The Mets will open the 2016 season with a two game road trip. And I, with my own personal 2016 season, will do the same.
As I returned from Madison Square Garden, the Knicks’ win over the Celtic fresh on my mind but the 2016 Mets threatening Kristaps Porzingis for my undivided attention, I was suddenly fully occupied with Opening Weekend of 2016. It was sudden, unexpected: all at once, I couldn’t think of anything but Saturday, April 9th, when I’ll finally get back to Citi Field.
And so, walking home from the subway only minutes after watching what by all accounts was a heart-pounding, adrenaline-pumping thriller of a win, a Mets fan who simply couldn’t wait any longer for baseball season began planning a trip.
Were Opening Day a night game, I’d make it, but it’s not, and I can’t. But I won’t be far away though: come Friday, April 8th, when the Mets will take on the Phillies at 1:10, I’ll be A) in the midst of the three hour train ride from Providence to Penn Station, or B) finishing up Spanish class. I haven’t decided yet, and I assure you that Opening Day won’t factor into my decisions at all.
Not that I’m winking as I say that, or anything.
In any case, as the Mets’ starter delivers Citi Field’s first pitch of the season (Syndergaard? DeGrom? Who knows, when we’ve got two games in five days to start the season?), I won’t be present, at least in any physical form. But I’ll be close by, and rest assured I’ll be listening, one way or another.
Spanish class or not.
Regardless, I’ll be home by Friday night, and by that time, baseball in New York will be in full swing. Some have questioned my priorities, spending a full weekend in New York to watch two baseball games, but if you don’t understand the way I prioritize things by now, it’s your job to get to know me better.
So I’ll get to New York, and whatever else I have to do will take a seat, because during baseball season, there’s no uncertainty as to what comes first. And then finally, for the first time in what, I’m sure, will have felt like ten years, I’ll go through the standard pregame rituals: choosing a jersey checking the weather, evaluating StubHub offerings, etc.
And for what is mostly meddlesome, mildly inconvenient preparation, I’ll sure feel happy about it.
And then, after a sleepless night, it will be game day, and all the waiting, and anticipation, and fruitless speculation, and absolute monotony, which will already have been dissipating, to a degree, since Opening Night in Kansas City, will finally be ready to pay off in full. And I’ll go through the motions, and make every attempt to pretend that sure, it’s just another day. But everyone who knows me will know just how far from the truth that will be.
It will be the day I finally return to Citi Field, my second or third or whatever number home, on equal footing with all the others if not higher. A World-Class ballpark that houses a World-Class team where World-Class memories have been made, with a pennant newly raised to commemorate the sheer volume of World-Classiness that Citi Field houses.
Repeat: you bet it won’t be a normal day.
I tell myself every offseason that I’ll remember the sensation of pulling ‘round the corner on the 7 train, and seeing the outline of Citi Field for the first time. Every offseason I forget. Maybe I’ll remember this season, but somehow, I think it’s more likely that I’ll forget, swept away in the euphoria. But regardless, the sensation of finally returning will be, I’m sure, all that I’ve billed it.
And that’s how my season will begin, with a Saturday night game against the Phillies, which I’m feeling good about, because these are the Phillies and we’re the Mets and this is not 2007 but 2016 and we’ve got four aces and hitters to boot and they’ve got very little of anything. We’re coming off a World Series run, and still will be the night of April 9th. The Phillies? Who are they? We’ll take care of ‘em. Harvey or Syndergaard or Matz or deGrom or even Bartolo Colón himself will do what they do, and six or seven scoreless innings and Reed and Familia later, we’ll have ourselves a win.
Saturday will end, and Sunday will begin, and I’m confident that against the Phillies, I’ll see another win, with all hands on deck and all machines humming. Neil Walker will contribute, as will Asdrubal Cabrera, even though I didn’t like his signing, because I’ve just got some really good feelings about that opening weekend. I don’t know particularly why this is: maybe that we just made a run to the World Series, maybe that the Phillies are bad and not getting better, maybe that the thought of having baseball to watch again makes me so damn giddy that I can’t help but think positively of it.
And that will be that. With a two game road trip concluded, I’ll pack whatever I conspired to bring with me and catch a three hour train back to Providence, where school will resume in earnest and I’ll have a whole damn month before I can get off school and focus my attentions on the infinitely more desirable theater that will inevitably be playing out in Queens. There will be highs and lows, injuries and triumphant returns, walk-offs and blowout losses, well played pitchers duels and sloppy slugfests that, at least, Keith Hernandez, we now know, will be back to grumble over. But whatever it is, there will be baseball.
In the dead of winter, thoughts of Baseball overcame me, to the point that I buckled down and planned my first annual return to New York. I really planned it – looked at trains and everything. Few things are powerful enough to inspire that kind of compulsion – in fact, I can’t think of anything but this. A return to baseball. A return to summer. A return to the suddenly homey grounds of Citi Field.
And after my two game road trip? No, I won’t be back. Not for a while, at least, with midterms and finals and projects and whatever else is dreamed up for us students to complete. But it will be baseball season. And with a nightly Mets game to look forward to, my month in captivity will pass in the blink of an eye, and I’ll be back in the seats before you know it.