I put my arms out and tensed up. The ball sailed high and then arched down, down, down. The home run struck a metal support beam between the first and second decks and caromed back into the field. The right fielder, Bryce Harper, walked away and ignored the ball.
Absolute bedlam in Citi Field.
Lucas Duda had just hit his ninth home run in 8 games–his ninth home run in his last 10 hits–to put the New York Mets in front of division rival Washington Nationals on Sunday night. Duda’s home run was also the third home run of the third inning for the Mets and sent an already-frenzied Citi Field into pandemonium as the eventual 5-2 win put the Mets in a tie for first place atop the National League East–the latest in the season the Mets have been in that position since 2008.
My friend Sam Blum, an avid Mets fan, hyped up the evening as “the biggest game in Citi Field history.” Of course, Citi Field was only opened in 2009, but for the recently-suffering fan base, you could tell by the first pitch that Sunday night was different. From the first pitch, an unusually-full Citi was boisterous, clapping hard and cheering their Mets–willing them–into first place as New York swept Washington, which is impressive for a team that was 9-33 against the Nats entering the series.
The weird part about the game was that I found myself cheering along and hanging on every pitch. I found myself rooting for the Mets, which is an absolutely strange concept considering one of my team’s worst memories is played in a Mets Greatest History montage before each game. (Plus, Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy’s walkup music is The Dropkick Murphy’s “Shipping Up To Boston,” which seems unethical, if not worse.)
But in the six times I’ve been to Citi Field this summer, it’s been impossible not to love the atmosphere. Make no mistake, I’m a Red Sox fan and always will be, but instead of watching horrendous baseball for an hard-to-love team as I’ve done throughout the summer on MLB.tv (thanks, Justin), it’s been fun to get caught up in a pennant race for an underdog team that was scoffed at in the preseason and that’s often considered second-rate in its own city. Everyone projected the Nationals prolific pitching rotation to will them to the World Series, but the best stable of pitching has actually been in Queens, not the capital.
The dominant, young Mets arms are incredibly fun to watch. With nicknames like Thor and the Dark Knight, and hair like this, they’re just enjoyable to watch. The Mets now have three of baseball’s most likable players in Yoenis Cespedes, Wilmer Flores and Juan Uribe. And not only that, they win. In the six times I’ve been to Citi, the Mets have won five times. (The Mets are 5-0 in games I’ve attended with Blum.)
I wasn’t joking about how likable Uribe is. According to Molly Knight’s great new book, Uribe is the only one could handle the young, reckless Yasiel Puig with the 2013 Dodgers. Uribe is known to walk around the clubhouse smoking a cigar and laughing. His at bat picture just looks like a guy to content to be playing baseball for a living. Plus, I love his walkup music. (Skip to 1:00.)
The thing about Flores is how much Mets fans love him. Flores is the guy who cried when he thought he was being traded, then got to stay because the Mets nixed the deal because of Carlos Gomez’s hip. (That’s the most Mets move ever.) (Skip to 1:00.)
But now Mets fans LOVE Wilmer Flores. He pinch hit Sunday night and got a standing ovation. “Everyone loves someone who wants to be a Met,” Blum said. Flores promptly doubled.
Those sort of stories are what make me actually enjoy going to Citi Field and enjoy cheering for the Mets. For now. It’s a summer thing, I’m sure.
Sam Fortier is a displaced New Englander living in New York. He likes baseball, crunchy peanut butter and the sound Kanye makes in his songs, which he thinks is spelled “HAAH.” He’s not a fan of grammatical error’s. You can read him here every Monday, follow him on Twitter @Sam4TR, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.