BOROUGWIDE — The fans stayed true to the orange and blue even on a rainy January day.
The New York Mets hosted its first annual Mets FanFest on Saturday, Jan. 25 at Citi Field. A majority of the current Mets roster as well as former greats met the many loyal fans and partook in activities including autograph sessions, games, q-and-a sessions, and a tour of the entire park, including the clubhouse and dugout.
Jacob deGrom, who just won his second consecutive National League Cy Young Award in 2019, discussed what it means to mingle with the fans this early in the year.
“It’s fun,” he said. “These fans are great. I’ve said that before. There’s no better feeling than running out and pitching in front of these people at Citi Field. To come up here and give a little back before the season starts is definitely something that’s exciting and I’m happy to do it.”
“It’s exciting that we’re going to be able to interact with some fans today,” added 2019 National League Rookie of the Year Pete Alonso, who broke the single season record of most home runs for a rookie with 53. “It’s awesome. A bunch of people from the staff is here, and it’s great to see the boys before spring training. It’s almost like a reunion, so it’s been cool. It’s going to be fun. We’re excited about 2020, and [the fans] should be excited too.”
Second baseman Robinson Cano, who had an injury-plagued 2019, but who hopes to rebound this year, was happy to talk to the fans.
“I’ve done this once in Seattle and had a great experience,” he said. “The fans mean everything to us and as a player, you want to go out there and see the fans’ support. This time of the year is good to come out and spend time with them, take a picture, answer questions. That’s amazing. They’re asking me how I feel and telling me they hope I stay healthy this year.”
Fans of all ages were thrilled to see players just walking around the different levels inside Citi Field.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” said Steve L. “It’s far exceeded my expectations. I mean walking around, talking to everybody. I just had a 15-minute conversation with the new manager of the Mets [Luis Rojas]. It was real good stuff. Players are real cordial. Some of them talked to my son and gave some pitching tips. It looks like they keep coming from every angle. It feels like the Comic-Con of baseball.”
He also elaborated on the conversation he had with Rojas.
“Rojas was really emphasizing the crowd against the Nationals when Frazier hit the home run during that series [last year],” he said. I was at that game. As a fan, we really went nuts that night. As a fan, you feel it but hearing him say it that they felt the same way, the players, the coaches, it felt good to hear as a fan.”
Greg Paradise and his two sons Noah and Benjamin were surprised to see beloved Mets player Mookie Wilson.
“It was great meeting a Mets legend who is part of one of the greatest moments in Mets history [in 1986],” he said. “I have a signed picture of him on my wall in my office.”
Alex M. and his son Logan got autographs.
“It’s nice to get closer access to the players and to get to experience behind-the-scenes stuff,” he said. “It’s really cool. It was nice to get to meet Robinson Cano, [Steven] Matz and see things you don’t normally get to see.”
Mets reliever Seth Lugo stopped to give an attendee pointers on how to throw a curveball.
“Seth Lugo arguably has the best curveball in baseball,” fan Joe Depindo said. “He set a record for spin rate. He was just showing me how to throw the curveball with the seams on the baseball. Best to get it from him. Interaction with the players is the best thing you can do here.”
Team members also touched on the hiring of Rojas, who worked for the team for many seasons on the minor and major league level before the Mets named him manager in the wake of Carlos Beltran’s potential involvement in the Astros sign-stealing scandal.
“That was a front office decision what happened there,” said deGrom. “I haven’t thought that much into it. Now we have Luis, and we are looking forward to that. I had him in the minor leagues. He’s a great guy, a great manager. Even last year, he was fun to be around. He communicates well with everyone so we’re excited about that. If you ask any guy in there who has been around him, he’s a great baseball guy and a really good person.
Alonso echoed those sentiments.
It’s unfortunate, the events that happened, but I’m so happy for Luis,” he said. “I had him in 2017 and 2018. Just seeing him manage a game, the dude never loses his cool, never pushes the panic button. He’s always so prepared, and he just doesn’t use his knowledge of the game, he uses his instincts very well.”