New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo’s announcement on Thursday that Citi Field will be allowed to admit 20% capacity into its confines to star the 2021 Major League Baseball season was music to manager Luis Rojas’ ears.
“It’s really exciting,” he said. “We were talking this morning about fans, actually. A couple coaches and players, knowing about Washington D.C., which is our opener [against the Nationals on April 1], and getting to experience the fans in the stands and the support for the game, enjoying the game.
“It’s just exciting to think of it today. We can’t wait for those games to get here.”
The Mets’ home opener is on April 8, one week after the start of the season, where approximately 8,300 fans can be in attendance as long as they show proof of a negative COVID-19 test or vaccination.
“Once we get home and get that 20%, it’s going to be outstanding to hear that support… it’s going to mean a lot to everybody,” Rojas added.
It will be the first time Rojas will get to manage the Mets in front of fans after he was thrust into the role shortly before the 2020 season, which was delayed until July and shortened to just 60 games without fans in attendance. Now he’ll finally get an up-close and personal experience with a fan base that has lofty expectations for the new-look club poised to compete for the National League East title.
“What we’re building on a daily basis [in camp] is thinking of our fans being here,” Rojas said. “They’re very much on our minds and now how badly they want to win… the connection is there. The love is felt from our fans. Their passion is felt.
“That’s kind of like how we feel about them… They’re going to want us to win every game, they’re going to be demanding, and we have to be demanding of ourselves.”
Noah Syndergaard continued his rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery on Thursday with a low-spectator throwing session off the mound.
“I heard how he threw the ball,” Rojas said. “I heard he threw the ball really well.”
That included topping out at 96 mph despite not throwing at 100% — a promising sign that the fireballer’s velocity hasn’t taken too much of a hit because of the surgery. Syndergaard is one of the hardest throwers in the game with an average fastball velocity of 97.9 mph heading into the 2019 season.
The Mets are hoping Syndergaard can return to the rotation in June.