The set SNY erects outside Citi Field for special occasions always draws a crowd, but the one that gathered for the pregame show Friday was a bit more spirited and upbeat than usual.
Rather than mere hope, fans had the reality of a National League pennant to fuel them.
But Nelson Figueroa, SNY’s lead Mets studio analyst, knew what to expect long before he got to Queens for his second home opener on the job.
The Brooklyn native moved from Arizona to Weehawken, N.J., last year, which enabled him to soak up the positive vibes all offseason.
“I can equate it to when I played in Philadelphia in 2001 and then I played in Philadelphia in 2010,” he said in the production truck before the pregame show began. “It was much different. The city really loved their Phillies again.
“You get that feeling that things are changing, it’s a new era, there’s a lot of optimism all over the place. I constantly talk to fans. If I’m out eating, it’s, ‘What do you think of the Mets’ chances?’
“Hey, they didn’t have a chance in hell last year, and they got there, so now that they know what it takes to get there it will be easier to get to the playoffs and then see what happens from there.”
Mostly Figueroa was just happy to be wearing a suit and tie and ready to talk baseball.
“For myself, personally, in this new career, I get to go to Opening Day!” he said. “I had trouble making the team when I played, so this is a way I’m at the ballpark, get to enjoy baseball and get paid to give my opinions.”
Figueroa, 41, a Mets pitcher in 2008 and ’09, marvels at the current pitching and doubts he could have cracked the staff.
“I probably wouldn’t be able to see this team other than on TV, because I wouldn’t have been on this team, other than being a long reliever,” he said. “I’m a guy who doesn’t throw 900 miles an hour.
“For me it’s amazing to see the talent level . . . It’s amazing to see that the bar has been set so high. They’re trying to constantly top each other and put out better performances. And it’s not just about the radar gun. It’s about who can throw a complete game shutout in less than 100 pitches, because that’s what it’s going to take. They’re not going to let these guys go 130 pitches just for a shutout.”