My name is Greg. My wife Stephanie and I are looking forward to meeting you on Sunday. We've heard a lot about you. It's hard to believe you're about to turn eight and this will be the first time we'll be seeing you. Perhaps you've heard grown-ups use the expression “time flies.” Well, it's true.
Your dad and I worked together a long time ago before you were born. When you came along, we sent your parents a Mets uniform for you to wear, one you've long since outgrown. At that time, I told your dad that one of these days we hoped to go to a Mets game with you.
That day will be Sunday. It won't be just any game. It will be your first baseball game. First for you, first for your brother Zack. We are honored to be a part of such a big event.
Your dad is a great guy. He hired me for my first full-time job and we became friends and have stayed friends ever since. The only thing your father and I didn't share was a love of baseball. He's not a baseball fan, but I'm sure you don't hold that against him. I know I didn't. Everybody has different interests. Guys like you and me really like baseball. Your dad says you're quite the shortstop. I'm impressed! That's a very important position. I was never much of a player myself, but I'm a pretty big fan, especially of the Mets. Your dad knows that and asked me if I wouldn't mind sending you some information about my favorite team before you go to your first game. I said I'd be happy to do so.
I'm not sure how much you already know about the Mets. Your dad says you know Mike Piazza. That's a good place to start. Mike Piazza is the best-hitting catcher there's ever been in baseball. He's getting older now and isn't as good as he used to be but he's still able to win a game with a big home run every now and then. He did that last week against Atlanta. I was at that game and it was very exciting.
The Mets' shortstop, the guy who plays your position, is Jose Reyes. He's very young for a Major League ballplayer. He just turned 22. He had some problems early in his career avoiding injuries but this year so far, he's stayed healthy. He's shown great ability to get to balls that are hit to his right and he steals a lot of bases. I think you'll like watching him play. He's my favorite Met on the team right now.
Another really good young player is David Wright. He's the third baseman. He's also 22. David is going through what almost all young players go through, something called growing pains. He has good games and he has bad games. Sometimes he has them at the same time. He's also worth watching.
The Mets have three very talented outfielders. The left fielder is a veteran named Cliff Floyd. He's the Mets' biggest home run hitter. He's hit more than 20 this year which is a high total. As a fielder, he's made some terrific catches. You can say the same for Carlos Beltran, a very good centerfielder. He came to the Mets before this season and got the fans very excited because he had been a very good player for Kansas City and Houston. So far, he hasn't been that great for the Mets but even when he's not at his best, he helps them win. He can hit for power and run very fast. I think he'll be better in the second half of the season than in the first. The rightfielder is Mike Cameron. He's what you might call a team player because he used to play center but moved to right to make room for Beltran. He's had his slumps this year, but he hustles in the field and has good speed, too.
I don't know who will be playing first base and second base on Sunday. The Mets have had a lot of injuries at those positions. That's why you need a good bench. The Mets have been lucky to get two reserve players (your coach might call them subs) to fill in: Marlon Anderson and Chris Woodward. They've been the most surprising players on the team this year. Surprising in a good way, that is.
The pitcher who gets to start the game is decided by what is known as a pitching rotation. That means the pitcher who starts the game gets to do so, basically, because it's his turn. Sometimes the rotation changes but if it doesn't, you'll probably see Kris Benson pitch. He throws hard and has had a good season. If he can't pitch all nine innings — most starting pitchers don't — the manager, Willie Randolph, will select from among six or seven relief pitchers. Who he uses to pitch will depend on how the Mets are doing in the game and what point of the game it is.
You may have heard of Pedro Martinez. He's the Mets' best pitcher. He is a lot of fun to watch. It probably won't be his turn on Sunday but I would suggest that the next time he is pitching that, as long as it's OK with your mom and dad, you watch the Mets on TV. He knows where to throw the ball where the batters can't hit it. Not every pitcher can do that, but Pedro can.
Those are the main players on the Mets. I can't promise they'll all play but probably most of them will. If you're curious about any other players on Sunday, I'll try to answer your questions.
