>It’s still well before the final out of the 2010 World Series falls into someone’s glove and players pile up just in front of the mound. Before the 29 groups of tears and “next-year”, and that one group of foggy-breathed ecstatic smiles that lasts. Before the magic numbers and the mathematical eliminations which finally put hope into its yearly hibernation. Before the air just starts to nip again, before afternoon games on Labor Day, before the dog days start to stretch and sweat and simmer, before “sweet summer nights turn into summer dreams.” Before a few too many hot dogs and checkerboard-cut grass, and before the rotting low tide smell of Flushing Bay and the roaring of the airplanes which both fade as you move closer and closer to the stadium. Before the solemn seven train rides where the only sound is the lonely creaking of the wheels, and the jovial ones where a temporary family of strangers relives what just happened.

Well before the whispers and shouts of the trade deadline, and before the unknowns emerge as this-year’s heroes and last-year’s heroes succumb to injuries and age. Before “I can’t believe so-and-so was-or-was-not voted an all-star. He did-or-did-not deserve it.” Before the tied games that run so deep into the night you finally just have to give up and head to bed because you have to work in the morning – but you just end up sleepless, listening on the radio, wondering if Howie Rose is required to state whether or not Wendy’s drive-thru is still open every half-inning. He is, and you can still eat great, even late. Come on, someone score.

Even well before the guessing, and then the required second-guessing. Before “El Esta Aqui.” Finalmente. Before the late-night games during west-coast trips which seemingly mandate a helicopter shot of sparsely lit New York buildings accompanied by Gary Cohen stating that “it’s midnight in Manhattan” and Keith Hernandez repeatedly asserting how unlikely it is that anyone is still up watching. We’re there, Keith. Thanks for staying up with us.

And still before you seek cover somewhere in a drenched Citi Field for two hours during a thunder storm because you came to see a ball game and you think you see a break in the clouds just over there. Yeah. There. Past where the lightening just flashed. It is too there. Look closer. It’s just soft summer rain anyway. It’ll pass. They’ll play.

Before the symphony of late inning tension and release, and before the leads that just slip away when no one in the bullpen can seem to get a handle on the game, and before the ninth inning comebacks you can feel building from the first inning. Before, “why didn’t he go with Feliciano in that spot?” Before “wait until Independence Day” and before “wait until Memorial Day” and even before “wait until May.”

Still before “today’s starting pitcher for your New York Mets, Johan Santana” and before “now batting, Jose Reyes.” Before the 49th calling of the names on Opening Day. Before the equipment truck makes the long journey back up I-95 to Flushing. Before the temperatures up here finally draw closer to the temperatures down there. Before the parring down of the roster to the 25 and the reading-too-much-into-spring-training-stats. Before someone is out of shape and behind schedule, and before someone is ahead in their rehab. Before an exhibition game featuring players with uniform numbers in the 70’s playing against players with uniform numbers in the 10’s finally sneaks back onto your television some rainy March day. Even before all that.

Now, in the perpetual twilight of February, in a foot of snow, in the wind that blows right through you, and in days that blur together –

Hundreds of miles away, someone is playing catch. 2010 starts today.

Let’s Go Mets.

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