Mets buddy Metstradamus may have beaten me to the punch about this already, but I don’t remember him singing Fernando by ABBA when I saw him first time at Spring Training in 2008. Okay, fine, it might have been me singing it…but that’s besides the point.
Once can’t-miss-prospect, Fernando “F-Mart” Martinez has been waived by the Mets…to make room for Scott Hairston. I had to chuckle a bit at the irony. For one, Hairston is a “buddy” of mine (and if you don’t believe me, check the picture on his Wikipedia page). Second, I have a soft spot in my heart for F-Mart. The last is that I’ve seen this story play out before, when Omar Minaya left Jesus Flores unprotected in the Rule 5 Draft for the likes of Julio Franco, the 1,000 year old man, for “veteran protection.” Yet, I can’t disagree with this move because F-Mart has been a huge disappointment. I place that blame squarely on his development with the organization.
Yet, I have a soft spot in the my heart for F-Mart. He’s another cautionary tale of a can’t-miss-prospect yet at the same time the failings and flailings of the Mets minor league organizational cultivation. If you look at Mets history, Roosevelt Avenue is littered with the bodies and ghosts of these once promising players only to see them flounder due to mishandling. Billy Beane, Gregg Jefferies, Lastings Milledge, Aaron Heilman. Most of them make us cringe with the thought of “MAKE IT STOP!!!!!”
F-Mart was different to me. I never saw him as that golden boy status, because I guess in my heart I knew he wouldn’t amount to much. I always saw him as that prototypical trade bait or someone who would move around to suit the likes of Carlos Beltran (the guy who ironically put the stop to Milledge and Martinez’s development with the big team).
Since CitiField opened in 2009, we’ve been waiting for that moment to stand up and cheer. To that end, we’ve had three very disappointing seasons, and 2012 looks to be no different. At the same time, we’ve all missed Shea, but I think that Shea provided those warm, fuzzy, mushy memories that we can all identify by being in the same house at the same time. But in 2009, there were some glimmers of “maybe this place won’t be that bad.” And one of those memories was Fernando Martinez making his big league debut.
Now, his debut didn’t amount to much. I remember maybe his second or third start, he was caught not running out a foul ball, or what he thought was a foul ball, and it was an indication that maybe the minor league development teams weren’t doing their job in fundamentals. By the time 2009 ended though, I called this game one of the Met-Nificent Moments of the year. Why was that? Well, my list, my rules. But the game for me is what being a Mets fan is all about: making memories of your own.
We found out that day that F-Mart was being called up to make the start. This was really the beginning of the end for that season: the AAA team being called up because of all the injuries. That said, I had tickets to the game, and my friend Anthony who went by the moniker “Dykstraw” agreed to go with me. We found out in the meantime that our friends El Duderino and Fort Greene Met Fan from the Brooklyn Met Fan motley crew were also going that night…the first time since Opening Day when I ran into them. This was a coincidence: seeing F-Mart and seeing each other? Score.
By the time we arrived, it was close to first pitch. El Dude and FGMF had texted me already, letting me know they were on the bridge, since they wanted food from Catch of the Day, the new seafood-themed food stand at CitiField, and it was right by the bridge. Also bear in mind at this point, it wasn’t called the “Shea Bridge,” but it desperately needed a name. This was the first game for me that I felt like CitiField could, indeed, be home. When Anthony and I saw that Gene and Mia were going to be at the bridge at the beginning of the game, we figured we’d be near the food stands, and it was better than going to Guam for our real seats (up in Promenade).
Also, F-mart was starting right field that night. We figured, if there was a play in the first inning, we’d see it better from the bridge anyway. Oh, but wait, there’s more. He would be batting in the first inning. Well, we may as well stay put, since by the time we get to our seats, we’ll miss his first at-bat.
By the end of the game, we had spent the entire time on the bridge. It’s moments like this that make me a Mets fan. Mia and Gene bought calamari at the Catch of the Day stand, and we passed it around. We passed around Box Frites. Someone bought beers and passed them down. I felt like we were at an Italian family gathering, and the baseball game was simply a backdrop. Someone else from Brooklyn Met Fan noticed me and yelled, “Hey Co-Op!” I was like, “Uh…it’s COOP!” Another point, I struck up a conversation with another fan, who in turn bought us all beers, but asked me if I knew Joe from Mets Today. Well, not only was I friendly with Joe…I was leaving him tickets for the next day! Talk about a coincidence.
I’m pretty sure the Mets won that night, but it was really the fan camaraderie that made me really believe that, the team may be bad, F-Mart may not amount to much or anything really, but this was what kept me returning for more. The beers, the food, the conversation, the jokes, the self-deprecating humor.
The Shea Bridge didn’t have a name that night. Yet, secretly I still call it the “F-Mart Bridge,” because of that night. Since I told all of you, it’s not so much a secret anymore. Some people point to the fact that because the Mets don’t have a lot of quintessential Mets-ian players that their history might be flawed. But it’s nights like this that give us a counterpoint in one another, the very idea that makes a Met fan a Met fan. Good luck to F-Mart wherever he may go. I won’t forget that first night you played. You may have underwhelmed, but just know there were several people on the bridge rooting for you and wanting to see you do well.