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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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Two Shirts, One Win, No Eraser

Did I want a pencil, the fella who sold me my program/scorecard asked me. Since the pencil was free and the paper bag with handles was a nickel, of course I said yes to the pencil with no eraser and not even NEW YORK METS written across it. Rule No. 1 of ballpark retail customer etiquette is never turn down even the most useless trinket, no matter how useless, not if it’s free. The pencil could have been useful if I’d planned to keep score; was too nervous to use my pen; yet was confident I would make no erasable mistakes.

Because I did not keep score, I didn’t total up the LOB the Mets accumulated in their Tuesday doubleheader. My impression is that over 18 innings they left 54 runners on base. That’s just my impression, though. I know that’s incorrect because a) they didn’t bat in the bottom of the ninth of the opener, so it’s only 17 innings and therefore only a possible 51 LOB and b) I like to exaggerate for effect.

As long as I’m doing that, let me tell you there’s nothing better than a 3:10 start for a baseball game. Nothing. Move over ice cream and intimacy — you’ve been topped! Honestly, I couldn’t say every 3:10 start clicks as the one in Game One did, but I’ve rarely enjoyed an almost empty ballpark more than I did when the Mets got their makeup doubleheader underway. Citi Field wasn’t comically empty as it or any facility can be when something previously unscheduled suddenly springs into action, but the population was pretty sparse. It turned out to be a great way to make my 2022 debut. I’ve avoided April in Flushing since 2017 because fighting the crowds on Opening Day and the chill the rest of the month leaves me cold. Then there was the little matter of no baseball in the early part of 2020 and reduced capacity as 2021 found its footing. Witnessing the first weeks of the season in person is a habit I’ve lost.

Sooner or later, though, ya yearn to get back on that horse. Tuesday afternoon, with its acres of empty seats and pastures of plentiful tickets priced to move brought me to Promenade, just about the same spot where I took in the final home game of last year. It was really cold that night. It was really cold this night, too, but that came later, well after three o’clock. Don’t blame my precious 3:10 start for the sun going down several hours after.

I’m gonna wait ’til the three o’clock hour…

In the three o’clock hour, Citi Field was scrumptious in its solitude and quietude. You could take in a baseball game and all the post-Wilpon aesthetic upgrades (a better out-of-town scoreboard and a sharper ribbonboard presentation) without the PA blaring at you. It’s like they know enough to not bother anybody who just wants to revel in what amounts to secret innings. A little before three o’clock, the premises had something to recommend them as well: a tranquil Mets Plaza and a chance to get to properly greet Big Tom. I’d only seen the Seaver statue on TV, just as I had the 2022 Mets. I couldn’t wait to meet him, imperfect 4 in his rear 41 and all. Sure enough, he was right where I’d suspected he’d be, just across the way from the good old Apple. The Mets have two monuments, one to exquisite pitching, the other to fruitful offense. If only their ideals could have been replicated all afternoon and evening within the park.

For those who haven’t had the pleasure of approaching Big Tom, there’s a lengthy inscription on the plaque that adorns his granite mound. Here’s what it says about GEORGE THOMAS SEAVER:

Tom Seaver arrived in Queens and turned around the fortunes of the New York Mets, leading to the nickname “The Franchise.” Named the 1967 National League Rookie of the Year, Seaver led the Miracle Mets to the club’s first World Series championship in 1969. One of the most dominant pitchers in major league history, Seaver was a three-time Cy Young Award winner and a member of the exclusive 300-win club, finishing his career with 311 wins. He set franchise records for wins (198), strikeouts (2,541) and complete games (171) and was honored by the Mets in 1988 with his induction to the Mets Hall of Fame and the retirement of his uniform number 41. Seaver was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1992.

Try writing all that down with an eraserless pencil…a short eraserless pencil, at that. I took a picture.

The statue had me in a good mood. The start time had me in a good mood. The view from 518 was solid. Did I mention the ticket was a bargain? The first-place Mets and the nationally recognized Cardinals could be had for three digits, two of which followed a decimal point. I couldn’t resist. I found a spot at my LIRR station (not easy in the afternoon). The commute was smooth. My opened bottle of water eluded security. This year’s yearbook and program are now in my baseball library. A 60th Anniversary pennant graces my office wall.

