By Chris Colton
Sports Editor, CBSNewYork.com
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Though another lost season is coming to a close, the Mets will have something to play for during Thursday’s home finale.
R.A. Dickey’s 20th win.
Cheering him on will be arguably the most passionate niche fan base in all of sports: “The 7 Line Army.”
Led by T-shirt entrepreneur Darren Meenan, over 500 Mets fans are set to throw their own closing ceremonies in seats overlooking the home bullpen at Citi Field.
“I was actually concerned that if I bought the (minimum) 100 tickets, I’d get stuck with some,” Meenan, owner of the ultra-popular 7 Line brand, told CBSNewYork.com. “Not everyone is really motivated to spend money on the team right now.”
But they sold – and then some.
“I pulled the trigger on the 100 tickets, crossing my fingers that they would sell. They were gone in two hours,” said Meenan. “I called (my ticket representative) back, we were both pretty shocked. I ordered another 100, those were gone the next day. Another 100, they were gone the day after that.”
All told, Meenan will be bringing a group nearly 550 fans strong. You can expect the die-hard crew be clad in The 7 Line’s event-specific blue T-shirt: “Loyal ‘Til The Last Out.”
They definitely won’t be the only ones wearing duds from Meenan’s shop in Jamaica, Queens. Shirts from The 7 Line have become a common sight at Mets home games.
“Yes, it is a brand, but it’s also a community,” said Meenan. “When you wear a shirt from The 7 Line and walk around the stadium, you see someone else, you kind of get a head nod or a wave. It’s just a cool feeling to see and watch people bond over the brand and also being such a die-hard Mets fan.”
It’s not easy being a Mets fan these days — not after watching the team go through yet another second-half swoon.
“I really thought the bleeding had to stop eventually,” Meenan said. “I didn’t think it would get as bad as it had.”
At least Dickey has given the Flushing faithful something to look forward to. The knuckleballer will go for win No. 20 against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday, something Meenan & Co. hope be a part of.
“He’s just a different kind of human being,” said Meenan. “I read his book. I’m fascinated by him. I think that he has such a strong will that I don’t think he’s going to allow himself to lose on Thursday.”
Being on the Mets should actually help Dickey’s chances at the Cy Young Award, according to the 31-year-old.
“If you look at his numbers and put them up against the rest of the guys with his low ERA, high strikeouts, innings pitched – he’s been dominant,” said Meenan. “And if he wasn’t pitching for the Mets, I think he’d have 23 wins.”
The 7 Line crew will also be on hand for another milestone: the shaving of Keith Hernandez’s famous mustache. No stranger to raising money for a good cause, Meenan is on board with Hernandez’s bare lip.
“I heard it’s for charity so that’s cool. Anything for charity I’m on board with,” said Meenan, who has raised money for the Gary Carter Foundation and Tuesday’s Children through T-shirt sales. “People are obsessed with that thing. I don’t really care what’s on his face. But if it’s for charity that’s pretty cool.”
So what’s next for The 7 Line?
Meenan will be shooting this weekend for the second-annual “Girls Of The 7 Line: 12 Months Of Orange And Blue” calendar. Sticking with his motto of “For the fans, by the fans,” Meenan hopes to one day compile a book called “Loyal,” a collection of pictures and stories from Mets fans.
And there’s always his thriving T-shirt business.
“There’s no real limit to where this can go,” he said. “I’m just thankful that the fans are appreciative and support the brand. If there were no fans buying the shirts, there would be no 7 Line. … Hopefully it keeps growing and next year we’ll try to get 1000 people out there (to Citi Field).”
Are you a proud member of “The 7 Line Army”? Let us know in the comments below!