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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 Things I Missed the Most

Purposefully preparing the game bag.
What to leave in, what to leave out. Two factory-sealed beverage containers? In. Two masks? In. Two phone chargers? In. Transistor-style radio because what if the phone chargers aren’t effective? Also in. I bow to progress where progress institutionalizes itself, but am, at heart, against the winds of change. It was hard enough for me to switch from mini-duffel to tote when so mandated by the Manfreds and Wilpons who made security theater the convenience fee of physically entering the ballpark. Yet preparing the game bag in the Age of Cohen remains essential and invigorating. Left over from the last time I had cause to tote it were 4,000 napkins, tissues and paper towels (mostly unused) and a 2019 pocket schedule. Wednesday afternoon I ditched about 2,000 of the napkins, tissues and paper towels. I kept the pocket schedule. You never know when an old baseball season will suddenly break out.

Intrinsically understanding the commute.
Stand here and wait for the train where you can grab a better seat, which is to say away from strangers. It’ll cost you some walking time when you get off at Jamaica, but you’ve got a lengthy enough wait at Jamaica. Position yourself for the car at Jamaica that you know will leave you off near the staircase to the 7 at Woodside — but it’s always crowded in that car. The LIRR now has diagrams to confirm that. Thus, stay up the platform at Jamaica. Get a seat. Relax. The game isn’t going anywhere without you and your lovely bride who you are so happy said, “sure,” to your suggestion of a Wednesday night ballgame. To be technical, the game has gone on without you for 633 days (59 home games) since you last did this. But commuting to it is a skill never unlearned. True, we wind up with a longer-than-average stroll to that staircase where we transition from suburban rail riders to gritty subway warriors. But we’re not in any rush. Except of course we are because who doesn’t rush to the staircase to the 7 because at any moment, the express could come rolling in. And here it is! Move! That extra burst of speed returns to my 58-year-old feet. I return to the 7 Express, mask and all. Mask furtively inches above my mouth for an instant so i can catch my breath from that extra burst of speed. I’m in a crowd for the first time since god knows when. I’m not as worried about that as I thought I might be. Everybody is masked. I’m vaccinated. What did I get a shot for twice if not for this?

Hearing my name, and not from being called in from the waiting room to see my doctor.
Other than my wife, my cat and professionals who intermittently examined my well-being, I haven’t been intentionally near a specific individual since the middle of March in 2020. Stephanie is with me for this first trip to Citi Field since two months before that (the January FanFest) and first game there since four months before that (September 2019’s Closing Day). Avery is presumably napping away at home. Like the game bag and the transit journey, this is old hat. Yet it’s new hat when you haven’t done it at, we hope, the tail end of a pandemic. New hat in 2021 was putting on my old hat as I descended the staircase from the Mets-Willets Point stop. I was so engrossed in this ritual of pulling my Mets cap from my game bag that at first I missed my name being called out. Then I caught it, but didn’t recognize the source. It was only the person I write this blog with for the past sixteen-plus years. I knew Jason and his family would be at this game. I didn’t know we’d be on the exact same staircase an hour before this game. Hence unfolds our not entirely random yet mostly unplanned reunion. It’s also the first time I’ve been intentionally near a specific individual outside the home since…well, you’ve lived the same calendar I have, I imagine. Jason and I do a double bro-hug. Maybe a triple. We’re both vaccinated, what the hell. I greet Emily and Joshua with something similarly bro-ey but, I assure you, just as sincere. I can’t bring myself to shake anybody’s hand.

Enhancing my baseball library.
I understood Citi Field didn’t want my cash. They wanted my money, but not my cash. I don’t understand cryptocurrency, but that’s not this. Just, you know, give us your card. It’s not a baseball season without a yearbook and a program. Even in 2020 I scrounged a yearbook, albeit by mail. I love that every year where I’m allowed inside the ballpark it’s my first purchase. The digging into the wallet and passing over the bills to the full-throated man announcing his inventory. “YEARBOOKS! PROGRAMS!” Such a man was on the job in 2021. He had both (nowhere in sight: printed media guides or current pocket schedules). I hand him my card. He hands it back to me with the latest additions to my baseball library, along with a useless pencil that will sit by my bed for the rest of eternity. The pencil never has an eraser. This time it doesn’t even say NEW YORK METS; did the warehouse finally run out? Before I turn for the escalator, I have to ask: “Hey, how much was that?” I’d request a receipt, but it’s the “YEARBOOKS! PROGRAMS!” man. I can’t imagine he gives receipts.

