By Chris Colton
Sports Editor, CBSNewYork.com
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — If you’re a Mets fan, you’ve heard of The 7 Line.
Heck, you’re probably a member of The 7 Line Army — die-hard fans with a sense of style, a movement started by T-shirt entrepreneur Darren Meenan.
And if you’re lucky, you have the hottest ticket in town for Opening Day.
Last season, Meenan took a chance. He invited fans of his popular Mets-themed apparel brand to get together for the final home game at Citi Field. As the baseball gods would have it, Keith Hernandez provided the pregame excitement with his mustache shave-off, and R.A. Dickey took center stage as he secured his 20th win.
There was a real electricity in Flushing for the first time since the All-Star break — and a lot of credit, though Meenan won’t entirely admit it, goes to the 560 fans in center field, armed with signs, thundersticks and matching T-shirts.
“It kind of just had a different feel for a home game in New York, at Citi Field, than there probably has ever been,” Meenan told CBSNewYork.com. “It turned into something so much bigger than I expected.”
Images of The 7 Line Army in action ended up plastered all over the Internet — including the Mets’ official website — and in the morning papers. The team was impressed, and a few days later Meenan was meeting with the Amazin’s about bringing the Army back in 2013.
He bought out the entire Big Apple Reserved — the same three sections occupied during the home finale — for the Mets’ opener against the San Diego Padres on April 1.
“That was the biggest check I’ve ever had to write in my life,” Meenan said.
Filling all 860 seats turned out to be a cinch. Meenan, whose company has a large and dedicated following on social media, said the tickets were gone in 23 hours.
The Mets were impressed. (Are we sensing a theme?) But Opening Day is always a hot ticket. Meenan and the team settled on the next date, and this would be the real test: Saturday, April 20, against the Washington Nationals.
Again, he had 860 tickets in the Big Apple Reserved.
They sold out in four hours.
“It’s kind of like building its own hype around this group of fans, that people are just dying to come sit with us, which is unbelievable,” Meenan said. “I can’t believe it.”
The 7 Line Army ticket-holders for Opening Day will receive a special-event orange T-shirt, team-colored sunglasses and thundersticks — all for under $100. Unlike the last outing, the shirt wasn’t designed by Meenan — it was submitted and voted on by fans as part of a contest. The winner got a free ticket to the April 1 bonanza.
“Honestly, that’s another thing the Mets pointed out after the last game. They said, you know, not that they expected us to misbehave or have any problems, but they said, ‘Wow, your group was so nice and friendly. Everyone was having a good time,’ ” said Meenan. “The thing that we really try to promote with our groups is that you can even come to a game by yourself and you’re gonna be with 859 other people that are your friend right off the bat.
“Everyone (there) likes the Mets, and it doesn’t matter if you’re from Chicago or Florida or wherever you’re from, everyone’s there for the same goal, and that’s to have fun at a baseball game.”
How about Australia? Yup, there even a fan flying from Down Under to party with the Army.
“That’s nuts,” said Meenan, a Douglaston native. “Last year we had people come from California and this guy’s coming from Australia. He really pushed the envelope a little bit.”
Did someone say road trip?
The 7 Line Army is headed to Chicago to root on their Mets from the bleachers at Wrigley Field on Saturday, May 18.
“That’s crazy, too,” Meenan said. “When I called the Cubs, I only locked up 20 tickets, because I wasn’t sure exactly how many people would come. It’s a lot to dedicate, you know, a weekend away and if you don’t live close enough you have to either take a bus, fly, get a hotel. That’s a big commitment to try to convince people to come to Chicago, you know?”
We know. But ya gotta believe.
He’s sold over 400 tickets at $63 apiece — of course, that includes a T-shirt. Many are Mets fans who happen to live in Chicago, but Meenan said more than half the ticket-holders will be traveling.
“Since it’s first-come, first-serve, we’re just going to roll in with all 400 of us and just lock down a section,” he said.
He’s encouraging out-of-towners to stay at the Getaway Hostel, just a short walk from the stadium.
“I actually called them and said, ‘Hey, do you have space for 400 crazy Mets fans in your place?’ And they said yes,” Meenan said. “So that’ll be a wild time, for all of us to be at the same place and to be able to walk together to the stadium.”
The 7 Line’s motto is “For the fans, by the fans,” though it’s not uncommon to see Mets players wearing Meenan’s shirts while warming up on the field or during postgame press conferences.
To think — it all started in his parents’ basement. The 32-year-old now runs his company from a shop in Jamaica, Queens.
What’s next? Well, first and foremost he’s in the T-shirt business, and The 7 Line will keep churning out threads. (Meenan said he has a ganglion cyst in his wrist from the constant process of screen printing. He’s delaying a procedure until after Opening Day.) There’s the annual calendar, and Meenan is always open to designing and selling shirts for charity.
“I’m down for anything,” Meenan said. “The whole idea – this is such a crazy thing that this even turned into a brand, that I’m down for anything that’s fun. Anything that’s fun, anything for charity, anything that’s going to be a good time with Mets fans. Anything we can do to make the fan-base stronger, I’m down for.”
As far as the outings go, Meenan wants to see a certain famous Mets fan show his face in the Big Apple Reserved.
“Jerry Seinfeld, you’re a Mets fan — so come sit with us,” he said.
Have you been to a 7 Line outing? Are you going to one this year? Tell us about it in the comments!