The first day single-game tickets went on sale at Citi Field, or its predecessor Shea Stadium, used to be an event. Long lines, excitement, hot drinks for the waiting customers. This year was different. By the time Bill Tousius arrived at Citi Field at 10:40 a.m. Tuesday, the line for tickets had all but disappeared.

"I came here when Citi Field first opened to get tickets," said Tousius, a Flushing native. "That was a line. I didn't expect much of a line today."

Two ticket windows were open, and that might have been overkill considering the line never reached double digits. At times, reporters and photographers outnumbered the customers.

The difference from years past? It could be that single-game tickets were available via the Internet on Monday. It could be Mets fans went to other venues. Tousius has his own suspicion.

"What's going on with the Wilpons, a lot of us fans are disappointed," he said of the team's owners. "You should keep financial messes out of baseball."

The Wilpons' investment with Bernard Madoff and the subsequent fallout -- including a clawback lawsuit by trustee Irving Picard that could reach as much as $1 billion -- was the talk of an otherwise quiet offseason in Queens. The saga has led to speculation of a substantially reduced payroll, something Tousius contends could drive an even bigger wedge between the Mets and their fans.

"I'll tell you one thing, as a loyal fan, if they get rid of [Jose] Reyes, I may hang up my orange and blue," he said of the Mets' shortstop who is in the last year of his contract. "That's how upset I am about the whole situation.

"I speak to a lot of Met fans and everybody tells me the same thing: 'If they're going to do this, they're going to lose a lot of followers.' I mean we have another crosstown rival up in the Bronx; people can easily put on pinstripes."

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East Rockaway's Rich Steiger admitted the team's in-season woes led him to give up a Friday night package. A faithful fan for a quarter-century, Steiger always tries to get tickets for Opening Day, and his mission was no different Tuesday, though he was ultimately unsuccessful.

"In light of the way things are happening this year with the Mets, I never expected to get here and not get an Opening Day ticket," said Steiger, who recalled longer lines in years past, when doughnuts and coffee were distributed.


After being interviewed, he ended up going back to the window and purchasing a pair of Mets-Yankees tickets.

"Deep down inside, I still want to take my son," he said, "have some enjoyable days with him here at Citi Field."