By Zach Gewelb
Even before the New York Mets defeated the Atlanta Braves 6-0 on Opening Day Monday afternoon, fans from across the borough were optimistic that 2017 could be the year the Mets win their elusive third World Series title.
New York came close in 2015, losing to the Kansas City Royals in five games in the World Series and were sent home early in last year’s postseason after a Wild Card loss to the San Francisco Giants, but fans believe their time is finally here.
“I’m very excited,” said Glen Walz, formerly of Middle Village, outside the stadium at Citi Field. “It’s going to come down to whether they can stay healthy or not. If the starting pitching stays healthy, I think they’re going to be good and this could be the year.”
Walz has a tradition of coming to Opening Day and said he fell in love with the atmosphere of the game that kicks off the season.
“I’ve probably been here 15-20 times on Opening Day and the atmosphere is fantastic every year,” he said. “Even when the Mets were bad, you always had that feeling that they would win.”
After days of rain, the weather broke into sunshine as 44,384 fans streamed into the ballpark from the parking lot, the No. 7 train and the LIRR.
Longtime Met fan Mike McGovern attended the game with his daughter Michele and newborn grandson Devin — among others — and said he wouldn’t have missed the game for anything.
“I’ve been to every Opening Day since 1978. It’s a big family day for us,” the Floral Park resident said.
McGovern has been a fan since 1962 and has seen the team at its worst and at its best. He believes the Mets’ recent success has helped boost morale throughout the borough.
“People who live in the borough can have a certain amount of pride in this team that represents Queens,” he said.
There’s a lot to be excited about for Mets fans, who have a plethora of talented players to root for. There is some division between fans as to who they are most looking forward to seeing this season, but most believe right-handed ace Noah Syndergaard is the team’s biggest attraction.
“I’m excited to see Syndergaard out there on the mound,” said TJ Katz, who attended the game with his father Eric — a former Woodside resident. “It’s really fun to be here and see him pitch.”
Katz wasn’t alone in his eagerness to see the one known as “Thor” pitch.
“I can’t wait to see Noah start the season off right for us,” Maddeline Franzese of Glendale said.
Syndergaard didn’t disappoint as he tossed six shutout innings before exiting the game due to a blister.
The Mets staged a six-run rally to break a scoreless tie in the bottom of the seventh inning, sending the home crowd into a frenzy.
After the game, manager Terry Collins said the Opening Day atmosphere helped propel the Mets to victory.
“When you have a crowd like this, you cannot do anything but get excited,” Collins said. “The noise, the energy, (the fans) are knowledgeable, they know the players. This is a great place and a great atmosphere and it was a great way to kick the season off.”
The Mets certainly set the right tone with their victory over the Braves. Now, they just have to ride that memomentum all the way to October.
“We’d love to get back to the World Series and win it,” McGovern said. “We’ve been waiting a long time for that.”
Reach reporter Zach Gewelb by e-mail at zgewe