Saturday, July 16, 2011

Meet the M-E-T-S Mets of New York Town

Part III of several - check out the previous 2 posts, 'Round Tripper, then It Will Always Be Shea to get up to speed.

When we last left our heroes...

We still had plenty of time before first pitch, and the sating effect of the bagel had worn off.  I was ready for processed meats, and so were my travel partners.  We hiked upstairs to the main concourse, and settled for traditional fare – hamburgers, hot dogs, fries, Coke.  I say “settled” because the food options at Shea…I mean, Citifield…were fantastic.  It is true that the sausage grill we first wanted was closed, but later we happened on the pastrami on rye eatery, and we later even found a sushi option.  We were not going to go home hungry, but we might go home broke. 
During our stand up lunch, we gazed out onto the covered field, and heard the first of many announcements that day.  “The start of today’s game has been delayed until 1:30 PM.”  All the subsequent announcements over the next several hours would end the same way: “Thank you for your patience.”  Yes, New York fans are full of it - patience, I mean.  It is easier to be patient when you have no other options.

The concourse traffic was getting more intense (we would later learn that the paid crowd was over 30,000), but by and large, Met fans, even when wet, are a pretty friendly crowd.  Everyone seemed to be happy just to be there, instead of at the office or home or wherever else they might have been on a Thursday afternoon.  The field might be damp, but the spirits of the Met fans were impervious, at least until they got a few more adult sodas in them.

We walked.  We walked over the Shea Bridge beyond the centerfield wall, named after the man who returned National League ball to NY in 1962.  We walked past the banner images of great moments in Mets history (again, 1969 and 1986 – no signs of Mo Vaughn, Vince Coleman, Bobby Bonilla or George “The Stork” Theodore anywhere to be found) and great moments in Brooklyn Dodger history.  We passed by a fan wearing my favorite t-shirt of the day.  It read, “I Will Call It Shea”.  Yes, my friend, it will always be Shea.  No multinational financial institution can replace the name Shea.  Shea will never need a federal government bail out or raise hidden transaction fees.  We like Shea.

During the rain delay, I was riveted by the scoreboard documentary chronicling the entire 1986 Mets season.  Everyone knows about Bill Buckner, but the review of the entire season, from Ray Knight’s on field fisticuffs, to the position battle between Nails and Mookie, to Mike Scott’s cheating in the playoffs, was retold in glorious high def.  At least once every 5 minutes, I would interrupt Thomas and his cousin’s conversation about the relative value of a given baseball card so he could watch, too.  I don’t know if he cared or understood what I was making him watch, but Lord knows it made me feel better sharing the experience.

After 2 hours of walking, eating, and window shopping, we finally heard the call of “Play ball!”  We hurried to collect as many napkins as our cargo pockets could hold and we quickly found our seats, upper deck, 3rd base side.  The napkins came in handy drying the seats.  It would be 3 innings before we could comfortably lean back against a dry plastic, but baseball was finally being played.  We were relieved.

The Mets were playing Oakland on this gray afternoon, a team that featured Coco Crisp, one of the league’s great player names, and no one else of note.  We knew of Josh Willingham, former Washington National, but he was injured and not playing.  The A’s pitcher was making only his 3rd major league start, so we were optimistic that the Mets would make the long wait worthwhile and feast on this rookie.

It was not a feast, but at least the game moved along very quickly.  Mets won 4-1, with soon to be traded superstar Jose Reyes getting all the big hits.  We took pleasure in joining the locals with lusty boos for the overpaid and underachieving Jason Bay.  I eavesdropped on the talkative A's fans behind us, two women who probably fell in love with Oakland when Joe Rudi and Reggie Jackson patrolled the outfield, and every player had a handlebar moustache.  At least they were talking baseball and strategy.  This was not a social outing - this was a ball game. 

No one made the giant Big Apple rise from its hiding place in center with a home run, but we did win. The game was over just after 6 PM.  We had left New Jersey at 9:30 AM.  8 ½ hours later, and we were heading home, drenched in the sweet stench of victory.  The 2 hour rain delay was not a total loss, however; the Mets announced that tickets for the game would be honored for another game, August 11th, against the Padres.  Two games for the price of one.  I guess when you are the Mets and can’t draw flies, giving out more tickets to a game is an easy decision.  Given the concession prices, I am sure they’ll make up the difference.

Thomas’ major impression of Citifield: he was most impressed by the high tech urinals in the men’s room.  He found them to be post-modern, functional and aesthetically pleasing.  A 12 hour day that featured 4 train rides, one baseball game, and hundreds of dollars of stadium food, and taking a piss in luxury was his crowning jewel.  My boy was becoming a man (cue The Cat’s in the Cradle music – he’d grown up just like me).

Penn Station was the final obstacle for the day, and at one point, it appeared to be an insurmountable obstacle.  The rain storms had caused power issues on the lines, backing up trains during the evening rush hour.  Penn Station was a mass of humanity, all with that look of quiet desperation that only a New Yorker dependent on mass transit can have.  It was very much like the scene from Casablanca at the Paris train station, with every rushing somewhere, anywhere but where they were.  Like Casablanca, New York can be a war zone, and we were afraid of becoming refugees, condemned to a life of searching for letters of transit so we could get out of the city. 
Luck continued to side with us that day.  We were standing close by the designated platform when our train was called and that put us ahead of the crush of people headed our way to board and escape from New York.  We even got seats together for the return trip.

I felt like I had little interaction with Thomas during our extended day at the ballpark, but that was OK.  He was with his cousin, whom he texts almost daily, and we would have more than enough time together over the next 3 days.  We arrived back in New Jersey in one piece, Thomas tried tuna fish for the first time in his life (he tolerated it), and I borrowed a new toothbrush from my sister.  Life was good.

I remembered to call Cherie at home before bedtime in Virginia, but that did not assuage my guilt.  Cherie had strep throat, and was miserable.  Thomas and I were traveling and having a blast, but I had to tone down my enthusiasm over the phone.  I will need to buy her another souvenir to repair the emotional damage.

Tomorrow, Friday, Thomas and I would be driving into New York City for some sightseeing before heading to Yankee Stadium for the 7:05 interleague match up against the Colorado Rockies.  First, we needed to conquer NYC.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's entry:  
DAY THREE (Part One):  The Tall Apple

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