View Full Version : A Growing Gathering of Mets Fans in a Pinstriped County

May 12th, 2007, 06:39 PM
This would warm the hearts of the orange and blue set here. :D


A Growing Gathering of Mets Fans in a Pinstriped County

Published: May 13, 2007

WITH its proximity to Yankee Stadium and the high number of Bronx ex-pats living in the county, Westchester has long worn its pinstripes proudly. So is it possible that those National Leaguers from Queens — they of the large-headed mascot and the decidedly gauche apple that pops out of the top hat after home runs — are actually growing in popularity in the Yankees (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/sports/baseball/majorleague/newyorkyankees/index.html?inline=nyt-org)’ backyard?

Anecdotal evidence, collected from bartenders, merchandise dealers and bleacher creatures, suggests that the Mets (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/sports/baseball/majorleague/newyorkmets/index.html?inline=nyt-org) — with their core of young, flashy players and recent winning ways — are taking substantial bites out of the Yankee fan base, at least in Westchester.

“I’d say it’s between 50-50 and 60-40 in the bar since Willie Randolph became manager of the Mets” before the 2005 season, said Doug Crossett, owner of Michael’s Tavern, a sports bar in Pleasantville, the 60 percent being Yankee fans. “It used to be 9 out of 10 Yankee fans.”

Several things have contributed to the blue and orange tide. First, the Mets are winners again. They made it to Game 7 of the National League Championship Series last year and have been battling for first in their division this season. The Yankees, meanwhile, have gone six seasons since beating the Mets in the World Series for their last championship — an eternity to fans — and have struggled to find their groove this season amid a number of injuries.

But most of the Mets’ renewed popularity, particularly with the Little League set, can be chalked up to the emergence of young players like David Wright (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/w/david_wright/index.html?inline=nyt-per) and José Reyes (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/r/jose_reyes/index.html?inline=nyt-per), with their All-Star-caliber play and animated handshakes. “Kids can associate with the young players more than a guy like Derek Jeter (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/j/derek_jeter/index.html?inline=nyt-per), who’s been around for awhile,” says Patrick Quinn, 25, from Hawthorne, the only Met fan in a Yankee-rooting family.

While it’s nearly impossible to quantify how much the Mets’ popularity has grown, Dave Howard, the team’s executive vice president of business operations, pointed to a survey by Scarborough Research that showed that nearly 35 percent of Westchester residents described themselves as Mets fans.

When the last Mets’ off-season publicity caravan skipped Westchester, Mr. Howard said he heard from area residents who felt slighted. “We’ll definitely have a Westchester appearance next time around,” he said.

Some county residents also say that youngsters dressed as Wright for Halloween last year outnumbered perennial favorites like Jeter. Mets’ merchandise has been selling well, too. Jim Larkin, who manages the Last Licks memorabilia/ice cream shop in Thornwood, said a Reyes-autographed Champagne bottle sold for more than expected, and action shots of Wright are among his hottest items. “Sometimes, they’ll sell better than something with Jeter,” he said.

To be sure, even hard-core Met fans concede that Westchester will remain Yankee territory as long as the Bronx Bombers continue to field a team. Mr. Larkin said an in-store appearance by the Yankees’ backup outfielder Melky Cabrera drew more people than a joint appearance by the Mets’ pitcher John Maine and the outfielder Moises Alou. “There’s no way Westchester will ever be Mets territory,” Mr. Larkin said.

Even though Gary Padilla, 39, the manager of Bob Hyland’s Sports Page Pub in White Plains, estimated that there has been a 25 percent increase in Mets rooters, no one would mistake it for a Mets bar. “It’s still pretty Yankee’d out,” Mr. Padilla said.

But when the teams stare each other down for a three-game series at Shea Stadium this weekend, expect a strong Mets’ presence in the county’s schools, shops and restaurants.

“Met fans are more vocal now, more likely to wear the hat and jersey,” said Rob Shapiro, 17, from Briarcliff Manor, who wears blue and orange in a family of pinstripers. “Kids are proud to be Mets fans.”