Terrific from every angle.

Oh, and two t-shirts! Not t-shirts I bought but t-shirts I caught from the Citi Perks Patrol. This was the benefit of planting oneself in 518 on a day and night when not that many did, though I didn’t plan it with shirts in mind. In the sixth inning of the first game, a Patrolperson came up with a bag of shirts and asked, in so many words, who wants one…REALLY wants one? Checking just enough of my dignity at the Rotunda door, I waved heartily. She tossed me a shirt. My lucky day! As if being at a ballgame and practically having a section to myself wasn’t lucky enough.

Fast-forward into the darkness and the stiff breeze it brought. It’s the sixth inning of the nightcap. More people are in 518, but not that many more. A different Patrolperson shows up. He also has a bag of shirts. He also wants to know who wants one…REALLY wants one? I haven’t gotten any prouder in the interim. Sure, I figure, I’ll communicate my desire to have another free shirt that won’t fit (they never do). The gentleman tossed me his first shirt. I was so surprised it was happening — aren’t there other sections? — that I dropped it into the row in front of me. The row was unoccupied, making my retrieval of it a foregone conclusion.

Two shirts to go with two games for less than ten bucks. What more could one ask?

Two wins, of course. We were halfway home after the lidlifter, a 3-1 success that felt in peril intermittently but never fell away. Trevor Williams upended my recently stated lack of faith by giving the Mets four shutout innings. Jake Reed walked a tightrope in the fifth, but somehow maintained a zero-laden toegrip. The Mets’ three runs, gathered in the second and third, held up. Nolan Arenado, villain from the Battle of Busch, was booed a lot. Yadier Molina was booed by me. I attempted to give him a “nice career, guy” round of applause as his retirement finally looms, but I still can’t stand him for 2006. I was prepared to stand and ovate in acknowledgement of Albert Pujols at twilight, but he must’ve been warming up in the bullpen the whole time.

Like Pujols to the plate, the second Met win never came. Just lots of runners left on base. It only seemed like 27. The actual number was 9. The Cardinals stranded more, but if you win, 4-3, nobody much cares you outLOB’d the competition, 12-9. The Mets were undermanned in the nightcap, having used their prime relievers Lugo, Smith and Diaz to seal Game One. The absence of bereavement-listed Starling Marte resonated and losing Brandon Nimmo temporarily (we hope) to a ball he batted off his right quad in the seventh further hollowed out our depth. Nimmo’s mishap apparently looked worse than it actually was. It looked bad.

You can’t have two of everything.

Yet the Mets tied the game in the eighth and had two on in the ninth after giving up the tie in the top of the inning. By then the breeze had become full-blown wind, the meditative spirit of the opener had dissipated into frustration with not being able to put away the Cardinals and I mostly wanted to take my shirts and make my train. A second win would’ve been nice. I’d have taken it over a second shirt. You don’t necessarily get offered that perk in Promenade.

5 comments to Two Shirts, One Win, No Eraser

  • Eric

    Mets are treading water now. Fortunately, so is the rest of the division. But we saw that last season, too, until the Braves finally broke out. The Mets losses are looking more and more like last season, too.

    Lindor is looking no better than last season. Don’t forget his 2020 was down, too. Meanwhile Gimenez is outplaying Lindor on offense and defense.

  • open the gates

    It’s the old saying – you’re never as good as you look when you win, never as bad as you look when you lose. Marte and Nimmo (particularly Nimmo) are very important parts of this equation, and losing them, even temporarily, is very significant. So is the loss of James McCann. Say what you want about his hitting, a catcher’s main value for the team is as a backstop and a pitcher whisperer. McCann is excellent on both counts. It’s one of those things that you don’t really appreciate until you don’t have it.

  • Seth

    I thought it would be cool if they had made the statue animatronic, you know, like Disneyland? You could go and ask Tom questions about pitching.

  • Harvey

    I don’t want to rain on the parade, but all-time the only month (excluding small-sample size October) that the Mets have a winning record is April. Through this year, they have a .513 percentage. Maybe because tthe pitchers are ahead of the hitters traditionally in April. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t bold well.

  • Kevin from Flushing

    Nice job on the shirts! I’m still 0-for-probably-200