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The Visceral

Someone to hold you too close
Someone to hurt you too deep
Someone to sit in your chair
To ruin your sleep
To make you aware
Of being alive [1]

It was visceral in a way not much of Mets baseball is for me after 50 years of rooting for the Mets and 15 years of writing of the Mets. I think about the Mets constantly. I think about what the Mets have done, I think about how the Mets might do, I think about the ways I will express the Mets for anybody who comes here and is interested in reading that. I think about the Mets’ wins, the Mets’ losses, the Mets’ stories. I think about who will do what for the Mets and connect it six ways to Sunday in terms of who has done what for the Mets before without even meaning to. I go to the final Mets game of 2019 and instinctively immerse myself in the literally dozens of final Mets games I’ve gone to in the literally dozens of Mets seasons preceding this one. “This Closing Day,” I think to myself, “is like that Closing Day in…”

Then something happens that I’d barely given thought to, and only then to conceive it as barely possible and reject the notion altogether, and I don’t know what to think, because I’m not thinking anymore. I’m acting. I’m reacting. Mostly, I’m yelling this from in front of a seat I paid good money to sit in yet I no longer have any need to use for its stated purpose:

“OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD!”

That was not scripted. That was not premeditated. That was not a line I workshopped or played out in my head before testing it on social media, and if it worked there, maybe it would fit into the blog tonight. No, this was truly visceral.

“OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD!”

I’m not what you’d call religious, but I can be spiritual, and oh my god, after Dom Smith belted a three-run walkoff homer in the eleventh inning at Citi Field on Sunday [2], minutes after the Atlanta Braves had buried the New York Mets one final time in 2019, I saw the light.

Someone to need you too much
Someone to know you too well
Someone to pull you up short
To put you through hell
And give you support
Is being alive

If you’re new here, or if you’re old here but haven’t paid airtight attention to my various tics, understand that Closing Day — the final regularly scheduled home game of the Mets season — is my jam. I went to my first Closing Day in 1985, returned in 1988, and in 1995 began a streak of Closing Day attendance that has continued to this day, or technically, yesterday. That’s 25 in a row, 27 overall. There was a line in The West Wing once about how President Bartlet would almost rather lose re-election than not win New Hampshire. New Hampshire, you see, was his home state.

Closing Day is my home state. I’d throw tickets to Opening Day and most of the season in between overboard the S.S. Wilpon before I’d give up going to Closing Day. And I would never leave Closing Day before it’s over. I don’t understand people who do. They have the right idea by showing up to put a proper period at the end of this 162-game sentence, yet they ultimately opt for an ellipsis.

Geez…

Before Closing Day 2019, I had an image of what constituted an ideal Closing Day. It was Closing Day 2014. A beautiful, sunny afternoon replete with essential elements.

• A definitive goodbye to somebody of stature, like Bobby Abreu, who singled and then departed for a pinch-runner to ardent applause for what we knew was the last appearance of his long and distinguished career.

• A definitive round number for somebody we’d grown to embrace, like Lucas Duda, who whacked his 30th home run and playfully jogged through an empty dugout as if he was subjecting himself to that year’s “car wash” ritual.

• A sense that things were getting better; the 79-83 Mets finished on a 17-11 spurt, the first tentative sign of tangible progress after an era of stubborn stagnation.

• All the trimmings as well: bumping into friends and acquaintances who don’t cross your path outside of a ballpark; reveling in the silly and solemn between-innings rituals that don’t occur outside of a ballpark; enjoying food you won’t partake in when it’s not offered in a ballpark.

• Oh, and a Mets win, obviously. On September 28, 2014, the Mets beat Houston, 8-3. The Mets haven’t beaten anybody by a score of 8-3 since September 28, 2014. That may simply be a statistical quirk…or it could illustrate just how hard it is to nail an ideal Closing Day.

