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Loyal Mets fans find reasons to show up

Angel Pagan #16 of the New York Mets

Angel Pagan #16 of the New York Mets celebrates his second inning single against the Philadelphia Phillies. (May 27, 2011) Credit: Jim McIsaac

Doug Kopf, a 22-year-old Dix Hills native who now lives in Little Neck, didn't care for Fred Wilpon's published comments of the past week.

"I don't totally disagree with what he said," Kopf said Friday night. "But you just can't say that about your own team! You're saying, 'Our team ----, but buy our tickets, please!' "

Yet there Kopf stood in Section 516, cheering on his Mets against the Phillies, in this latest launch of a new Mets era.

"I already bought the ticket," he said, smiling. "I'm a diehard. I'd be here if they had the Twins' record [16-32 entering Friday night's game against the Angels]."

First home game since Wilpon's explosive comments. First game since David Einhorn introduced himself as the Wilpons' (temporary, probably) savior, pouring a much-needed $200 million into the franchise.

And even on a night that concluded in ugly fashion, with the Phillies scoring three ninth-inning runs off Francisco Rodriguez to produce a 6-4 Mets loss, we were reminded of this: The game is so beloved, it can overcome the highest mountains of ineptitude.

"If we play well, if we start getting ourselves going and start winning some games, they'll come back. Or they'll stay," Mets manager Terry Collins said before the game. "Whatever their thought process is."

If any negative reverberations stood from Wilpon's inane, insensitive comments, then those angry fans stayed home. Citi Field itself carried a rather positive vibe. The Mets announced a crowd of 33,382, and for once, your eyeball count actually matched the official number rather than falling 20,000 or so short.

The Phillies definitely were represented well, with white- and-maroon jerseys present all over, but I've been to games here the past few years when the Phillies fans represented the majority. That definitely wasn't the case Friday.

The fans cheered when Angel Pagan, returning from a stay on the disabled list, singled in his first at-bat in the second inning. They booed when Pagan bobbled John Mayberry's single in the fifth, allowing Mayberry to advance to second, and they booed harder when Jason Bay's errant throw moved Mayberry to third.

They booed K-Rod even though he has pitched so well this season, which left Collins "disappointed."

They would've cheered David Wright pregame had they seen the non-superstar gracefully handle questions about Wilpon's evaluation. Wright didn't fully let his boss off the hook -- he repeatedly referred to it as "negative" and said he never actually spoke with Wilpon, instead giving up after a game of phone tag -- but he expressed the desire to put the matter behind him.

"You can either hold a grudge or you can go out there and play baseball," Wright said. "I'm choosing to move forward."

Einhorn talked Thursday about how baseball teams experience "losing seasons, winning seasons, tough seasons and hopefully championship seasons." Kopf still is waiting for his first championship campaign; he cherishes his memories of the National League champion 2000 Mets.

Enough Mets fans seemed ready to move forward Friday. There will be more downers, because we know baseball and we know this Mets ownership. But as Collins said, if you play good baseball, people just can't stay away -- no matter how much they dislike the folks pocketing their money.

New York Sports