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By day's end, 130,000 tickets were sold, setting a new club record. Opening Day on April 11 against the Houston Astros and the Subway Series games with the Yankees May 20-22 were sold out.

There's clearly a buzz back in Flushing, a buzz that hasn't been felt in quite some time. Daryll Strawberry, Ron Darling and other former Mets greats from the 1986 World Series team, were also on hand to greet the fans. "I think they're really gonna do good," said Hoey, who plunked down $300 for tickets. "People have asked me and I told them, the Mets would win 91 games and we would (win) the (National League) wild card."In the words of Chris Rock: Slow down!I'd hate to be the bearer of bad news here and snow, err, rain on the Mets' fans parade, but the Mets aren't going to win anything this year. Sorry Matt Hoey. They're not going to win the National League East, they're not going to win the wild card, they're not going to beat the Braves. Go ahead and call me a know-nothing hack if it makes you feel better, but there will be no baseball played in Flushing in October.But please, by all means stay enthused. There is new life in the old ballpark and there's good reason. Queens native Omar Minaya was named general manager and had a very busy offseason. He hired longtime Yankee Willie Randolph as manager, and although it's still Spring Training, early indications are Minaya hit a home run with the hiring of Randolph.Minaya also inked some of the most sought after free agents in the game. The closet thing to a five tool player Mets fans have ever seen in Carlos Beltran will be patrolling center field. And though he isn't a kid anymore, Pedro Martinez is still one of the top pitchers in the game. Doug Mientkiewicz is nowhere near the player that Carlos Delgado is, but he is a solid defensive first baseman.Add to that, returnees Kris Benson (his wife Anna will also cause a stir, but for an entirely different reason), future All-Star third baseman David Wright, Jose Reyes, Mike Cameron, future Hall of Famer Mike Piazza and Kaz Matsui and you have yourself a pretty darn good team.But until proven otherwise, the Braves are the team to beat in the National League East. And they should be, since they've won 13 straight division titles. John Smoltz is moving back to the starting rotation after being the team's closer and ace Tim Hudson just signed a long-term deal Tuesday. They'll join former Met Mike Hampton, John Thompson and Horacio Ramirez to comprise a very good rotation. The Braves outfield of Raul Mondesi, Andruw Jones and Brian Jordan is suspect at best, but their offense of Chipper Jones, Rafael Furcal, Marcus Giles and Johnny Estrada can certainly produce.The Florida Marlins made waves during the winter by getting highly sought after slugger Delgado and Al Leiter from the Mets. Pitching wins championships and the Marlins have one of the best starting rotations in the division with Leiter, Josh Beckett, A.J. Burnett and Dontrelle Willis. Juan Pierre is one of the best leadoff men in baseball, the middle of the lineup is solid with budding star Miguel Cabrera, Mike Lowell, Paul LoDuca and Delgado.But as Tug McGraw said, "Ya Gotta Believe," and I believe there are some really interesting story lines in Flushing this year. Pedro is still Pedro and he's always exciting. How about a possible Opening Day matchup between Pedro and Roger Clemens? Or Andy Pettitte? And in the Subway Series, Pedro can meet Randy Johnson. The Barry Bonds circus comes to town June 3-5, the Washington Nationals make their first trip to Shea April 22-24 and Albert Pujols, who is veeeeery good, and the National League champion Cardinals will come to Flushing May 13-15.Reach Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.

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