It was an ideal way to begin what all of baseball hopes will be a year
filled with memorable moments.
"I think it's fantastic," Orosco said. "I was very excited about it. I
told my wife, 'I'm not going to mess up a chance like that.' I couldn't."
Standing at the foot of the mound, Orosco raised his right leg in the
air and delivered a pitch to Carter, who he found standing behind home
plate -- after 11 knee surgeries, crouching might have been just too
much to ask of the St. Lucie Mets' new manager, even on Opening Day.
"We're 20 years older now," Carter said. "I don't know if it could be
But Carter did his best to stay faithful to history, flashing his
signature smile and pumping his fists at 45 degree angles, just as he
did on that cool October night in 1986.
In slightly awkward fashion, Orosco did his best to play along, but
opted to forego tossing his glove toward the sky and dropping to his
knees in amazement, which was perhaps a wise decision, considering what the
moist infield turf might have done to Orosco's suit pants.
A sellout crowd bundled in coats and jackets celebrated all the
same, somehow managing to balance their umbrellas, hot dogs and
beverages while applauding.
"The fans were a part of it then, and they have never let it go," Orosco
said. "It's a special thing. The Mets have done a great job honoring
the 1986 team. I'm amazed by this."
With drizzle falling and the temperature dropping into the 50s by
game time, the scene at Shea wasn't quite as picture-perfect as it had
been 24 hours prior, when the Mets and Nationals drew about 13,000
interested observers to the ballpark for batting practice and the
appeal of a sunny spring afternoon.
But it would take more than a spring chill to keep fans away from
embracing the game's return. By 10 a.m. ET, a brief survey of the
stadium's parking areas revealed numerous tailgate parties already
underway, a rich cloud of sweet-smelling charcoal hovering above
hundreds of barbecue grills, pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles.
Just a few minutes later, inside the Nationals' clubhouse, outfielder
Brandon Watson -- tabbed by manager Frank Robinson to bat leadoff -- was
fiddling with a brand new slim DVD videocamera, trying to perfectly
balance the lens on a bed of batting gloves.
Watson has been keeping video logs of his milestone moments as his
Major League career gains steam, and the crowded visiting clubhouse at
Shea would soon be joining his library of highlight moments.
"I started this last year when I was called up for the first time,"
Watson said. "I like doing it myself. Opening Day is not something I'm
going to miss."
Add in a full slate of ceremonies and celebration, with fireworks
accompanying a stirring national anthem rendition by the cast of the
Broadway show "Ring of Fire" and you quickly add up the reasons that thousands of fans found a way to get to Queens on this Monday afternoon.
"Just being here, you really get caught up in everyone's excitement,"
said Sharon McDowell of Port Monmouth, N.J. "We got here at 10:30 and
the parking lot was already full. Everybody is just especially excited."
McDowell, a Mets fan for more than 40 years, admitted that Monday's game -- the
Mets' 45th Opening Day and the Nationals' second under their current
name -- was actually her first time being present and accounted for
during Game 1 of 162.
McDowell's office job had always found excuses for keeping her away,
but she said her heart was always at Shea. She even claimed to have
dated paperwork, 'Mets Opening Day' in place of the game's date as a
sort of silent protest.
"Every Opening Day is like hope," McDowell explains. "In spring,
everything is new. Well, this is it. Hope is new every spring for the
Following a colors display by soldiers from the Fort Hamilton Joint
Service Color Guard and cadets from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy,
who unfurled a flag in center field, Shea was buzzed by a flyover from the
110th Fighter Wing of Kings Point, N.Y.
The resulting crowd murmur escalated from that point, building a
crescendo through a ceremonial flower arrangement presented to Mets
manager Willie Randolph, the release of orange and blue balloons and
the residual foggy vapors of a pyrotechnics display.
The clouds cleared, and it was Tom Glavine's turn to provide his own
version of 'smoke', as best as the soft-tossing lefty could: the first
pitch of the afternoon came in low and inside to avid videographer
Watson would eventually pop a fly ball to Carlos Beltran in center
field, the first recorded play of each team's season, rolling
Watson's batting average down to a not-so-perfect three zeroes.
Perhaps it wasn't a highlight reel moment to be saved, not even in
Watson's own collection. But it was certainly the beginning of what
could shape up to be a highlight-reel season for either club.
On Opening Day, almost anything seems possible.