Choosing from the greatest menu in all of sports, maybe all of human existence.
I’ve been jonesing for a Hebrew National frank from the kosher stand. What is it Humphrey Bogart said? “Hebrew National at the ballgame beats roast beef at the Ritz…and leaves what passes for Nathan’s in the dust.” The stand is right there when we come up from the Rotunda (where yesterday’s lineup’s oversized baseball cards are still posted because who has an enormous picture of Tylor Megill handy?) But Stephanie and I are going to walk the perimeter of Field Level, and I don’t want to eat on the run or drag it with me until I sit down. Our traditional first stop is World’s Fare, but World’s Fare isn’t open. Citi Field is open, but not quite every inch of it. No Mama’s of Corona. No Daruma of Great Neck. But no worries for we gallivanting gourmands of flushing. Arancini Brothers has no line. We stop for an assortment of risotto balls. The Chasins turned Stephanie on to them a few Augusts back. I’m along for the ride on this one. Blue Smoke also has no line. Brisket! Can’t ever go wrong with Blue Smoke brisket. No pickles included in the clever little Mets To Go bag, however. No dispenser for barbecue sauce. Hey, I’d forgotten there’s a third base side kosher stand, too! Hot dog! Literally! No sauerkraut, unfortunately. No condiment stands whatsoever at the tail end (we hope) of a pandemic. Nevertheless, the hot dog dressed by its humble packet of Heinz mustard is glorious. It’s what I was jonesing for. “I know it’s a cliché,” I tell Stephanie. “But I really wanted a hot dog.”

Emoting.
My emotions are pretty much in check until we land on Excelsior. I pictured my first game back ensconced in the 500s of Promenade, but Section 327 is Stephanie’s and my special spot, usually for Closing Day, and I only wanted to go to a first game in forever if I could go with Stephanie, the only person I’ve seen willingly in forever. The special spot is worth it for a special occasion. Special occasions don’t come along every day (thus the phrase). I wasn’t overwhelmed when we approached Citi Field by train. I wasn’t overwhelmed having my bag searched or buying $21 worth of content-free Mets publications or haggling with cashiers for my receipt after giving them my card for risotto balls or brisket, but the Proustian sense of being enveloped by the portion of concourse that borders Sections 330, 329, 328, just as we were in 2019, 2014, 2009…this is where a manly man makes an allusion to slicing onions. I’ve sliced quite a few onions, especially during quarantine when cooking replaced going to a baseball game as the thing I looked forward to doing on a Wednesday night. Onions really do produce tears. No condiment stands. No onions for the hot dog, either. Where was I? Right. Overwhelmed to be back.

Streaming consciousness instead of streaming Netflix.
This is the first time I’ve seen Francisco Lindor as a Met.

This is the first time I’ve seen Kevin Pillar as a Met.

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen Michael Conforto as a Met, but I haven’t even seen him on TV for more than a month.

That’s what Tylor Megill looks and throws like.

Kevin Pillar, Jeff McNeil and Luis Guillorme all use walk-up songs from before they were born. I approve.

The trumpet entrance for Edwin Diaz isn’t nearly the riot they make it out to be on TV. I approve anyway. Blowing a trumpet is preferable to blowng a save.

This is what it’s like to cheer out loud in the company of others for the Mets in 2021.

This is what it’s like to bear witness to the Mets taking a five-run lead in 2021.

This is what it’s like not being convinced in person a five-run Mets lead isn’t altogether safe. It’s not much different from lacking that conviction while watching on TV.

This is the first game I’ve been to in the 2020s. It doesn’t feel much different than it did in the 2010s or all the decades stretching back to the 1970s. This is what I’ve done for close to a half-century. I still know how to do this. I still like to do this.

The Braves fans in attendance aren’t really bothering anybody but their presence bothers me on principle.

Shut up presumably cute little girl shrieking a couple of rows back; and large not-so-cute man somewhere to my left, as Gary Cohen is likely ignoring your bellows of I LOVE YOU GARY COHEN!! so maybe stow your shtick already; and family in front of me, you’re neither the Incredibles, nor the Invisibles, so tell your kids to sit down when somebody’s pitching or batting; and how many bleeping beer and cocktail-in-a-jar runs do Stephanie and I have to literally stand for — I still have a knack for making people getting up in the middle of an inning generate two seconds of guilt for disturbing a fellow like me who’s just on hand to watch the ballgame and sip from my previously factory-sealed beverage containers.

