Mets fans cheer outside Citi Field before the start of...

Mets fans cheer outside Citi Field before the start of the game against the St. Louis Cardinals. (June 2, 2012) Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

For Mets fans, many of whom entered this season with low expectations, a guarded sense of optimism is taking root. Very guarded.

Saturday, headed into Citi Field for an afternoon game, they rejoiced in a winning record (30-23), a brightened financial picture following a Madoff-related settlement, and -- perhaps sweetest of all -- a historic no-hitter Friday night.

Edward Sutemeyer, of Astoria, Queens, has already proclaimed it a good season.

"I expected nothing and we had a no-hitter," the 36-year-old fan said. "So anything better than nothing is better."

This being the Mets, others remained wary of another heartbreak from a team known for them.

Marilyn Good, of the Bronx, said she feels about the team the way she did watching Johan Santana as he racked up the outs, nearing the first no-hitter in team history.

"I wasn't trying to get too excited," she said. "You didn't know what was going to happen."

P.J. Ford, 47, of Wantagh, also feared the worst as he watched Santana pitch in the late innings.

"You just become resigned that it's never going to happen," he said.

Now that it's in the record books, Ford couldn't help but allow himself a little optimism.

"Maybe the future is now," he said before Saturday's game.

The team still faces financial challenges, having lost $70 million last season amid declining revenue and attendance. The team was forced to slash its major league player payroll by $50 million during the offseason, letting star shortstop Jose Reyes bolt in free agency.

This season, despite the team's early winning record, Citi Field is averaging a paid attendance of 26,659 -- fourth-lowest in the National League.

Still, the Mets owners recently settled a multimillion-dollar lawsuit brought by Madoff trustee Irving Picard, ending a 15-month court fight that had raised doubts about their ability to hold on to the franchise.

Then came the magic of the no-hitter. The celebration on the field. The joy in the stands.

"Last night is what we needed," said Nunzio Ambrosio, 71, of Yorktown, N.Y. "Things have been down a little bit."

Majority owner Fred Wilpon "lost millions that could have been put to the team," Ambrosio said. "We finally had a batting champion [Reyes], and we let him walk away."

Also feeling better about the future is Edward Pollich, 51, of Jackson Heights, Queens, a Mets fan since 1969, when the team won its first World Series championship.

Pollich said he bought a T-shirt online urging the Wilpons to sell the team rather than drag the team down.

That seems like ancient history now. He proudly wore his Mets jersey Saturday as the team's theme song blared.

"Things are starting to go the fans' way," he said.


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