B&E; readers will be relieved to hear that I made it out to my first game of the Mets season this past weekend. I know you’ve all been waiting for this report. The Mets had pretty much lost the game by the end of the first inning, so it was really not about the game. But here’s a report, according to the notes I took throughout.
I take the trusty 7 train, and a man in Mets jersey is offering what advice he’s able to a Scotsman, who’s trying to find his way to Long Beach. The Mets fan has a southern accent, and considering he’s on the subway to New Shea, he knows very little about the 7 train. I chime in, resulting in being heartily welcomed into their circle of conversation.
The Scotsman announces he doesn’t know the first thing about baseball. The Mets fan says that it’s like rounders. This is something the missus tries to insist upon, and not knowing anything about rounders, except that it’s played mostly by girls in schoolyards, I try to defend baseball’s honor.
The Scotsman is from just outside of Glasgow, and has one of the most incomprehensible accents I’ve heard. I realize that part of the Mets fan’s difficulty in giving directions is his inability to understand what the Scotsman is asking. I’ve had a little practice with the Glaswegian accent, so I help out. After the Scotsman gets off to grab the Long Island Railroad, the Mets fan and I agree that if he has to ask anyone else for directions, it’s going to be a real challenge.
The Mets fan is from North Carolina, just in town for the weekend, but he’s somehow a Mets fan. We never get to the point in the conversation in which I learn why he roots for the Mets. We wish each other a good game and get off the train at New Shea.
The Mets have upgraded New Shea to include more of Old Shea and Mets history, the lack of which has been the biggest complaint about the new stadium (my biggest complaint is the new stadium’s name, but I fear I’m in the minority on that one). One of the first things you notice as you come down the stairs is Old Shea’s Home Run Apple.
I’m a fan of Old Shea’s Home Run Apple. It’s charming in a beat up, low-rent sort of way, and watching it pop up after those rare home runs added some humor to the celebratory event. I’m among those that wish they’d transplanted this Apple right into the new stadium, but the Mets front office sees it differently.
But I’m happy to say that it’s right outside the stadium now, where everyone can enjoy it.
It’s a bit of a spontaneous trip out to New Shea, so I need to buy my tickets at the stadium windows. I have an uncanny ability to choose the wrong window every time. Today is no exception. The guy in front of me has a very hairy neck.
Maybe it’s the slowness of the ticket line (a lot of walk-up buyers breeze by me) or just that I’m exceptionally cheap when it comes to buying tickets to New York Metropolitan games, but my seat is about as far from the action as it can be.
On the way to my seat, I decide to stand in the back of the field level to watch the first batter. Johan Santana deals to Nyjer Morgan of the Washington Nationals, and he immediately hits a triple. I decide that maybe standing here isn’t a good idea.
By the time I get to my seat, the Nationals have loaded the bases, and before I know it, Josh Willingham has hit a bases-clearing triple that, upon further review by the umpires, is ultimately ruled a home run. A grand slam in the top of the 1st inning, and I’ve only just gotten to my seat.
The blind spots in this stadium are not insignificant. I can’t see a large portion of the outfield. That’s another complaint about the new stadium.
The first half of the first inning finally comes to an end, and I realize that I’ve forgotten to put on sunscreen. Well, my doctor says I need more Vitamin D. This is the view from my seat.
The Mets look lackluster out there. Gary Matthews, Jr. comes to bat to James Brown, but Gary doesn’t nearly bring the power that James did.
The bathrooms are actually pretty nice at New Shea.
The Mets are in trouble again, but then bright spot Jeff Franceour throws a bullet from right field and ON THE FLY nails Adam Dunn at the plate. Dunn is out by such a distance that he doesn’t even bother to slide or knock over the catcher. Jeff’s got a cannon out there.
Johan Santana has Carlos Santana playing over the loudspeakers when he’s warming up before the game. But I’m pretty sure he comes to bat to Michael Jackson’s “It Don’t Matter if You’re Black or White.” Which is unexpected.
I pay a visit to the New Mets’ Hall of Fame and Museum, which is small (insert joke here) but quite satisfying. Plaques of Mets legends adorn the walls, video of previous World Series teams play on a loop, game-used equipment and other pieces of Mets history are presented behind glass. My favorite is probably the handwritten notes Casey Stengel took about his ballplayers on the hapless 1962 team.
This is a cute sculpture of Casey Stengel.
A record of better days in Mets history: the 1969 World Series trophy.
I go for some food. I find that the item I return to at New Shea is the fried flounder sandwich at Pasternak’s Catch of the Day stand. It’s just good. I think it’s even crispier this year.
I wonder when the Mets decided to sing “God Bless America” during the 7th inning again.
I take a seat in a shady area near my section. A punk guy is screaming profanities, and the two punk girls sitting with him a
re detached and amused. He’s very tightly wound. He leaves before the game ends.
Still, there’s some excitement, as Mike Jacobs, who’s hearing the boo birds pretty early in the season, hits a two-run home run. It feels too late, though, which is weird, considering it’s really not.
Francisco “Pink Eye” Rodriguez hits a batter in the 9th, and even though there didn’t appear to be any altercation, suddenly the benches are clearing. I love watching the guys from the bullpens run toward the action because, of course, by the time they actually get there, they have to turn right around and go back to the bullpens. It’s a funny tradition, the clearing-of-the-benches. Everyone is required to clear the benches, even if you have no intention of participating in any sort of physical violence. Ah, baseball tradition.
Jim Bouton actually has a very funny story about this tradition in his groundbreaking book Ball Four, the first of the sports tell-all books. I’m not going to retell it here because it feels like it would be too much work.
The Mets go out like a lamb in the bottom of the 9th.
They don’t look good, B&E; readers, I don’t mind telling you. But a day at the ballpark is still one hell of a way to spend a Sunday afternoon.