Tuesday, April 2, 2013

I Feel Much Better Now

After Jonathon Niese butcher-boyed an RBI single over the head of Cody Ransom in the 2nd inning of Monday's Opener, I suddenly found an odd sense of calm come over me. It had little to do with the Mets sterling record on Opening Day, and even less to do with the fact that 161 games remained in this long Baseball season. With the Mets up 2-0, it somehow seemed like, on this day, everything was going to be OK. I turned to George and said, "I feel better now. We've broken the ice."

I guess a couple of early runs plated by the 8th and 9th place hitters with 2 outs can generate all sorts of good feelings. It appeared to work for the Mets, because they went from a 2-run lead to a 6-run lead by the 4th inning, and by time Collin Cowgill had his "WELCOME TO NEW YORK!!" moment in the 7th inning, the lead had opened up to 9 as the Mets cruised to a 11-2 Opening Day victory over the hapless Padres. A perfect opening to a so far spotless 2013 campaign.

The day started out more or less like any other of the Opening Days I've attended prior to this one. I was far too cranked up to get a good night's sleep. Fortunately, I was far too cranked up to feel tired and groggy in the morning. I woke up, got my Opening Day attire picked out (David Wright jersey over a Colin Kaepernick T-shirt) and left for the game about 30 minutes earlier than I probably needed to because, hey, who can sit around on Opening Day? So rather than getting to Citi Field at 11:30, which was when I told George I'd meet him, I was there around 11, so I had some time to soak in the Opening Day vibes and watch Bobby Valentine smile and wave and get fitted for a headset in front of the SNY stage. George arrived shortly thereafter, and in we went, picking up our traditional Opening Day magnet, and the traditional Opening Day scorecard and yearbook purchase. As I usually do, I grabbed two golf pencils from the Program stand (they are sometimes not so lenient about this, because golf pencils are a real hot commodity) and started upstairs, only to find that one of the pencils I took was split in half and had no lead. Apparently, it was still Spring Training for the concessionaires (the full brunt of this requires its own post, which shall come tomorrow, but if need be I will alert the Mets Police of just how ill-prepared the concession stands were for business).

Meanwhile, there was still a game to be played, and here's some bonus Opening Day video of the introduction of the Mets, just after the presentation of the ceremonial wreath from the Shea family, and slightly before the blowing of the Shofar.

Rusty Staub threw out the first pitch, from approximately 35 feet from home plate (I don't think he was ever known for having a great arm, and on Orange's 69th birthday, it's probably less than what it was), and then, very randomly, the Mets took the field. Usually, there's some sort of video or introduction before they run out, but no sooner had Rusty thrown his pitch but there they were, running onto the field, and there was the Season Ticket holder of the game with his nose-picking child signaling the beginning of the game, and there was Chris Denorfia slapping the first pitch of the season into Left Field (and yes, that's me on the video yelling "That's it, I'm going home!"). Usually, when the first pitch of the game goes for any kind of a hit, it tends not to end well. But Jonathon Niese proved himself more than capable of rising to the Opening Day occasion, getting out of the 1st inning and pretty much every other inning that he pitched the rest of the day, only getting touched for 2 runs and 4 hits in his 6.2 innings. His performance was just what every Mets fan wanted to see: a sign that he was ready to step forward as one of the Mets' leading starting pitchers. His performance late last year was nice, but now it's time to build on that, and if he pitches like he did today, he's headed in the right direction.

Other nice signs today included a pair of hits each from Marlon Byrd and John Buck, both of whom were in and around multiple rallies (and earned a pair of "WELCOME TO NEW YORKs!!!"), David Wright, who was greeted like a hero and performed like a captain, stealing two bases and getting on base 3 times, Ruben Tejada, who continues to play like the second coming of Edgardo Alfonzo, doubled home the first run of the season and extended the 7th inning rally with an opposite field hit, and, of course Collin Cowgill, who hustled out a double in the 4th inning and stole the show with his Grand Slam that he clearly wasn't aware was a Grand Slam until he madly dashed all the way to 3rd and stopped, assuming he'd hit a bases clearing triple. Then, the umpire waved him home. Replays in the stadium were sparse, probably because they didn't want Bud Black to challenge the call, but seeing a replay later, it was clearly a Grand Slam. And, of course, given the assumption that the Mets were going to be a severely challenged club on the offensive side, being able to run up 11 runs on 13 hits is always a nice thing, even if it's against the Padres, whose pitching just looked terrible from start to finish, except for that Charles Bass fellow who relieved Volquez after he'd thrown 80 pitches in 3+ innings.

So, all in all, a wonderful Opening Day, which will of course spur Collin Cowgill onto a 648 RBI season and the Mets to a perfect 162-0. Or, at least, we'd like to hope that it would. In reality, it's probably only just a matter of time before I get tired of hearing "MORE COWGILL!" For now, though, it's all good.

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