To tell you the truth, I wasn’t too excited about tonight’s game.
In the beginning, I wasn’t even sure I would go: with Bartolo on the mound and Wright, Duda, and d’Arnaud out, it wasn’t lining up to be much of a thriller.
But in the end, I decided to get myself out to Citi Field, for one last time before I leave for the summer and spend eight weeks in complete isolation, Mets-wise. With the threat of rain looming, seats were going cheap, and I snagged a ticket along the first base line, close enough to notice that Curtis Granderson seemed not to have shaved today.
And for the commitment my decision demonstrated, evidently, the universe decided to send me a sign, early on, that I’d made the right choice.
I was standing in the right field corner, eating a chicken sandwich from Fuku and drinking a sprite, when Howie Rose walked past me.
That’s right; Howie Rose. And it was about that casual as well. No crowds, no picture seekers; no one even seemed to recognize him.
My brain was acting up; there was a tape delay of a solid few seconds between reality and thought. As he walked by, I said whatever I could manage.
“Howie,” I said. “Wow.”
He looked up; in a nearly empty concourse, I was the only one who’d said anything.
“Hey,” he said. I recognized his voice immediately. “How ya doing?”
And as I tried to piece together a coherent response, he walked past me, into the World’s Fare Market.
Being the Howie Rose fan that I am, what else could I do? I staked out the joint. I leaned casually against a railing, watching the market door out of the corner of my eye and waiting for the voice of my team to come out.
Come to think of it, would he come out? Maybe — and this was how fried my brain had become, having to come up with a smart, witty comment to make to Howie Rose — there was some kind of secret media pathway inside the World’s Fare Market, a secret personnel-only thoroughfare that Howie was using to avoid desperate throngs of admirers.
Meanwhile, I planned what I would say when he came out. I would ask about David Wright, and his unprecedented run of bad luck. But I would do it entertainingly. Maybe I would throw in a quote from Howie’s book — “David Wright is the guy you want your daughter to marry.” Or maybe I’d throw in a casual reference to The Honeymooners — “I’ve seen the entire ‘classic 39,’ but still…”
Howie, it turned out, was not utilizing some secret media passageway, but merely getting a dinner’s worth of sushi. It looked pretty good, now that I look back. I’ll have to try it sometime.
My clever references immediately fell out of my head, and I barely managed to put forth my question in the most simplistic terms.
“You ever seen a player go through luck as bad as David Wright?” I asked, as we walked towards the escalator.
“Terrible, isn’t it?” he said. “But you gotta hope he comes back.” That took us to the escalator: seconds later, he was off to the radio booth, and I was still in field level. No one likes a pest.
Needless to say, the game was kind of secondary after that. That’s nothing on the game itself, because it was a pretty good one; but running into Howie Rose tends to put all other things on the back burner.
But for a last game for a while, what more could you ask? A cheap seat a few rows off the field. Big Sexy on the hill, taking a shutout into the eighth. Granderson, whose routine stop to sign autographs stuffed my section beyond capacity until a few minutes before game time, putting us ahead to stay one batter into the bottom of the first.
How many more great moments can you ask for? Conforto, diving in the top of the first to make a catch most of the park thought beyond his abilities, and then homering later? (“Conforto’s going deep tonight,” I tweeted, not that I’m looking for congratulations or anything). Bartolo himself doubling up the gap, advancing in heart-stopping fashion, and then scoring on a sac fly? Walker and Conforto, both finally back in the lineup, going back to back?
Things soured, ever so slightly, in the eighth, which hasn’t gone too well for us, but seemed acceptable, seeing as we had a six run lead. Bartolo came out. Blevins came in. And all was well. We went to the ninth.
Jeurys Familia — oy vey, am I right? He entered in the ninth, after the normally dependable Reed had been hit hard for a whole two batters in a row, and immediately commenced giving up contact. Honestly, I don’t remember exactly how it went: I remember a run coming home, the tying run coming to the plate, and the stadium going into what are quickly becoming recognizable as the Familia sweats.
But Eric Kratz was coming up, and pitching to Eric Kratz solves all ills.
“There’s a five per cent chance he gets a hit here,” a fan behind me said, not taking into account the ofer Kratz was already in the process of racking up. I would have put it lower.
Sure enough, Kratz skied one to right. Granderson started it. Granderson ended it. “Back in the New York Groove” came on, and we were headed home.
The win concluded what was, for me, a relatively dismal first half of the season (3-7). But the record — who cares?
I’ve been to ten games so far this season — ten games that have become part of an evolving, fluid record of my time as a Mets fan. They haven’t all been good; I’ve seen more losses than wins. But there hasn’t been one that hasn’t been fun.
And if you run into Howie Rose — well, that’s just the icing on the cake.