Closing Day 2014 wasn’t the greatest or most momentous Closing Day, but it was what a Closing Day should be, at least according to my standards. It was a day I didn’t want to end even if it was definitively about the end. After applauding the Mets’ 79th victory, my wife Stephanie and I strolled through Flushing Meadows Corona Park, then stopped for dinner in Jackson Heights. These were my tack-on runs, my extra innings. Keep Closing Day alive. Keep the season alive. Keep Mets baseball alive. We couldn’t hold off winter, but we could hang around and soak in the last of summer.

To my surprise, the Mets’ record on Closing Day in the Citi Field era has been almost flawless. I don’t know why I should be surprised. I keep track of this stuff. I know the Mets have lost only one Closing Day since Shea shuttered. Perhaps because the one loss felt so utterly Metsian that I tend to assume it infected most of the years that followed it. The defeat occurred on October 3, 2010, a fourteen-inning marathon (what, you were expecting a fourteen-inning sprint?). It was cold and it was endless, so endless that it required the services of Oliver Perez, previously exiled by Jerry Manuel to a dark corner of the Mets bullpen. Long story short, Perez didn’t get the job done, Mets lost in 14.

Otherwise, we win. Jose Reyes wins a batting crown. R.A. Dickey wins a 20th game. Eric Young, Jr., wins a stolen base title. Good things happen. In 2015 and 2016, the Mets win their final regularly scheduled home game and continue into the playoffs. In 2017 and 2018, the Mets win their final regularly scheduled home game and call it a year. It’s not a dealbreaker for me if a win isn’t included on Closing Day, because I’ll surely plan to be back on the left field side of Excelsior 162 games hence no matter what. But I’ve been getting used to these final regularly scheduled home game wins that it would be a shame to, you know, lose New Hampshire.

There are so few wins we as Mets fans get used to.

Someone you have to let in
Someone whose feelings you spare
Someone who, like it or not,
Will want you to share, a little, a lot
Is being alive

We were doing Closing Day right, Stephanie and me. First off, it was Stephanie and me, which makes Closing Day right, right off the bat. My wife makes all baseball games better, whether she means to or not. “I don’t mean to” is her playful stock response to most of my compliments. Maybe she doesn’t mean to. Maybe she’s a natural. Maybe the theme from The Natural should be what plays when she goes to the game like it plays when Pete Alonso sets a record.

We took a somewhat early train. Stephanie questions the need to show up for 3:10 starts at 1:10, but signs off on the plan with no more than a touch of prodding. We took advantage of a relatively brief line for Shake Shack, our one and only such indulgence this year. We brought our burger bounty up to whatever the airport lounge with the tables is called these days and dined leisurely. We were in our seats well ahead of MLB-mandated 3:10 first pitch. All that was missing from our pregame was erstwhile Shea staple “Sunday in New York” by Bobby Darin. But we heard Johnnie Taylor out on Mets Plaza and the O’Jays in the airport lounge, so we’ll accept substitutes.

Perfectly sated by the Shack, we were hungry for Thor to do his thing. After Noah Syndergaard’s nineteen first-inning pitches resulted in an Atlanta run, driven in by erstwhile Citi staple Adeiny Hechavarria, we were almost perfectly sated by Met hitters. Like every sentient human being in orange and blue, we craved a 54th Alonso homer, but settled for his one-out single. When Michael Conforto singled Pete to third, Robinson Cano drove Pete home with a sac fly and J.D. Davis bashed one so hard into the candy-coated seats in left-center that it bounced back onto the field, I allowed myself to think this game would melt in our mouths and not in our hands. It was Mets 3 Braves 1, the Mets pouncing all over Mike Soroka.

Amed Rosario succeeding the three-spot with a single only encouraged me to relax. Rosario proceeding to get himself picked off ended the first inning and began my tension. It rose only more when Todd Frazier, who was getting a do-over after watching Rosario get picked off, doubled to lead off the second. He brought home the fourth run on Brandon Nimmo’s single to left.

