The 10 Best Things About Being a New York Mets Fan

John DornCorrespondent IIIAugust 14, 2012

The 10 Best Things About Being a New York Mets Fan

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    With the exception of their two banner-raising seasons, 43 and 26 years ago, respectively, the ballclub from Queens has been hamstrung by stretches of lengthy rebuilds, injuries, eyebrow-raising front office decisions and flat-out bad luck.

    Although these all seem like traits that would steer anyone in their right mind away from Flushing, Mets fans have grown to embrace and inexplicably love their club’s struggles. It’s what makes the Mets, well, the Mets—and what bonds all Mets fans into one great, heartbreak-embracing baseball family.

    This is an excerpt from a blog post I put together following Johan Santana's no-hitter on June 1—the first in New York Mets history. That miraculous performance was just the latest in a long line of events that bond the thousands of members of the Mets fan family closer then ever before.

    Our family is one of the greatest in the world, and perhaps the best in all of sports. Here's a list of 10 reasons why.

Citi Field

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    What's a better way to start than our new home?

    Citi Field was unveiled in 2009 and has been one of baseball's finest ballparks ever since. An homage to Ebbets Field, home of the Brooklyn Dodgers, the ballpark's exterior features arcs and brickwork much like the old ballpark in Flatbush.

    It only gets better on the inside. The yard's main entrance, dubbed The Jackie Robinson Rotunda, greets ticket holders with video footage and wall murals of Robinson. His nine values are listed around the rotunda for all to study: courage, determination, teamwork, persistence, integrity, citizenship, justice, commitment and excellence.

    Citi Field features some of the best eats in town, too. From Shake Shack to Blue Smoke, options expand beyond your traditional hot dog and beer. Head over to Taste of the City in center field to find your ideal ballpark meal, whether it be tacos from El Verano Taqueria or even a lobster roll from Catch of the Day.

    A fairly recent addition to the park is McFadden's Restaurant and Saloon. Opening its doors in 2010, McFadden's is available for all fans before, after and during the game. Located in the right field corner of the stadium, it acts as a tailgate spot, a getaway during lopsided losses and a place to celebrate a big W.

    Some artifacts were salvaged from the old home, too.

    The skyline that rested atop the scoreboard of the beloved Shea Stadium was preserved, restored and now graces the roof of Shake Shack and Blue Smoke.

    Shea's old home run apple wasn't moved into the new stadium for use, like some fans pushed for. It was however restored and kept. After a brief stop in the bullpen gate picnic area in 2009, it now greets fans as they make their way into the park, right out front facing the train pavilion. 

    After over 40 years spent in a ballpark that, by the time it was closed for good, was more reminiscent of a garbage dump than a baseball stadium (even though we loved Shea more than our own homes), Mets fans finally have a home to be proud of, and will for decades to come.

Great Pitching

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    The wins and losses have not always shown it, but the Mets, ever since the very beginning, have always been led by stellar pitching.

    Beginning in just the franchise's sixth season, Hall of Famer and the team's most celebrated player, Tom Seaver, made his major league debut. After a World Series victory just two seasons later, Seaver and lefty Jerry Koosman made up the team's first-ever pair of aces. Seaver went on to win 198 ballgames for New York, at a razor-thin ERA of 2.57.

    Koosman sits in third place on the Mets' all-time wins list, with 140 in 12 seasons at Shea. He pitched to an ERA just over three in those seasons, which included a 21-victory campaign in 1976.

    Seaver and Koosman paved the way for the next generation of Mets pitching lore. Five years after the original duo made their debut, up came southpaw Jon Matlack. Matlack burst onto the scene in 1972, taking home Rookie of the Year honors—the first Met to do so since Seaver. In 1973, led by Seaver, Koosman and Matlack (and less-than-perfect play by the entire National League East) the Mets finished the year with a playoff spot at 82-79. That team went on to lose the World Series in seven games to Oakland.

    Dwight Gooden followed in the line of dazzling starters to call Shea Stadium home. Gooden won the Rookie of the Year award in 1984 and Cy Young in 1985, culminating in a World Series victory in 1986.

