CitiField

CitiField Memories With Coop and Rich – TONIGHT! TICKET GIVEAWAY!

Coop_rich No Mets games tonight, and none till Friday **night**??? Whatever shall we do???

Have no fear, the Coop is here!

Hang out in the Mets Lounge tonight, with good friend Rich Sparago, twitter personality and Rising Apple contributor, at 9 pm ET tonight!

Grab a martini, a beer, or a margarita (like me) and listen to us as we discuss happy days at CitiField.  Yes, there have been a few.  But also a reminder that good days will be here again.

Here is an incentive…come hang in the chat room, and ask us questions…or better yet DIAL IN!  Share your CitiField memories.

I have TWO Caesar GOLD tickets for next Tuesday 4/22 game against the Cardinals.  So yes, I am bribing you to dial in tonight to talk to us.

When Coop and Rich get going on the Mets, there’s no telling where the conversation will take us.  So grab a brew, take a seat, and hang out with the cool kids tonight!

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Turns Out, You **CAN** Go Home Again

One constant you’ll see me harping on in my existence is a place to call home.  I didn’t necessarily move around a lot as a kid, but never felt like I quite belonged anywhere, and as a result I think my moving seven times in a period of 13 years has been a thinly veiled (or not-so-veiled) attempt at finding a place that I could root myself in.  Even in New York City, where I’d always coveted, and always wanted to call home.

Yet one place I’ve always felt confident and comfortable in my own skin is at a baseball stadium.  Shea Stadium served that role for several years, from the time I was eight years old and I attended my first Mets game, till I was something-something when it closed down.

In 2009, I had a hard time adjusting to CitiField.  I was far from the only one.  There were moments though when I felt connected in 2009.  Like Fernando Martinez’s debut, and my friends and I congregated on the Shea Bridge, then unnamed.  The Catch of the Day stand had calamari, and people kept buying beers.  It was like an Italian family gathering.

Then there was the game in August, by then the Mets were decimated by injuries, and Fernando Tatis hit a grand slam to win the game.  I had seen Howard Megdal and Mets friend CharlieH at the game. This was also the same day that a mushroom cloud erupted and Omar Minaya essentially called out Adam Rubin for trying to lobby for a job.

I wanted to go home.  I wanted Shea.  I couldn’t identify with a team that had plan Z’s all over the place (as opposed to Plan A, Plan B, etc).  I didn’t know any of the players.  And a six-week injury was a season long furlough.

But I couldn’t get away from the Mets.  CitiField didn’t feel like home, but I had planned to spend some time on the road, visiting another stadium.

This was the infamous West Coast Baseball Trip of ’09.  It was the last summer I was single.  It was the last summer I traveled alone for a baseball trip (and yes, my solo trip to Rogers Centre last season does NOT count because I’d rather forget about it).

It was the summer I discovered home on the west coast.

It was Angel Stadium, or as Greg Prince once described it to me, “Bizarro Shea.”

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The year 2009 was the year I met my now-brother husband/sister wife team in the Sollies.  While I met them at a Mets game at Petco Park, we became locked together for life.  Most of my west coast trips since then have entailed some time spent one way or another with them.  Whether that was them driving up to the Bay Area to see us at AT&T Park or going to the SF Zoo or even just taking a trip to Alcatraz.  Then there was the lost weekend of 2011 when the husband and I went to see them in their home quarters.

The Sollies say “home” to me.  They’re familiar.  They’re safe.

But Angel Stadium has a special place in my heart.  For baseball fans, 2009 was a tough year.  For one, young upstart pitcher Nick Adenhart was killed tragically by a drunk driver after his first game with Anaheim.  When I visited the stadium, I had it marked on my list, since I’d never been there, but I wasn’t expecting much.  I was blown away by the memorial outside for Adenhart.  It had been months, but still fresh in the mind of the fans.

Southern California baseball had experienced its hey day in the 1960s, which was when the stadium was built.  And there were many reminders of the decades past, not too long ago, around the stadium.  The “Big A” outside which had served as the scoreboard in the outfield.  More recent additions like the giant caps were outside by what was perceived to be the main entrance.  And for a team with only one championship, they really loved honoring their past, like having a Wall of Fame celebrating their stars, like Nolan Ryan…a guy most Mets fans can identify.

The Big A  Caps

Mets fans do love their history, and what was missing in 2009 was a nod to any of their history.  Most fans felt as though they were walking into a Brooklyn Dodger shrine.  And when I found Angel Stadium in 2009, it was exactly when I needed it.  I needed another home.  I love the West Coast.  I found it.

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When I visited the Sollies in 2011, it was basically July at Christmas (or Thanksgiving, since it was November).  We decided to make it a baseball trip, where we visited Dodger Stadium and Petco Park for tours.  We worked in other trips, like Hollywood Blvd, San Diego Zoo and Old Town.  But the focal point was of course our bond over baseball.

As we drove up Saturday morning to hit a Dodger Stadium tour, I saw the Big A from the highway.  And I had a feeling of longing.  I missed it.  And I’d only been there one other time in my life.  But we didn’t plan on taking a tour of it.  If they even offer them.  I hadn’t thought to look, because Dodger Stadium and Petco Park seemed more likely.

I’m rarely in Southern California, especially for business.  When I saw that I had a trip that brought me to the west coast in April, and lo and behold I got there with enough time to hit Anaheim and a baseball game at Angel Stadium, you best believe I took the universe up on that offering.

But my family grew.  Besides the Sollies, I got to see my esteemed podcast frequent guest and Whoomp! There It Is Jake! segment host, uh, Jake.  I also had reconnected with a former coworker who was now in SoCal, MB.  I purchased the tickets when I was waiting for my flight to Long Beach.

