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Hope and remembrance mark Opening Day at Citi Field

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Photo gallery

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Firefighters Gary Meissner (l.) of Ladder 56 and Kevin Abrams of Engine 48 take in the Mets' home opener at Citi Field. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Nicole Camus, 12, plays catch in the Citi Field parking lot. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Fans from New Jersey sit in some of the highest seats in the house. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Christopher Gress decorates himself in the Mets' colors of blue and orange. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Vivienne Zangaro, 3 1/2, swings her bat in the area set up for younger fans. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Brooklyn resident Joe Lamanna sports a hat with pins from the Mets' two World Series wins, as well as their the 2000 series against the Yankees. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Fans fill the Long Island Rail Road platform at the end of the game. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Astoria resident Peter Sobieski dresses as a superhero at the game. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Collin Cowgill (front r.) congratulates teammates after hitting the New York Mets' first grand slam of the season. . Photo by Christina Santucci
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Members of the 7 Line Army sing Happy Birthday to Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Emmy Rossum belts out a rendition of the National Anthem with the Scholars' Academy of Rockaway Park. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Members of the Sanitation Department wave as they are honored on the field before the game. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Actor Oliver Platt takes in the game. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Scott Morris of Hillsdale, N.J. runs into home plate in an area set up for T-ball at Citi Field. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Lisa Madara (l.) and Robert Mittleman pose for the camera. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Joe Stankiewicz cheers for the Amazins'. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Katherine Nelson brings her 3-year-old twins Abigail and Jacob over to meet Coffee, the dog, outside the stadium. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Christopher Klump (l.) and Peter Harper bring a little music to Opening Day. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Fans Iva Ferrari (l.) and Anthony Speziale cheer for the home team. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Forest Hills resident Remingont Smith climbs atop a giant tribute to Jackie Robinson in the stadium's rotunda. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Bagles, the dog, sports its finest Mets apparel. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Jorge Pocasangre plays a game of toss before the game. Photo by Christina Santucci

New York Mets fans armed with enthusiasm and tempered hopes for another season poured into Citi Field Monday for Opening Day.

The team finished in fourth place in the National League East and minor upgrades to a roster that won 74 games last season. But fans did not mind the laid back feeling of the afternoon.

“It’s almost like a relaxed season because there is not that much pressure on us,” said David Leslie-Skaller, a 32-year-old Bellerose native. “Expectations, I’m not going to say they are low, they are just not high …. It’s not like, ‘Oh, we got to get back at Philly or we got to take the division.’”

The Mets did grab a win on Opening Day by beating the San Diego Padres 11-2, thanks to a strong start from Jonathon Niese and 13 hits, including a grand slam from newly acquired outfielder Collin Cowgill in front of an announced crowd of 41,053 fans scattered among empty seats throughout the stadium.

“We have guys who are going to hustle,” 55-year-old Bayside resident Ray Stankes said. “They are going to play hard. You hope based on that.”

He was one of close to 900 fans sitting in centerfield all wearing orange T-shirts representing The 7 Line Army, a riff of sorts on the fabled subway from Manhattan to Flushing. Queens native Darren Meenan, who founded The 7 Line T-shirt brand along with other Mets fans, started the group, which sponsors a number of outings to which you can buy tickets online.

The group sang “Happy Birthday” to Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy, who turned 28, each time he got up. Stankes said there is a special feeling being out there.

“It’s about being a Mets fan forever,” he said. “This is what we do. We bond together, good or bad.”

Everyone in the stadium rallied behind the people honored in the opening ceremony. The Mets lined up first responders to Hurricane Sandy from multiple organizations, including the police and fire departments, around the infield grass and put Habitat for Humanity volunteers around a large pink heart in centerfield.

“We honor these heroes and their selfless efforts here on our field,” longtime Mets radio voice Howie Rose said during the ceremony.

One of those people was firefighter and Breezy Point resident Kevin Adams. The 42-year-old helped start a program called Operation Gut and Pump that cleaned out more than 600 homes in Breezy Point after the hurricane hit.

To him it was a moment to appreciate all of those who helped out. Adams enjoyed standing on the field as Mets legend Rusty Staub threw out the first pitch and actress Emmy Rossum, of Showtime’s “Shameless,” along with the Scholars Academy choir, sang the national anthem.

“To be able to go on the field, it’s just a little thank you,” Adams said. “It’s a very nice gesture from the Mets.”

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