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Queens Chronicle

Players and fans alike shine on Opening Day

Despite the loss, Citi Field’s first game features heroics and hope

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Posted: Thursday, April 3, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 1:00 pm, Thu Apr 10, 2014.

Over the winter, a petition to make Major League Baseball’s Opening Day a national holiday garnered over 102,000 signatures on the White House’s website.

St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith even appeared in Budweiser-sponsored advertisements for the movement.

While getting the day off from work to watch baseball all day will remain just a dream in the minds of fans nationwide, Major League teams treat Opening Day like the grandest holiday of all.

And the New York Mets are no different.

The Amazin’s have not played a postseason ballgame since 2006, when they came within one Cardinals home run and Carlos Beltran at-bat away from the World Series.

They haven’t finished with a winning record since 2008, either.

And after years of managerial changes, front office firings, puzzling offseason acquisitions and losing key players like pitcher Matt Harvey and team captain David Wright to severe injuries, it would be understandable if Mets Opening Day would be one without true excitement.

But despite all the faults with the New York Mets, Opening Day 2014 was flooded with enthusiasm and new players giving fans new reasons to cheer.

The pregame ceremony began with the customary introduction of the coaches and players of both the Mets and the Washington Nationals.

New Mets right fielder Curtis Granderson, who spent the last four seasons with the crosstown New York Yankees, got a big, welcoming cheer, as did new pitcher Bartolo Colon.

Wright and Harvey, the team’s unquestionable two biggest stars, both received lengthy ovations from the sell-out crowd.

But what set the Mets Opening Day tradition apart from just about any other team’s celebration on Monday was the tribute to former broadcaster Ralph Kiner, who died in February at the age of 91.

On the center field jumbo screen, the team aired a five-minute video-tribute to Kiner’s Hall of Fame playing career as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates, as well as his broadcasting career with the Mets, for whom he served as the radio announcer from the team’s inception in 1962 until 1981, when he served as a television analyst until last season.

A special logo featuring a microphone along with Kiner’s name around it was then unveiled alongside the retired numbers on the wall of the new Party City Deck beyond the left field fence.

After ceremony emcee Howie Rose, the team’s radio announcer, told the crowd of the commemorative patch each player will wear on his jersey all season, everyone in attendance roared for Kiner one last time, as if to thank him for his tenure.

Whom the crowd didn’t thank for his work was Mayor de Blasio, who then took the field to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

De Blasio, donning a customized Mets jersey with his name on the back, was thoroughly booed by a vast majority of those in attendance as he took the field.

He threw a strike from the base of the pitcher’s mound, eliciting a sarcastic cheer.

Not many people will mistake the 2014 New York Mets for a bona fide playoff contender, but much like last year with Marlon Byrd and John Buck’s unexpected solid stretches of play, Mets fans may have another unheralded player to keep a close eye on this season in left fielder Andrew Brown.

Former Met Colin Cowgill swatted a grand slam on Opening Day last year, cementing a memory many fans won’t soon forget, and Brown did his best to create an unforgettable moment of his own.

He wasn’t even scheduled to start the game, but with new outfielder Chris Young nursing a minor leg injury, Brown made the most of the opportunity by hammering a towering three-run home run to left field in the first inning.

Deafening roars emanated from the crowd after the homer, and Brown was cheered loudly prior to every one of his at-bats later in the game.

The applause for Brown was only topped by the cheers for center fielder Juan Lagares, who tagged Nats reliever Tyler Clippard for a long, go-ahead home run in the eighth inning.

Lagares and Brown are probably not the long-term solutions for turning the Mets from lovable losers into annual contenders, but Mets fans are notorious for latching onto successful players, such as R.A. Dickey and Johan Santana in years past, and showcasing why they are some of the more loyal fans in sports.

In spite of the disappointing 9-7 extra innings loss, Mets fans proved they were just that.

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