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So many things…

Someone had asked if I felt that Shea could have been comparable to Angel Stadium, had it been decided to revamp Shea instead of tear it down.  The consensus was that Shea was old and decrepit (and smelled bad…but yes, I still missed it terribly), and because it was exposed to different elements of weather, the upkeep was probably more costly.  Eh, who knows, it might have still been worth it.

But when I get to Angel Stadium again, it’s a sigh of relief.  See, when I travel, I’m a complete spaztastic spaz.  And this day was no different.  TSA was intent on fucking me over.  My plane got delayed on the tarmac because there was some sort of switch sticking, and maintenance people had to get us to the gate again.  Of course, I wouldn’t have minded if a) this same shit didn’t already happen when I was on my way to Seattle last November or b) if I didn’t have a connecting flight to catch in Las Vegas.  Oh, and I’m already a nervous wreck disaster because I don’t like cross-country flights (though they are more tolerable since I flew to India, an 11 hour flight after a six-or-so hour flight to Germany).

Then I get in a car…in Southern California…during rush hour traffic.

I need serious help.

But when I was driving to the local StubHub office, I drove right past Angel Stadium.  A calming effect, if you will.  I could exhale.  I felt good.

It was home.

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The Buzz Reached Shea Bridge

The Buzz Reached Shea Bridge

Urban legend has it that my dad once wore a suit to Opening Day at Shea one year.  When people asked him why, he said, “Well, it’s Opening Day!”  My family isn’t one to get all gussied for holidays or special occasions.  But Opening Day: that’s Christmas, New Year’s, Mardi Gras and 4th of July rolled into one.  When we’d drive there, or take the train, and Shea came into view, it was always a thrill, that first time of the year.

We had some defining Mo-Mets at Shea, and it was tough to get that at Citi.  Now I get the thrill when I see Citi.  We’ve had some good times, like 2012, with R.A. Dickey winning 20 games, David Wright breaking the all-time hit record and of course the Johan Santana no-hitter.

Last week, there was a buzz around Citi.  It had everything do with Matthew Edward Harvey.  Or as my friend Orlando (who is *NOT* a Mets fan) calls him, “The Truth.”

 

Even with the bells and whistles and focus on history at CitiField, there has been a disconnect between fans and the park.  It’s finally arrived.  With every Matt Harvey start, it’s bringing the energy of a Pedro Martinez start circa 2005 (by the way, FUCK PEDRO MARTINEZ), and the rock concert quality of a Doc Gooden start circa 1984.   Either one of those events took place at Shea Stadium.

Matt Harvey IS CitiField.

And should be for years to come.

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I’m very fortunate to have found my place with the misfits by being a Mets fan.  Yet it’s the only place I’ve found that being weird is a good quality, an acceptable one.

This weirdness got me to the Sollies, and to Jake, and got them to drive from various places in Southern California just to come watch some baseball at my west coast stadium home.

There’s a piece of paradise at this place.

Is it the waterfall in the outfield?  Is it the combination of eras?  Is it that it reminds me of Shea on some level?  I’m not sure.

DSCN6233  DSCN6238

Perhaps it was because at a time when it was hard to accept that things were changing for a Mets fan, I found an oddly familiar home 3,000-some miles away.

I get there, and I’m comfortable.

I get there, and I’m home.

I’m where I should be at home.

Now that Citi is getting to that point with me, I guess the need to visit my west coast home isn’t necessary or as longing.  Still doesn’t mean I can’t miss it when I don’t see it.

Por El Amor De Pedro

I use a lot of catch phrases that some of you may be familiar with, some more than others.

“Holy Sheepshit and Balls” is one of them.

“Goddammit anyway.”

“Just forfeit.”

One of the biggies is “For the love of Pete” or shorthand “Love of Pete.” Sometimes I’ve been known to say “Love of FUCK.” But that’s neither here nor there.

Yet, when I start saying “Love of Pete” at baseball games, it means one thing.

That I’m back.

I had a tough time coming around on this season. Not that I’m incredibly pessimistic or anything like that, mostly because I’ve been distracted. The Rangers are actually pretty good and kept me occupied this offseason, and now it turns out that baseball, for once, is coming between me and hockey. It’s just something new to me. The last time the Rangers were this special in my life, I was a teenager, I certainly wasn’t blogging and the Mets also weren’t any good. So it was a no-brainer then. Rangers all the way. Now, though, I am inundated with social media updates and multiple methods of getting games without being near my television.  (Also, not to mention, the Rangers had already locked their playoff spot up and their regular season is now officially done, so we’re just waiting for the playoffs to begin this week).

Plus, I get a special dispensation for this weekend.  After all, it was opening weekend.

It was a summer family reunion for the books as Opening weekend came and went at CitiField.  It was a reunion of the family-we-choose and the family-we-have and a little bit of both.

   

Opening Day is almost stressful.  It’s the one day a year that everyone I pretty much know goes to the games, and we always try to get together.  Some happen.  Some don’t.  Yet, we need to get to the ballpark early so that we actually have time TO tailgate, and to make it into the park to see the opening ceremonies.  The parking lots are vast, and not everyone is parked by one another, so it’s tough to get to everyone.  We did a good job though.  We started off with the great Chapman tailgate, featuring the Housewives of CitiField edition (and the infamous margarita maker), visited Randy’s tailgate for Read the Apple (where we had a mini blogger summit featuring Media Goon from Mets Police, The Apple author himself, Dee from Metscellaneous, my husband from Studious Metsimus and yours truly), then onto Uncle Gene and Aunt Melissa’s, bringing me back to my childhood days when they would take their kids out of school to go to Opening Day at Shea.  (Of course, only ONE kid had to be taken out of school Thursday.  I’m old).

