Matt Harvey was just like many other fans who attended the Subway Series. Back when he was a kid, he and his family, adorned in Yankees caps, would make the two-hour drive from Mystic, Conn., to invade Shea Stadium.
Including Monday night, Harvey estimates he has attended seven of the 91 regular-season Subway Series games. On Tuesday, it will be No. 8, but Harvey will be the man everyone is coming to see.
"It is sort of a dream come true," the 24-year-old Mets ace said.
Harvey and his family have exchanged their Yankees hats for a lighter shade of blue, but you can tell in his voice that rooting for the championship teams of Derek Jeter, Paul O'Neill and a man he sometimes mirrors on the mound, Roger Clemens, left a permanent impression.
"I was a big Paul O'Neill fan and obviously Jeter," said Harvey, who is 5-0 with a 1.93 ERA.
Facing Lyle Overbay, Jayson Nix and David Adams is not exactly the experience of going up against Mark Teixeira, Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, but Harvey said it will be no less special. From the stands as a boy, he imagined being on that Subway Series field.
In the interim, Harvey attended the University of North Carolina, where one of his older teammates was Adam Warren, now a Yankee. This season, Warren is pitching well in his own right -- he entered Monday with a 1.14 ERA -- and has watched his ex-teammate become the talk of New York baseball for doing everything from striking out batters to reportedly dating supermodel Anne V.
"It's crazy," Warren said.
They were part of quite a staff at North Carolina. No. 1 starter Alex White was the 15th pick by the Indians in the 2009 draft but has struggled at the major league level. Warren ended up going in the fourth round of that same draft. A year later, the Mets grabbed Harvey with the seventh pick.
"When I got drafted, he was real excited for me," Warren said. "He was like, 'That was the team I grew up rooting for.'"
It all began on the major league level for Harvey last July 26 in Arizona. The Yankees had an off day that Thursday night, so manager Joe Girardi, fresh off a weeklong road trip out west, got in front of his big screen to watch Harvey's debut against the Diamondbacks.
Harvey fired zeroes into the sixth, and 11 of his 16 outs were strikeouts. Girardi said he watched Harvey as a fan of the game and New York baseball that night. Right after, he called one of his Mets fan buddies and told him, "You have something to be excited about."
This season, Girardi watched Harvey face the Phillies and looked at it as more of a scouting mission than anything else. That Monday night in April, Harvey outpitched Roy Halladay, dominating the Phillies over seven innings, allowing just two runs and striking out nine.
Monday's Game 1 of the Subway Series brought a good-sized crowd to Citi Field, but there were whole sections that were empty. There is not the same buzz for these games that there was when Harvey was in the stands.
But a pitching phenom can change a lot. If any of the four Subway games is going to be a sellout, Tuesday with Harvey against Hiroki Kuroda would seem to be the best bet.
Harvey will be in the middle of it all, as he is the newest and perhaps brightest star in this series. He will be on the mound, with Yankees hat replaced.
"I'm a New York Mets fan now," Harvey said.