Pleasant sounding alarm awakes us all at 5:40 AM.
We all slept like shit the night before. 75% of us are battling illness and the cacophony of coughing emanating from room 210 probably kept the entire hotel awake all night.
But Jack and I push on.
We get ready in 7 minutes but bump into every piece of furniture at least twice along the way. The ladies will be up for good as a result but thankfully aren’t dumb enough to accompany us to Tradition Field in the wee hours of the morning.
Quick trip through the Dunkin Donuts drive-thru and we are on our way stocked with caffeine.
It is a 2 minute drive to the park because any further distance away and my son would physically attack us.
The three of us (including Jeanine, our Mets companion for the past two years now) arrive at the park at 6:07 A.M. and there are two other knuckleheads present and as insane as us.
We now wait for the players to arrive in the players only parking lot. The spots in the lot are marked with their uniform numbers so we immediately know who has arrived. Our move is to have me identify the player and then shout it out so Jack and Jeanine can plan accordingly. Some players are worthy of official major league baseballs and others fall down a bit and are worthy of a baseball card.
Within twenty minutes, we strike gold big time. Superstar Yoenis Cespedes agrees to come over and sign for us. Jackpot.
We only get one more autograph but that is OK. The joy of this morning ritual is what gets us through the winter months in the Northeast U.S. We are diehards and proud of it.
The park opens up at 9:30 A.M, so we have time to head back to the hotel for a bathroom break and pick up my wife and daughter. The five of us are decked in Mets gear and ready to watch millionaires play catch.
Actually before that, there is stretching. Lots of stretching.
As they stretch, we start to sweat in the Florida heat and fucking love it.
The players then all run off to different fields to start the day’s drills.
The Mets lead the league in hair volume by a landslide.
We wander from field to field to watch infield practice.
But eventually settle on watching the pitchers because they are the main attraction for this Mets team and have been for years running now.
As the players run from field to field, we do our best to get in their way and annoy them and give them unsolicited high-fives.
That would be Thor (Noah Syndergaard) and his killer man-bun.
A favorite rite of passage dating back to 2014 is to be completely ignored by Matt Harvey and his ego and this year was no exception.
Swoon. I love a player who plays hard to get.
Practices last under three hours because baseball players are weak. I kid, they do a lot of work inside the facility away from the rabid fans where they don’t have to pretend to enjoy our presence.
And there are moments of intense exertion on the field as well.
As practice winds down, we all take our places in anticipation of the insanity that is autograph signing. And we wait.
And wait some more.
Until some of the players take the time to sign and interact with the fans.
Although, I honestly don’t know how they put up with it all day after day. Oh, they make millions? Scratch that.
We do truly appreciate those who take the time out and sign for the kids as they provide them with a memory for a lifetime. The smile on their collective faces make the trip worth it.
Each signed ball or card now has a back story that we relive throughout the year.
And f it, we’ll do it all again tomorrow morning starting at 5:40 AM once again.