Oh eight

4:26 p.m., Woody McHale’s, 14th Street, New York City

That’s where I put myself this afternoon, watching the Mets from a spot a short walk from my office, so that when I had to get to work at 6 p.m., I wouldn’t miss much of the game.

Turns out, I saw all I needed to see. I sat there through the extended fourth inning, tapping my foot and fingering the wrapper from my straw, refusing to head to the restroom until I’d seen the rally expired. David Wright’s bases-loaded — bases-clearing — double was enough. At that point, I left my barstool, paid my tab upon my return, and headed to work.

In the interim, Johan Santana gave up a hit or two (and maybe a homer), but I didn’t see it, so in my mind, it didn’t happen. But even if it did, it was surely a splendid debut for the Venezuelan Vulcan. Or whatever we’ll be calling him. He needs a nickname, though. Santana, Wright and the Mets got 2008 off on the right foot, the foot on which they should’ve ended 2007. It’s just one game, but it’s still one game better than where the Phillies sit right now. Or the Marlins. And two games better than where the Braves sit.

I’m not sure if it was a disjointed March — the Padres and Dodgers playing two exhibition games in China, the two games in Japan between the Red Sox and A’s, the Dodgers’ leaving Dodgertown early to finish their spring slate in Arizona, or the fact that I worked during the Braves-Nationals Sunday night opener — but today didn’t have the same feeling of anticipation and butterflies I usually get on Opening Day. I was excited, sure, but just not in quite the same way I usually feel that I am. Yet once I sat down at my desk, with all the games at my fingertips, home runs and dropped popups and all the game-changing moments happening in front of me — or on a TV near me — I really got into it.

Kosuke Fukudome’s game-tying three-run homer in the ninth inning was thrilling, the Pirates-Braves back-and-forth tilt was exhilarating, the Royals’ extra-innings win was surprising and Jake Peavy’s seven scoreless innings over the Astros was dominating. (Sadly, on the Braves front, Suzie Q did not make the entertainment team out of Spring Training. She’d have been a more alluring roving reporter than Peachtree TV‘s “J.J.,” who was not well received at all by one fan. Woah.)

Thinking about what lies ahead now, from the final seasons at Shea and Yankee stadiums, the All-Star Game in New York, the potential for three- or four-team pennant races in at least two National League divisions — that gets me excited. That has me checking the schedule pages to see when I can get to Shea (other than next Tuesday’s opener), when I might squeeze into Yankee Stadium one last time, or when I can make my first trip to Nationals Park.

On that last one — if my wife will let me (and my friend will offer me his couch) — I might make a visit when the Mets do on April 24.

Play ball!

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