The first shirt Darren Meenan designed and wore to a Mets game in late 2009 was in Met colors but not sanctioned by the team. "I survived," it said, listing recent suffering he endured as another fruitless season ended.
This year the Mets set aside 859 seats for each postseason game, including the World Series, for Meenan and fans who bought shirts and collectively became known as The 7 Line Army.
It's a noisy bloc of orange-and-blue cheering from centerfield with thundersticks -- a concentrated core of fans forged in misery and now reveling in a title chase.
"If you stay true, when you do turn the corner, the highs are a lot more appreciated," said Meenan, 34 of Douglaston, Queens. "Most Mets fans have been training themselves over the years to say we'll get them next year. Well, next year is right now."
Since Meenan sold his first shirts, using word-of-mouth and social media, his business has grown. At first he channeled fan frustration, now their success. Meenan said sales have grown, though he declined to provide details.
The first outing for fans was the last game from 2012, when pitcher R.A. Dickey got his 20th win of the season. Meenan credits the popularity of the outings with getting an official licensing agreement with Major League Baseball, signed in April 2014.
Now there is a kiosk of The 7 Line merchandise at Citi Field. Meenan has a full-time employee and two part-timers, plus a New Hyde Park warehouse.
Tara McDonald, 31, of Williston Park is a frequent participant in the outings. This year's excitement has brought back memories of the old stadium.
"Citi Field has felt like Shea, for half the year at least. And to be able to be in a section with all these crazy fans -- I have 50 good friends there now," said McDonald, an assignment editor at News 12 Long Island.
The players and team have noticed, with Curtis Granderson, Jacob DeGrom and Daniel Murphy wearing 7 Line shirts and giving credit to the army for their energy.
The 7 Line Army, named after the subway train that runs to Citi Field, went with as many as 1,300 fans to Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Baltimore and Colorado, as well as the Subway Series at Yankee Stadium.
Andrew Indart, 28, of Marine Park, Brooklyn, hasn't missed a single outing this year.
At home, "It's just electric from the minute you walk into the section," Indart said. Yoenis Cespedes waved and tipped his cap to the fans after they sang "Happy Birthday" to him on his birthday Oct. 18, he said.
But Indart likes the road games the best.
"We're going into an opposing team's field with a sense of unity. We're in this together," he said.
Not that it's all joy in Flushing.
Some of the group's World Series tickets have ended up on the secondary market.
Meenan asked fans not to resell the tickets, which had a $250 face value. Some were available Sunday from $1,500 to $874.99 on StubHub.com.
"It's disappointing. The brand we built is die-hards," he said. "It tarnishes what we had built."
Some Royals fans might also inadvertently buy seats in the section and find themselves surrounded by The 7 Line Army. "They're not going to have a good time," he said, before adding, "We're a friendly crowd. We don't go to be intimidating. We go to love and support the team and do our part to help them win."
Meenan, for now, is balancing being a fan with the business. But if forced to choose, he doesn't hesitate about where he'd go. "If this starts feeling too much like a job, I'll stop doing it," he said. "I would stop before I lost the fandom. I wouldn't be able to look at myself in the mirror."
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