The Utility Player, Chapter 16

The up did not bring a book with him for the ferry-and-train trip to Citi Field, because he was on his way to a Mets game with his wife and did not need anything. He had enough.

He did not even nap. The concentration of blue-and-orange gradually increased from Bay Shore to Babylon and onward until Woodside, when an entire Met Hall-of-Fame display of uniforms had congregated: Piazza, Alfonso, Seaver, de Grom. If the up had a Mets jersey with someone else’s name on the back, it would be Cleon Jones; however, what he is secretly dreaming up is getting July written on the back of a Mets jersey with the number 16 and then he can be his own birthday.

As for baseball-related action: the Mets made two diving, flat-out extension outfield catches to start the game, which was both impressive and ominous. It turned out their starter, the scrappy Suffolk County native Marcus Stroman, did not have his good stuff and a combination of walks and errors led to the Phillies taking an four-run lead that felt insurmountable early and stayed that way.

Meanwhile it was sweltering on the first base field level. There is nothing quite like that site-of-the-former-Shea Stadium closeness. You could not drink more than two beers. Still, the up sat at the edge of his seat, noting how Pete Alonso set up to take pick-off throws standing a little ahead of the bag, not on it. Something to take away and make his own the next time he plays first.

But I am seriously burying the lede here. Contentment, check; sweltering, check; insurmountable, sure: but listen! The up met Mr. Met! Yes! Mr. Met was coming up the row as the up was coming back from getting his trillionth Mets cap. Mr. Met did not slow down for the up’s selfie request, which made the up think and say aloud, “Wow, when you meet your heroes and they’re not who you dreamed they would be.”

Mr. Met hand-signaled to go up the row with him, which the up recognized as a perfectly reasonable request, so he scampered with more alacrity that we’ve seen from him in weeks, only to be boxed out by younger, more adorable Mets fans, so he had to wait his turn. He found an opening when a mom set up to take a picture of her kids with Mr. Met. Then the up gallantly offered to take one of her with them; after which she was really obliged to return the favor and Mr. Met had to be okay with that too. And so it came to pass that the up met Mr. Met and felt full-body smile.

PS The folks with the wood got back to the up and said he could take all the logs he wanted. However, it’s pine which you can’t use to cultivate shitake mushrooms so he wrote back politely no thanks. The quest continues.

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