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A Coat of Orange & Blue Primer

As the Long Island Rail Road was depositing me and several hundred like-minded individuals at what is still the Shea Stadium stop as far as I’m concerned late on Monday morning, I thought of all the metaphors suitable to occasions like Opening Day. A blank slate. A clean piece of paper. A coat of white primer, to borrow a phrase invoked during a wedding-centered episode of Six Feet Under in which an incredibly cynical character opines, “I love how weddings erase the past like a coat of white primer. Slap a veil on her and even the biggest slut bag becomes a fresh-faced ingénue.”

The 2017 Mets aren’t bothering with fresh faces, at least for now. The roster is populated exclusively by players experienced in the ways of the 2016 Mets, but they — and we — are granted a certifiable new start come Opening Day nonetheless. The slate is blank. The paper is clean. The primer is barely dry. We as fans don’t erase the past. We are enthused to add to it.

And so we did on April 3, continuing a story that began for each of us years ago and inking in the initial details of a year barely begun. Somebody was going to a Mets game for the first time on Monday, but most of us were doing again we’ve done enthusiastically and habitually forever.

I don’t know if I’ve ever slipped into an Opening Day that so fit like well-worn loafers. The season was new, but the feeling surrounding it was comfortingly familiar. The trains were the trains. The tailgates were precisely where I left them. Citi Field is so broken-in that nothing about it seems novel anymore, which is how I like my ballpark on a going basis. The pace and content of Howie Rose’s introductions and our responses to them were thrillingly predictable. Every single player on our foul line was an old friend, as were a few on the other side. The happiness and hopefulness attendant to the first game of a new year, sometimes a touch grating for its forcedness, struck exactly the right chord.

Of course we’re happy and hopeful. We’re here for more of the same and then some. Bring it on. Or bring it back and rev it up again.

Six-nothing over the Braves [1] was a good way to do that. The pitching was like it oughta be if you know your Mets, Noah Syndergaard [2] mowing down hitters until a blister nudged him aside. The hitting was like it’s been known to be, dormant in opposition to Julio Teheran [3], but counteracting his excellence is what Brave bullpens are for. The decisive rally was a perfectly Metsian thing, too, happening around the Mets more than having been caused by the Mets.

The least loved ex-Met among Braves amid the pregame pomp, when we looked past logos in order to heartily greet R.A. Dickey [4], Anthony Recker [5] and especially Bartolo Colon [6], was Eric O’Flaherty. Probably most in attendance forgot his dismal detour through our environs in 2015. The rest of us held a muttering grudge from his pennant-race LOOGYness gone awry. Well, all is forgiven. O’Flaherty was awful against us instead of for us. So was the umpiring at home plate on what became the pivot point of the game, a blown call of out on speedless but safe Wilmer Flores [7].

What Flores was doing lumbering 180 feet is a matter to be settled between third base coach (and lone Opening Day 2017 possessor of a wholly new Mets uniform) Glenn Sherlock and his maker. Sherlock sent Molasses Council spokesman Flores from second to home on an Asdrubal Cabrera [8] single to center. The center fielder firing the ball in was Ender Inciarte [9], last seen nearly extinguishing 2016’s playoff spurt. It was many bad ideas rolled into one cringe-inducing sequence, right up to Jeff Kellogg’s right arm raising skyward.

Then along came replay review. Replay review rocks when it doesn’t do the opposite. Another look was taken. Wilmer had somehow scooted from second to home safely. The Mets had a run and a rally. Flores also had a stolen base in the seventh and, because he entered as a pinch-hitter for Hansel Robles [10], served as a de facto designated hitter [11] later in the inning by batting twice in a lineup that no longer included a pitcher. The Mets walked around more than they batted around. There were five bases on balls, three issued by O’Flaherty, who also unleashed a wild pitch and allowed a three-run double to Lucas Duda [12]. When the seventh was over, the Mets were up by six and there was no doubt Opening Day was worth every bit of enthusiasm we’d consented to commit to it. The win gave me a record of 14-3 when I’ve been blessed enough to alight at Flushing lidlifter. Score another one for familiarity.

I was having a wonderful time even before the offensive onslaught poured forth because it would have taken a terribly troubled inner life to do otherwise. How could you not love a Monday in which a ballpark brimming with Mets baseball awaited? Winter didn’t have anything like that. A roll of the credits is necessary here: thank you to my sister (non-biological division) Jodie for inviting me to join her and the Agita clan out on the edge of forever, a.k.a. Section 538, where a brilliant sun outpointed the intermittent chill; thank you to my blog brother Jason for sitting in for Jodie, once she sadly realized she had to forego the trip, and engaging me in nine innings of discussion devoted to Metsiana so minute that it could fit on the head of a pin once touched by Al Schmelz [13]; and thank you to all members of the extended family dotting the parking lot. Familiar faces make the slates that much more fun to fill in.

Familiar reports regarding blisters and elbows [14] make it less so, I guess, but we have 161 more games to figure all that stuff out. The Mets are 1-0. I have a bit of sunburn, but otherwise no complaints.

Hey, my book [15] about Mike Piazza [16] was mentioned in the Times. Check it out here [17]. Also, Jason and I were asked to weigh in on the defensive miracle that was Rey Ordoñez by David Roth of VICE Sports. Read what we remember here [18].