Are we really still measuring noise by noise meter? Like these people around me need encouragement?

Yet I still like this, being here, being with the Mets and other Mets fans. I wasn’t sure I would, and if I couldn’t like being with the Mets and other Mets fans, where was I gonna like being at all?

I’m near people. My mouth opens at will. Theirs, too. What’s going into the air? Are we still worried about transmitting droplets and aerosols and whatever else? Geez, I sure hope these vaccines are as good as advertised. My masks are in my bag and so are everybody else’s.

Nice night. Very nice night. Slow game, though. Very slow game.

Fan appreciation.
Tylor Megill delivers thirteen Acuña-free outs in support of the Mets’ five early runs. He gives a couple of runs back because he’s Tylor Megill and not Dick Rusteck. We weren’t demanding a shutout in his major league debut like Rusteck crafted 55 Junes ago (still the only Met neophyte to have performed that feat). We weren’t demanding anything from Tylor Megill. Just use your arm, kid, and keep us from the bullpen for a while. That the kid did. Callup’s just another word for nothing left to lose. Good enough for me and my Tylor Megill. When Luis Rojas removes the rookie, we savvily applaud heartily for those thirteen outs in a first start. You don’t get to participate in that from home. Cardboard cutouts didn’t clap once in 2020. This is what being a baseball fan is all about. So is booing the umps for checking Tylor Megill for what, his baggage claim ticket? He just got here! We boo blue until they are done harassing our young man. Then we return to cheering Tylor until he’s in the dugout. Too many people play with their phones, too many get up for beer, too many people are inane drones and made you fleetingly sorry you’re near them, but enough people are into the game at a game that you are so glad you’re with them at a game.

Cross-pollination as spring turns to summer.
I pledged I’d make minimal use of my phone, my chargers, even my radio. You came to the game to be a the game. You can distract yourself at home. It took me an inning to realize Ronald Acuña, Jr., was missing from the Braves lineup, yet I didn’t lunge for a device to search out why. Once in a while, though, I wanted an Islanders score. It was do-or-die Game Six in Uniondale. If I’d been home, I could have watched the entire second period between any two pitches. It was a reasonable tradeoff to get this night at the ballpark. Late in the baseball game, I gleaned that the hockey game had tied up. A highlight was beginning to be shown on CitiVision. If a local team is succeeding in the playoffs, the news is shared widely. If a local team is losing, why stoke discontent? Indeed, it was two-all by the time the 27th out was recorded. It was, we learned from crosstalk on our way out, headed to overtime. As we found seats on the 7 Super Express, we picked up on the Isles’ lightning-quick OT victory. They, too, would be on the 7, so to speak, in Tampa Friday night. I loved the result. I loved just as much that it infiltrated my baseball night out, good news bro-hugging good news. In 1983, when Joel and I were driving home from the Mets-Padres game at which Darryl Strawberry hit his first Shea Stadium home run, we listened to the Islanders clinch their fourth straight Cup. Mets won then, too.

Impatience.
This game in 2021 would last 3:42. That’s three eons and forty-two millennia. Maybe it’s not 2021 anymore. Maybe Tylor Megill is telling his grandchildren about his thirteen-out debut. Yeesh, what a slog. But the Mets slogged to a 7-3 win, so, you know, we’ll take it. Stephanie, a champ in every way, particularly sitting next to me during sporting events I’ve osmosised her into caring about, hung in there. The trains connected on the way home as they did on the way there, “there” being where our heart was even when we weren’t. We’re Mets fans. It was there right where we left it.

