The Centerfield Soldiers of the 7 Line Army
Riding the emotional rollercoaster with “Loogy,” “Barefoot” and the most dedicated family of Mets superfans as they root, root, root for the hardest-luck team in sports.
Mike Mehan was nervous. Maybe he shouldn’t go to a Mets game alone and sit next to a complete stranger. Who does that? Probably not a short, pudgy, bespectacled introvert like him. Most certainly not a gay man from a small town in Upstate New York, who as a kid in locker rooms was called every insult in the book. What made the mission even more daunting was that Mehan would be sitting smack in the middle of a large, rowdy cult of superfans with long-established relationships and raucous, quirky customs that made heads turn from all corners of the Mets’ home base, Citi Field. These folks could easily cast an outsider like him aside like a cold, limp, half-eaten stadium hot dog.
The fan selling her spare ticket for that September 2015 night game against the New York Yankees was part of the 7 Line Army. A thousands-strong New York Mets fan collective, the 7 Line Army announces its presence in center field via powerful, choreographed cheers and by rocking identical Mets-orange jerseys, often with hilarious nicknames splayed across the back — a monochromatic sea sticking out in the Citi Field stands like an orange-flavored Kool-Aid man busting into a goth club (if those goths were unusually obsessed with America’s pastime). Mehan, a middle- and high-school math teacher who’s now 40, was growing into his own baseball fandom, and he had previously attended Mets games with colleagues and friends. He was intrigued by the 7 Line Army’s infectious vibrancy but skeptical about whether he’d fit into what he presumed was a total sports-bro scene. There was a reason he wasn’t still living in the small town where he’d grown up.
By that point in 2015, though, the Mets were marching toward the playoffs, and Mehan was caught up in the excitement of an uncharacteristically successful stretch for a franchise all too familiar with losing. In 60 years of play, the Mets have earned but two World Series championships, and in many seasons, they more closely resemble the bumbling 1962 inaugural squad that set something of a ne’er-do-well tone for the franchise. That team lost more games in a single season than any other ballclub in modern Major League Baseball history. Among the most famous tales of its ineptitude was the time that a Mets batter scampered to third base for what he thought was a triple, but an umpire called him out for not stepping on first base. When the Mets’ manager leapt out of the dugout to argue, the ump informed him that the player had missed second base, too. Ever since those Little League–level foibles, the Mets have rarely seemed to catch a break — in contrast to their 27-time-champion crosstown rival the Yankees, inarguably the most successful franchise in the history of baseball, and perhaps all of sports. It’s like if George Clooney’s next-door neighbor was George Costanza.
Still, Mets fans are a loyal bunch, prone to tailgating under a smog-filled highway and erupting in strange bouts of euphoria when a giant apple bobs up and down signaling a home run. And to be sure, 2015 was an exciting year. Attending the Mets-Yankees game with a rando that day was certainly putting himself out on a limb, but Mehan, facing a veritable full-count in life, decided to take a swing. Sure, he might strike out, but a base hit wasn’t out of the question. Then again, there’s always the additional possibility of getting beaned by a 100-mile-per-hour fastball.
Fast forward six and a half years, under bright skies at the Mets’ 2022 home opener. Mike Mehan — formerly shy Mike Mehan — is leading the entire 7 Line Army in a chant. He has one foot up on a seat in front of the Army’s section, while the other rests on a concrete barrier. Leaning toward the field, extending his right arm forward and wiggling his fingers, Mehan screams, “He-eeeeeeeeeeeeeee…” The white noise of a long “e” emitted by 900 Army soldiers behind him blocks out any other sound. Then, suddenly, 900 elbow joints fold on his command, chopping the air three times to a chorus of “Struck! Him! Out!” For added effect, the whole Army throws in a “Woo!” as they collectively windmill their arms backward. (Yes, they do this every single time a Mets pitcher strikes out a batter. As a lifelong Queens-native Mets fan myself, I have to say it never gets old.)
Clearly, Mehan has come a long way with the 7 Line Army, who’ve embraced him for exactly who he is. During that 2015 game against the Yanks — the Mets lost, 5-0, natch — he hit it off with Lee Weiss, the Twitter ticket seller, a now-46-year-old parole officer living in New Jersey, and a bit of an introvert herself. The two found each other easy to talk to, and before he knew it, Mehan was going to more games with the Army and even embarked on cross-country road-game trips with the group.
“It’s become such a family,” says Mehan. “We now plan and coordinate trips together; we’ll stay in hotel rooms together. These are complete strangers before the 7 Line.”
Living hours away from his hometown in the big, overwhelming city, like so many New York transplants, Mehan was in need of a chosen family. And he found it in the 7 Line Army.
Tearing up in a recent interview, Mehan goes so far as to say that the group “changed my life.”
He’s hardly alone in that sentiment. The Army, a diverse mix of white, Black, Asian and Latino fans, has been going strong for 13 years. Like any big, boisterous clan, there are occasional temper flare-ups, but its members have forged friendships so intimate that they’ve walked in each other’s wedding parties and attended funerals for departed relatives. They’ve yet to cheer their beloved Mets to a World Series title, but the group’s existence has led to countless connections, including quite a few love matches.
It all started when one depressed die-hard closed out a very typical New York Mets season by printing a snarky T-shirt.