200 Miles From the Citi

April 5, 2010 6:27 AM

Opening Day

nym_logo.JPGWhen I re-located the blog to the RealClearSports Blog Network, I knew I'd be writing for a (slightly?) wider audience.

So I retold some stories that I had written at my other location, the thinking being that maybe you had better things to do than go through my old archives and land on April 10, 2007 and read the hilarious story I told there.

A friend of mine put it this way: "It's like you're a comedian whose act was so well-received that you've been given a sitcom, and now all of your old jokes are woven into the show."

Well, here's the show about Opening Day, 1996 - because this is the story I think of whenever Opening Day rolls around.

Last year, I played hooky to go to a Mets Opening Day - the opener at Citi Field.  I knew, no matter what, I had to be at that game.  Turns out it was kind of easy to get there - once my dad got tickets, I was honest with the appropriate people at school about why I wanted to miss a workday, and I was encouraged to go.

A bit easier than (what I'm pretty sure was) the last time I pulled a 'sneak out to go to a Mets game' ploy, on April 1, 1996.

I was in high school at the time - Holy Cross High School in Flushing, New York, not very far from Shea Stadium.  It was not uncommon at that school for students to be missing on days the Mets had home games in the afternoon - most of all Opening Day.  It was so common, in fact, that the story goes that the dean, Mr. G.,  could be seen roaming the stands during weekday spring afternoon games looking for students who should have been at school.  (I always think it was just his way of sneaking out to catch a me skeptical.)

Well, I didn't skip school to go to Opening Day in 1996 - I just left after a half-day.  And my dad was very involved in the decision.

He came by at around noon for the 1pm start to sign me out, and right on schedule, I got the call down to the office during Global Studies.

I stopped at my locker on the way out, packed my stuff up, grabbed my Mets hat, and headed to the office.  Sister Mary, the secretary for Mr. G., was a stern sort of nun, and she was sitting stone-faced as I came in smiling from ear to ear.

"You're leaving early," she said.

"Yes, I am," I replied.

"This wouldn't happen to be for the Mets game, would it?" she asked.

"Yes, it is!" I said happily, expecting in my naivete that she would be happy for me to be going to Opening Day instead of finishing out the school day.

"Mr. G. isn't going to be very happy about this," she warned as I signed out and walked out.

I was a little nervous, but really, I wasn't a trouble-maker, so I didn't think much would come of it as I walked outside, still smiling, and saw my dad in front of the school.

"Look serious," my dad muttered as I walked up to him.

"Why?" I asked.

"I just told Sister Mary that we had a serious family matter to attend to."

I've said it before, I'll say it again - I know that story sounds made up to deliver a punch-line, but it is 100% true, and an absolute classic in my family - it's also a classic Opening Day story.  I'm sure you have one too.

The best thing about that day was the game.  I think this is funny too - it was a cold April day, and all I wore was a very light windbreaker that was not enough for the cold.  My dad asked me multiple times if I was warm enough, and I was not, but I wouldn't let him know, lest it ruin a great day for us.  To this day, whenever I think I might not be dressed warm enough for a sporting event, this is the exact day I think of when I bring a 'just in case' layer.

Anyway, like I was saying, the game was great - the Mets quickly fell behind 6-0 to the St. Louis Cardinals in a light drizzle.  Just about then, the rain stopped and it started to get warmer (though still not warm), and the Mets mounted a comeback.  They ended up winning the game, 7-6, and a highlight for me was Rey Ordonez gunning a runner at the plate from short left field on a relay - from his knees.

It's a little trite, but there's just something about the excitement of the new season that makes Opening Day so special.  And I love that I have this memory with my dad.  I'm sure there are many people at Citi Field watching the Mets and Marlins today who are forming their own memories.

Other than maybe my choice in jackets, I have no regrets about April 1, 1996.

Of course, I'm not the one who lied to the nun.

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