On the October evening that Mike Piazza's deep fly ball landed in Bernie Williams' glove, completing the 26th World Series championship in Yankees history, a 12-year-old boy screamed with joy while leaping off a couch in the Lillian Wald Houses on New York City's Lower East Side.
It was an unforgettable moment for young Dellin Betances, who would later fulfill his dream of pitching for the Yankees in a Subway Series. To this day, when the schedule is released, Betances immediately highlights the dates when the Yanks are to play against the Mets.
"I know the importance of the Subway Series, and how much bragging rights there are," Betances said. "For me, it means a lot. You've got all the fans coming out. Even when the teams aren't playing as good, it's pretty much sold out. They are very important games for the fans, and I think it's an exciting time. It's a great atmosphere to play in."
The Yankees swept the four-game season series from their crosstown rivals last year, improving to 66-46 all-time against the Mets since the clubs began Interleague Play in 1997. Though the battles might be friendlier than the Yanks' more historic tilts against the Red Sox, the jockeying has seemed comparable in the grandstands.
"Boston obviously is in our division, but we want to beat the Mets just as badly as we want to beat Boston, make no mistake about it," Brett Gardner said. "Every game we play, it doesn't matter who we're playing, we want to win. We'll be excited about it. I'm sure it will be a good matchup, and I know the fans will be excited about it, too."
Betances believes part of the fun of the Subway Series lies in the reality that Mets fans and Yankees fans still have to co-exist side-by-side after the games are played. He personally delighted in taunting his Mets fan friends when they returned to the classroom after the 2000 Fall Classic.
"Being in New York, it's one of those things where you get to talk crap to your friends that you go to work with on a day-to-day [basis]," Betances said. "There aren't many Boston fans in New York. Boston is different. It's more rivalry involved. I don't know about the Mets being our rivals. For the fans, maybe. Me, as a player, I don't see it that way."
There have been 132 players who have played for both the Mets and the Yankees, including infielder Neil Walker, who appeared in 186 games for the Mets from 2016-17 before signing with the Bombers this spring, and third baseman Todd Frazier, who signed with the Mets in February after a half-season in the Bronx. Walker said that players sometimes can look past certain series, but that's never the case with Mets vs. Yanks.
"You know when those games are coming up, and you know they're going to be a little more exciting than most of the games," Walker said. "Not a Red Sox-Yankees series or something along those lines, but you know the ballpark is going to be filled -- no matter if it's weekend or weekdays or April, May or whatever month it may be. You don't put any extra emphasis on it, but you do understand it's going to be more exciting in the ballpark."
Masahiro Tanaka, who will start on Friday for the Yanks, said that he looks at the Subway Series games as being special ones for the city.
"Overall, I think it's louder," Tanaka said through an interpreter. "You feel and you hear it while you're walking to the bullpen."
Of course, the Subway Series is at its best when both teams are competitive, as they were in a 2000 World Series that was closer than the 4-1 outcome would suggest.
The Yankees will arrive riding high this weekend, having defeated the Blue Jays, 3-0, in 13 innings on Wednesday to join the Red Sox as the only clubs to win 40 games so far this season.
The scuffling Mets have not enjoyed nearly as much success in 2018, but they will send Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard to the hill in a three-game series, making this trip to Flushing no cakewalk for the visitors. Walker said that he has already started poking his buddy deGrom in advance of Friday's game.
"I've already been ribbing with him a little bit, telling him he better bring his 'A' game, that type of thing," Walker said. "It's going to be a good weekend series. When you've got deGrom and Syndergaard for two games in a three-game series, you're going to have to play pretty well to win. So it will be a challenge. I know we're going to have our best out there, too, so it'll be fun."
For the Mets, who have lost six straight and 13 of 16 to drop to fourth place in the National League East, the energy of the Subway Series could be the catalyst they need.
"We come in playing against the Yankees, I think the crowd will kind of revive us a little bit," Frazier