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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
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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Saturday in the Dark

To put it in Verizonspeak, I’m “nowstalgic” for Friday night, the night I went to Citi Field and left toting a sack full of ebullience that fit my mood better than any single-sized free shirt will ever fit me. Friday night was my fifth game of the year. It was on target to be my fifth loss after the anti-Will Rogers, Gonzalez Germen, met a couple of bats he didn’t like. Then came the bottom of the ninth, when Steve Cishek was shelled at the seashore of Flushing Bay and the 3-2 defeat I dreaded having to enter in my Log morphed into a 4-3 victory I couldn’t wait to get home to ink for personal posterity.

Even the route home was giddy, from the unusual boister of “LET’S GO METS!” ringing the ballpark stairwells and concourses to my LIRR change at Jamaica when we Mets fans from Woodside converged with the Nets fans from Atlantic Terminal. They’d come from a playoff basketball game whose conclusion I followed on my phone just as the bottom of the ninth got to bouncing. The Nets had won and then the Mets had won and here on the platform, in my Nets hoodie (worn for solidarity and warmth) and my Mets cap (worn because it’s my Mets cap), I was happy for my basketball team but I was dreaming for my baseball team and speculating on just how soon we might be the ones crowding Jamaica after a postseason triumph of our own.

My baseball team was a robust 13-10, never mind that I was a scraggly 1-4 in games attended this year. The 13-10 felt a little more real than I would’ve dared imagine even a few games earlier. Since the last time the Mets had swung and completely missed, they had held on to a win via a 7-6-2 putout that giddied me up; and then proceeded the next afternoon to ride a very experienced horse of a starter to a series win over the N.L. champs; and then came back to quell the Marlins, who traditionally make their living quelling the Mets. Friday night, when we were down, 3-2, one of the guys I was with had to bolt, but he assured me, “They’ll win in the bottom of the ninth.” And they did!

Yeah, Friday…those were the day.

Saturday wasn’t. Saturday I was back at Citi Field at roughly the same hour I was Friday, which was too bad, since Friday night games are perfectly normal creatures on every patch of grass that doesn’t grow on the Near North Side of Chicago, but Saturday night games almost always feel alien to the baseball fan’s soul. Saturday afternoon is a most swell time for a baseball game, especially in April when your stadium is built by a body of water where stiff breezes come at you like line drives. Saturday afternoon implies sunshine and relative warmth and an ideal tableau for the distribution of plastic batting helmets.

Saturday night is when it gets dark and cloudy and cold and then it rains. It’s also when the one-game winning streak you’ve etched into your Log ends.

My Saturday night at Citi Field wasn’t all for naught. I got a batting helmet for my trouble — more suitable for my eight-year-old self, but a giveaway is a giveaway. I got a peek at a pregame rainbow. I got plenty of use out of my umbrella. I got the unforeseen pleasure of applauding a Bobby Abreu home run, the kind of event that used to cause only aggravation; live long enough and there’s no telling who you’ll cheer. I got a Blue Smoke grilled chicken sandwich which was a little dry but offered a nice little kick of chili or something tangy to it. I got reminded, as if I’d forgotten since the night before, that anything Chris Young has got is not a rental, that Eric Young, Jr., seeks eternal youth and that Travis d’Arnaud prefers to arrive in Queens by cruising down the West Side.

You go to enough games, you become intimate with every regular’s walkup music. You go to enough losses, you grimace at the opening strains of “New York State Of Mind” following the final out because it is defeat’s walkaway jingle. And indeed, I walked away from Citi Field cold, wet and 1-5 on the season. The Mets were down to 13-11 and not inspiring many dreams. They led by four runs early and I allowed myself to ever so tentatively plan the post I’d be writing in six months about how I didn’t believe at first, but when the Mets had that great homestand in late April, even I had to stop being so crabby and admit something kooky was cooking with this 2014 club we are now celebrating for having won…

My bad. The moment I get presumptively cheery is when games go to hell, which, if you check that Times map real closely, is where the Marlins have their most loyal fans. It was positively devilish how Abreu homered in the first, Mejia dominated through five and everything fell apart anyway, as the Mets basically quit hitting over their last couple of dozen at-bats. Because the Marlins were the opponent, proceedings had to be extended into at least a tenth inning. Because we were banking on Kyle Farnsworth the way we were banking on Jose Valverde a couple of weeks ago, there didn’t seem much chance an eleventh inning would ensue. Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s home run appeared to have been a double from where I sat but then the catcher with the name that looks like it could go 20 innings was waved home and nobody put up any kind of fuss, and that was pretty much that, 7-6.

