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Our Opening Day began at 8:30am when the cover band booked to play the rally in Fountain Square started tuning their drums. Optimistically, I opened the curtains… only to see a dark grey sky and dozens of people bundled up like red Michelin men wandering around.

The weather reports were, clearly true. But it was Opening Day, and we were here, and we were going to the parade and the game and we were going to have a great time no matter what.

The parade began at 10:30am, and was slated to reach Fountain Square by 11:15. We held off going out into the weather until almost 11, and were able to snag a good vantage point just outside the hotel. “Boo Mets,” was the worst we heard from anyone we passed, along with a couple of raspberries. (We didn’t even get a “Mets Suck” until after the game).

The original thought was, “Let’s go see Frank Robinson as Grand Marshal and then go back into the hotel,” but we toughed it out. People, it was freezing. It was windy, it was cold and it wasn’t just rain – it was what the meteorologists refer to as “wintry mix” – that almost-rain, almost-sleet, freezing concoction that falls out of the sky. We saw Frank (and George Foster!) but then decided to stick it out some more. There is something you have to love about a city that would shut down its downtown and have a parade to celebrate Opening Day, the charm of a downtown ballpark, the willingness of fans to tough it out in the cold for several hours, before heading to the ballpark to tough out the game in the cold, too. Why doesn’t anyone else do this? Don’t you want the Chik-fil-a cows riding around on Segways on your main street? Little kids, baton twirlers, cheerleaders, various politicians, car dealers, and even a Red Elvis. What wasn’t to love?

The cold. The intense, wet, windy cold. That’s what wasn’t to love.


We said goodbye to the parade (although it was still in full swing) and joined the streaming hordes of red heading down the hill toward the river and into the ballpark.

I was wearing two long-sleeve shirts, a Johan Santana t-shirt, a fleece jacket, my 2006 playoff sweatshirt – AND on top of all of that, my long down coat. I didn’t need the coat for most of the game, but I definitely needed every other piece of clothing I brought (and probably could have used one or two more). If you were watching my Twitter feed during the game, you know that it would rain, it would stop, it would rain harder, it would slow down. It would sleet, and then the sun would come out. It would hail, and by the time I would get my camera put away, the sun would be out again.

The cold and rain is probably the reason we didn’t get a full introduction of the entire Mets staff. Did I want to have them announce the assistant backup clubhouse trainers? Yes, dammit. I like the pomp and circumstance. I like cheering for my guys, I like yelling “sucks” after the names of the opposing team. They announced everyone on the Reds, and we always announce everyone on the other team at home. On the other hand, I understand that they wanted to get the game started, especially in this weather.

On a game day, Great American Ball Park did not impress. TBF said “Not top 5, and I’m not even sure top 10”. I have to concur. It felt too concrete, and older than its age. It was too much of an inconvenient hike up to upper deck access, and then we had to walk down a fair distance to get to the actual seats. We were in row 1 of Section 416, third base side. We couldn’t see into the Mets dugout, but we also didn’t have people walking in front of us every five seconds. It was cold and wet, people were getting up and down a lot today, and standing room downstairs was crammed with refugees from the bleachers or the upper deck.

There were your various ceremonial presentations (do you think the Shea family will still send the floral arrangement?), your special introductdions of special guests. Nick Lachey threw out the first pitch and then – BASEBALL! The end of the longest, most dismal offseason ever came to its official end. Jose and Carlos and Carlos and David all up at the plate, Johan on the mound. This! I remember this, I think.

I cheered Daniel Murphy and Ryan Church and I cheered Gary Sheffield, for perhaps providing an incentive to people to play harder than ever and keep their jobs. I cheered every Met, even Luis Castillo. I sat and stared at Johan Santana, even if this was not his best performance ever, it was still Johan Santana pitching.

On Opening Day.

The first inning was really the downfall of this game, the element that put the brakes on enthusiam and noise. Both Harang and Santana had an abnormally high pitch count in that first inning. It didn’t become a pitcher’s duel so much as a game in which people were not hitting.

The roar that went up from the crowd when the Reds got their first hit was relief and annoyance, all at once. “HEY! We got a HIT!” said the guy behind me.

There were Mets fans in the crowd, mostly on the field level on the side of the Mets dugout. For the sake of solidarity, I would have liked to join them, but I also kind of like going to the home ballpark and sitting with the home fans. It’s easy to cheer your team on if you’re surrounded by blue and orange. It’s another thing altogether when you’re doing it on your own.

There was no heckling in the crowd, though, not that we conduct ourselves as a target for heckling. I dearly wanted to say something to the guy cheering Jerry Hairston, Jr. by saying “It’s only Santana” or the guy who kept trying to heckle Johan by calling him “Carlos Santana”.

There was a decided lack of reggaeton for at-bat music. They do “Brooocccceee” Jay Bruce, which was particularly amusing to TBF and myself for reasons that regular readers will certainly understand. They also play that ELO song “Don’t Bring Me Down” which has “bruuccce” as part of the chorus when he does something good.

As I have previously alleged, every ball park in the country has better music than the Mets do, and this includes the ballpark in Cincinnati. This was even though I did not hear the Afghan Whigs at Great American Ball Park, even though previous information indicated that this was a regular happening to me. It is probably a good thing that they did not, because I would have squealed like a little girl and jumped up and down. At least this absence allowed me to retain my bundled-up-like-a-mummy dignity (why did I bother to do hair and makeup for today? Still not quite sure about that.)

They take Santana out and Sean Green comes in and makes quick work of an inning. However, I still have last season’s muscle memory, and my stomach goes into a knot at the thought of another few innings and our bullpen.

And then, JJ Putz comes on the field, and I remember.

“Oh! I forgot! I have a setup guy and a closer now! I don’t have Luis Ayala or Scott Schoenweis or Aaron Heilman! I have guys who can actually DO THEIR JOBS.”

The fans behind me tried to take a tentative bite on the alternate pronounciation of Mr. Putz’ name. They were from Ohio, so I leave it to you as to how successful you think they were. We humored them, because we have JJ Putz, and they do not.

But that inning did not compare to the delight awaiting us at the entrance of one Frankie Rodriguez. I will call him Frankie because he has been quoted as saying that he likes being called Frankie, but I will not call him that other idiotic name. Mr. F. Rodriguez made even shorter work of the task before him as his associate Mr. Putz did, thanks the guy upstairs in a manner that comes this short of upstaging Carlos Zambrano, and then there is an on-field celebration and it no longer seemed quite so cold and uncomfortable any longer.


And with that, Opening Day is over, and baseball has begun, and it is time to get back in the car and drive back to Brooklyn, and count the days until our own Opening Day.

Here’s a link to the parade photos, and a link to the in-game photos (I’m uploading all of this at a truck stop, I’ll fix it up tomorrow at some point).

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