So we managed to get everything done that we wanted to prior to going into the park. Then came the actual finding of the area to take pics of the pregame, which included a tribute to my hero, Gary Carter. Now, we all know how much Coop loves Kid. We headed to the Promenade to get our shots of the entire field, and it ended up being a good idea until the Pastrachos incident.

   

See, some asshole not paying attention to the field ceremony decided that getting back to the seat before his pastrachos got cold distracted my husband from getting the first pitch and almost got Dee to miss her opportunity too. Because he wanted to sit.  And eat fucking nasty-ass pastrachos.

I know this is a first world problem. After all, we weren’t in seats that were our own, and if someone came to us as they were getting on the field, I would have gladly moved. That was the plan the whole time. But…not even fucking paying attention or paying respects to Kid’s family to eat your fucking PASTRACHOS????

That gets a big patented Coop middle finger.

The game goes on without incident.  I have to say, especially in the last few years, this has to be one of the most memorable if least stressful 1-0 Mets games I have ever attended.  If the Mets had lost 1-0, I’d have been all pissed off.  But they won, and the bullpen kept things together after Johan Santana made his pitch count quota for the day.  We did manage to have a Shea Bridge Blogger Summit Lite, since many of the blogging community representatives weren’t able to get Twitter during the game.  Or any social media type outlets.  More first world problems, but this is the fucking 21st goddamn century, and this happens every goddamn year with the Mets and CitiField.  Get us some wifi passwords or get better service.  THE END.

But hey, the bloggers I met up with are pretty goddamn fantastic.  Here’s me and Richie from Random Mets Thoughts toasting our first beer of the season, and Dee and Metstradamus joined us for more fun and excitement.

But the highlight of the day came after the game.  The post-game wrap up was being conducted outside CitiField for SNY.  So we hung around and figured, hey, maybe we’ll get on TV.

Does that answer your question?

By Saturday, things were somewhat back to normal.  Going to so many games, I kind of get jaded by going to so many games.  I generally get there about just a few minutes before first pitch.  While I like to watch the game from my seats, I’m not averse to getting up a few times during the games.  In fact, it’s almost essential because I need to charge my phone at some point and eat.  #FirstWorldProblems.

This time I was able to run into more bloggers for an impromptu blogger summit on the bridge.

 

Don’t be fooled: the two Coops of bloggers on the right are not twins (though we tried our best to fool people, with our matching sweatshirts and last names).

Anyhoo, few things of note besides a great R.A. Dickey start and another *yawn* Mets win on Saturday.

One was I found a new entrance to CitiField…sort of.  See, I have no idea what purpose it serves.  It seems like a secret handshake or password society door, between the Jackie Robinson Rotunda and Hodges entrances.  It’s the “Payson” entrance, presumably named after the Mets first owner and original Mets diva (and only woman honored in the Mets Hall of Fame and Museum), Joan Whitney Payson.  See, I wasn’t around when this woman was.  Let me tell you something: this is the type of owner I’d want.  Everyone had her respect.  To this day, Tom Seaver even calls her Mrs. Payson.  A Hall of Fame pitcher and World Champion with the Mets, and still refers to her with that title.  I think that’s awesome.

Anyway, I have no idea what purpose this entrance serves but if someone can find out, it would be cool to know.

 

Now what you see on the right of the Payson entrance is not an apparition.  It is not a mistake.  It is not a mirage.  It’s the Niese Chick with the Niese jersey.

Yes, I have found the only way to get anything remotely related to showing your fandom for Jonathon Joseph Niese, besides being his long-lost twin, is to actually get it customized.

But not to worry.  I didn’t actually buy it.  Sort of.  Well, I paid for it all right.  As a season ticket holder, the Mets have given you “Amazin’ Perks,” one of which is the “Super Fan Package” and your choice is the 50th anniversary customized jersey.  I wasn’t sure what I wanted.  I definitely wanted someone on this team.  By then, it was a foregone conclusion that Reyes wasn’t on the team.  I have a David Wright jersey (it was actually WORN by him at one point).  And I don’t know, who else?

Jon Niese – 49.

I have to practice what I preach.  Absolutely, because you cannot find a Niese shirt ANYWHERE.  ANYTIME.  Even at the Mets Clubhouse by Bryant Park.  Spare me the whole “Well, you can get whatever you want on MLB.com.”  The man has a contract extension, for fuck’s sake, let’s get some shirts made up in the Mets gift shops.  So I have set the trend.  (And after his performance on Sunday, I can tell you more people will want him items in stock, mark my words).

The beauty part was my sales rep met me during the game to give me my “goodie bag” including my brand new Niese jersey.  In time, though, because I was able to sport it on his first start of the season.

We got to the park early again, if only to meet up with some friends we really couldn’t see on Opening Day, but also to meet up with Mr DyHrdMet from Remembering Shea, who also had one thing on the agenda with Ed.

To take stalking photos of Jon Niese.

Well, okay.  I was down with that.

 

 

I took it a step further though.  I decided I was going to try to yell.  And get his attention.

And I did.

“I’m WEARING YOUR SHIRT JON!!!”

Hey, you know what, I can pretty much guarantee I’m one of the only people who do that besides someone with the last name NIESE.

He laughed, and kept doing his gallops in his stretching routine.

Then I yell at one point, “MEMBERS OF THE JONATHON JOSEPH NIESE FAN CLUB YEAH!!!!”

DyHrdMet was able to get the only shot of his reaction.

Photo credit to Jason Bornstein

He did smile and laughed at one point.  Go us.  Hopefully, he’ll hug his twin on the west coast.