    In those three seasons, Gooden's record came out to 58-19 with a 2.28 ERA. Doctor K had 744 punchouts in 744.2 innings. It appeared Gooden would be the one to lead the charge of the Mets dynasty of the late '80s—along with fellow starters Ron Darling and Bob Ojeda—but 1986 would be that bunch's only championship. Gooden donned a blue and orange jersey for the last time in 1994 at the age of 29—10 years removed from his electric rookie run that got everyone in town talking Mets baseball once again.

    The Mets were amazin' again by the late 1990s, falling two wins shy of a World Series berth in '99 and—led by Mike Hampton and Al Leiter's 15 and 16 wins, respectively—three wins short of a championship in 2000. 

    You may remember Tom Glavine tossed his 300th victory in a Mets uniform, when he was a member of the same rotation as Pedro Martinez.

    The following winter Johan Santana jumped on board, to lead the new wave of Metropolitan hurlers from their old digs into their new home, Citi Field.

    Soon, R.A. Dickey emerged as one of baseball's best—as he's perfected an unhittable pitch—and appears to only be gaining steam at 37 years of age.

    It won't be long before the baseball world will be raving about the Citi Field mound once again, when youngsters Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler toe the rubber every fifth day for the Mets.

Heartbreak

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    As Mets fans, our hearts have been yanked from our chests more times than we'd like to admit. We remember watching SNY air TV ads in September of 2007 that told us to lock up our Mets playoff tickets, which seemed logical since the team was seven up on the Phillies with 17 to play, but you know the rest.

    Fast-forward a year later, when the Mets were a win away from securing a one-game playoff versus Milwaukee in Shea Stadium's final game. The win never came, and Big Shea shut its doors for good that day.

    Both final-day disappointments of 2007 and 2008 were smokescreened by sensational pitching performances in the season's penultimate games.

    In '07 it was John Maine who took a no-hitter into the eighth inning against Florida to pitch the team to victory, providing fans the false belief that their team was recharged and ready for a playoff run.

    The next season it was Flushing's newest ace, Johan Santana, who pitched a complete game shutout on just three days' rest when the Mets needed it the most, to secure his warrior status among the Flushing faithful. Ultimately, it just made the next day's loss sting that much more.

    2009 was supposed to be different.

    A new beginning, a new home.

    That was until Carlos Delgado, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, David Wright, Jon Niese, John Maine, Billy Wagner, JJ Putz and Ryan Church all found themselves on the DL for part or most of the season. It's no surprise the team won 70 games that year. 

    The pain and suffering dates farther back than last decade, though.

    The team came up percentage-points short of a share of the Wild Card in 1998, finishing at 88-74 after dropping the season's last five contests.

    It was 1999 when the Mets faced Atlanta in the NLCS and Kenny Rogers gifted the Braves a trip to the World Series with a bases-loaded walk to Andruw Jones in the series' final game.

    2000 was especially traumatic for Mets diehards, providing excruciating satisfaction to members of the Yankee empire as their team knocked off the underdog Amazins.

    It's never a feeling we get used to, and each punch to the gut always hurts more than the last. But for better or worse, it bonds us closer together... 

Resiliency

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    But we always come back.

    No matter how bad it hurts, no matter how lopsided the loss, Mets fans are engineered to weather the storm—it's in our DNA by now.

    It's what makes the victories that much sweeter—all the pain and tears (and dollars) that we devote to our beloved boys of Queens.

    From April to September they're always there for us, and we return the favor. Regardless of the wins or losses, despite how badly our guys may perform, we hold out hope that one day, one season, things will turn around. We need to—it's what keeps us sane.

    Realistically, it's hard not to look ahead to the future with a smile when you consider the 2012 club competed for a half-season with virtually no relief pitching, in a season that was designated for rebuild.

    With a crop of young Mets that include Zack Wheeler, Matt Harvey, Jenrry Mejia, Jeurys Familia, Matt den Dekker and Wilmer Flores, we'll make the argument that the next generation of Mets baseball is going to be worth the wait.

Mr. Met

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    What's not to love about our favorite mascot? After all, he was voted the best mascot in all of sports!

