Forget warmer temperatures, longer days and blooming flowers. For Big Apple baseball fans, nothing says spring in the city like the crack of a bat at Citi Field and Yankee Stadium.
The Mets and Yankees kick off their 2014 campaigns this week -- the Amazin's Monday and the Bombers Tuesday in Houston -- and fans are filled with the optimism of opening day. Although in the Bronx, that feeling is tinged with the sadness of saying goodbye to an icon, captain Derek Jeter.
"It's a new season and we get to start from scratch. It's a fresh beginning," said Mets fan Victor Caputo, 25, of Lefrak City. "Anything can happen."
The Mets kick off their home schedule this afternoon against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field with a special guest in attendance. Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Boston Red Sox fan, will throw out the first pitch with children from the East Harlem Tutorial Program, who were affected by the blast earlier this month.
Fans of the Amazin's haven't had a lot to cheer about lately. The team hasn't made the playoffs since 2006. But the acquisition of former Yankee Curtis Granderson to go with captain David Wright and the rest of the team's young talent has inspired some hope.
Joe DeCaro, founder of the blog MetsMerizedOnline.com, hailed the energy Granderson has brought to the team.
"I love his enthusiasm and his personality," DeCaro said. "I think he's perfect for the team and perfect for New York."
At their home opener next week, Yankees fans will begin a season-long process of bidding farewell to Jeter, as he plays out his 20th and final season in the Bronx. It promises to be an emotional start to a year filled with reflection on Jeter's accomplishments, including five World Series rings.
"I'm sad that he's going," said Yankees fan Garry Edey Jr., 26, of East New York. "I can't see the future without Derek Jeter." Pinstripe followers hope Jeter's teammates can help him get one more championship before the future Hall of Famer hangs up his cleats."His leaving gives the team momentum to get their game up. And they have to step up their game," said Junior Delgado, 25 of Clifton, N.J. said.
No matter what happens in 2014, fans feel good about the road ahead.
"The future is bright," said Brian Reilly, 38, an animator from Manhasset, L.I. who said he is a fan of both the Mets and Yankees. "It's exciting to see all the young players come up. It's a new beginning."