So some special things happened on Niesester Sunday.  First, he had a shaky start then leveled out to no-hit the Braves for six-plus innings.  The Mets did manage to make the game interesting, a seven-run blow out to a nail-biting 7-5 in the 9th inning.

Yet, something else that shows me this ain’t yo’ mama’s Mets.  First, the bullpen has been without incident.  Save Manny Acosta giving up a home run, there hasn’t been much incident with the bullpen.  Hell, even Frank Francisco has been closing out fine.  Yet, when I see him out there, I don’t cringe, I don’t get palpitations.

What did give me palpitations was the no-hit bid.  When I’m in situations like that, I get flustered and to the point where I don’t even want to get up.  Same with my husband.  He said that it was nice to see that he married someone who “gets it.”  Oh, I get it all right.

I guess the good news was, I was able to try a burger from Keith’s Grill for the first time this year.  The “Mex Burger” to more precise: burger with cheddar and pepper jack cheeses, guacamole, jalapenos, bacon and chipotle aioli.  And yes, it was as delicious as it sounds.  Looking forward to eating it again.

 

Ballapeno was none too happy, though, with me eating a burger with his family members on it.

The most important part was that the Mets won.  The Mets won, for the love of Pete, the Mets won!  Let’s not get ahead of ourselves…they won a series against a Braves team that is still, for all intents and purposes, are reeling from a late-season collapse from 2011.  This ain’t yo’ mama’s Braves, either.

While I wait for the Stanley Cup playoffs to start, I’ll watch my baseball games and stalk the players and enjoy it while I can.  The Mets have put us through a lot these last few years, and while we may be suffering from post-traumatic Mets disorder, there was something interesting going on at CitiField.

It felt like we belonged there.  We belonged as fans, the Mets belong there.  It felt like a place I can look forward to watching games at for the next 40 or so years.

And hopefully, that asshole with the pastrachos will learn baseball etiquette by then.

Luck of Dee Coop

It’s only taken me a week but I took the CitiField “behind the scenes” tour last weekend.  Unlike other stadiums, CitiField has restrictions on when they conduct them.  Like, every single day they have restrictions.  When I go to any other stadium, I can guarantee that I can get in at least twice a day, every day (unless it’s a game day).  CitiField is either feast or famine.  There are like ten on one day, then none for like three weeks.

That’s what happened to me.  In fact, this post could have easily been a “Fuck the Mets and their mothers” post, but it’s not.  In fact, my season ticket sales rep rocks and gets nothing but love in this.

A few weeks ago, I asked my sports gal partner-in-crime Metscellaneous Dee if she was interested in doing a tour.  When she said “YES” before I was even done asking the question (I probably finished with “tour of the bathroom” to be a wise ass), I figured it was a good idea.  The bonus is that when you’re a season ticket holder you get four passes complimentary.  In the past, I’ve never had a problem getting the tour I wanted.  Plus my husband was dying to see the progress on the new walls.  See, he and I have done the tour twice — once before there were restrictions on taking photos in the Mets clubhouses , then once after.  I had asked a friend if she also wanted to go, who was not as big a baseball fan as any of us (but she does root for the Mets when she does, simply because she knows I’ll kick her ass if she doesn’t), so we were set.

Till the booking people screwed up my reservation.

I looked on the website, and it looked as though the only weekend available was the second weekend in March, when we decided to go.  Fear not, I thought, because I never had a problem getting into the tours.  However, I noticed in literally a blink of an eye, none of the tours were available.  I was trying to see if I could book it online, which was my first mistake.  I should have just called.  So when I called the office, they were the blind leading the blind.  This is what happens when you let go of like 50% of your ticket staff and hire college students who don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground.

So I call my rep, who once again comes through in the clutch (when a last minute trip was canceled last year for me, and I had sold my tickets to the weekend’s games, he gave me complimentary tickets.  Like I said – clutch), and he says that because of the demand he can only get two people in.  When I explained that I had not only tried to call but book the appointment online, he said that because of this understaffing, the tours were not updated accordingly.  So basically, I was lucky to get those two spots.

More luck I guess on my side.  Then again, I’m a Mets, Jets and Rangers fan, so there goes that philosophy.  My friend graciously bowed out but wanted to do the tour again in the future, and my husband said, “Well, hey, just bring Dee because I can go anytime.”  So it was just us girls.

That’s cool because girls have more fun.

I do have to say that of the tours I’ve done, this one by far one of the best.  Billy from Oakland, NJ, was our tour guide.  He rocked.  It didn’t feel overly rehearsed or mimed.  The tour is supposed to be an hour but this was well over that one hour mark.

Few things…

We were there Saturday, March 10th.  Typically this time of the year is chilly, especially in Flushing, but again with luck on our side, we had good weather.  The tours were obviously jam packed but my rep did mention that.  I guess because the Mets refuse to have more than TWO TOURS in the month before the season opens, that’s a problem.  I suppose the reason could be of the construction that happened, but the tour goes nowhere near it.  In fact, I was at Camden Yards in the fall for their tour, and we walked right through a construction zone.  Methinks the Mets are just cutting costs and creating a demand.

But if you ask me, one of the few things creating demand is the tour these days.

Moving right along, about those walls…there were no walls to speak of!  Señor Coop wanted to get pics of the walls, so he would have been in for a huge disappointment.  There were corners of the new blue walls.  It looked like the construction was nowhere near completion.  I did hear this week that there was a lot of headway made there  (see The 7 Line‘s photos and videos of it – none of that stuff was up when we were there).  Good, I was getting worried that Habitat for Humanity would have to come in to finish up with some donated Home Depot supplies.

   

I would post more pics, but I have to admit I’m a bit jaded.  I’ve been to CitiField so many times since it’s opened, but I’ve also done the tour.  If there was some great revelation that occurred by me going on this tour maybe.

