The term “sports fan” is short for “sports fanatic,” and the word “fanatic” is defined as “a person filled with excessive and single-minded zeal.”
Meet David Rowe ... sports fanatic.
Rowe, like a lot of kids who grew up in Modesto during the 1960s, was a San Francisco Giants fan.
More to the point, he was a fan of Willie Mays, San Francisco’s Hall of Fame center fielder. But when the Giants traded the “Say Hey Kid” to the New York Mets in 1972, Rowe’s allegiance was put to the test.
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Giants or Mays?
Well, Mays won out and Rowe traded in orange and black for orange and blue, becoming a fan of the Amazin’ Mets right on the spot.
So devoted a Mets fan, in fact, that upon his retirement from Modesto Irrigation District in August 2014, Rowe cooked up a plan that many would call, well, fanatical.
He became a Mets season-ticket holder. Which, of course, requires living near Citi Field in Queens.
“I was out (on the East Coast) in ’99 with my wife for a work conference and we decided to drive up to New York,” said Rowe, 56, from his apartment in New York City. “It was a five-hour drive, and we saw a game that went 16 innings – the Mets won – and we drove back that night to Baltimore.
“But I turned around and saw kids with their Mets shirts and grandparents in their Mets jackets … and I thought to myself, ‘This is where I belong.’ I kind of wanted that feeling again and it prompted me to come back here.”
So, before this season, he bought tickets on a Mets Flex Plan, which allowed him to attend 81 regular-season home games – he was at Citi Field for every one of them, all 755 innings – from different seats around the ballpark. He rented an apartment in Bayside, Queens, a 15-minute drive to the stadium. He also caught two playoff games. And that was after attending Mets fantasy camp in Port St. Lucie, Fla. in January.
“It’s a bucket-list trip that he’d been planning the last year before he retired,” said his wife, Deb Rowe, the principal at Enochs High School. “You scrimp and save and take care of your business to make things happen.”
The tickets were not cheap and neither is his apartment.
“I’d rather not say how much exactly, but the rent for my apartment is $300 more a month than my house in Modesto,” said Rowe.
Never mind the financial burdens, how has months apart affected the Rowes’ marriage?
“I will tell you it has improved it greatly,” said Deb Rowe, who spent her summer in New York and visited a few times during last term’s spring break. “I’m uniquely independent as an adult, and was even as a teen, but I’m even deeper in love with him now … how’s that for corny? But it’s the truth. I realize that life without him would not be satisfactory.”
And you don’t have to talk to David very long to figure out that Deb is the Big Apple of his eye.
“My wife is the greatest person in the world to recognize my fandom and let me play it out like I am,” he said. “She supports me 100 percent. She’s amazing. I don’t think we’ve met anyone who says they’d have done the same thing.”
Rowe – known to his friends as “Skid” – took his time driving to the East Coast, visiting friends along the way. He drives to Citi Field for each game and then back to his apartment. And that’s about it. He’s not much of a sightseer.
Every time I’ve told my story to someone here in New York they’ve just wanted to shake my hand and say, ‘That’s amazing.’
“It’s sort of like my job,” said Rowe, who blogs about the season at skidmetsfan.com. “It’s all I do. I’ve only been on the subway two or three times. I’m not really a city person. I get very anxious in crowds, unless it’s my element. And my element is baseball games and rock concerts. My landlady gives me a hard time: ‘Don’t you do anything?’ I tell her, ‘I’m just here to see the Mets.’ ”
Well, he picked a good season to do that, since the Mets have such a checkered history of success.
After joining the National League in 1962, and setting about every record for futility over their first seven seasons, the Mets finally won it all in 1969, coming from eight games off the pace to overtake the Cubs and qualify for the postseason.
That team, known as the Miracle Mets, holds a special place in baseball lore. Four years later, the Metropolitans were back in the Fall Classic, losing a seven-game thriller to the Oakland A’s.
They wouldn’t taste the postseason again until 1986, when New York beat the Boston Red Sox in one of the most memorable World Series ever (think Bill Buckner). There were more playoff berths in 1988, 1999, 2000, when they lost the Subway Series to the crosstown rival New York Yankees, and 2006.
And, of course, this year.
The Mets won the National League East by seven games and dispatched the Dodgers in the National League Divisional Series. Now all that stands between New York and the pennant are the Chicago Cubs.
Game 1 of the National League Championship Series is Saturday at 5:07 p.m.
“I’ve met a lot of people here,” said Rowe, who flew home for visits twice during the season when the Mets were on extended road trips. “Every time I’ve told my story to someone here in New York they’ve just wanted to shake my hand and say, ‘That’s amazing.’ ”
Rowe, who was featured on the Mets’ Tumblr page, is guaranteed at least two more games (the first two of the NLCS) and as many as seven (potentially the last two of the NLCS and three in the World Series). Either way, his time in Queens in quickly coming to a close.
“I’m waiting for the parade,” said Rowe, who would stay for a World Series ticker-tape celebration along the Canyon of Heroes in Midtown Manhattan. “But I’m almost ready to put it behind me. I want to go home and sit at my desk with all my Mets stuff, take a deep breath and go, ‘Did I really just do that?’ ”