Okay, let’s get it out of the way: the Mets are 1-0, tied for first place. They beat the Atlanta Braves before an almost capacity crowd at Citi Field. In the spring sunshine you can’t blame the hope springing eternal in the minds of Mets fans, holding their collective breaths to see if Johan Santana could pitch again. Pitch he did – five scoreless innings- and there was a feeling like all was possible, even if it was only for just one day.
There is something about returning to the park on Opening Day, kind of like the first day of school with the smell of newly sharpened pencils, the new clean notebooks, and the bright clothes for another year. There is the smell of spring, the freshly cut grass, the odor of hot dogs, the crunch of the Crackerjacks, and the soda that tastes better than the stuff from a can. There is the crack of the bat, the roar of the crowd, and the feeling that you’re home again, sitting in that blue seat in an ocean of orange and blue shirts cheering for the team you love. What could be better than that?
Before the game there was the usual pomp and circumstance befitting Opening Day. Everyone looked good in new uniforms, and young and old Mets were on hand for the occasion and to honor Gary Carter. There was a feeling that the Kid was there, hovering over the stadium as a presence almost as powerful as his smile once had been in the clubhouse so long ago.
The Mets wore Carter’s Number 8 on their batting practice jerseys as a tribute to Carter, and then would wear the black home plate “Kid 8” icon that they will wear on their right sleeve all season. Current Mets “kids” like Lucas Duda, Dillon Gee, Justin Turner, and Josh Thole may not have ever played with Carter (or were even born before that great 1986 season), but they all know how much Carter meant here and they honored him as much as guys like Ron Darling, Keith Hernandez, and Bobby Ojeda who played with him.
It was hard to keep a dry eye when Carter’s family stood in the outfield against the wall when the tribute in center field was revealed. That home plate icon will be there where it should be, reminding everyone of the true “center” of that 1986 team, the guy who kept things together when they could easily have fallen apart. It was a fitting tribute to a great guy, and the Mets and their fans showed the reverence that was deserved on this day.
So in the spring sunshine we Mets fans had our day. Despite predictions of the team losing 100 games this year and being abysmal to watch, this day proved that there is hope. Santana threw those five innings, David Wright knocked in the only run, and fans had something to cheer about. Carter was honored and the fans went home happy. There’s a long season ahead, but Mets fans are smiling today and they have a right to enjoy it. It was a great day to be a Mets fan.
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