Oh! I remember.  The Empire Suites level features a large baseball card of a prominent player of each year of the Mets.  In 2010, the player at the start of the season was Jeff Francoeur, but since he was traded late in the season, it became Mike Pelfrey (his last good year, IMO).

 

More irony: Ike Davis was the 2011 candidate.  Who barely played!  Oy.

 

So here are the obligatory photos of us on the field, and me in the dugout.  If you want to see Dee’s take on it, visit her post.

 

During the tour you see each Mets yearbook since their birth in 1962, and we were able to see the 2012 yearbook cover.  Plus any self-respecting tour ends in the Museum and gift shop.  I purchased an Ike Davis shirt (note to Mets: PLEASE STOCK NIESE SHIRTS IN 2012), and saw the 50th anniversary video — something new in the Museum and Hall of Fame this year.  Howie Rose narrates the video, as well he should, and I was smiling and verklempt at the same time.  I guess that means what I saw was pretty good.

I guess with age, the CitiField tour keeps getting better.  Though there were some things I wanted to see, I got to see a top notch tour with a good friend, and it made me itch for baseball season to start, whether the Mets are world beaters or not.

Married to the Mets: Worse Than Chernobyl

I became a Mets fan at a very interesting time.  Essentially, they ruled the city.  When I was young, I didn’t know a New York City that wasn’t all about the Mets and the Yankees, storied pinstriped team in the Bronx, played second fiddle.

Till, of course, they weren’t.

I have a family member who shall remain nameless, who claims to be a lifelong Yankee fan. Funny, I don’t remember him rooting for them till 1996.  And I DEFINITELY remember wearing our Mets gear together, rooting for them on WOR.  I do remember at one point he told my dad and I that he admires us for sticking with the Mets for so long.

You know, it’s not like we had a choice.

For me, though, the choice was simple.  I stuck around for a multitude of reasons.   Most of all, that I didn’t want to give up on the team. Also because the fans I met made me laugh like nothing else.

It was one thing watching games with my dad, Uncle Gene and Aunt Melissa, and hearing the wisecracks from all of them during the games.  Even when we met Dominic, Rob and Mike in the stands at Loge Section 22, the Mets deep-in-the-trenches army-like humor kept us going.

I’ve been a Mets fan for nearly 30 years.  (Let that one sink in for a moment).  In those years, they’ve had two World Series appearances, a few playoff runs, but mostly, futility mixed in with a splash of ennui.  Yes, it’s tough to be a Mets fan sometimes.  Yet, the fans, the true bleeding blue-and-orange fans kept me coming back when I had every reason not to.

In the 1980s, you couldn’t really knock the team because they were so good.  Shea Stadium, however, was fair game.  In the spring of 1986, the Chernobyl disaster hit Kiev, Ukraine…and Banner Day at Shea.  “Shea’s Bathrooms Are Worse Than Chernobyl,” one of the banners read.  I don’t remember any other banner that year but that one.  It was priceless and still generates some laughs from those of us who saw it.  Till the very last day of Shea, the bathrooms were the butt (no pun intended) of the joke with many fans.  In fact, I appeared on a blogger’s roundtable with such personalities as Matt Cerrone from Metsblog, Joe Janish from Mets Today and Ted Berg from SNY on Mets Weekly in 2008.  Janish made a joke about the bathrooms, and needless to say, we all chuckled.

At the root of it all, Mets fans are humorous.  We’re funny, and we’re a bunch of wise guys, and we need to make the impossibly tragic funny, in order for us to survive it.

Over the years, I’ve met so many people, fans just passing through (sometimes, I was one of those fans), people I sat with an entire season, people I sat by just once, often leave me with such indelible prints of my brain, that I still think of them from time to time.

Like the guy I sat behind at Camden Yards one year during an extra inning game in 1998.  Ironically, ex-Met Jesse Orosco (in the twilight of his career) came into the game via middle relief (in the back end of the game of course).  This gentleman threw his hands up in the arm in disgust, yelling, “Just forfeit!! Just forfeit the game!”  Though I was in Maryland, he sounded like Benny from Brooklyn, as “forfeit” sounded like “faw-fit.”  Needless to say, this has been rehashed several times over the years, usually when the Mets bring in someone with a two run lead in late innings.  Used in conjunction with the likes of Guillermo Mota, Aaron Heilman, Scott Schoeneweis, among others.

There was Richie in Section 22 in the Mezzanine.  Between him shouting “YEEEEEEEEEE HAWWWWWWWWW!” at the top of his lungs at inopportune moments (keep in mind, this was in 2002, when NO ONE was going to games, and the Mets didn’t give us much to cheer).  My personal favorite is one that we use to this day.  During a random Saturday game, probably against a futile team like the Pittsburgh Pirates, there was a 6-0 deficit for the Mets to overcome in like the 6th inning.  Richie’s response was a classic one.  “We’re down 6-0, in the 6th inning to the Pirates. WE GOT ‘EM RIGHT WHERE WE WANT ‘EM.”

Woodside Tommy, also from Mezzanine 22, was one of the smart ass ringleaders.  At a game in Coney Island, when Howard Johnson was the manager of the Cyclones and Bobby Ojeda was his pitching coach, Tommy yelled to Ojeda in the bullpen.  “HEY!  BOBBY O!!!!!! GIMME A HIGH FOUR!!!”  Of course, in reference to Ojeda snipping off his finger prior to the playoffs in 1988.  When I told Tommy he was an asshole, Tommy feigned innocence. “What? What?? What am I gonna say?  Gimme a high FIVE????  Ha ha!”

The man had a point.

