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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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When the Night Goes

It’s the ninth inning of the Mets’ eighty-first and final home game at Citi Field, the last chance I will have to watch up close a team I’ve seen too much of for six months. I am here out of a sense of obligation, though not a real obligation, rather a longstanding rule I have about going to the eighty-first and final home game at Citi Field every year, and the eighty-first and final home game at Shea Stadium every year before that. Honestly, I’d have been no happier nor any sadder had I not committed myself to being at Citi Field for the Mets’ eighty-first and final home game this year. This year didn’t incubate much happiness, but this visit isn’t about happiness or sadness. It’s about being there every year on this occasion for now twenty-three years in a row.

They stuck Game 81 on a Wednesday night. Since 1995, when I unwittingly commenced my fetish/streak, the Mets had played only one of their Closing Day games on a Wednesday night. That one was in 1998, a game versus the Expos that needed to be won in pursuit of a playoff spot. It wasn’t won. The Mets packed up, flew to Atlanta and didn’t win the playoff spot, either. Beyond the frustration associated with that week’s losing, I retain a memory of the Mets doing as little as possible to acknowledge that that game was the last game on that year’s home schedule. Maybe it was because there was every hope there’d be postseason baseball at Shea and that we’d every have reason to meet at Gate E or wherever we gathered and enter the ballpark again.

Nineteen years later, postseason baseball wasn’t part of the equation. The Mets were mathematically eliminated a couple of weeks ago and had been removed from contention a dozen aching bodies before. Hence, there was no disputing the finality of Closing Night 2017 (three upcoming games in Philadelphia this weekend notwithstanding).

Yet you wouldn’t have known there was no tomorrow on Wednesday night. In a marketing scheme conjured to lure you to Free Shirt Friday, Super Saturday and Family Sunday, the Mets might identify these midweek night dates as Nothing Special. They sure treated this one that way. Perhaps they got all the pretense out of their system during the last segment of Fan Appreciation Weekend when they handed out scratch-off cards and magnets.

Most of the year, I like the Nothing Special aspect of a midweek night game. I prefer a midweek night game to all the other variations. All things being equal, I’ll take a midweek night game over a weekend day game, a midweek afternoon game, certainly Sunday Night Baseball. No frills, just baseball and some waiting for trains to and fro. Baseball is frilly enough for the likes of your typical Wednesday night crowd. Nevertheless, you’d think somebody who signs off on these things would acknowledge it’s not a typical Wednesday night when your next home game is six months away (on March 29, a Thursday afternoon).

One could posit that this wasn’t a typical Wednesday night because the Mets were winning by six runs as it was concluding and the Mets spent relatively little of 2017 prevailing. Also atypical was the pitching of Robert Gsellman, who seemed uncommonly sharp for six innings. I say “seemed,” because, honestly, I wasn’t paying that much attention. I was more consumed by my shock that for Wednesday night’s Nothing Special special, it wasn’t just me and 5,000 other pilgrims/diehards/weirdoes who found a reason to partake in another helping of Mets baseball. It was a decent-sized crowd, comprised to a discernible percentage by apparently normal people. We weren’t the 28,617 strong officially reported, natch, but we were not laughably far from it.

It put me a wee bit off kilter to have more company than I anticipated. I kind of wanted to be alone. I traveled alone, I entered alone and I sat alone. But not that alone. Some dude in a sitters’ market kind of row insisted I was in his seat. Maybe I was. Odd that another of the eighteen or so seats that were unoccupied didn’t suit his rear, but you can’t argue with what you can’t argue with. I found another seat.

The Mets fell behind early, tied it shortly thereafter, grabbed a lead and then expanded on it en route to winning. Travis d’Arnaud, Dominic Smith and Jose Reyes were the offensive standouts. Smith drew focus with a three-run pinch-homer. Reyes galvanized attention by being Reyes, running the bases and running out his contract. Clearly, Jose wants to stay. Clearly, the most vocal people, pilgrims, diehards and weirdoes in attendance wanted him to stay, certainly those who hadn’t forgotten how to sing his name. I certainly haven’t forgotten. I Jose-Jose’d like it was 2006. It’s not 2006, but I like a living, breathing, running reminder that it once was. I also Terry-Collinsed a bit, though that didn’t make for quite as overwhelming a chorus. Whoever decides on how big a deal to make of things decided Terry Collins’s probable last home game as Mets manager, after seven years and two playoff berths, was no big deal at all.

So as I was saying, it’s the ninth. I’m not as alone as I was when the game began, having hooked up with my fellow Closing Night aficionado Kevin. We had each purchased heavily discounted excellent single tickets and neither of us was quite deriving our usual respective lone wolf enjoyment from the experience. It began to feel like a baseball game once we settled in. The last baseball game of the year. The closure we seek annually had been creeping in on little cat feet for hours. At last it is pounding on the door marked EXIT like an antsy gorilla.

Two out. Micah Johnson up as a pinch-hitter. He swings at Paul Sewald’s first pitch. It dribbles partway up the third base line. Sewald could grab it and possibly throw Johnson out at first to end the game and the home season. Or he could let it roll foul, because Johnson is fast and he might not get him. Or the ball could stop of its own volition and make Sewald’s decision moot.

