My grandfather raised me to be a Mets fan. Actually, “raised” is too tame of a word. My grandfather brainwashed me to become a Mets fan from the time I was a baby. If you go through old pictures of me, you are bound to find a few of toddler-Adam wearing a cute little Mets onesie or a silly over-sized Mets cap.
I remember taking bus trips with my grandfather’s church down to Shea Stadium in the early-90’s when I was a little kid. I remember only a few details about the games from my youthful mind: the first was a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, when everyone in the stadium seemed to hate a guy with the last name “Strawberry.” I couldn’t understand why. Strawberries were one of my favorite fruits.
The following year was the infamous Statue of Liberty game, when our bus driver got lost and we wound up passing the Statue of Liberty about three times before finally arriving in the third inning of a game against the San Francisco Giants. Of course, we were greeted in the fifth inning by a torrential downpour and wound up having to go home. Finally, there was a game in 1996 against the Houston Astros. The forecast called for rain all day, but the bus driver was insistent that the game was still on. We took the three hour bus drive down from Albany to Shea, only to learn that the game had been postponed, then made the three hour trip back home. That was when we decided to stop taking bus trips.
It’s fitting that my introduction to the Mets involved many of the characteristics that are associated with being a fan: confusion, frustration, and disappointment. Still, I was hooked. I fell in love with baseball as a 9-year-old, which is when I first learning how to actually play the game. Of course, the Mets were the only baseball team I was associated with growing up, so I soon fell in love with them too. I remember staying home sick from school on Opening Day 1996, and watching the Cardinals vs. Mets. The Cardinals jumped to a 6-0 lead, but the Mets rallied to win 7-6. The only play I remember from that game was Rey Ordonez gunning a runner out at the plate with a perfect throw from shallow left field, thanks to a horrific relay throw by Bernard Gilkey.
That was my introduction to the thrill of it all. It was the first full baseball game I ever watched, and it soon became a part of my life. My father was (and still is) a Yankees fan, but never to a point where he had to watch the Yankees. In other words, he was not like me. Soon, it became a nightly routine – my Mom would go to her room and watch Friends or Everybody Loves Raymond, while my Dad and I would sit in the living room and watch the Mets for an hour before I went to bed. When I woke up, my Dad greeted me not with “Good morning,” but with “The Mets lost” or “The Mets won.” As you would expect, I quickly got accustomed to hearing bad news.
The more I watched them, the more I learned. I learned about the history of the game, as well as the history of the team. The stories of the Miracle Mets of ’69 and the Amazin’ 1986 team were fairy tales to me. I wrote a five-page report in 4th grade about the 1986 World Series, and the moral was to never give up. But while I loved hearing about the past, I was even more entrenched in the present.
Jose Vizcaino was my first favorite player. I remember the day he and Jeff Kent got traded for Carlos Baerga and Alvaro Espinoza, I cried. I quickly moved on though. The following year, I was introduced to John Olerud. Soon, I was playing first base in Little League and emulating my stance after him. Once he left, Robin Ventura was my guy.
Every Mets fan loved Mike Piazza. I didn’t want to be like every Mets fan though, I wanted to be unique. Ventura always seemed to come through in the clutch, and he was one of the few names I knew outside of the Mets when I first started watching the game. Four became my favorite number. I made sure to use it in my e-mail address and my AIM screen name. I wore it for CYO basketball, and was able to wear it on my high school baseball team. When filling out my application for Siena College, the essay portion required me to write about an incident that taught me about the ups and downs of life – I wrote about Game 5 of the 1999 NLCS, better known as “The Grand Slam-Single Game.” I got accepted.
Being a Mets fan has never been about expecting greatness, unfortunately. Instead, it’s always been about rooting for the underdog and holding out hope. It isn’t ideal, nor is it very satisfying, but when success does actually occur it makes it that much more enjoyable. Other teams have names like Babe Ruth, Willy Mays, and Albert Pujols to celebrate as postseason heroes. The Mets have Ron Swoboda, Mookie Wilson, and Todd Pratt. That is exactly what makes being a Mets fan so fun.
As we enter the 2013 season, some Mets fans see ineptitude. They look in the outfield and see Larry, Moe, and Curly. They look at the R.A. Dickey trade as a slap in the face. That’s not how I’ve been accustomed to looking at things. My experience as a Mets fan has given me a different interpretation. I look in the outfield and see guys that will give 100% to make a name for themselves as Major League players. I look at the starting rotation and see young talent. I look at the infield and see a core that can lead the team to success now and in the future. I look in the farm system and see guys that will only add to that success. Come the All-Star Break I could be totally wrong about everything, but that’s not going to change my opinion on one thing – I’m a Mets fan, and I will always believe.