There was the Opening Day when my ex was wearing his Brooklyn Dodger cap.  My dear uncle Gene, as everyone knows, was a New York Giants fan back in the day and still has some massive hate towards the team from the borough of churches.  My smart ass of an ex (there’s a reason why he’s that) said, “Hey Gene, I got another one of these caps for you at home if you want it,” fully knowing that Gene hates the team.  Gene said, “Yeah, good, I need some kindling for my fireplace!”  Then he had his maniacal laugh that only Gene can have.

There was the night in 2006 when I was sitting in the Field Level at Shea Stadium, and Jose Lima gave up a grand slam to Dontrelle Willis, the starting pitcher for the Florida Marlins that night.  I had to be carried out of the stadium, but not before it took me until the 7th inning before I realized Lima was NOT in the game since the 2nd inning basically.

I was not only that drunk, but  I still have some massive Post-Traumatic Mets Disorder from that one.  In fact, I believe that was the night I coined that term, shorthand is “PTMD.”  Many, many Mets fans have their own personal PTMD moments.

You know you have them too.

Lately, some of my catch phrases have taken a life of their own.  Like the ever-infamous, “HOLY SHEEPSHIT AND BALLS” that started on Twitter.  It started off as “Holy sheepshit” when something fun happened or surprising was going on.  Since then, it’s mutated.  The balls I added on because, I don’t know, I thought it was funny.  For the record, it’s supposed to be read as “Sheep shit and sheep balls,” not a purely baseball reference, as I’ve been known to tweet that during football and hockey.

While I’m thrilled to be a part of people’s lexicon while watching sporting events, I have a mouth like a truck driver that for some reason people take a holier-than-thou approach to in dealing with me.  I have to say, hey, lighten up, it’s the heat of the moment.

Like you’ve NEVER done that.

Hell, I sat in the trenches with many Mets fans in the late ’80s and early ’90s, even the early aughts, with this army-like humor.  I was even at a Mets/Braves game in 2007 when the aforementioned Mota came in and proceeded to make the game VERY interesting.  When we all talked about it later, after the Mets won of course, it was like surviving a war.

Mets fans are like army buddies.  Some of these people are the best buddies I’ll ever have in my life.  You can have inside jokes about the Mota game, or the Lima Time game, or that time on Twitter when <blank> happened and we all said “HOLY SHEEPSHIT!”  Or later, it’s mutated into Twitter memes, like our friend @JedSmed who creates different Mets hash tags when there’s nothing going on.  Or when Matt from the Daily Stache started #ReplaceShitWithMets trend or the #JustinTurnerFacts.

Like army buddies, you gotta keep things interesting to get through it all.

The next generation of Mets fans will be introduced to Banner Day in 2012, just like I was back when I first became a fan.  I couldn’t tell you what banner took the prize during that scheduled doubleheader in 1986, or if there were really cool banners.  No.  All I remembered was a plain white bed sheet with black shoe polish-like substance with the words, “SHEA’S BATHROOMS ARE WORSE THAN CHERNOBYL.”

You had to be there to get it.  Just like with most things that come with being a Mets fan.  You can look at one another, or bring up a difficult memory or even a fond memory, and know what it’s like.

Yet, I’m sure at the end of the day, we’ll take Shea’s bathrooms back any day, Chernobyl or no.

Married to the Mets: The Primitive Version of the Internet

I can’t tell you how many nights, days, weekends were spent sitting on the floor of my living room as a child, watching Mets games on the old WOR.  Remember that?  It’s funny watching the commercials pilfered from YouTube.

Catch the rising stars…watch them shine on Channel 9!

Baseball like it oughta be!  Bring it home, Mets! TV-9, bring it home!

There were many more, mostly celebrating championships past (1987) and less bravado as the steam came down.  One of the common threads in those boisterous Mets years of the 1980s was that my dad and I spent countless hours watching games in the old place we lived at while my folks were still together.  During the playoffs in 1988, we spent most of the NLCS watching them at Uncle Gene and Aunt Melissa’s old house in North Middletown, New Jersey, with their then-toddler Paul.  (He’s 25 years old now.  Ugh.)

During the amazin’ 1986 run, I remember hearing raucous stories of my dad and his friends at Gene and Melissa’s, doing the pogo hops as the Mets rolled over Houston, and wishing I was there.  My mom, for whatever reason, wished to keep me away from that atmosphere.  Try as she might, I had a lot more fun with my dad.  He was a permissive parent, and my mom was stricter, though she let me get away with a lot more than most parents I suppose.  I was lucky to watch Mets games when I got home from school.  But I was a good student, so I could be trusted to finish my homework during the games or afterwards.

In 1988, we watched Game Three of the NLCS over at Gene and Melissa’s house.  It was a chilly Saturday afternoon, and I remember seeing my hero, A. Bartlett Giamatti, toss Dodgers starting pitcher Jay Howell out of the game for a tar ball.  (The headline the next day my mother actually saved for me: “Tar-Rific,” a play on my first name).

But I remember that day for other reasons.  I remember participating in the passing-Paul-around-celebrations that took place after the Mets scored runs.  (Another item of note I’d heard about during the ’86 run).  Afterwards, Gene fired up the barbecue grill and made burgers.  Melissa sent me down the street to the local corner store for some soda, chips and said to get something for myself with the ten-spot she gave me.  I chose a Chocodile.  It was one of the best memories of my childhood (up to that point), that day.

The next night, my dad had tickets to the game.  ONE ticket, for himself.  Yes, my puppy dog eyes worked, and I went.  I wished I didn’t.  This was the infamous Mike Scioscia game.  We sat in the Mezzanine on the third base side.  I started a chant inspired by the big ladies we met in Philadelphia in September of that year.  “ONE DOWN! TWO TO GO! ONE DOWN! TWO TO GO!”  The Mets promptly got the Dodgers to hit into a double play.

