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Base Camp

It was Camp Day at Citi Field Thursday, where I don’t know how many thousands of kids were getting their first live exposure to Mets baseball the way I did 40 years ago this month [1] on my Camp Day. Given that these outings cast a dragnet over the lot of a camp’s participants and not just the Mets fans or baseball fans, any of the boys or girls who were unfamiliar with the sport until this afternoon might be confused.

They might think the object of a baseball game is simply to get as many of your players on base as possible. That’s certainly how the Mets operated, putting runners on all kinds of bases in almost every inning that occurred. There were 14 Met hits, 5 Met walks, 1 Met hit by a pitch, and 1 error that resulted in a Met reaching base. That’s 21 Met baserunners, which — along with another Brave error plus a Brave wild pitch and an additional base provided by a horrific if friendly call [2] on what became, essentially, David Wright’s ground-rule triple — might indicate to the youthful baseball neophyte that the Mets were absolutely creaming their competition.

Well, they did win [3], so it would be difficult to counter that impression. But of the 21 Met baserunners, only a third scored. The limited follow-through was good for 7 runs, which the arithmetically inclined campers who haven’t forgotten everything they learned since school let out could have immediately recognized as three more than the amount the Braves scored. That’s how you win a baseball game, kids: runs, not runners.

But the Mets literally seemed to have more runners than they knew what to do with. Of the eight innings that had Mets batting, seven of them landed Mets on some combination of first, second and third. All that base-occupying pumped up the ballpark volume, partly because the Mets have more meters for measuring (and thus eliciting) noise than the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has for measuring earthquakes, partly because day campers out on their version of work-release are capable of making plenty of noise without a ton of electronic prodding. Mets get a guy on? Fire up a noise meter. Brave pitcher needs a consultation? Fire up a noise meter. Child spotted murmuring rather than shouting? Fire up a noise meter. (I wonder if the Citi Field Sleepover [4] will make the same generous use of those not at all obnoxious prompts.)

The scoreboard was another matter. The “H” column worked fine. The “R” column was a little pokey. Good thing they don’t post LOB, lest all other pertinent info be squeezed out of the picture. The Mets left 14 of their 21 runners to rot. Four Mets produced a hit with runners in scoring position, meaning nearly four times as many (15) produced no such thing.

Yet the Mets triumphed, 7-4, which is, in fact, the object of a Mets baseball game on Camp Day or any day. The final score provided a fun souvenir for the campers to take back to the bus, perhaps something even a son or daughter would excitedly tell a parent about at dinner tonight, paving the way for more trips to the ballpark and a lifetime of Mets fandom. More likely, the cotton candy and noise meters did a Men In Black on their memories and by evening they were all, “What baseball game? I am so jittery. Mom, did you refill my Valium Junior prescription?”

A game in which many scoring opportunities are bypassed yet enough of them are cashed in — plus enough pitching to make the whole goop mélange stand up to scrutiny — beats the spit out of what transpired Monday [5] when it was Dillon Gee, a wing and a prayer somehow proving inadequate in the face of a late Brave pounce. Still, from my graciously procured cushy seat not much beyond home plate (where I paused to contemplate that it took me only four decades worth of Camp Days to work my way down from the Upper Deck to the Delta Club), it seemed a shame to waste so many baserunners. Why put 21 on if you’re only gonna score 7? Why not score 21?

Then I remembered: doubleheader in D.C. Friday. The Mets were literally saving some for tomorrow.

That is how it works…right?