LEX JOE METS. [04-29-08]

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At 6pm sharp, I logged off at work, changed into my #57 t-shirt, and prepared to walk out the door.
The New Girl at the office looks at me. “You should stay, have some pizza.”
“Sorry, but I have a date with a handsome Venezuelan gentleman who’s a two-time Cy Young award winner, I can’t stand him up.”
Considering that I was standing there in a Mets t-shirt with SANTANA across the back, I thought the joke would be obvious. It went right over her head.

Poor Ian Snell, I thought on the way out to Shea. Here he thinks he’s going to New York to face Oliver Perez, and then, boom, a little rain and now you’re facing Johan Santana. I found the entire situation serendipitous, because 2008 was looking to be a repeat of 2006, where, despite going to 35+ games, I never saw Pedro start once. It was looking to be the same pattern for Mr. Santana, so I was delighted to have his start bumped a day.

My guest at tonight’s game was my friend C. who publishes the delightful blog Scatter O’ Light. She is a sports fan with a respectable Mets lineage and a world-reknown expert in Mr. Paul Hewson. [end plug] We arrived at Shea just after the anthem. The minute I reached our seats, I pulled out a sweatshirt.

It was not a great night for pitching, and a lackluster night for offense, with a few exceptions. Shea was chilly and shivering and the players were clearly not ready for it.
“But he pitched in Minnesota!” Miriam said at one point.
“In a dome,” I feel compelled to point out.
“Oh.”

Fourth inning: my new gloves (photos at a later date) came out, but are then removed to applaud Ryan Church. Now, I think, we just need to wait this cold out. It is the kind of night that you can be excused for hoping that it goes quickly, that we win in an efficient fashion, that there is little drama if any. That you forget that it is a live sporting event and even though they can try to choke the life out of baseball, it is still played by human beings and will therefore never go exactly according to plan.

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This was not Johan’s best outing ever. And because I have a guest, who has not been at Shea for many years, and who was eager to see Santana pitch, I feel like the hostess at a party where the punch is not quite up to snuff and the dip bland. The pitch count is high. The wind continues to be cold. Although I warned C. to bring warm clothing, I realize that the warning will never ever make sense unless you have sat through April baseball at Shea and understood just how cold that will mean, or how cold cold is after 9 innings. I’m not even adequately prepared, and wish there was a fleece something somewhere.

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Sixth inning: my wool shawl, which usually hangs over my chair at work but was stuffed into the bag as backup, doubles as a blanket.

Seventh inning: I remember I have toe warmers in the tote bag, left over from the ’06 playoffs. I am uncertain if they will still function but decide it is worth a try.

Forget the Delgado situation, WTF are we going to do about Aaron Heilman? It’s become a blood sport to boo him. There are too many idiotic Yankee fans at Shea at every game these days who can boo our team for us. We don’t need to participate.

Eighth inning: C. goes looking for hot chocolate. Duaner is not terrible but is not quite himself either. Carlos Delgado is spotted jumping up and down in place, and that is when we realize that if we are cold, they are likely pretty damn cold too.

Ninth inning: My dreams of the game ending at 10:19 so I can get home at a decent hour are shattered. Miriam and her mother leave, pleading cold. C. is still hopeful we will end things in the 9th inning. I wonder if I am jinxing us by putting my shawl in the tote bag, but then I notice the people in Section 10 folding up a large fleece blanket. The thought goes through my head that they are jinxing us.

A large collective sigh, accompanied by an exodus. The Row F twins, father and older brother leave. The New Guys who sit next to them leave.

Tenth inning: C. and I move down to the mezzanine boxes. The usher in our section – the only competent usher I have encountered in three years at Shea – says, “I don’t know why you waited, I’ve been telling you to go all night.” We ensconce ourselves in a box with the nameplate LEX JOE METS. It is brighter here, and closer, and C. is holding out like a champ. “One more inning,” she says.

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Eleventh inning: “Now batting for the Pirates, Doug Mientkiewitz.”
“RETIRE ALREADY!!!” yell the teenagers to the left of us, with the confident volume of one who thinks that their heckle will actually be heard by the player.

“I’ll stay until 11 o’clock,” C. says. “You can go whenever,” I tell her. “I just can’t go.”
“You are really hardcore.”
I tell her that it is not so much that I am hard core, but that every time I see an extra innings game on tv I wish that I was there. That I got my stripes as a Mets fan sitting through the chilly April extra-innings games in 2006 all by myself. That there is magic in these early season, extra innings games.

I look at where we are in the lineup. I realize that we do not have a backup catcher. That Willie has to play Casanova, he can’t pinch-hit or run for the catcher’s spot. I realize that the only person left in the bullpen is Joe Smith. I pray.

Endy is up. Endy is Endy.
All of a sudden, Shea sounds like a chicken coop. “BALK!! BALK!!” everyone is crowing.
Endy to second.
Marlon is up. This is where I like to see Marlon. Marlon does not disappoint.
No one is sitting now, everyone is up. I have been grumbling all night that there are 32 people at Shea tonight, sit anywhere, it doesn’t matter, but right now there really are 32 people left at Shea.
They pitch around Jose. From this angle, I can see the dirt on his uniform, from that first stolen base earlier in the game. He looks like he should be in a Tide commercial, with the brown dirt on the white uniform.

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We boo, and then applaud as Jose takes his base.
I think, okay, Luis Castillo. Even if he completely fails at doing anything productive, we’re still fine. But, *please*, Luis, I think. Please.
Luis walks.
And of course, David Wright is next. I know David Wright is next. David Wright has been out of the dugout warming up and stretching, but I am not even looking at David Wright. I want to say to C., here you go, your dramatic David Wright walk-off is right here, wouldn’t that be an awesome way to end your first game at Shea in forever but I stop that train of thought immediately. We don’t need the ball out in the parking lot. Endy is at third. Jose is at second. We don’t need much.

And then the ball is flying out, out, out, and I am watching it, and I am hearing people groan because they think it is foul, and I can hear my own voice yelling, “NO! NO! IT’S FAIR! IT’S FAIR!” and of course it is, and it was, and Endy comes in and the game is over.

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And this is why I always stay for the extra innings.

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