If the baseball season doesn’t end with a ticker-tape parade for your team, you feel, for the first few days, as if you were driving a speeding car that has gone off the road and is now on its back, wheels spinning. It takes a while for the wheels to stop spinning, for the adrenaline in your system to get back to a normal level.

Some fans, apparently, can start talking right away about trades and free agents and all that. I can’t do it. I need some time to get used to the fact that the season is finally over, that nothing more can ever be added to it. It’s as if someone you know has disappeared. Suddenly a constant background hum is silenced. You turn on the radio or the TV and the Mets are not there. It’s as if some evil conspiracy has managed to eliminate all evidence that they ever existed.


Every so often during the off-season, you’ll hit the WFAN button on your radio and hear Steve “The Schmoozer” Somers talking about football, or Mets radio broadcaster Howie Rose announcing a hockey game, or Mets TV play-by-play man Gary Cohen calling a basketball game. You feel as if you’ve caught them doing something illicit.

There is now the long, fitful, and boring night. You don’t want to be outside. Soon, you forget what it was like, exactly, to have leaves on the trees and baseball on the radio.

Over the winter, I will follow the signings and trades. The drugstores will turn orange and black, then red and green, then red and pink. And just when I am beginning to feel that there never was such a thing as baseball, pitchers and catchers will report to camp in Florida. In the papers, I will see pictures of players on a field, doing stretches in warm sunlight. For me, it will still be cold outside. But the cold night without baseball will be over.

Nothing much happens in camp in February, but there will be interviews and features anyway. If something does happen, if someone says something stupid or is late for practice, it will be blown up out of proportion. Everyone will be eager for something to happen. But nothing will happen. Still, I will read every word of the articles as religiously as if it were October and the Mets were in the playoffs.

Then, on a weekend in early March, I will hear the voices again, the ones that always awaken me from my winter slumber. I will hear the familiar songs, the old commercials, the new commercials, and all the sounds of a game. I will hear the new names, of the guys who will soon be cut, and I dream of their future. I will remember hearing other names for the first time. I will imagine that I can tell something from the first winter at-bats. I will try to read the tea leaves.

There aren’t many good reasons to listen to or watch an exhibition game. But I will do it anyway and I will enjoy it. By late March, I will be asking: “Aren’t they ready yet? Haven’t they done this before? Do they really need this much time?” Finally the rosters and lineups will be set. A couple of games against rivals will seem kind of real but not real enough. When the season is at last ready to start, I will be more than ready. I will feel as if I’ve earned the warm air and the meaningful games.

I will be rewarded with Opening Day and all of its momentous pageantry. Players will line up on the sidelines. I will cheer and get a lump in my throat. The first game will begin and I will marvel that the at-bats actually count and will live forever in the statistics. I will forget all the good years that began badly and all the bad years that began well.

After all the late winter dreaming, I will be so anxious for real baseball that I will have forgotten how little a single game, a single clutch hit, a single botched relief appearance, really means. It does not mean more just because I am paying more attention, as I savor the first sweet drops I squeeze from the season.

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