Piano Man.
If Faith and Fear was a CBS sitcom, the director would have cut from Jason in right field griping about what a crime against humanity the Billy Joel singalong represents, to me somewhere above third base heartily singing along to Billy Joel. I’d all but forgotten we do “Piano Man”. I’d been anticipating “Lazy Mary” after “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”. Still hadn’t bothered learning the lyrics despite 633 days of solitude to study, yet bouncing in place and hoping the stands will move in time like they would at Shea doesn’t require mastery of the Eye-talian language. Stephanie and I don’t need a translator for “Piano Man,” though maybe we could have used an explainer when we were kids. When I first heard it at age eleven, I thought people were stuffing literal slices of white bread in a jar atop the narrator’s piano, and this was long before I knew someday the Mets would sell cocktails in jars. Stephanie assumed “nine o’clock on a Saturday” meant 9 AM, which as a child struck her as a tad early to be going out for drinks, “but maybe I just didn’t understand bar culture,” she confesses now. “Piano Man” at Citi Field has added a sponsor, which detracts from whatever organic charm it’s supposed to emit as a singalong. It also doesn’t have Luis Rojas’s head popping up on the big screen when “the manager gives me a smile” as it did for Terry Collins (they should use Terry’s head and see if anybody notices). But it has this line I never fully appreciated until I’d been gone from Citi Field and Mets games for 633 days: “…to forget about life for a while.” I was at Citi Field. I was at the Mets game. My only existential issue was fully trusting that Edwin Diaz would allow us to make 11:20 at Woodside. I forgot about life for a while. For as long as it took to prepare my game bag until plopping it down in the living room, with its new yearbook, its new program, its additional couple of dozen or so newly acquired napkins and the win I’d get to inscribe in the steno notepad I call The Log II upstairs. This was regular-season Game 277 at Citi Field, on top of the 402 games at Shea Stadium in The Log I. The Log II had been stuck on Game 276 for basically ever. Eventually, as Wednesday night drifted into Thursday morning, I took care of that little detail, half in pen, half in eraser-equipped pencil.

6/23/21 W Atlanta 19-15 Megill 1 155-122 W 7-3

I missed having the chance to do that more than I realized.

24 comments to The Things I Missed the Most

  • Seth

    Related question: why do we need walk-up theme songs for batters? I can’t get Brother Louie out of my head and it all seems so cartoon-ish… I don’t think Keith Hernandez or Wally Backman had a walk-up song, did they?

    • First I remember walkup music was 1996 at Anaheim Stadium. It busted out all over shortly thereafter.

      I dig the walkup music as a concept. It’s introduced me to more Latin, country and hip-hop grooves than I’d ever otherwise encounter.

    • chuck

      I really appreciated Todd Frazier using Frank Sinatra’s cover of “Fly Me To The Moon.” And so did my eardrums. Is there a seating chart which indicates the lowest SPL from the speaker array? One of the things I used to enjoy while seeing a ballgame is intelligibly conversing with the folks around me.

      And yeah, get the hell off my lawn.

  • John Monz

    It still amazes me what different lives folks lived during the pandemic. I’ve been teaching in classrooms full of 17 and 18-year olds -appropriately masked, of course – since September 2020. That was stressful, of course, but there was personal interaction. The thought that many people only had personal contact with immediate family for well over a year remains hard to fathom. Glad you made it through and are back in circulation!

    • Thanks, John. My “normal” life is such that if Mrs. Lincoln wasn’t asked about the play, there were days proceeded as they might have in less fraught times. Good to have a game to go to, though.

  • Kevin from Flushing

    Welcome back! You would not be surprised to know that Howie was talking about Rusteck last night. And the Islanders.

  • ljcmets

    Slog: Seriously, my husband and I were watching the Islanders game ( as a former college hockey coach, he was growing very impatient with them) as we followed the Mets on Gameday and during commercials. When the first period ended, we switched to SNY. It was the top of the fifth and the score was 5-2. When the hockey resumed, it was STILL the top of the fifth. That half-inning lasted through the entire first intermission! We did get to see Megill receive that wonderful ovation interrupted by the sheer idiocy of the strip search. That procedure is not long for this world, I think.

    Piano Man: Apparently there was also a singalong to the Billy Joel classic at the Coliseum during the second intermission; I wonder how close in time that was to the one at Citi ( isn’t it usually during the 8th inning changeover?). But by then we were glued to the 3rd period, the Mets had won, and overtime loomed. At least in hockey they don’t start overtime with an automatic power play or something equally stupid; what self-respecting sport would do something like that ( don’t get me started!)?

    All of which is to say that I think the Mets and Islanders have always been psychically linked in a way, so channel -hopping, which I normally loathe, was the order of the day last night and will be tomorrow night too and hopefully beyond tomorrow. As a longtime fan of both, let me say that the Blue and Orange have got me feelin’ all right. We’re all in the mood for a melody too, so Let’s Go Mets and Lets’s Go Isles!

    • Bill Shea helped usher the Islanders into existence and John Pickett, who owned the Islanders, helped put together the partnership that bought out the deRoulet ownership.

