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Where is the love?

By the Upper Deck Bum

Growing up we idolize them. Their posters are framed on our walls. We wait on their every play during a game. We acquaint our lives directly with the kind of season they have. Then, one day it happens, we realize we’re the same age as or older than the majority of the roster. Now as “grown-ups” instead of worshiping them, we analyze their stats but we still hold our breath during a game and the outcome of September directly affects our mood. Young and old, boy and girl, man and woman, we are all fans and we spend lifetimes giving our blood, sweat, tears and during those nail biters, our prayers to our team. But I ask the question, what does our team give us?

In blogs past I’ve talked about the vast amounts of charity the Mets organization and players are apart of and I’m not glossing over what a wonderful and proud thing that is. What I am asking is – as the everyday fans, what do we receive? Sure, one could argue we get to experience the highs and lows of a season right along with our team. True, the ups and downs are apart of sports and I love it but shouldn’t such devotion be rewarded in other more tangible forms? If like me you’re one of those fans who insist on getting to the stadium hours before the game you know why you do it. You’re there probably with a baseball and a pen, crowding around the home team dugout hoping to get that autograph! Tell me, how many signed balls sit on your mantel to date?

I wish I were one of those people who knows people and had access to the back stop barricades during batting practice. They get to meet and take pictures with our boys and get all the autographs they want. All the while, the average fan budgeting their tickets wait, often with their children behind the dugout being yelled at by old men in orange not to sit on the elite seats hoping that the player whose number they wear will find the 3 minutes it would take to walk over and give their kids the thrill of a lifetime. So often, that moment never comes and so we turn around, climb up the numerous escalators, take our nose bleed seats and pay an arm and a leg to have a snack.

I give it to a few Mets players, namely David Wright. Most games he will sign a few caps, programs and balls for some kids by the dugout. I also tip my hat to the lesser known call-ups. Pitchers like Nelson Figueroa and others who spend the majority of batting practice talking with the fans. That’s great but lets be real about a few things. 1) We want the everyday players and 2) the second the call-ups graduate to daily status, they too forget to roam over to the adoring masses. But why? Is it to stay focused on the game ahead? Is it to not risk a pen induced injury on their throwing hand? Seriously. Players and fans alike all grew up wishing to have even the briefest moment with the players they love. So why when they’ve become the players today’s children look up to do they refuse to fulfill the dream?

During the final season at the crescent, I can recall a time where a gentleman who wore a Mets jacket and clearly worked in the organization but who no one would recognize was asked by a father to sign his son’s ball. The gentleman said that he was nobody then the father mouthed the words, “He doesn’t know the difference.” The gentleman obliged and the kid’s face lit up at the idea that even this older gentleman wearing a Mets jacket took the time to say hello and sign his ball. A year earlier I was waiting out the exiting masses near the player parking lot. I looked through the fence and my favorite player of all time, Keith Hernandez was heading to his car. This sounds childish but it just came out, “We love you, Keith!” I know – I know. Either way, he looked over and waved. Cool! It’s an odd thing, the hero worship many fans give their favorite players, but at the same time, it’s natural. I feel that it’s the love fans have for players and teams that keeps them shelling out the money. As a result, franchises thrive and players are needless to say, pretty well paid. So I also feel that it should come equally as natural for the players and team owners to mirror the love they receive.

Again, the countless charities and outreach programs the Mets in particular participate in are both honorable and positively impact society. In addition the expensive training camps for both adults and children I imagine are great fun, but what about the kids and yes, even us adult fans who’re in the middle? The majority of fans don’t qualify for outreach programs nor can they afford to shell out thousands to make the trip to Spring Training Camps to play along side our boys. So what can we do? Nothing, we do enough, the question is what can the Wilpon’s institute that’ll show even the slightest bit to gratitude to the fans? I propose the following:

One Sat or Sun a month (schedule permitting) host an afternoon with the fans at Jackie Robinson Field. Here fans of all ages can come to one of the park’s restaurants or bars and meet the team. Share a soda, ask questions, get tips, have memorabilia signed and take pictures with their favorite players. To so many that would be a dream come true. I say something like that should be free on a first sign-up basis (not a stupid fixed lottery like post-season tickets) but I know baseball is a business so should you have to charge 10 bucks a head, so be it and the players, if they’re as good a people as they want us to believe will jump at such a chance to “give back” to the fans.

Another suggestion would be to have an open field day. Do it three times a year (to preserve the field). Once during spring training, again during the All-Star break and finally after the season is over. Here fans (not only with children) can step onto the field. All my life I wanted to just once round the bases at Shea. I’d hoped that ownership would’ve had a day after the ‘08 season where fans could tour the entire stadium including the filed before demolition began; alas it was not meant to be and whereas Spankee fans did receive such an opportunity, long suffering Amazins’ fans were once again not considered by the powers that be.

Finally, and this is something that Mr. Manuel need only suggest to his players… walk over to the pre-gamers by the home team dugout and spend five minutes after batting practice signing balls and greeting the fans not connected enough to be with the back stop gang. Show how much you as players appreciate the millions who year after disappointing year return to the park, watch on TV or listen on the radio and cheer you on and of course pay your opulent salaries. Where is the love guys? We have it for you, return it, if only for the bright eyed smile on the kid’s face. The kid in all of us that is. But then again what do I know? I’m just an upper deck bum.

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