Didn’t he? I could have sworn he brought it home. A misguided umpire at the plate, then a crew of them in Chelsea, swore different. I swore mildly when Frazier was ruled out, though I will admit I thought he both ran and slid less than optimally.

I wished to fall on the ball, to run out the clock, to put a 3-1 lead into the books prematurely. It must have been that glance at the Giants taking it to Washington’s pigskinners in the Meadowlands that allowed football notions to infiltrate a baseball game. A year earlier, Noah needed only 2:10 to shut out the Marlins. This race wasn’t going to the swift. Rosario was too swift for his own good. Frazier was swift mostly in his own mind. Syndergaard is swift on the radar gun, but not so fast that he can spin Closing Day shutouts at will. In the fourth, Rafael Ortega launched a two-run homer to the pavilion that fronts Shea Bridge. We were tied at three. So much for the prevent defense.

In the eighth, after Noah had thrown seven innings that I didn’t appreciate as mostly good (5 H, 2 BB, 9 SO) because I was hung up on the intervals that were subpar, and sudden good luck charm Paul Sewald had notched a scoreless frame, we had our hero. It wasn’t Alonso, as much as we urged him to be. Every time Pete batted, we stood and clapped, and Pete wanted to prove newly worthy our reverence, but no dice. It appeared we’d have to settle for 53 home runs as our team record. Shucks.

But Joe Panik would do. Panik, who’d been subbed in for Cano when Mickey Callaway was trying to execute some traditional Closing Day managerial maneuvers, did do. Joe from somewhere north of Yonkers sent a Shane Green pitch to right field and then some, putting the Mets ahead, 4-3, and lining up Sewald for his second win of the week, the second win of his career after that nettlesome 0-14 gave us the idea he would never win. Panik, native to the greater Metropolitan Area, would make a nice Closing Day story. Local boy sends local team into winter on a high note. Panik and Sewald, in the shadow of Alonso and Syndergaard. Yes, I thought, I could work with that.

Even allowing for the possibility that a one-run lead might not withstand a ninth inning of Met relief — because I wasn’t born yesterday (which on Sunday would have been Saturday) — I figured an ideal enough ending was in sight. I did what I do at such a Closing Day juncture. I fish my transistor-style radio out of my bag so I can listen to Howie Rose ease the season to its conclusion, and I keep an eye on the clock in right so I can note the exact minute this season ceases to be this season. It’s information that comes in handy come December when I calculate the Baseball Equinox, the precise point on the space-time continuum between last season and next season.

This season was all but over. Or so I figured.

Somebody hold me too close
Somebody hurt me too deep
Somebody sit in my chair
And ruin my sleep

Adeiny Hechavarria could have been a footnote. Veteran defensive infielder. Helped a little for a few months, then he was gone. No big deal one way or another. Ah, but then he wouldn’t be Adeiny Hechavarria, would he? Now he’s “Adeiny Hechavarria”. He’s Willie Harris in reverse. Maybe you don’t remember Willie Harris as a Met. He played for us for one season, in 2011. Pleasant sort, but didn’t make a ton of difference in our lives. It was before he was a Met, as a Brave and a National, that Willie Harris became “Willie Harris,” diving across the outfield grass or climbing the outfield fence and robbing Met batters left, right and center.

Adeiny Hechavarria is Willie Harris, but more so, and you really can’t blame the guy. Hechavarria was a Met minding his own business in early August when the Mets minded his business. Those few months had grown to almost a hundred days in a row of roster residency. Once Hechavarria reached a hundred, the Mets would owe him a million. Dollars, that is. Next thing you know, just as the Mets are picking up Panik from San Francisco, Adeiny is an ex-Met, designated for assignment. Adeiny soon became a Brave, designating the Mets for revenge.