The ball rolls foul. I am delighted. It means the home season will continue for at least another pitch.

I haven’t loved this season, home or away. I haven’t gone too far out of my way to haunt Citi Field relative to previous seasons (17 games in ’17, my lowest total since there’s been Citi Field). I am on hand to confirm there will be nothing more to see here after tonight. Yet when that ball is rolling and what is left of the home season hangs in the balance, I am not quite ready to pick it up and force it out. Let it roll a little longer, I think. I didn’t come tonight to say goodbye. I came to stick around as long as I could.

18 comments to When the Night Goes

  • Dave

    With the Mets’ bullpen Greg, you may have been tempting fate by wishing for one more pitch. But it worked out.

  • Curt

    The broadcast crew was hilarious last night. Either that or I was so tired that they sounded hilarious. The Gary Cohen chants from the crowd were great – from the sound of things the beer vendors had a good night.

  • LeClerc

    Well…,

    Done.

  • 9th string OF

    All’s well that ends.

  • Kevin From Flushing

    Like you, I enjoy taking in the last game of the year by myself. But damn I was happy to stroll into your section and enjoy myself over the last 3 innings. Thanks again for the company!

  • DAK442

    It’s pretty hard to beat $6.67 for second-row seats in section 312. Too bad Stubhub doesn’t also sell similarly discounted parking tickets.

    I was also surprised by the size of the crowd. And disappointed by the lack of anything special noting the final home game. An augmented-reality card upon entry? Whoopee! At least I won a t-shirt at that odd Wheel of Met Fortune in Left Field.

    I remember a time when players would acknowledge the fans on their way off the field. And seeing players toss batting gloves and hats into the crowd after Home Game 81. Last night? Nothing, not even a nod to the fans atop the dugout. C’mon, the diehards deserve better.

    I’d like to see them bring Jose back, if for no other reason than he really likes us.

    Six months. I have naught but a passing interest in football, and zero for other sports. Guess I will catch up on my reading, Prince-authored and other.

    • They did a jerseys off our backs bit at the end of Sunday’s game, each player giving his shirt to a preselected season ticket holder, which is swell, but I always liked seeing the spontaneous flinging of wristbands and such. Of course they’ll need some equipment for the last road series, but I imagine they have an ample supply.

  • Jon

    I think it might have been the guy who decides on how big a deal to make of things’s last home game too.

  • eric1973

    I was hoping TC would come out to the mound with 2 out in the ninth to get a final applause from the crowd.

    And at least pay Sewald a visit, so he could tip his cap to the applause on the way back.

    But to his credit, that is not his style.

  • Eric

    I’m sad to see the books closing on the season. Bad Mets baseball is still better than no Mets baseball. And no more Gary, Keith, and Ron. No more Howie and Josh (and Wayne). Maybe (likely?) no more Terry. I hope the home fans gave him some kind of appreciative send-off in case it was his last game as Mets manager at home.

    Next and last highlight to look forward to, barring a surprise: deGrom’s last start on Saturday. Maybe he reachs 210 innings and/or 250 Ks? Hopefully another cameo by Syndergaard, too.

    This season went down the toilet fast and kept going into the sewer instead of crawling back out like last season, but the Mets gave me a magical run to the World Series and a freakish thrilling run to the WC, frustrating endings and all. I can accept the karma bill came due this season.

    I’ll just savor what Mets baseball is left to savor and watch out for last bits of promising progress by injured Mets like Harvey and Lugo and by young Mets to hang onto for the off-season.

  • Lenny65

    Well, as dismal as this season was (and it really did suck) at least I’m not seething with anger at them like I was in 2007 and 2008. That was straight-up disgust, this is more like the feeling that a long and very unpleasant task is finally almost over. 2017 was just so devoid of highlights, particularly in light of the last few seasons.

  • Gil

    The fat lady has been singing so long she’s out of breath.

  • Ken

    What will be more “fun” on Monday, Met general manager Sandy Alderson’s press conference or Giant coach Ben McAdoo’s press conference with the assembled New York sports media at both events?

    Disgruntled Met and Giant fans want to know!

  • Marc

    Greg- Why was this your lowest amount of games attended at Citifield in 8 years? Certainly there have been worse teams since that time, no? I didn’t attend a single game, but i’m curious as to why as one of the most loyal Mets fans out there, why you were especially discouraged this year.

  • eric1973

    Perfect chicken-shit move, giving stuff away to pre-selected season ticket holders, rather than the downright diehards.

    Just like they cut out the Upper Deck in order to cater to the Upper Class.

    And now they are kicking TC in the ass as they are kicking him out the door. Nice.

  • eric1973

    Ok, so now deGrom is NOT pitching his final start of the season, for whatever reason — phantom stomach bug, actual stomach bug, Sandy laying down the law, Jeff Wilpon laying down the law, etc., etc., etc.

    Though an extremely classless move by the Mets Deep Throat, whom I believe to be Ricco, his comments indeed indicate one of the reasons TC had to go ——  bad judgment, by putting his players in peril. TC should have shut down deGrom after he got his 200th inning, as there was nothing at all more to gain for ANYBODY in having deGrom make another start.