Thursday afternoon, driving around and desperate for baseball to fill the inane interregnum during which an uncaring schedulemaker left the Mets far too idle, I flipped to the Yankees-Astros game. John Sterling mentioned something about Nathan Eovaldi apparently being done for the day. Rarely thinking about who’s on that team and what they do, I worked to remember Eovaldi from the Marlins and piece the clues together from there. He’s a pitcher…he pitches for the Yankees now…he’s leaving the game…but they’re not saying he’s being pinch-hit for…because this, like our two games in Kansas City, is being played under American League rules…which are an affront to all that is good.
This isn’t going to be a screed against the designated hitter and its unnatural nature having no place in the game we love, and it’s not even going to be a swipe at John Oliver’s target de la semaine  nor the announcer whose most every fly ball call encompasses height, distance and inaccuracy. Instead, it’s a celebration of today being a day when there will be no desperation for baseball. We’ll have baseball. Our baseball.
No DH in the Mets-Phillies game at Citi Field today at 1:10. No announcers for whom we roll up the windows while in the car lest strangers adjacent to us at a red light think we listen to this crap as a matter of course. No substitutes needed.
We’ve got the Mets back. Our Mets.
It’s something approaching normal, this Friday day game in Flushing. Granted, there are never Friday day games in Flushing unless it’s the Home Opener, and the Home Opener is anything but business as usual. Even in the years coming off sub-.500 finishes, today is fully out of the ordinary, for better and for worse.
The “for better” you can figure out for yourself. The “for worse” is a tad harsh, I suppose, but as much as I thoroughly enjoy the half-hour or so of tradition-steeped pomp that precedes the actual playing of ball — everything from the appearance of the Shea family’s sacred floral horseshoe through the opposing leadoff batter inevitably taking the first non-ceremonial pitch for ball or strike one — what I’m craving annually here at winter’s end is an intertwining of normality and baseball in my bloodstream. The excitement that bubbles over hours beforehand on mass transit platforms and inside rapidly filling parking lots over one single game that isn’t for the championship of anything, whether the vibe is organic, manufactured or a little lubricated…well, to quote the Queens-bred boyfriend of a girl who lived across the hall from me in college, it ain’t nawmal.
Opening Day, the Home version, is out of the norm by definition, but sometimes finding your bliss can be an intensely personal journey that eludes accepted norms. I attended five consecutive Home Openers from 2010 to 2014, and by the last one, I was feeling optimism fatigue, which is a dangerous condition to bring to a venue where everybody is uniformly thrilled. Thus, I willingly snapped my streak last April and experienced no void for having done so.
One year later, Reverse Chicken Little (“The sky’s not falling! The sky’s not falling!”) has been proven to have squawked the truth; the Mets are raising the fifth pennant in their history; and I’ll shortly be Citi-bound packing enough anticipation  to fill the first disc of a Carly Simon anthology. Of course winning has a lot to do with flipping the mood. But maybe skipping the Home Opener in 2015 provided me a reset. I’m feeling this morning like I felt twenty years ago on this occasion. The skies were grimmer and the six-month forecast was decidedly murkier in 1996 — if Wilson is as good as they say and Izzy keeps it up and Huskey slugs like he did in Florida and Ordoñez can hit like he can apparently field, watch out Wild Card — but the idea that I was gonna be at Shea to witness the Mets commence the National League season in New York challenged credulity. You mean a person can just do that?
Yes, he could and yes he can. What a kick to get to do it again with clear eyes, let alone full heart. Can’t lose? We’ll see. Either way, once this Day of Days is done, there are slated to be 80 more games in what we contentedly call our ballpark and 79 others scattered across this great land. Baseball will be performed daily, accepted as normal and, for the most part where we’re concerned, conducted free of designated hitters. Surely it will keep us coming back.
And you thought only the schedules were magnetic.