The target date was Sunday. The inning was the ninth, leading off against Sewald, taking Paul painfully deep. The score was tied at four. I could unplug from Howie and take my eye off the clock, but I kept listening and marking time in the hopes that maybe Adeiny the avenger could be overcome. Though Daniel Zamora got the Mets out of the top of the ninth, Met hitters couldn’t do anything in the bottom of the ninth. With two out, Jed Lowrie, whose stats were so scant that CitiVision didn’t bother to post them, lined a ball that looked like it might be the heretofore phantom free agent’s first hit of 2019. But it landed where all Met dreams were headed now — directly into the grip of a vengeful Adeiny Hechavarria.

With Justin Wilson and Seth Lugo scratched for the duration and Edwin Diaz’s luck not to be pressed after his Saturday night save, Callaway decided to place his trust in the myriad horsemen of our bullpen apocalypse. We’d seen Sewald implode. We’d seen Zamora escape. Now, in the tenth, we’d see Tyler Bashlor scathed slightly but not fatally. If there was a silver lining to the Hechavarria cloud that brought us into extras, it wasn’t the gaining of valuable experience for the Bashlor brothers. It was that Pete Alonso would have one more crack at one more homer.

Pete didn’t need one more homer to lead the National League. He had that. Same for the major league lead, a first for a Met to hold at season’s end. I wanted Pete to hit No. 54 on merit — for mathematical symmetry, 162 games divided by 54 home runs equaling one every three games, which struck me as nearly as beautiful as Pete himself. I wanted Pete to match Ralph Kiner’s highest total, 54, because I’d occasionally imagined Ralph marveling at Pete’s power had Ralph still been with us. I wanted Pete to make it to 54 because it would certify that he’d kept the exact pace he was on before the Home Run Derby, the glorious contrivance Pete captured in July that the naysayers brayed was going to ruin the rookie forever, or at least the rest of the year. Pete seemed to recover OK from earning that enormous novelty check they gave him.

Mostly, 54 would look good on Pete because it would win us the game on one swing. Pete had been very good with one swing 53 times already. His final swing of 2018, for Las Vegas, was of the walkoff home run variety, ending the Mets’ affiliation with the 51s along with his own affiliation with minor league baseball with as powerful an arrivederci as could be conjured. His final swing of 2019, however, amounted to no more than a foul pop…caught by Hechavarria.

Still, as easy as it was to overlook in the wake of 53 home runs and 120 runs batted in, the Mets did feature other players, and a couple of them mounted a bid to win us the game in the rest of the tenth. Conforto singled. Panik singled. Rajai Davis, who’d replaced J.D. Davis, presumably to see if the scoreboard operator would notice, was up. Rajai Davis won the Mets a game against the Dodgers when the Mets were still aspiring to join the Dodgers in the postseason. Rajai Davis’s signature moment in a long and distinguished career was a clutch home run in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series. Davis wasn’t necessarily about to retire now, but on Closing Day, every veteran role player without a contract is theoretically facing the end of the line. Wouldn’t a hit of any kind — a Bobby Abreu-style single would suffice — be the perfect capper?

This was me scripting and premeditating, but c’mon, it was Closing Day. Weaving narratives as seasons end is what I do, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this habit. The only element that didn’t fit my narrative was Rajai Davis striking out. Darn. Before I could manufacture a solid reason for why the next batter, Rosario, was the perfect person to deliver the game-winning hit, Amed popped out.

To Hechavarria.

Somebody need me too much
Somebody know me too well
Somebody pull me up short
And put me through hell

I’d formed one impression of Walker Lockett during his 2019 cameo appearances — if Walker Lockett had been around when the annual baseball writers hot stove dinner included musical skits, Dick Young or Phil Pepe or somebody of that vintage would have penned this ditty, to the tune of “Love and Marriage”:

Walker Lockett
Walker Lockett
Every pitch he throws
Becomes a rocket

It’s funny because it’s true, which is why it’s not funny if you’re a Mets fan in the eleventh inning on Closing Day. The eleventh inning! Three innings shy of Ollie Perez in 2010! Our section was emptying of ellipsis people.

The admirably enthusiastic kid who clapped too loud in Stephanie’s ear…gone.