I was impressed that for the penultimate out Daniel Murphy argued strike three and got himself ejected from a game that was about to end. His dismissal allowed me to hope against hope that another of the Mets’ patented Opportunitease-type rallies would succeed just enough to plate a tying run. That way we could find out if Kirk Nieuwenhuis could play second in the eleventh, because every other potential reserve infielder had already been used, but there was no eleventh. There was just dampness and dourness and the fading feeling of Friday’s fun giving way to a sour Saturday approaching midnight, another L to reluctantly register in my Log and another lesson proffered that 162-game seasons rarely reveal their true intent before May makes its initial appearance.

9 comments to Saturday in the Dark

  • FL Met Fan Rich

    I don’t think you can expect much more from this team considering the tough April schedule. I was expecting worse.

    You basically have as team playing around .500 ball and that probably will holds true for the season.

    I am surprised that they are already discounting tickets and by the small crowds so soon. I hope it’s just the weather hasn’t been that good.

    They played well for the first month!

    • I’ve got a feeling that the only way the crowds would have come back strong would have been if they had won their first 12 in a row or something.

  • And there’s nothin’ short o’ dyin’
    That’s half as lonesome as the sound
    Of a sleepin’ city sidewalk
    On Sunday mornin’ comin’ down…

  • Ken K. in NJ

    Caught a few TV glimpses on both Friday and Saturday of Saltalamaccia sans hat and catching gear. My immediate reaction was that we have a separated-at-birth situation connecting him to a certain Rock and Roll Outsider:

  • Some focus group leader and accountant must have gotten together and revealed that night games bring in more revenue than day games. So much for looking down my nose at other teams that insist on Saturday nights, even when it’s still cold outside. I could have told them they’d draw more than 21,000 on a Saturday afternoon, but why would they start listening to me (or any of their fans) now?

  • metsfaninparadise

    It’s funny–we true believers can take evidence even more scant than that supporting John Paul II’s canonization and turn it into an equally firm belief that the object of OUR veneration has transcended, ascended to a higher state of being called contention. The difference, of course, is that his transcendence isn’t subject to later, contradictory evidence. In our case, we have to de-mythologize and drop back to earth so quickly it leaves a sinking feeling in our stomachs, like the plunge on a rollercoaster, which is what the season is, after all.

  • Mike

    I was at last night’s game as well, and am now 0-3 on the season (or 0-2 1/3, perhaps. Had tickets to Opening Day, but, thanks to a most unwelcome snow event in CT and then absurd traffic and parking backups once we got to Queens — Cirque du Soleil in the parking lot on Opening Day? Why? — I didn’t actually get in the ballpark until the seventh inning). I too was optimistic for the first part of the game, buoyed by Friday’s win and the hefty-seeming 5-1 lead we’d built with Mejia on the mound. And even when we fell behind in the sixth, I was optimistic — especially when we got that D’Arnaud run (whose offense, by the way, really seems to be coming around). But, alas, wasn’t meant to be. And as for Salty’s home run (my avoidance of his whole name isn’t borne out of any fondness; it’s borne out of me being sure I’d botch the spelling of it. Plus, he’s not a Met. Names like Isringhausen roll off the typing-finger when they’re Mets; not so much when they’re not), Grandy sure thought it was a double too, and played it as such, and one can’t help but wonder (as my sister suggested to me) that if the rest of the Mets had reacted as if it were, perhaps that would’ve made a difference. Probably not, but still, one can dream.

    These April Saturday night games have indeed been dreary (night games in September can be cold too, but it’s a different kind of cold, and not because the water is warmer; by that point you’ve had the whole summer. But in April — especially this April — you’ve just endured another long winter and you’re very much done with the cold), and I wonder if they’re perhaps a misreading of fans’ intentions — “yeah, we like Saturday night games!” does not necessarily mean “yeah, we like Saturday night games ALL SEASON!” — but it’s worth pointing out that, had yesterday’s game been a day game, I suspect it may not have been played at all.

  • BJ Rassam

    The Mets are playing better ball than they did last year – at least so far. Still a long way to go in the season, and eventually the fans will be back, especially if the Mets continue to play well.

  • Lenny65

    That HP umpire was a horror show, he was killing BOTH teams with his interesting interpretation of the strike zone but he saved his best for the end of the game. He was just all over the place last night.

    Meija’s iffy start aside, this pitching staff is becoming a lot of fun to watch. I’ve always been a pitching fan and this staff has the potential to be a damn good one. Yeah, I read the skeptical pieces by the sabermatricians and yadda yadda yadda but all I’m seeing is good start after good start and nothing ever gives you a better chance to win than quality starting pitching does. And knowing that’s there’s even more pitching on the way (AND Mr. Harvey!!!) makes me salivate with baseball glee.

    Earlier in April I was seriously sweating d’Arnaud but I gotta say, watching that guy play is becoming a real pleasure. excellent defense, great with the staff, smart on the paths…if he starts to really hit, watch out. The kid is growing on me…I mean on US!