PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Baseball fans were up early Monday morning in Port St. Lucie to snag spring training tickets for upcoming New York Mets games.
Dozens of fans lined up outside Clover Park before the ticket windows opened at 10 a.m.
Arriving from Panama City two hours before the ticket windows opened, Tony Super was first in line.
"[I've] been a lifelong Mets fan since 1967," Super said.
Retired New York police officer Bill Paterson said he has made Mets spring training a part of his life for 28 years.
"Luckily I was able to get my first choice, right along first base," Paterson said. "The first two seats next to the dugout."
Fan Christopher Bonham came to Florida for the week from Maryland and initially had tickets for two games that were already canceled.
But that didn't dampen his enthusiasm now that baseball is back.
"It's spring break. I figured, what better place," Bonham said. "You get to watch the Mets. It's nice Florida weather, where else would you go?"
Mets ace Jacob deGrom spoke Monday about finally getting spring training started.
"It means a lot. You see the exciting signs and moves the team is making, then to get down here and see everybody and get things going, that's when it gets really exciting," deGrom said. "You see it and you're excited when it happens but meeting the guys and getting out on the field with them, that's when it really starts to feel real."
The excitement extends outside the ballpark to local businesses like Tail-Gators Brews & Grill, which brought in extra staff.
"Baseball brings a ton of business to all of the area," said Lily Walker of Tail-Gators. "We're already seeing a difference just from them saying that the games are back on."
Both Paterson and Super got their tickets and can't wait to get back in the stands.
"[I'm] very optimistic. A lot of improvements in key positions, some trades and still not done," Super said.
The Mets will play their first home game in Port St. Lucie on Sunday against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Because the lockout shortened spring training by about two weeks, New York will only have eight home games this season.
The Mets conclude their home spring training schedule on April 3 against the Miami Marlins but will play two final games in West Palm Beach against the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals on April 4, 5.
All of the teams that hold spring training in Florida will be playing other squads that train nearby.
This is similar to the "pod-like" schedule that was held last year due to the pandemic.
Unfortunately, this means that baseball fans on the east coast of Florida will not see any teams that train on the west coast and vice versa.