The girl-couple that intermittently shared a seat and, apparently, a lap…gone.

The Instagram addicts who you’d think would photograph the baseball game rather than scroll through cat pictures all day (and I love cats)…gone.

Even the guy who marveled at Stephanie’s first-generation FAFIF t-shirt, both appreciating the Mets retired numbers aspect of it and that it reminded him of the TV series Lost, which is something we’ve heard before even though I never watched that show and am thus lost on the reference…gone.

Also something we’ve heard before: lost, as in “with Walker Locket pitching, the Mets lost.” In the eleventh, he gave up a leadoff single to überpest Billy Hamilton, but a pitchout was called and Tomás Nido gunned down Hamilton as if Nido were the reincarnation of Juan Centeno (who’s not dead, folks, just not a Met any longer). With Hamilton erased, Callaway emerged. Was he going to challenge the out call that benefited his ballclub? Because, really, I could picture that. No, Mickey came out to theatrically remove Alonso. A decent gesture, but after we’d organically hailed Pete all day, it didn’t generate the torrent of fan appreciation the manger anticipated. Way to read the room, Mick.

If nothing else, taking out Alonso gave Dom Smith [3] a chance to play first base for a half-inning or however many half-innings remained. Dom had been out since late July and was activated Friday. Let him get his feet back in the game after having them on the injured list for two months. Sure, whatever. We’d already let Lowrie bat.

With Smith at first, Lockett reared back and fired…a rocket. It became one once it met the wood of angry Adeiny. Maybe Adeiny was totally chill once he hit his second homer of the day and drove in his third run to make the score Braves 5 Mets 4, which without researching it, I can safely say has been the score of almost every Mets-Braves game I’ve ever been to. Or maybe we can look forward to this kind of punishment for as long Adeiny Hechavarria dots enemy rosters. As Howie put it, “He’s got literally a million reasons” for motivation when he plays the Mets.

Just so we could be sure this game wasn’t solely a provincial grudge by one former member of the home team, another member of the visiting team hit another home run. This time it was Adam Duvall, extending the Braves’ lead to 6-4. Then, because he’s Walker Lockett, Walker Lockett gave up a single, plus another single. It was all Braves, all the time. My gentle jibing of my wife that we’d be here for many more extra innings and, don’t worry, we can stay for all of them!, was ringing hollow. The bright, sunny Sunday afternoon replete with early trains, smooth connections, felicitous encounters, magnetic schedules, earnest schoolkids singing the national anthem, Liz Callaway [4] brightening “God Bless America,” many of us pretending we know the words to “Lazy Mary” when we somehow still don’t after all these years, and Stephanie and me consuming delectable Shake Shack (and whatever supplemental noshes the Excelsior concessions weren’t mysteriously out of) was over. It was dark. It was chilly. It was Sunday evening coming down.

Make me confused
Mock me with praise
Let me be used
Vary my days

Chris Mazza replaced Walker Lockett. Mazza wasn’t terrible, but since when did that matter? Lockett wasn’t terrible until he was. Same for all those arms the Mets kept calling up from and sending back to Syracuse. What was Mazza gonna do that Lockett hadn’t?

Get two outs with one pitch. A double play ball ended the top of the eleventh lickety-split. As doomed as Hechavarria, Sewald, Hechavarria again, Lockett and Duvall had left us, it was only 6-4. It only felt worse.

On to pitch for the Braves was…well, most everybody. September rosters and all that, albeit this is the last September during which managers can pick and choose from among bushels of pitchers to harvest three outs. Specifically, though, on to pitch at the outset of the bottom of the eleventh was old friend Jerry Blevins. I’m not sure why every ex-Met is labeled an old friend. Adeiny Hechavarria will not be sending holiday cards to anyone in the 718 this December.