As for where you're going to be on Sunday, the Mets play in Shea Stadium which is in New York City — in Queens, to be exact. Shea was built more than 40 years ago specially for the Mets. The Jets used to play football there, too, but moved to New Jersey where you live more than 20 years ago. Now it's used only for baseball and maybe a few concerts. (Your dad and I were going to see one there once but we had to work and couldn't go.)
There are newer ballparks in other cities but Shea has what is known as character. That's a nice way of saying it is old but it can also mean it stands out from other stadiums. What gives Shea character? For one thing, it has a lot of color. The seats are orange, blue, green or red depending on where you sit (we'll be sitting in green seats). The outfield fence is blue as is the outside of the stadium. If the game is good and the sun is out, it becomes a very exciting place to watch a game. It can be a little loud at times because the people who run the ballpark like to play music and stuff over the loudspeaker when the game isn't going on. Character also means that when you go there, you are reminded of the good things that have happened there before. If you look at it that way, Shea Stadium has a lot of character.
Your dad also asked me to let you know a little about the Mets' history. Well, the Mets were born the same year I was, in 1962. They were what is known as an expansion team. The National League, the league they play in, needed a team in New York because New York was the biggest city in the United States and the two teams the league had in New York, called the Giants and the Dodgers, left the city a few years earlier to move to California. (The Los Angeles Dodgers are who the Mets will be playing on Sunday.) The Mets took their colors from those two teams — blue from the Dodgers and orange from the Giants — and formed a new team. The idea was to get those old fans to come see them but also get new fans interested.
The Mets weren't very good at first. Actually, Alex, they were pretty bad. People called them the Amazin' Mets as kind of a joke. But that made their fans like them even more. Sometimes people like to root for a team that isn't all that good because they know when that team gets good, it will make winning that much better. And you know what? That's exactly what happened. In 1969, after the Mets had been so bad for so long, they got very good and won the world championship. Then they were called the Miracle Mets. That's when I became a Mets fan and I stuck with them after that no matter how they did. Sometimes they were very good. Sometimes they were very bad. But I always liked them and always rooted for them. They were my team. They still are.
The Mets won another world championship in 1986 and have been in two other World Series, in 1973 and 2000. Since 2000, they've had some bad seasons, but they seem to be improving this year and I think they'll have better luck next year and the year after. To be honest, I would believe that even if I didn't think so. There was a Mets player many years ago named Tug McGraw. In 1973, when the Mets were in last place, Tug came up with a saying: You Gotta Believe. Everybody listened and the Mets finished in first place. It's a saying Mets fans live by to this day. Really, all it means is that if you're going to be a Mets fan, you should never give up hope, not during a game or during a season. You gotta believe that the Mets can come back and win.
I've been lucky enough to have gone to hundreds of baseball games since I was a kid, not only at Shea Stadium but all over the United States and even in Canada. Every time I go, I feel happy. I don't always feel happy when the game is over, especially when the Mets lose, but there is something very special about going to a baseball game. You'll see why on Sunday. You'll see the colors and hear the noise and cheer and clap and maybe eat a hot dog (check with your mom) but mostly you'll go home with a memory that you can't get anywhere else.
And there's another thing. You will be a part of history. This game between the Mets and the Dodgers will go into the record books. You'll be able to look the date up online and see that it really took place, that you weren't just imagining it. That may sound silly right now. You know you're going to the game, why would you have to look it up? You'd be surprised at how much stuff a person forgets as he gets older. The details of your first game might become hard to remember, but the record books will show it really happened. You'll be able to look it up and point to it and tell anybody, “hey, that was my first baseball game, my first Mets game, the first game I went to with my mom and my dad and my little brother. I was there at Shea Stadium in New York on July 24, 2005.” And when you do, you gotta believe that that will be pretty cool.
Like with most things in life, Alex, baseball is something you need to experience for yourself to know how good it really can be. That's why your folks are taking you and Zack on Sunday. That's why we'll be there to meet you. We can't wait. See you then.
All the best from your fellow Mets fan,