By 1989, my dad had moved out and whenever I stayed at his place, I’d watch the old SportsChannel on game nights.  In 1990, I made my mother cancel our HBO account so I could watch the Mets games that were on SportsChannel (we couldn’t afford both, but HBO was back on in the offseason).

In 1994, I went off to college.  We didn’t have cable in our rooms on campus, but it didn’t matter.  This also coincided with the “Strike,” you know, the one that cancelled the World Series that year.  I know there was a year or two I didn’t go to Opening Day.  Honestly, I have no recollection.  But I do know for a fact that I didn’t go in 1998.  I was working two internships and finishing up my independent studies.  I had more on my mind than just baseball.  It was a move later that year, the trade for Mike Piazza, that got me going to more games.

Then 1999 came around.  I was living in Red Bank at the time, with a roommate, but with adult responsibilities and my first “real” job.   My dad and I were going to more games, and it was a fun time to be a Mets fan.  In fact, it was the first Opening Day I had been to in at least two years. From 1999 onward, it set the most consecutive string of Opening Days since for me.  We went with Uncle Gene, Aunt Melissa, Paul, his brother Kyle and their little three-year old brother, Brett.  I remember watching Robin Ventura.  Uncle Gene liked him.  Dad called him, “Ace” after one of our favorite movies.  I responded with, “All righty then.”

We laughed.  A lot.  That’s something Dad and Gene do.  They laugh.  A LOT.

That year was a special year, 1999.  For obvious reasons for most Mets fans, that I won’t insult your intelligence by detailing.   It was special for me for a few reasons.  One was I spent more of my time sitting on the living room floor of my own apartment, watching Mets games again.  I was going to more games, mostly with my dad, but I also attended games with my mom’s two brothers, my “real” uncles, Mike and Scott.   Then I watched Game 163 that year over at my then-boyfriend’s house.  The relationship didn’t last; but my memories of that postseason did for certain.

The NLDS was special.  We made it a point to watch Game Four (the “Todd Pratt game”) over at my new place.  Melissa wanted to see my new place anyway, and to get an idea of what she could charge in rent for her house.  See, they were looking to sell the old grey lady of a house.  I didn’t think I’d actually believe it, till it actually happened.

But the little one, Brett, got sick during the first inning, and Melissa took him home.  Kyle and Paul stayed behind, along with my dad and Gene-oh.  We watched, and watched and watched.  I probably bit my nails to the nub.  We didn’t really say much.  There wasn’t much to say.  They were going into extra innings, and the prospect of going to Arizona to face Randy Johnson was almost as bad as the idea of facing Mike Scott in a forced Game Seven in Houston during the ’86 playoffs.  Almost.

But then…could it…is it…could is possibly be…Hineys cautiously lifted up from the couch or lounge chair, as we watched Steve Finley’s puppy dog face, when he realized the ball he was certain was caught was not.

Thus the celebrations.  The pogo hops.  Zorba the Greek-like dances.  This time, though, we couldn’t toss Paul around like a football in celebration.  In fact, he was 13 years old, he probably could have tossed US around.  This meant that we were facing the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS.

It also meant we were back at the old house in North Middletown for the NLCS.  It turned out it was the last time, as Melissa was serious about selling it.  They would be out by the year 2000.

We may have watched the NLCS of 1999 in the same living room we watched the 1986 and 1988 playoffs.  Yet, so much had changed in that time period.  Kyle and Brett hadn’t been born until after 1988.  And while Paul was born in 1986, he had no visible memories of the 1986 championship.  This was for all intents and purposes their first run as Mets fans.  I had gone to high school and college, graduated from both, and was living on my own and doing adult things like drive and pay bills.  Yet, it was like nothing had changed.  The neighborhood had stayed the same, with the same corner store that I had bought my Chocodile 11 years before.

Something else curious happened.  There was a computer in the old living room.  Computers were not so mainstream at the time, and the Internet was fairly a new phenomenon.  During the playoffs, I helped Paul with his English homework.  By the end of the night, I was crafting an email to NBC about how horrible Bob Costas was during the game.  “Bob Costas is the winter of our discontent” got many laughs from the peanut gallery at Bray Avenue.  Aunt Melissa started to lament how much she missed Tim McCarver.  I wonder if she says that now watching him on FOX.

During Game Five, the infamous grand slam single game, we had ordered dinner early in the evening…till the game went on forever and a day.  Melissa swore that if they went to a Game Six, she’d make dinner and dessert, so that we wouldn’t be starving.  The kids begged to stay up to watch the end.  Both Paul and Kyle had vested interests in the game.  Paul was a Mets fan, Kyle for some reason was a Braves fan.  Of course, this was another game that had there been a toddler, we’d have tossed him or her around the round while the Mets won that game in dramatic fashion.  Instead, we did our pogo hops and Zorba the Greek dances.

For Game Six though, I remember Al Leiter starting off skittish.  I remember screaming at the TV.  I remember Paul and Kyle being sent to bed since they had school the next day.  Oh please, when you were that age, were YOU sleeping?  I was standing at the edge of the room where the living room and their bedroom door met, and Paul kept opening the door to see what the score was.  The Mets were slowly chipping away at the lead, but 1999 was demised that evening.

I wasn’t so much sad that the season had ended.  I was very proud of that team.  What I was mostly sad about was the prospect of Gene and Melissa moving.  Yes, I know I didn’t grow up there.  Yes, I know it was very selfish to think that way.  So many of my early Mets memories were formed there.  I had sat on the living room floor in front of the television during many baseball seasons, but the times we watched the games over at Gene and Melissa’s house was an event.  There were so many fond memories formed over there during the years.  I didn’t grow up there specifically, but I did grow up there in a sense.  So did my Mets fandom.

