Two Weeks Until Opening Day!
This Week’s Flashback: Monday, April 3, 2000 vs. San Diego Padres (game 3 of regular season)
Win, by score of 2-1 to go 2-1 on the season.
When is a home opener not a home opener? In 2000 the Mets technically played their first home game in Japan, as part of a two game series to open the season against the
Giants Cubs, where both squads took a turn as the “home” team. So, when the Mets played their first game at Shea Stadium it was not officially the home opener. I listened to the Japan series on the radio early in the morning in my car (was working in construction, watching concrete dry or something), but did attend the Shea Stadium game in person. I had a Sunday plan in 2000 but plunked down an additional $21 to get into the Mezzanine section 27 and join 52.307 other fans for Mets Opening Day.
In 2000, the Mets Slogan was “Amazin’ Again.” Although the Mets had lost a crushing NLCS against the Braves to end 1999, Kenny Rogers was gone and Mike Hampton was on the roster, to mean the Mets now had the best pitcher in New York to go along with the best hitter (borderline Hall-Of-Famer Mike Piazza). The Mets neglected to include the Amazin’ Again slogan on their very plain Kahn’s magnetic schedule. 1998 was shaped like a home plate, and 1999 like a glove, but now we had a plain white rectangle with blue and orange printing. Way to cost cut after making the playoffs for the first time in a decade, Mets! There were some cool promotions listed on the schedule – 1999 season highlight video sponsored by Office Depot, photo placemats by Tropicana, Mets kickball by Tropicana, a Tom Seaver Bobble Head Doll presented by Chase, and unnamed Donuts chain sponsored kids bucket cap and Mets coffee mug.
Al Leiter was the starting pitcher, and pitched eight strong innings, allowing just a single run on a solo home run in the second to Phil Nevin. Todd Zeile drove in a run in the 7th on a sacrifice fly (Zeile was signed as a free agent to replace John Olerud at first base), newcomer Derrek Bell knocked a homerun over the wall in the eighth to put the Mets ahead, and Armando Benitez retired all three Padres hitters in the ninth to get the save for Al Leiter’s win.
That night, I had the opportunity to attend the Mets Welcome Home dinner, a benefit for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation at Chelsea Piers. I attended as a volunteer, and part of my duties was checking people into the dinner, including players. It was cool to see these guys up close: I remember getting the impression that Rey Ordonez was really enjoying celebrity status. I’ll never forget when one guy walked up to check in, and I asked his name, and he mumbled it. I couldn’t find his name on the attendees list, so I asked again, and realized he was telling me he was Mike Hampton! I hadn’t found his name because I wasn’t looking at the players’ list. Mike Hampton is officially 5’10″ but I’ll also tell you my drivers license says I’m 5’7″ and both of those numbers are wrong. However although Mike is not an imposing figure, the other contributing factor to me not realizing he was a ballplayer was that he showed up without an entourage or even a guest.
Anyway I later got Mike Hampton and Todd Zeile’s signatures on this cool commemorative baseball. Tom Seaver was there, as “honorary chairman,” and Kevin James was a special guest as well.
Quite a memorable Opening Day to kick off an unforgettable 2000 Season!
more photos after the jump
My book! $9 for paperback, $3 for eBook/kindle.