Blevins, another of those veterans perhaps peering into the career abyss on Closing Day (especially being a lefty specialist in a sport where rule changes are about to make lefty specialization obsolete), fit well into my developing narrative. What could be more darkly poetic than the vicious NL East champion Braves sticking it to us one more time via those old friends Hechavarria and Blevins? Jerry was actually around Queens a while. We knew him well and liked him fine. Ah, Blevins…

Except Blevins gave up a single to Luis Guillorme — who, ages before, had subbed in for Frazier — to start the eleventh. Maybe there was a little hope.

Except Tomás Nido struck out, so there wasn’t much hope.

Except Sam Haggerty was up next, and I liked the idea that Sam Haggerty could get his first big league hit in the biggest spot imaginable that wasn’t really the biggest spot imaginable except if you were sitting here in the eleventh inning on Closing Day, now edging into Closing Night.

Except Haggerty wasn’t going to hit. Wilson Ramos, who’d had the weekend off to this point, was called on to do his Buffalo best to Blevins.

Except Blevins is a lefty and Ramos is a righty, so another old friend came into pitch for Atlanta. It was Anthony Swarzak. Anthony Swarzak is barely an acquaintance, and Ramos treated him like a total stranger, singling. We had two on, one out and not that many September players in reserve. Callaway had been stage-managing so many curtain calls that he wasn’t left with much of a bench for an eleventh inning (not an endearing detail in a marketplace about to be flooded with skippers wielding World Series rings). With Mazza due up, Mickey opted for René Rivera, his third catcher in a row to bat. I don’t know that I’d ever seen three catchers in a row bat. It would be splendid if the catchers were Carter, Hundley and Piazza in their prime. Rivera doing what he’d one the night before, homering, would be fine, too. Except René struck out.

It had been maybe a couple of seconds since Brian Snitker made a pitching change, so he made another, taking out Swarzak and bringing in lefty Grant Dayton, nobody’s old friend in these parts, as far as I can reckon. Before Dayton could face the next batter, Callaway replaced the only catcher who’d reached base, Ramos, with a pinch-runner, Juan Lagares, the last Met who hadn’t played. This is noteworthy because somebody on Twitter — where I’d allowed myself to become engaged, because it’s what I usually do when watching the game at home, and for all I knew, I would be spending the rest of my life at Citi Field watching this game — asked me, “Is Lagares shut down?” Dutiful reporter that I am, I glanced away from the action to respond, on my phone, with a very simple dispatch of “PR,” as in pinch-runner.

And this is noteworthy because the action I was glancing away from was Dayton pitching to Dom Smith.

Somebody crowd me with love
Somebody force me to care
Somebody let me come through

I actually said this out loud to Stephanie before I let Twitter distract me and before Smith entered the batter’s box:

“If Dom can get on, Conforto can come up and win it…or, I guess, Smith can win it himself.”

Except I didn’t believe it. I worked through the narrative possibilities quickly. Yes, of course, Dom Smith, the first-round draft choice from a half-dozen years before; the prospect who all but washed out upon arrival; the kid who meant well but performed erratically, only to work harder and force himself onto the organization’s radar all over again and contribute a plethora of big hits before getting injured…of course Dom Smith getting one more big hit, the final big hit of 2019, would be appealing.

But it would also be nuts. That wasn’t going to happen. C’mon. Be reasonable. Jed Lowrie had more reps in September than Dom Smith. Dom Smith hadn’t been in a game since July 26. That was so long ago that Adeiny Hechavarria was a current friend.

So Smith is batting, to whatever avail Smith could be batting with two out and two on with the Mets down two, and I’m answering that tweet query as quickly as I can, but not so quickly that my eyes are trained simultaneously on my phone and Dayton pitching to Smith.

Stephanie, on the other hand, knows that when you come to a ballgame, especially an eleven-inning ballgame, you keep your eyes where it counts. She tapped me on the shoulder and urged me, “LOOK!”

I looked. It was a fly ball. A high fly ball. A deep fly ball. I didn’t see the swing that produced it, but I sure as hell saw the product of the swing.

Mets 7 Braves 6.

“OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD!”

We’d waited all day for the Mets first baseman to blast the heroic home run, and, whaddaya know, the Mets first baseman just did.

And give me support
For being alive
Make me alive
Make me alive

When Dom Smith eventually sashayed toward and stomped on home plate, he was met by every Met in creation. I think they expanded the roster so the celebration would rival Mardi Gras. Hechavarria, Blevins and Swarzak may have swapped out jerseys and joined the frisky fracas. Smith’s teammates mobbed him, doused him, loved him. We who stayed and we who put aside our phones and watched joined the adoration. We screamed the same phrase repeatedly. We jumped up and down. We’re pretty sure we shed a few tears because we couldn’t not shed a few tears.

We did this for a team we had grown to embrace, a team that had grown to embrace us. The 2019 Mets were the team that loved you back. Their affection was contagious. That was no ordinary walkoff scrum. These guys couldn’t get enough of each other. Neither could we get enough of them…even if we just had gotten all that we ever going to get.

It must be said that this was also a team that had just won its 86th game of a season that had now ended, full stop. No playoffs. No play-ins. No nothin’ after Sunday night, September 29, 2019, 6:56 PM EDT, until Thursday afternoon, March 26, 2020, TBD. The Mets were now just another ballclub without another immediate next date. That put them in the company of nineteen other teams with open Octobers.

And we didn’t care. I didn’t care. I knew all of the above, yet was blissfully oblivious as I absorbed Dom’s derring-do. What was it Humphrey Bogart said? “That’s baseball, and it’s my game. You know, you take your troubles to the park and you leave ’em there. You yell like crazy for your guys. Good for your lungs. Gives you a lift and no one calls the cops.” As Smith got Gatoraded, I channeled Bogie. I had not one care in the world once Dom touched that plate. Troubles indeed couldn’t penetrate a brain that focused only on what gift it didn’t expect and how it received it anyway. It got Dom Smith belting a three-run walkoff homer in the eleventh inning at Citi Field on Sunday, minutes after the Atlanta Braves had buried the New York Mets one final time in 2019.

Had seemingly buried, that is. I wasn’t thinking that this team was going nowhere but home for the winter. I wasn’t thinking this was an awful lot of fuss for a team that had its chances to keep up with the Wild Card race and didn’t make the most of them. I wasn’t thinking of all those blown saves in the first segments of the season. I wasn’t thinking.

I was yelling like crazy for my guys. No one called the cops.

The Mets won on Closing Day. Just like they had every year in this decade post-Oliver Perez. Just like they had when I started this streak of going to every Closing Day, in 1995. On October 1, 1995, the Mets also played the Braves, and the game also went eleven innings. The Mets won it on a walkoff walk. What nice quarter-century bookends that walk and this homer made, I eventually allowed myself to think.

I also thought, because of my fondness for The West Wing, that I’d won New Hampshire.

Someone to crowd you with love
Someone to force you to care
Someone to make you come through
Who’ll always be there
As frightened as you
Of being alive
Being alive
Being alive

And then it was all over. This day I implicitly look forward to for six months. This season I explicitly look forward to for six months. It was good for my lungs. It gave me a lift. It lifted me above the ordinary to which I thought we were condemned early and often in 2019. We were treated to the extraordinary later and frequently. The onslaught of good couldn’t quite sub in for the surfeit of bad, but Closing Day epitomized how great the effort to do so could be.

I wasn’t prepared to see Dom Smith hit a three-run homer after two months of inactivity. I wasn’t prepared to see the crummy 40-51 Mets morph into the jubilant 46-25 Mets. I am not prepared to interpret the trajectory of 2019 as a preface for 2020. Ask me after the first game of next season how next season is looking. I’ve only very recently left this season.

When it was over, I came here. It wouldn’t be Closing Day or any kind of Mets day if I didn’t. Thank you for being here to meet me.

I’ll always be there
As frightened as you
To help us survive
Being alive [5]