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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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The New Old Normal

I’m getting old. It happens to everybody, to their astonishment. I’ll be 46 in a month — which isn’t ancient if you’re 56 or 66 or north of there but unfathomable at 16 or 26.

A funny thing about age, as I lean into it: Your frame of reference for time changes so thoroughly that you can barely believe it. I can recall being the same person I am now except that I thought a month was a long time and a year was unfathomable. Now a month is a blink, and when I think of some milestone a couple of years off I know it’ll be here very soon. It’s simultaneously comforting and scary, if such a thing is possible. The good part is you don’t get too worked up. The bad part is you don’t get too worked up.

Last year I went to Opening Day at Citi Field. You may remember it — Bobby Parnell blew a save and a ligament, the Mets lost, and we got our first of 15 unwelcome looks at the big bad Nats.

It was a bummer, but Opening Day’s the one day your team can lose a game and you’re still reasonably happy. (Not true if you get waxed 10-0, as the Brewers did yesterday.) There were 161 to play, and I’d be back soon enough.

And so I went back … well, I didn’t.

That was it — Opening Day was the entirety of my Citi Field season.

This had never happened since I moved to New York 20 years ago. Heck, it had never happened in the years I lived in D.C., hours farther off.

I don’t know what happened exactly. I didn’t give up on the team and I wasn’t boycotting the Wilpons. But I think it has to do with the passage of time. I was busy, traveling a lot. April became June and I hadn’t been back for one reason or another, and then June became August and I hadn’t been back for one reason or another, and then it was mid-September and I realized I wasn’t going back, not in 2014.

It wasn’t like I was ignoring baseball. If the Mets were on TV I was watching, or at least keeping an eye on them, enjoying the ballgame like a loyal dog asleep at your feet while the night or afternoon winds along. I went to games elsewhere, adding Chicago and Oakland and Phoenix and Houston to my visited stadiums and checking in with the Cyclones and the Staten Island Yankees. (Here’s an oddity: I saw the Nationals three times live in ’14, compared with once for the Mets.)

I was busy over the winter too — I seem to be permanently busy these days, with one book deadline replacing another. And over the winter I didn’t think much about the current Mets, truth be told — largely because the current Mets didn’t give us much to chew on. (Even in these precincts, there’s only so much one can say about Michael Cuddyer and John Mayberry, Jr.) And I have no use for the loud pointlessness of spring training any more — I noted Zack Wheeler‘s busted elbow and Daniel Murphy‘s musings on lifestyles and other than that I waited for April.

But the Mets of bygone days were on my mind whether it was December or February. I spent the gaps in my winter schedule finding photos of obscure Mets who never got baseball cards and correcting those injustices. I’ve got tales that I’ll share one of these rainy days — cup-of-coffee guys like Bill Graham and Shaun Fitzmaurice and Joe Grzenda turn out to be a lot more interesting than you might have thought. I made a card for interim manager Salty Parker and another for tragic Met ghost Billy Cotton. It’s impossible to say the Mets aren’t on your mind when you’re proofreading how many doubles somebody collected at Pompano Beach in 1970.

The difference is that those Mets are now old or dead, swept along by the flow of time carrying us all along in ways I’m only beginning to understand. The young Mets? I didn’t worry why they occupied so little of my gray matter, but I certainly wondered about it.

Which is a big part of why Opening Day was such a pleasure for me, even with Jenrry Mejia possibly playing the role of Bobby Parnell. It was a pleasure for the obvious reasons: once again there was baseball that counted, and three hours before the game I was wandering around happily thinking that life had its proper definition and rhythm back.

But Opening Day was also a pleasure because I could feel myself reconnecting with the current Mets, the ones whose deeds lie ahead of us instead of behind us. Lucas Duda looked confident and aggressive and Travis d’Arnaud started the day as if he was trying to grind his bat into sawdust but finished it with a key triple and Wilmer Flores proved surer at shortstop than Ian Desmond and Bartolo Colon was his rotundly Zenlike self and Buddy Carlyle was the unexpected hero.

Oh, and the Mets won.

The Mets won and I was happy. Sometimes baseball’s no more complicated than that. But there was something else too. I had to get on a plane this morning, and I’ll have to do it again next week. There are tons of deadlines as usual. But everything seemed better because baseball is back, writing new chapters in its history. And while relaxing into that, I had a welcome thought: It’ll be fun to go to a game and see the Mets again.

4 comments to The New Old Normal

  • I don’t know that I knew what Salty Parker looked like. Seeing his picture in your February post, I see that back in the 1930s he looked like actor Ed Burns and by the time he managed the Mets he looked like the great Jimmy Durante (now known mostly for his role as narrator in Frosty the Snowman). I realize now that I always thought of 1973 bullpen demolition man Harry Parker when I heard Salty mentioned. I do have a bit of even more obscure info on Salty. He actually had a coach on his staff who served exclusively during his short reign: Johnny Murphy. Murph was assistant GM, soon promoted to full-time GM, and he looked around those 11 games to see who should stick around and who should be shipped out. Murphy wore a warmup jacket the whole time. No uniform number is known–not even by Jon Springer! If indeed Murphy didn’t have a button-down shirt on under the jacket.

    As for today’s Mets and their permanent interim manager, I found myself in the shower during their big inning Monday and could hear Gary Cohen through the door. I couldn’t believe they’d pitch to Duda with Cuddyer up next so I listened rather than hurry up and watch. Well what do you know? Not just a no-hitter broken up, but a win procured. It won’t make up for witnessing last year’s National Debacle in the opener, but it was more fun. If you are making your return to Citi for the opener I have a copy of Jupiter Pirates I’d like signed for my son.

  • Didn’t know that about Murphy — really interesting!

    Don’t know if my Citi return will be the home opener, but would be an honor to sign a copy of JP for your son when our paths can be made to cross. Thank you!

  • The point of spring training is otherwise you’d have to wait till April for baseball.

  • […] My absence from Citi Field has ended. Thirteen months after I was last there, I returned with Emily and Joshua for a game under sparkling skies. We had tacos. We caught up with friends. We ate ice cream (with blue and orange Mets sprinkles). We eyed the new scoreboard and declared it a nice addition, though not one that cried out for multiple press releases. We complained about “Piano Man.” (Sorry, blog partner.) We navigated the new longer lines and seemingly randomly placed metal detectors. (A tip: Use the bullpen gate.) And we cheered for the Mets. […]