Port St. Lucie is a long way from Queens, but for Mets fans it hits very close to home. The tiny Florida hamlet where New York’s other baseball franchise pursues spring training is a short hop off the interstate and easy enough to find. The venue is a snappy little stadium called Tradition Field. Cheerful attendants wearing straw cowboy hats banded in the Mets logo guide the parking and the fans at the gates. An unknown singer trills the national anthem (quite impressively) and a lucky fan throws out the first pitch.
One might suppose that something of real consequence is happening here, but that’s not easy to discern. Surely the front-office is taking notes, but the game otherwise doesn’t count. Few members of the Mets’ starting lineup — or even their top prospects — are playing. The average spectator is instead treated to a squall of minor-leaguers, dressed up in Mets uniforms, masquerading as the Mets. They were awful, fumbling, falling and dropping balls, giving up home runs and generally failing either to throw heat or get hits.
This may have been a painful metaphor for the actual Mets, but the fans didn’t appear to be feeling any pain. It wasn’t just the bottles of ice-cold Bud Light; it was perhaps an unshakeable bond between a team and true fans who believe in their underdogs. They trade stories about bigger, better days, and randomly shout, "I love you, Mets!" to their team. Their hopes may be just dreams, but the day was sunny, and everyone had fun while watching their Mets collapse, in miniature, to those Marlins (or a reasonable facsimile thereof), 9-1.