2006-03-03 / Sports

Fans Are All Smiles As New York Mets Tickets Go On Sale

By Joe McDonald Sports Columnist

FLUSHING, NY – The New York Mets are looking to break a few streaks in 2006, namely the Atlanta Braves’ stronghold on the National League East.

And on the first day of individual ticket sales last Sunday, another string was broken.

Matt Hoey, who has been first online to purchase tickets for the past seven seasons, was bested this year by 19 year-old Paul Bayona of Kearny, NJ.

“I wanted to beat a legend,” said Bayona, who purchased 16 tickets. “He started this all.”

Hoey didn’t seem to mind either. “As long as it was a Met fan,” he said. “If it was a Yankee fan or a scalper, I would have left.”

Bayona said he arrived on Tuesday at 6 p.m., with Hoey joining him an hour later. They both felt the camp out was worth it as they got first choice of seeing a revamped Met team, which many experts feel can make a playoff run.

As an added treat the approximately 700 fans who were online were able to meet Ron Darling, Sid Fernandez, Howard Johnson, Tim Teufel and Mookie Wilson of the 1986 championship team, all of whom share in their fans’ optimism.

“It just goes to show you there is a lot of passion for this New York Met team,” said Darling, who will be joining fellow teammate Keith Hernandez in the SportsNet NY booth this season. “The Wilpons and Omar [Minaya] have put together a championship type of ball club. There is a real fervor that hasn’t been here in a long time.”

With the acquisitions of Carlos Delgado, Billy Wagner and Paul Lo Duca, the sunny outlook is justified.

“This could be ’86 all over again,” Darling thought. “Getting Wagner addresses their most glaring need. The bullpen will be solid from the seventh inning to the ninth inning. And Delgado will make [Carlos] Beltran and [David] Wright better.”

“They are going to ok,” said Fernandez. “If they can stay healthy, they should be able to compete for the division.” Teufel, who managed in the Met system last season, thinks the team could also find some help in their farm system.

“[Lastings] Milledge is a dynamic young player,” he said. “He has outstanding raw talent and is still making adjustments.

He is like no other minor league player out there.”

Even with all the smiles, there were less people at Shea this season compared to years past. According to Mets’ director of marketing development Sandra Van Meek, this is mainly due to the 26 percent increase of season ticket sales the organization is enjoying this winter.

But that didn’t matter to anyone in Flushing on the cold February Sunday, because there was a tint of spring in the air.

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