  • eric1973

    I agree with you that the Mets and Isles are linked, as I believe they have the same fan base.

    When they tied the game and then won it in overtime, it felt like 1980 again! What a feeling!

  • eric1973

    “…MLB’s new All-Star Game uniforms, which players will wear this year. It’s the first time players won’t wear their own team uniforms in the All-Star Game.”

    Just another reason not to watch it. That was the last interesting thing about it.

  • Dave

    That Piano Man is not just still a thing but a sponsored thing is…just wrong. As Jason once said, I’ll take Metal Machine Music by Lou Reed over Piano Man for a sing-along (which should still make Lawn Guylanders happy for being represented by a R&R HOF’er of their own).

  • eric1973

    Yea, that was pretty sick. They chased their own team off the ice, or they would have celebrated more. And Shannon seemed to endorse it.

  • open the gates

    Maybe the song they should be playing is John Sebastian’s Welcome Back. Perfect song for the situation in so many ways.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge Billy Joel fan. Except I still get mad about him singing about sending the carrier out from Norfolk and picking the Yankees up for free. Hey, what are our Metsies, chopped liver? Go play Piano Man in the Bronx, buddy.

    Come to think of it, I still miss the Curly Shuffle in the seventh. Yuk, yuk, yuk, yuk!

  • open the gates

    Almost forgot. Welcome back yourself. And stay safe and healthy.

  • dmg

    Really good to know about Blue Smoke. Shortly after my vaccination kicked in, I attended a deGrom start in April (the 1-0 loss to the Red Sox, natch) and toured the just barely populated Citi Field as you did. Blue Smoke was shuttered in a way that suggested it was closed for good, as I believe has happened to its namesake restaurant in Manhattan. I’m still a little wary of a “pack the house” Citi, but knowing I can get brisket to go is an enticement.

  • Eric

    “6/23/21 W Atlanta 19-15 Megill 1 155-122 W 7-3”

    Decode, please.

    “even my radio”

    What’s your view on listening to Howie and Wayne while at the stadium (presumably on headphones)? Generally the same principle as looking up info on a smartphone, but old school.

    How did the improved defense look in person? That part of the game is chopped up on TV and needs to be seen in person to get a sense of.

    Thanks Braves for going easy on the emergency rookie starter by sitting Acuna. Fun fact: Megill debuted at the exact same age that deGrom made his MLB debut (Age 25-330d) as an emergency rookie starter.

    I’m rooting for Guillorme, AKA Turner Take Two, to keep making plays and putting up numbers so Rojas is compelled to keep playing him.

    Losing winnable games is frustrating. Winning losable games is uplifting, especially when it’s with an all-around effort from the emergency rookie starter, the hitters that need to wake up tacking on runs, and the relievers stretching out to make the rookie’s good effort, but short start, stand up.

    The Nationals sure are charging hard. On the other hand, the Phillies and Braves also touched .500 and 2nd place before stumbling back under. I get the feeling though that the Nationals are going to keep coming and .500 this stretch by the Mets won’t be good enough for 1st place at the all-star break.

    • Essential data from each regular-season game I attend at Citi Field.

      Date
      Day of Week
      Opponent
      My Record vs Opponent at Citi Field
      Starting Pitcher
      How Many Starts I’ve Seen for Pitcher
      My Lifetime Regular-Season Record at Citi Field
      Result
      Score

      Long-ago explainer here.

    • Re Radio: If I’m sitting alone, the radio inevitably keeps me company, though I understand WCBS has it on delay this season, which ruins the synchronization (I can handle the radio being ahead of ESPN or Fox but not behind real life playing out in front of me). Otherwise I whip it out, so to speak, if I need an explanation n a play. Yes, old school, though mostly ingrained habit.

  • eric1973

    Part of the charm for me, when I go to games, is to not listen on the radio at all. Admittedly, you may not get an explanation for some things, but that’s the way it is.

    And I like it when the TV delay is around 15-20 seconds, so if I am watching something else, I can hear the play on the radio and then switch it on the TV and see the play.

  • Eric

    Along with the usual anticipation for Greg or Jason’s postgame(s) reaction, I am particularly looking forward to the FaFiF authoritative reaction to Nola tying a hallowed Seaver record, and worse, Seaver’s franchise striking out 10 straight.

  • […] and vaccination checks and mandatory masks. Last week I went to my second game and it was even nicer, because those three things were gone and the only strange note was how normal all the old routines […]