The final game of a baseball season is always tough. As the players walk off the field for the last time, you start thinking about the months you’ll have to wait before seeing them on the field again. And yet, you take comfort in knowing that Opening Day will eventually arrive—and with it, another full season of baseball.
But for the Port Washington Vikings, this game was different. For the graduating seniors on that Long Island high school varsity baseball team, this really was the end.
On a Saturday morning in mid-May, the Vikings suffered a devastating 2-1 home loss in extra innings of a single-elimination playoff game. My younger brother started that game, pitching into the eighth inning (a regulation game is seven) before allowing a runner to reach base who eventually came around to score the deciding run.
After the game, many of the Port players cried and hugged. They knew that this was the last time, after playing together for so many years, that they would leave the field as a team.
It was also, most likely, the last competitive game that I would ever see my brother play.
This was truly the end of an era for my family. Baseball was a big part of my brother’s life for the last 15 years, and watching him play was nearly as big a part of mine and my parents’.
I helped teach my brother how to hit, throw, and pitch. I watched him grow from a little kid shagging fly balls in our backyard to the captain of his varsity baseball team. And just like that, it was over.
A gloomy sort of feeling hung over me for the rest of the day. It wasn’t that my brother’s team lost, or even that they did so in such heartbreaking fashion. Nor, I realized, was it that I would never get to see him play baseball again.
What was gnawing at me was what that game signified. For the first time, it hit me that this stage of his life was coming to an end. He would no longer be the kid who plays baseball for the local team.
And, if my brother isn’t a kid anymore, what exactly does that make me?
As it turned out, I had tickets to see the Mets that night with a few buddies of mine. But I couldn't shake the feeling. It was, without a doubt, the least excited I had ever been to watch Jacob deGrom practice his craft in person.
Sitting on the LIRR to Mets-Willets Point, I stared out the window and saw the familiar sights: a golfer lining up his putt at the Plandome Country Club; the marshes of Manhasset Bay from the trestle that overlooks it; the quaint, brick, Gatsby-era Great Neck station house; and the perpetually changing Douglaston sports bar that was once Strawberry’s and is now…who even knows?
I’d taken in each of these scenes a hundred times before. But this time, it was oddly comforting. I think that's because, deep down, I knew it wasn’t the last time that I would see them. More specifically, it wasn’t the last time that I would see the Mets.
And that’s what’s great about the Mets. No matter what you’re doing, or what stage of life you’re in, or what else is going on around you, for six months of every year—plus March and, on occasion, October—the Mets will be there virtually every day. They are a constant. In some ways, they’re an escape.
For three hours a day, the Mets allow you to worry about who will get the next big hit or how your pitcher will get out of the jam, rather than what your next career move will be or how your grandfather’s next doctor’s appointment will go.
As I looked out the window of the LIRR, I saw Citi Field emerge in the distance, and I began to smile.
I got off the train and walked across the boardwalk, through the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, and to my section just over the left field fence. I arrived at my seat—hot dog, beer, and scorecard in hand—and proceeded to watch the Mets clobber the Brewers by a score of 14-1.
When I got home that night, I decided to buy tickets to the following Monday's Mets-Phillies game. It would be the fourth time this year that I would see Matt Harvey pitch. And it wouldn’t be the last.