Me and my Dad at the Mets game for his birthday in June of 2011.
For as long as I can remember I’ve loved baseball. What many find boring and slow, I find exciting and incredibly deep. The little parts of the game, where you’re throwing an 0-2 pitch, how you attack each hitter in a lineup, defensive shifts, etc. Baseball season is my favorite time of year, even though the team that has my heart has done nothing but break it for the better part of my life.
That team would be the New York Mets. Flushing’s lovable losers. I was born after the incredible 1986 team, so the closest I’ve come to seeing a championship for my team is in 2000 when they lost to the New York Yankees in The World Series, and of course, Carlos Beltran looking at that Adam Wainwright curveball in game 7 of the 2006 NLCS. We all know where the Mets went after Beltran went down looking. The historic collapses of ‘07, and ‘08. Disappointing high payroll teams of ‘09, and ‘10. And more recently, the team’s ownership being mixed up with Bernie Madoff, and not having the finances to spend like a New York team.
Despite these bad teams throughout the years, I would always watch the majority of Mets games throughout the seasons. It didn’t matter if it was bad baseball, or good baseball, I love the sport, and the team. A team full of superstars or a team full of minor league level talent, I was locked in on them from April until October, and I always had one person that was my go to for anything Mets, my father, Joseph Pirozzi. We would watch almost every game together, from my youth until adulthood. If we missed a game together, we always discussed the outcome. If we disagreed on something, we let each other know. Sometimes our discussions got heated, as no two people can agree on things all the time. Regardless, baseball season, specifically the Mets season, was special for both of us, and it continues to be special for me, although bittersweet.
My father died suddenly in January of 2012, days before my 23rd birthday. He was, and remains, the best friend I’ve ever had, and I continue to miss him every day. At the beginning of every baseball season, I still have moments where I go to call him to talk about the team, or a divisional rival making a big move. I don’t know if that will ever change. He was as passionate, and angry about the team as I was. This is the same man that when I was in 6th grade let me stay home from school for two days after the Yankees beat the Mets in the 2000 World Series because I was so upset. I grew up going to games at Shea Stadium. We even broke off a piece of Shea in our last visit in 2008. For his last birthday with us in 2011, I took him to his first game at Citi Field, and since his passing, I go to a game every year on(or around) his birthday to celebrate his life, as he would want me to.
Unfortunately in his last years with us, the team didn’t have any seasons that stand out. From the collapses, to just plain bad teams, it was more about individual performances and moments. Among his favorite players were RA Dickey and Johan Santana. Both of those players put forth important performances in team history in the year of his passing. RA Dickey winning the 2012 Cy Young award, and Johan Santana pitching the first no hitter in Mets history.
I got to meet RA Dickey in April of 2012 as the season was just beginning and got to tell him just how big of a fan my father and I were, and told him of Dad’s passing. He took time to talk me and my sister at the autograph signing, and it meant a lot to me to see his genuine care. The Johan no hitter was wonderful to watch. As all Mets fans know, until Johan’s gem, the Mets were one of two teams to never have a pitcher throw a no hitter. This was a constant ongoing joke between me and Dad, as we both believed it would never happen. When it finally happened on June 1st, 2012, I let out a scream of joy, not just for my team, but knowing that Dad was there, in some sense, as elated as I was. Unfortunately this would be the highest points the Mets would reach since the 2006 season…
Until the 2015 season that is…
The New York Mets finally had some hope and buzz coming into the 2015 season. Behind a young pitching staff consisting of reigning Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom, the returning Matt Harvey, rookies Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard, and veterans Bartolo Colon and Jon Niese, Mets fans finally had something to look forward to. After a first half of inconsistency, and poor offense, the front office finally got aggressive, picking up veteran bats in Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson, and trading for the unbelievable bat of Yoensis Cespedes, who is an MVP candidate despite the fact he’s only been with the team since August 1st. As of this writing on September 15th, the Mets are 83-61, with a 9.5 game lead over the Washington Nationals, and their magic number stands at 10.
For the first time since 2006, there will be postseason baseball in Flushing Meadows, New York. For the first time since it’s opening, there will be postseason baseball at Citi Field. And for me personally, the Mets will be playing postseason baseball without my Dad by my side to watch with me. This is truly bittersweet. The New York Mets this season have been special in so many ways. They have faced so much adversity, and come through stronger, and better. They were in one of the lowest points a franchise could be in for years, and they’ve come through on the other side of things, finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. In my own life, I feel that for the first time, since my father’s passing, I’m coming through stronger, and better. And no, it’s not because of a baseball team. It’s a number of things. Things I’ve done to better myself, a stroke of blind luck, and just the way things are falling into place. Between a new job, moving out of my childhood home, meeting an incredible woman who truly makes me happy, things are working out for the better, finally.
The Mets, are almost a microcosm of everything I’ve felt since my Dad passed away. It sounds silly to compare it to sports, but when this team was such a huge part of my relationship with my Dad, I can’t help but think that. When the Mets clinch their first playoff berth since 2006 in the next few weeks, I will be emotional, for sure. Knowing that my Dad is watching down, but not here with me to celebrate, or even go to a game with, hurts every time I think about it. I keep his David Wright jersey hanging in my closet, and have not worn it once since he passed. Come the first playoff game for the Mets this year, you can bet I’ll be wearing it even if it is two or three sizes too big. If I attend any of these playoff games, you can bet I’ll be wearing it then, too.
I don’t expect the Mets to win it all this year. Hell, I didn’t expect them to even make the playoffs, let alone win the NL East. It doesn’t matter. For the first time since my Dad passed away, I feel that same spark with the Mets that I did watching every game with him. I felt that spark watching BAD Mets teams with my father, and it was because of the bond I had with him. And since this season started, even before this magical run, I felt that spark watching this team. Something different, but familiar. It’s not about the players, the coaches, or opponents. It’s about the team. He would want me to be happy about this team, and I am. Now I’m just ready for the ride. I love and miss you Dad, and Let’s Go Mets!
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