    Mr. Met has been around since 1963—the team's second season—when he appeared (in cartoon form) in the team yearbook. It wasn't long before the baseball-headed embodiment of the Mets came to life.

    His costume has evolved a bit, and so has his uniform over the years. He's just as loyal as any other member of the Mets family, and his silent playfulness has never been displaced after any loss.

    Mr. Met has been, and forever will be, the face of the Mets. Through any eyebrow-raising signing or lopsided trade, and no matter who departs to a division rival via free agency, we can always count on our 6'10" friend to make us smile when we need it the most.

The 7 Line

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    In October of 2009, Douglaston, Queens native Darren Meenan had a vision. He, just like the rest of us, was finishing up his third straight season of disappointment. In honor of the season's final game, Darren produced a few t-shirts for himself and some buddies that read, "I SURVIVED," and briefed the team's mishaps of recent years.

    On opening day 2010, Darren officially launched The 7 Line, his Mets-themed brand of shirts inspired by the fans. Fans could log onto his online store to browse the collection and purchase T7L tees.

    In just over two years, Darren's brand has taken off. Aided by his presence on Facebook and Twitter, his interaction with Mets fans has played a huge role in the popularity of the brand and he is now a familiar face among Mets diehards.

    "I never had a set plan as to how large I wanted the brand to get," Darren told me through email. "It has kind of taken on a life of it's own throughout the Mets fan base."

    Twitter interactions with players including infielder Justin Turner and pitcher Jon Rauch have led to The 7 Line shirts popping up in the Mets clubhouse.

    Most notably, Darren's "RIP KID" tee—a tribute to Gary Carter—was worn under the jersey of every Met during their first spring training game. All proceeds from the shirts have been donated to the Gary Carter Foundation—close to $9,000. 

    Darren's movement first saw major exposure last summer, during his "Don't Trade Reyes" campaign. By midsummer, hundreds of orange-shirted fans rallied at Citi Field to send a message to the front office: Keep Jose for 2011, and sign him for beyond. 

    Although the message was unsuccessful and Reyes now plays ball in Miami, Darren's brand has skyrocketed in popularity since.

    Darren says he couldn't be happier with how rapidly his movement has grown. You'd be hard-pressed to walk through a Citi Field concourse without seeing a Darren Meenan creation.

    "Walking around the stadium and seeing all the shirts is crazy," Darren explained. "About a month ago I took a lap around the field level at Citi Field and counted at least one shirt per section," he said.

    "It's hard to describe how it feels but I am honored."

    The 7 Line's popularity is especially unique in that there are just two people who conduct business in his Jamaica warehouse: Darren and his lone employee Lizy Saroyan.

    Darren takes pride in being a brand run "for the fans, by the fans," as the site's motto says.

    He cited one interaction with a fan on Twitter. The fan said, "Owning a shirt from The 7 Line is like owning a Jeep. When I see others wearing your shirts I know he or she is a die hard Mets fan."

    "That's exactly what I'm going for," Darren said.

    You can check out Darren's site here, for more information.

R.A. Dickey

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    There's really not much not argue here. The man is awesome.

    A former English Lit major and self-proclaimed "Star Wars nerd," Dickey may be the last person you'd suspect to be a Major League ace.

    But that's exactly what he is.

    At 37 years of age, the knuckleballer is only getting better. His slow ascent to stardom has been storied over the past few months, especially with the publishing of his autobiography, Wherever I Wind Up.

    Dickey is missing an ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. Just another quirk to undoubtedly make him the most interesting man on the Mets. 

    Throw in the fact that he's currently the league's only knuckleball pitcher, and you can understand the love affair between Dickey and Mets fans.

    It took Dickey eleven years to reach the potential that was tossed his way when he was drafted 18th overall in 1996, and it wasn't exactly the path he anticipated. But R.A. has finally made it as a star in the big leagues. 

    He currently boasts a 15-3 record to go along with a 2.72 ERA—good for fourth in the league.

    Oh, and here's an excerpt from Wherever I Wind Up:

    I remember details. I've always been able to remember details. I will never be a Hall of Famer and will never lead the league in strikeouts, and am in no imminent danger of joining the 300 Victory Club. But my memory—that I will put up against anybody's.

