Opening Day in Pictures: The New York Mets Ride Johan Santana To 7-1 Win
It's Opening Day for 26 teams around Major League Baseball. Among those teams with players lacing up their cleats for the first time this season is the New York Mets.
More than 40,000 fans showed up at Citi Field to usher in the 2010 campaign against the NL East rival Florida Marlins.
New York came into the season with muted expectations but with a point to prove. The Fish wanted to prove they are a serious challenger to the Philadelphia Phillies' National League crown.
Here's the Mets' Opening Day in pictures.
To read my grades for each of New York's players today, click here.
Take Me Out to the Ball Game
Fans flocked to Flushing for Opening Day and they were not disappointed.
The official attendance was 41,245 and everyone on hand had a great day for a ballgame. The weather was 66 degrees, slightly cloudy, with a nice breeze whipping around the park.
The 13 MPH wind may not have been ideal for Gary Matthews, Cameron Maybin, and the others in the outfield, but it made for ideal viewing conditions in the upper decks.
The weather isn't going to be perfect all year round, but if it stays like this, who wouldn't want to dust off their glove and head to the yard?
Hotdogs, crackerjack, beer, cotton candy, and the Mets. It sounds good to me.
The Biggest Cheer of All
As is the tradition with home openers, the players, trainers, coaches, and team staff were introduced to the fans as they line up down the first base line.
Among the coaching changes for 2010 is Razor Shines moving from third base coach to first base coach, Chip Hale taking over where Razor left off, and Dave Jauss starting his first season as bench coach.
There were also a few questions answered in the lineup. Gary Matthews Jr. got the start in center field, with Alex Cora starting in place of Jose Reyes at short. Angel Pagan and Ruben Tejada were relegated to the bench.
The biggest cheer of the introduction was reserved for David Wright, although Johan Santana and Jason Bay also received loud applause.
A New York Legend
Darryl Strawberry, a key part of New York's 1986 World Series-winning squad, was on hand at Citi Field to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
Strawberry, a guest on SNY's pre-game show, swapped his brown two-piece suit and waistcoat for a white No. 18 pinstripe jersey and sunglasses.
Straw threw the first pitch from in front of the mound, looping his delivery to fellow '86 world champion Howard Johnson who was behind the plate.
A Stadium to Call Our Own
Citi Field was filled to the brim with expectant fans—loyal followers of the Amazin' Mets ready to put 2009 behind them and root, root, root for the home team.
Citi Field was criticized last year for the lack of team history at the stadium. The top brass responded by naming the bridge in right-center field after Bill Shea—the man who brought National League baseball back to the city—and by opening up a Hall of Fame Mets museum near the Jackie Robinson rotunda.
They also transplanted the old home run apple from the back of the bullpen to outside near the front of the stadium, and they reformatted the bullpen configuration so that fans could see both teams' relievers.
Pre-game festivities included a fly over, a moment of silence for Mets fans and members lost over the last 12 months, and a rendition of the national anthem performed by 4Troops.
Welcome Back, Boys
For the first time in 175 days, the Mets were back in the dugout, energized, and ready to play ball.
Expectations were high but emotions were kept in check as David Wright, Luis Castillo, and Co. ran out 7-1 victors over the Marlins.
Johan Santana said he was full of nervous energy, as he always is before an Opening Day start. Jason Bay said he was more anxious before his first spring training game for his new club.
Whatever approach they took, it paid off for the Mets, as they beat Josh Johnson for the first time ever. It was all high fives, fist bumps, and back pats in the dugout.
As I left the stadium on the final day of 2009, moments after cheering Nelson Figueroa off the field following his complete game shutout, I saw a sign saying "Thank God It's All Over."
Few people seem to be giving the Mets much of a chance this year, but those who are were out in full voice today.
Among the optimists was this guy, a regular at Citi Field, with a sign that summed up the hope for a new season.
The Mets are looking to turn the page. Ya gotta believe!
Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something...Red
Last season, the Mets brought the old home run apple from Shea Stadium and planted it in the bullpen down in right field. It was mostly hidden from the fans at the back of the 'pen.
This year, the club's owners decided to move it outside the ballpark, near the entrance to the Mets-Willet Point subway station which carries the No. 7 train.
Fans were obviously delighted to see the apple on display, with fans at the stadium stopping to take photos with the famous piece of Shea memorabilia.
They must have placed the apple there fairly recently. When I swung by Citi at the end of March it wasn't there. It's nice to see they got the flowers planted, too.
The Mets still have some work to do to make it feel like their new home, but this, along with a couple other changes, is a step in the right direction.
An Ace for Opening Day
Johan Santana won his third straight Opening Day start on Monday, helping the Mets past Josh Johnson and the Florida Marlins.
Santana wasn't exactly "vintage", by his own lofty standards, but he allowed just one run on four hits over six innings. He struck out five Marlins, including Cameron Maybin three times on changeups.
Santana's fastball looked effective, but it was really his off-speed pitches that kept the Marlins off balance, especially through the first three innings.
He retired the first seven batters of the game, and he worked his way out of trouble with the exception of one extra-base hit to Jorge Cantu that scored Chris Coghlan, Florida's only run.
The Wright Stuff
With one powerful swing of the bat, the Mets shortstop gave New Yorkers faith that their team can compete in 2010. Wright suffered a massive power outage last year, but after working with HoJo this offseason his swing seems to be much improved from this time 12 months ago.
Wright launched a two-run home run down the first base line in his very first at-bat of the year, taking Johnson the other way on a fastball up and away.
The Mets hit just two opposite field home runs in 2009...it's a great sight to see Wright go yard against the Fish.