- Jane McManus, Reporter & Columnist, espnW.com
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Darryl Strawberry was on hand in a coffee-colored pinstriped suit to take part in the SNY pregame coverage on Opening Day. The former Met watched the Marlins take batting practice for a little while before heading back inside.
"Opening Day has always been a special day for me," Strawberry said as he moved toward the clubhouse. "It's a new season and a fresh start -- and trying to redeem yourself from the year before."
Strawberry threw out the first pitch as the Mets opened Citi Field's second year and tried to address some of the issues their fans had with the new stadium as originally built.
Jill Slachta and her dad John waited 15 minutes to see the new Mets Hall of Fame. The pair have been coming here from Poughkeepsie, N.Y., ever since Jill, 29, was a little girl. But they didn't like walking into Citi Field last season and seeing so much Dodgers memorabilia. When they looked for some kind of homage to the team they had been cheering on for years, there just wasn't enough.
"It was a very negative impression," said John.
Ron Bruning, in his 27th year as a season-ticket holder, was so upset last season that he wrote a letter to the Mets. So today, it seemed like the Mets made things right again as he walked by likenesses of Mets greats, vintage equipment, jerseys and a life-size Mr. Met from the team's early days.
"It's great," Bruning said. "The Brooklyn Dodgers are just part of the history."
Hatcher Shea, all of 3½, stood on the bridge named after his great-grandfather and looked up at a passing jet. "Hey!" he said, pointing beyond the upper deck in his Mets cap.
Opening Day was his first trip to Citi Field, across the street from the stadium William Shea helped open in 1964. Everything here was new to him, including the iconic red apple in center field. Hatcher's grandfather, Bill Shea Jr., was proud to include the next generation in these traditions.
"Baseball is as much about the season you're in as it is about the season you went with your parents, your friends, your aunts and uncles," Shea said.
The newly dedicated bridge is behind right-center field, near Dave Pasternack's Catch of the Day concession stand, and is just another way to install some tradition into the Mets' new home, another way for the Mets to show fans that they are listening.
"My dad was a bridge over many waters and he brought a lot of people together," said Kathy Shea. "We are honored that they have chosen to do this for my dad."
The fans got an early reason to stand and cheer as David Wright hit a 345-foot home run into right field for a 2-0 lead. The spring sunshine even obliged for the moment, shining on the freshly trimmed grass.
So perhaps the Mets had taken a cue from Strawberry, a player who has made his share of fresh starts; another Opening Day, another chance to redeem yourself from the year before.
Jane McManus is a columnist for ESPNNewYork.com.
It was an Opening Day of redemption. The Mets finally got one right.