them.

      But seriously, Al Lang ruled.

  • March'62

    How about the days of flipping thru the TV Guide while waiting in line with mom at the Waldbaums and hoping to see the listing for the first spring training game (usually against the Cardinals)? My heart would literally jump in my chest when I would see Channel 9 bringing us the action from St. Pete. Maybe I could catch a glimpse of Bruce Boisclair’s new batting stance or Kong back in our favorite uniform. Now, we have overkill with every soft toss at 9AM being dissected by 10 ‘analysts’. Give me ‘hot stove’, give me updates, but don’t tell me what they had for breakfast. It really doesn’t matter. Well, okay, maybe just a little bit.

  • Joe D.

    “Next thing you know, you’ll be telling me my beer isn’t Rheingold the dry beer”

    Sorry, Greg, but by 1968 the Mets already had Larry Kert singing to you about Schaeffer being “the one beer to have when you’re having more than one”.

    • See? You are telling me my beer isn’t Rheingold the Extra Dry beer.

      Rheingold did hang onto sponsorship (on TV and at Shea) through 1973.

      • Joe D.

        Hi Greg,

        Are you sure about that? I’ll check into it myself with those CDs and yearbooks. Thought for sure Schaeffer was on the back of one from the late sixties but I could be mistaken.

        Anyway, you’re beer and mine will always be Rheingold.

        See you at the “Rheingold Rest” – do you know what I meant be that? :)

        • From the back page of the 1972 yearbook. Toward the end, it was “Natural Rheingold,” which probably didn’t quite win over the crunchy granola crowd.

          • Joe D.

            Hi Greg,

            Yes, it seems I got ahead of myself. On the back of the 1973 yearbook Natural Rheingold was telling us “we know how you feel about beer”. Guess they didn’t like what their marketing people concluded – for in 1974 Schaefer was on the back because we were “having more than one”.

            Personally, I think Rheingold blew it with their back cover advertisements after 1963 – the first two yearbooks had Miss Rheingolds – Kathy Kirsh (1962, holding a baseball cap) and Loretta Rissell(1963 – wearing a Met cap next to a winking Casey). Later on all we got were their barleys and Oregon Hops.

            Schaefer also took over for Ballentine for the Yankees by the early seventies as well so they were really making a move – as you no doubt know from your beverage days.

  • Scott M.

    As long as you’re sorting through minutiae (and hopefully filtering/interpreting it for us) then I guess it’s time to return to my daily check-in with FAFIF so I don’t have to read the minutiae myself!

    After all, tomorrow is the 1st. That means the next 1st is Opening Day!