Lifelong Mets fan Billy Olland cheering from beyond the grave

He’s a fan in a can — and top shelf at that.

When the Mets open their season Friday against the Atlanta Braves, diehard fan Billy Olland will be watching over them — from an urn inside the Peter McManus Cafe in Manhattan. Social-distancing rules be damned.

After the beloved bartender died in February 2019 at the age of 67, his ashes were placed in an ornate funerary vessel painted Mets blue and orange with baseball stitches, on a home plate base. It rests in a place of honor above the bar.

Natasha Cipolli, a waitress who worked with Olland for 24 years, says when things look bleak for the Amazins, or when the team stages one of their patented ninth-inning rallies, she will “absolutely rub the urn for good luck” — and bar patrons follow suit.

Some also toast the old barkeep of four decades with a Jameson’s Irish whisky as they do it.

“I miss my buddy,” Cipolli told The Post. “Billy had season tickets at Shea Stadium. I started being his Mets buddy at the games in 1997. My ticket was given to me after I learned all the words to [the team anthem] ‘Meet the Mets,” including the hidden chorus.

“Billy said you weren’t truly a fan unless you knew the words.”

Cipolli, 48, said Olland loved Hall of Famer Mike Piazza, portly pitcher Bartolo Colon, quirky manager Bobby Valentine and in the old days, fireballer Nolan Ryan.

“He hated Steve Trachsel because he said he took too long to pitch,” Cipolli laughed, referring to the player known as “The Human Rain Delay.”

But above all, the colorful Olland was entranced by Mr. Met.

“He loved him! Thought he was the greatest mascot of all time. I moved my crush from John Franco to Mr. Met because of Billy,” she said.

Olland cherished ballpark giveaways, so much so that he would plot to snag the kids-only swag.

“I would wear no make up, put my hair in pigtails, pull my hat down low, hold his hand and pretend I was 10 and he was my dad to get them for him,” Cipolli said.

The ruse worked every time except once: The Amazing Mets comic book giveaway.

“I choked and said I was 15 instead of 10,” Cipolli confessed.

“Billy was so mad. I would always get him ice cream in a Mets hard hat cup in the 6th inning so that day I hunted down a kid with a comic book and bought him ice cream too and gave him $5 for it. Billy was so happy and I was redeemed.”

The Berkeley Heights, NJ, native and longtime Chelsea resident studied drama at Emerson College in Boston. For years, he fronted the musical groups Star People and The Funky Knights, who opened for the likes of Bad Company and Southside Johnny.

After his death, Olland’s family had the empty urn shipped to Cipolli’s apartment on the Upper West Side.

“His niece and I poured him into it in my laundry room and laugh-cried because he would have laughed at the ridiculousness of it all,” Cipolli recalled. “I then strapped him into a cab and brought him to McManus.

“When I work and the Mets play, I stand at the end of the bar, one hand on the base of the urn … and keep watching with my friend. I loved Billy, almost as much as Mr. Met.”

Jaimo McManus, who owns the 19th Street establishment, remembered Olland as “an intelligent, beautiful person,” whose favorite phrase was TV detective Kojak’s signature “Who loves ya, baby?”

“He was very optimistic,” about the Mets, McManus recalled, tears in his eyes. “He used to say, ‘Maybe next year.’ I think this year they are going to win it for him.”

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