It’s like clockwork you know, hell I could even set my watch to it. Every year and almost exactly around this time, nostalgia rushes over me in a wave of mixed emotions. I feel the cold rattle my aching bones yet I know somewhere warm and far away, my team is getting ready for a new beginning. Unless you’re a fan of this team, it’s hard to describe the passion we share for it, at least not without sounding as if we’re completely insane.
As much as it is a time of rebirth it’s a time where my memories pull me in equally powerful yet opposite directions. It’s hard to let go of those I’ve lost, my father and grandfather especially. I long for the days when we would travel to Kissimmee to see the Mets play the Astros during Spring Training. It was the closest we could get to opening day at Shea, listening to Ralph Kiner – now also a part of our collective memories – and soaking it all in. Full of hope; high on expectations and yet cognizant of reality, that’s the life of a Mets fan.
It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the combative and sometimes negative banter, especially when you’re a part of such a diverse and passionate fan base. Most of the time it’s exhilarating, as defending your opinion should be. On rare occasions it brings out the worst in us, but like I said, that’s rare. But there should be no doubt that hope, really does spring eternal every year around this time.
It’s going to be exciting to see how the future is going to play out with regards to the Mets pitching. It’s difficult to not compare the arms of Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard to the icons of the past whether they be, Seaver, Koosman and Ryan or Gooden, Darling and Cone. We’ve been teased before with Generation K, so we’re battle tested and always prepared to be disappointed. But perhaps that pendulum has finally begun to swing our way.
Questions remain, as they always do. Who’s playing first? What about shortstop? Does Alderson have money to spend? If he does, do you believe him? Do you believe the Wilpons? Does that matter? We always seem to be skeptical no matter who’s running the show, and that’s not entirely a bad thing. We have to admit that progress has been made. Granted in a perfect world, it would have happened sooner then again in a perfect world Carlos Beltran would have swung at that curveball and Bernie Madoff would have never existed.
“[Baseball] breaks your heart. It’s designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, you rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it the most, it stops.”
~ A. Bartlett Giamatti, Take Time For Paradise: Americans And Their Games
Even though a part of me would give anything to relive the past, I’m beginning to realize the true gift of what the past has given me. What good is it to wish for days long gone with those we cared for sharing our love of this game and this team if it simply ends there? Every thread of this game becomes a tapestry when passed down to those we love. The whole point is to continue our tradition.
Just recently the mother of a good friend and co-worker of mine passed away. As true a fan of this team I have ever known. Adrienne would call to speak to her daughter and I knew when they were done speaking – it was time for us to talk shop. She was 80 years old and sharp as a tack and she knew everything that was going on with this team from who was playing to who was hurt, down to her “boyfriend” Keith Hernandez’ personal life. She made it a point to mention that he was “available” now and that he lived not too far from her. I think the Mex would’ve met his match though.
This is what matters most about our love for this team. I may not write with the aplomb of a Greg Prince or with the uncanny wit of Metstradamus or with the statistical dexterity of Eric Simon. But like Forrest Gump, I too know what love is and my greatest hope for anyone who reads this is to find that someone in your life and pass this love down. I know, you might think it’s a curse but deep down, beyond the issues, beyond the controversies, we’re all one big family and I’ve been lucky to know and learn from a few of them.