    R.A. Dickey is currently tied for the league lead in strikeouts with 166.

Being the Underdog

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    This is something the Mets and their fans have had to deal with for the better part of 50 years, and there's not much we can do but accept it.

    Playing in the same city as the painfully successful Yankees is no easy task for the boys in blue and orange, just as dealing with proud, pinstripe-clad fans at seemingly every corner of the state is no cakewalk for us.

    59 years of age and 25 world championships separate the two bands of baseball congregation that call New York home, and if you ask Mets fans, they wouldn't prefer it any other way.

    We'll take our two championships and appreciate every minute of Mets victory we can get, a million times over before we surrender to the oft-victorious Yankee empire and their money-throwing, condescending ways. It's just in our blood whether we like it or not—we hate the Yankees.

    It's just another quality for us to rally around and take pride in. We may not be the historical, wealthy, pompous powerhouse that the Yankees are, have been and forever will be. We may not have ever played home games in The House that Ruth Built. We may not have the 16 retired numbers, Monument Park or all the bravado of Yankee Stadium.

    That's all unnecessary to us. Through it all, we know we're behind our boys 100 percent no matter what anybody thinks, and that's what being a Mets fan's all about.

Gary, Keith and Ron (and Kevin)

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    Regardless the quality of the team they're calling games for, SNY's broadcasting squad of Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez, Ron Darling and Kevin Burkhardt are irreplaceable.

    First teaming up in 2006—SNY's inaugural season—Gary, Keith and Ron have worked to achieve unmatched chemistry. Gary's lifelong built-up fanhood and Mets knowledge provide for an enjoyable listening experience for Mets fans as he calls the plays. Ron and Keith each add their unique spin on the game as ex-players: Ron with Emmy-winning insight and Keith with hilarious commentary out of the peanut gallery.

    Field reporter Kevin Burkhardt joined the team in 2007 and has developed into the perfect compliment to the men upstairs.

    He roams the ballpark while providing intriguing reports involving anything from Citi Field landmarks, opposing players and stadiums or the occasional interview of a notable fan.

    His pre- and postgame interviews have become especially entertaining as Kevin has developed friendly relationships with the players over recent years.

    We realize we're especially lucky to have such great commentary during the games. When you take a listen around the league, you realize just how special the SNY boys are together and that they may be the most irreplaceable part of the club (besides David Wright, Sandy, if you're listening). 

The Future

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    It's easy to point to a few shining stars when it comes to the Mets' future. Some guys on the current squad are Wright, Ruben Tejada, Ike Davis, Jon Niese, Dillon Gee and Matt Harvey. All of those players have never known any organization besides the Mets'. 

    The first priority is, of course, to resign David Wright long-term. After that deal is done, R.A. Dickey should be locked up. Then we'll be satisfied and strapped in to watch our new young guns compete for the playoffs.

    Perhaps the most exciting prospect the Mets have had since Wright and Reyes is pitcher Zack Wheeler. The Mets acquired Wheeler from San Francisco for Carlos Beltran last summer.

    His stuff has been noted among the best in all of the minors. The 22-year-old has been on the fast track to the majors ever since his pro debut in 2010 and projects to be a major-leaguer by next season.

    A rotation that could include any of Wheeler, Harvey, Niese, Dickey, Mejia, or Gee—among others—surely has potential to compete with the best lineups in baseball with two-to-three seasons of development. 

    The left side of the infield remains a strong suit for the team, with Wright and the 22-year-old Tejada—who is shaping up to be a very impressive leadoff hitter and defensive shortstop, much like his predecessor Jose Reyes.

    In time, a lineup core of Wright, Davis, Lucas Duda and Daniel Murphy could be mentioned at the top of everyone's lists. Kirk Nieuwenhuis also showed glimpses of excellent play early this season. Prospect Wilmer Flores has been noted among the top in the system for years now, too.

    With proper discretion, Sandy Alderson has a chance to put together a special, young team—much like the gang the Washington Nationals field today. 

    Manager Terry Collins seems to have all of his men under his control and is a perfect leader of men, especially for a young team.

    In the next few seasons, we'll all see why the future just may be the best part about being a member of the New York Mets family.

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