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Noel Chedda attended his 26th opening day at Shea Stadium Monday by using a well-worn excuse for his boss. He called in sick.
I didnt catch a foul ball, like Ferris Bueller, he said, leaving the stadium as the Mets were beating the Atlanta Braves 10-1 in the seventh inning. But they kinda know.
Chedda, from Staten Island, was one of 53,666 fans at Shea Stadium on a chilly and sporadically rainy Monday to watch the Mets beat the Braves, 10-6, in their home opener.
Fans reasons for attending were simple.
And the consistent, Theres nothing like opening day.
The game started with an opening pitch from a group of players from the 1969 championship Knicks, Mets and Jets teams.
Remembering old victories seemed to be a sport for Met fans, who wore jackets with 1986 World Series decals and 2000 Subway Series T-shirts.
At this point in the season, theyre only in third or fourth place thats good for the Mets, Jay Hunt said at his second opening day. He brought his cousin, Victor Filletti, from Brooklyn, to his first opening day Monday.
Its great. I cant believe the crowd, Filletti said. I love the 69 Mets, the whole thing.
Were living in the past, Fillettis uncle, Jack Hunt, admitted as the trio stood in the hallway chugging beers that they couldnt bring into the stands.
Mark Shultz, wandering through the upper deck hallways in search of food or a bathroom, wore the trademark shiny blue Mets jacket of 20 years ago.
Ive had this since the early 80s, he said, pointing to a decal he had sewn on from the 1986 championship year.
I come to opening day all the time even when I was married, I came with my wife, said Shultz, a divorcé who is originally from Queens. But when the Mets are terrible, you have no incentive to come.
This year fans came to see new players like Kaz Matsui, or returning players like Todd Zeile.
Some fans had other reasons to attend the game than just the teams winning or losing.
Pete Saljanin, a self-proclaimed huge Met fan who has been with the team through thick and thin, said his 30-man posse put together an $800 tailgate for the occasion.
Their menu included filet mignon, shrimp, shark, chicken and, of course, drinks.
He brought his cousin, Johnny Ivezaj, a Yankee-turned-Met-fan, to the game.
Right now Im full-on Mets, Ivezaj said as the team was up 10-1. If we lose, I might want to change back. Most of the time, my kids dont want to hear it in the classroom.
Jennifer Fryant, 7, who came to the game from Long Island with her uncle, said she was looking forward to telling her classmates about opening day and about her favorite player, Mike Piazza, who was injured and could not play Monday.
The best part of the game to her was no different than the reasons cited by many of the older fans.
I like that the Mets are winning, she said.
By the end of the game, fans left the stadium wet and cold but overwhelmingly pleased that the Mets beat the Braves.
Chedda, happy with the teams new players and scoring ability, cursed his cell phone when he saw his boss was calling as he left Shea.
But in keeping with the celebratory spirit of opening day, he ignored the ring and kept on walking.
Im just a Met fan, I guess, he said. A true Met fan.
Reach reporter Cynthia Koons by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.
©2004 Community Newspaper Group
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