Thursday, April 1, 2010

Looking Forward, Looking Back

Opening day for the Mets is Monday, the day after Easter. Season of rebirth and renewal? It is not looking that way. The 2009 season was plagued by injuries and this year has started the same way, with Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes and Daniel Murphy on the disabled list. I went to the first game of the season in the new stadium, Citi Field, and the last. Some fans were happy to see the season end.

When a lot of players are injured and the season is in the toilet, the second string takes the field. Nelson Figueroa, who for me epitomizes the quadruple-A player who can't stick in the majors, pitched a complete game shut-out on the final day--the first at Citi Field and so it goes in the record books.

Figueroa holds a special place in my heart. He grew up in Coney Island and started for the Binghamton Mets in the very first minor league game I saw. He pitched a scoreless eighth inning in last year's Triple-A all-star game, which I attended with my father. I also saw him on the sidelines at a Tucson Sidewinders game when he was in the Diamondbacks organization. Figueroa spent time with the Phillies, Brewers and Pirates before finding his way back to the club that signed him. He pitched 13.2 innings this spring, with a 4.61 ERA, very close to his major league career stat. Looks like he'll be shufflin' off to Buffalo.

One of the reasons I root for the Mets and not that team in the Bronx is the announcers are consistently better. And they're not "homers;" I detest that. Former player turned announcer Ron Darling predicts the Mets will win 85 games this year. I figure that has us finishing third. I'm skipping opening day but have tickets to see the Cubs, Dodgers and Phillies. You know you're pessimistic when you pick games based on who the visiting team is. Still, a bad day at the ball park is better than a good day fishing--I think that's how the bumper sticker reads. Citi Field is an enjoyable place to see a game. It's quite similar to Citizens Bank Ballpark, with marquee food behind the outfield for example, but frankly not quite as nice. It's the little things in Philadelphia, like the stainless steel counters behind the seats in case you want to finish your food before sitting back down.

Go even further beyond the outfield and you find yourself in the "Iron Triangle," which yet another New York City mayor is struggling to eradicate in favor of some master-planned community.

I only bought Mets tickets through May, waiting to see when Mel and I were going to hit the road. The first trip is next week and includes two opening day games. Then it's Ohio and points in-between in July. As Major League Baseball sloganeered in the early part of the decade, "I live for this."

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