Back in the days when I rooted for the Mets and had even less of a sense of style, I used to wear my Mets hat and Mets jacket everywhere–even to baseball games. I never thought much of it. I liked the team. I wore the gear. Simple.
But then one day, early in the 1992 season, David Justice changed everything.
The Braves were in town. I was the first fan to enter Shea. I ran out to right field for batting practice. Justice was out there shagging balls. There was no one else around. I had the place to myself. I waited patiently for a minute until he fielded a ball, and I yelled for it. He immediately turned to throw it to me, reached back, looked up, and stopped in mid-motion.
“I’m not gonna throw you a ball if you’re wearin’ a Mets jacket!” he shouted.
Oh my god. I was furious at myself. What the hell was I thinking?! I wasn’t thinking, and it cost me. Why should he have thrown me a ball if I was clearly rooting against him?
The next day, I removed my Mets jacket and Mets hat before running to right field. Justice was out there again, and I didn’t know what to expect. Would he remember me? Would he give me a hard time? I asked for the first ball he caught, and he tossed it right to me.
That was the last time I brought my Mets jacket to Shea, and I started getting more balls right away. Before long, it occurred to me that I’d do even better if, instead of simply dressing neutrally, I started dressing like a fan of the visiting teams. Obviously, I wasn’t going to buy a couple dozen jackets, so I stocked up on baseball caps.
It paid off.
Days later at Yankee Stadium, Angels coach Ken Macha offered a ball to the first person he saw with an Angels hat. I squeezed my way to the front row and claimed it…and the balls started pouring in. I wore my Expos hat to a four-game series at Shea and got seven balls thrown to me. Some players went out of their way to reward me, presumably, for traveling all the way from Montreal to see my favorite team.
Next time you go to a game, buy a hat of the visiting team. It might cost six bucks. Maybe ten. Maybe twelve. There’s no need to spend $22 on a fitted cap. Just get something cheap. All you need is the logo on the front. If I can survive tonight’s game at Yankee Stadium with my Mariners cap, there’s no reason why you can’t “root” for the visitors wherever you are.