Spring means flowers, fresh-cut grass, and the start of baseball season. And New Yorkers, like many welcoming their teams to the ballpark, eagerly anticipate opening day Monday.
Both Mets and Yankees fans are looking forward to the first pitch, optimistic about the course of the season -- whether they have reason to be or not. Steven Zeoli, 54, was shopping for Mets gear at the team's Manhattan store Sunday, ready to drive down to Washington D.C. with his family where the Amazin's will face the Nationals Monday.
"Hopefully this will be another good year," said Zeoli, who lives in Poughkeepsie but does work in D.C. for IBM. He tries to attend opening day as often as possible and has been attending games since he was a kid growing up in Bayside, Queens. "It's part of a heritage, it's part of a tradition. There's nothing like springtime in New York with Mets baseball."
Fellow Mets fan Patrick Balestriere, 57, said the pitching is going to save the Mets this year.
"I think they're going to be much better than the Yankees," said the Bensonhurst resident, who was shopping with his wife, a Yankees fan. "It's time for them to win some games. I'm anticipating a better season for them -- they've got the young arms."
Indeed, Jeffrey Paternostro, editor at the Mets blog "Amazin' Avenue," predicts the team from Queens could win 82 games this year.
"If [Matt] Harvey is healthy and makes 30 to 32 starts," Paternostro said. Harvey elected to undergo Tommy John surgery in October 2013. "You manage him differently but I think it will be a better starting pitching staff this year versus last year."
The Yankees, who open against the Blue Jays in the Bronx Monday, face the exact opposite challenge, said Robert Casey, chief, managing editor, and writer at bleedingyankeeblue.com.
"I am worried about the rotation," Casey said. "If they can be healthy, we have a good chance of making the playoffs. I feel as well [the management team is] listening to the fans. We've been complaining about youth and they are working to make it possible."
Despite not making the playoffs in the last two years, Casey said Bombers fans are still riding the momentum that started back in 1996, when the Yanks began a resurgence.
Lauren Pozna, 21, flew to New York with her sister from Cleveland to watch the Yankees play on opening day. Pozna scouted the merchandise at the team's Times Square store on what she said was her first visit to the Big Apple.
"I think they'll do well. I think A-Rod will surprise us," the lifelong fan said.
Casey agreed that Alex Rodriguez, fresh off his ban for using performance-enhancing drugs, could be a major factor.
"I know he made some major mistakes all on his own, but fans just want him to hit the ball and knock in runs," he said. "If he strikes out and starts to talk to the press and say silly things, that's not good. I hope he just shows up, does his job and goes home. That's the plan."
Yankees fan Christian Gonzalez, 22, is also hopeful for the start of the season.
"I think overall they're going to be on a good start," said the Manhattan resident. "They're going to win. Jeter left us in a good place."
This season may be unpredictable for both teams, but that's where the fun of being a baseball fan in the Big Apple comes from, Mets blogger Paternostro said. The game, win or lose, helps to channel New York's intense energy onto the ballfield over the next six months.
"If you're going to be obsessive in New York," he said, "Why not be obsessive about your team?" (with Alexa Vagelatos)