Fans gather at Citi Field for Truck Day

Mets send remaining items down to Spring Training home

Fans gather at Citi Field for Truck Day

NEW YORK -- Though much of Queens was still thawing out from the weekend's subzero temperatures, there was a distinct sign of spring radiating from Citi Field on Monday.

With yet another winter storm bearing down on the Northeast, the Mets held an Open House on Monday to celebrate the annual tradition of loading up their equipment truck bound for Spring Training in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Thousands of fans braved the elements to attend the Spring Training sendoff, which featured Mr. and Mrs. Met helping load the equipment truck, free tours of the Mets' clubhouse and a photo opportunity with former All-Star Ed Kranepool, along with raffles and children's activities on the plaza outside of the stadium.

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"Well, my phone says it's about 25 [degrees] right now, so it feels like a heat wave compared to this weekend," said a shivering Nicole Jenkins, as she waited in line to enter the clubhouse with her twin 10-year-old boys. "Even though it doesn't feel like spring quite yet, we couldn't miss out on the chance to get our first taste of Mets baseball for the year."

For many fans in attendance, their last memory involving Mets baseball involved the final game of the club's World Series loss to the Royals last October. Now, with the Mets coming off their first National League pennant victory since 2000, there was a renewed sense of optimism outside of Citi Field on Monday.

Fans frequently broke into "Let's go Mets" chants between sips of coffee and hot chocolate, as they waited to enter the Mets' clubhouse or participated in festivities on the Mets Plaza. At the end of it all, the equipment truck pulled out onto 126th St. to begin its 1,184-mile journey to Tradition Field. The trip takes about 18 hours, not including the various stops along the way.

Though much of the team's equipment is already in Port St. Lucie, this particular truck -- stocked with some final necessities such as extra baseballs, training gear and sunflower seeds -- will arrive just ahead of Wednesday's official report date for pitchers and catchers.

Mets pitchers and catchers are then scheduled to hold their first workout on Friday, with the first full squad workout coming exactly one week later on Feb. 26. The club kicks off its Grapefruit League schedule with a March 3 game against the rival Nationals at Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Fla.

"I can't believe how many people turned out to see the truck off, especially in this weather," said 52-year-old Brooklyn resident Dale Fredericks. "It says a lot about how excited this city is about Mets baseball again. I'm expecting another big season."

Evan Mills, a 7-year-old from Flushing, made an even bolder prediction just moments after having the Mets' logo painted onto each of his cheeks.

"Seeing the clubhouse and everything was really cool," he said, "but I'm just excited for games to start because the Mets are going to win World Series this year."

Paul Casella is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.