A year later, when the Mets were in the World Series, we watched Game One in the living room of the new house.  We sang The Star Spangled Banner before the game.  Infamously, we sent my dad to the kitchen when he got up to use the bathroom and the Mets led off the inning with a base runner.  He chanted “Lets go Mets” from the other room, while we chanted in the living room.

The vibe was different, but the family stayed the same.

**********************************************************

It was only fitting that we saw Gene and Melissa at the last game at Shea.  Eight years had passed, but so much had changed in those years.  I’d started blogging on the Mets almost two years prior.  The Mets had gone on an improbable run in 2006, only to fall in disappointment in 2007 and 2008.

Shea Stadium was coming down soon after the Mets finished up 2008.

Me with Aunt Melissa, Uncle Gene and Pop on Shea Goodbye Day

Coop and Mr. E in the Coop Box at Shea Mezzanine 14

There were many different ways to watch games with the advent of smartphones, Internet TV and streaming videos, among others.  I preferred to watch Mets games on their pretty new network, SportsNet NY, the old fashioned way: on the floor of my living room.  Oh, all right, I probably sat on my couch or lounge chair during games too.  Okay, fine, in a bar too.

I texted a lot too during games; Twitter wasn’t exactly in fashion yet.  My phone served as sort of a command post during games.  I had met a whole new group of family members through my blogging and newfangled media such as Facebook.

Prior to the Internet’s existence, my personality was shaped by being a Mets fan, but watching the games with so many memorable characters I’ve ever known in my life.

When the last “pitch” was thrown at Shea by Tom Seaver to Mike Piazza, my dad hugged me and said, “You grew up here.”  It got dusty for a bit.  Funny, they didn’t start to tear down Shea till a few days later.  Perhaps they got a head start on it during the closing ceremonies.

Maybe I grew up at Shea Stadium, but I became a Mets fan watching games the best way that I possibly could: with family and loved ones.

Some of the best memories are simple ones.

Married to the Mets: The Beginnings

My dad took me to my first ever game in 1984.  Technically, he tried to take me in June of 1980, the day after Steve Henderson hit his infamous walk-off home run (The “Hendu Cando” game).  As legend has it, Mom and Dad got lost in Chinatown, got into an argument, and we ended up back at home…not before a compensatory trip to McDonald’s.  I was four.  I didn’t know the difference.  Mets, McDonald’s.  Either way, I was going to eat junk food.

I guess I started to get the baseball itch when I was seven, also the same year I discovered Duran Duran and Brit New Wave pop.  Both things helped shape a lot of my personality, and you see a lot of those qualities in me today.  I remember writing a paper (if one can even call it that, at seven years old) on what my dad and my mom liked to do.  My mom liked to bake and shop, while my dad like baseball, and is a New York Mets fan.  I remember my teacher gave me an A, and said that her dad, too, was a Mets fan.  I started watching more games and asking my dad about guys like Tom Seaver (whom he went to see his first Opening Day back with the team since 1977 that year) and Keith Hernandez (who was some guy that was traded midseason, but I had no idea what that meant).

In 1984, I saw Dwight Gooden lose a few times live at Shea Stadium.  But I still bought the hype, drank the Kool-Aid, and was a full-fledged Mets nut.  And I wished that I had known about Strawberry Sundae night in 1984.  I would have been ALL over that game.

By 1985, my dad had invested in a Sunday game pack with his best friend and his wife, my beloved Uncle Gene and Aunt Melissa.  When Melissa couldn’t go, I’d often go in her place.  This became more prominent in 1986, as she had given birth to their first child in the year after, my “cousin” Paul Gene.  I saw something interesting.  My dad became friendly with these guys who sat next to us in Loge Section 22.  I’ll never forget their names: Dominic, Rob and Mike.  Dominic was a typical Brooklynite, who had an accent that I loved.  Rob was a quiet and subdued guy, but treated me like an adult when I talked to him.  I don’t remember much about Mike except that my child’s memory has drawn him into a big oaf.

We have places like McFadden’s at CitiField these days, and the Caesar’s Club and what not to go to if you’re lucky enough to have access to on some level.  Back then, there was Casey’s on the Loge level.  I remember taking many walks with my dad to Casey’s as he went to get his rounds of beers for the guys.  That was something else I remember.  That everyone bought everyone rounds of beer.  The big foamy cups dedicated to Bacchus, and so I wouldn’t feel left out, I got many RC Cola cups in return, still my favorite soda.  Sometimes, we’d take walks down to Field Level for the old Frusen Gladje stand, where I swear still was the best cookies n’ cream ice cream I’d ever had in my life.  I was also partial to the pizza roll (which was this deep fried egg roll loveliness of pizza sauce and cheese and dough) and the old French fries (screw Nathan’s and Box Frites), all served to us by the ever present Harry M. Stevens attendant.

I am a Capricorn and rumor has it we’re an observant astrological sign.  When I wasn’t paying attention to the game at hand (in 1985, there wasn’t a whole lot of reasons to pay attention, since the Mets were winning a lot more that year so it was a lot of standing up for home runs, especially from my favorite Met ever, Gary Carter), I was paying attention to the relationships unfolding next to me.  I was too young to understand, but I did see my dad and my uncle forming relationships with these guys next to him in Section 22.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but it seemed to me that when you had the common bond of a sports team, you had a friend for life.

This may come as a surprise to some people who know me in real life, but I was a pretty shy kid.  I didn’t have many friends, and it was hard for me to relate to kids my own age.  I blamed a lot of it by being socialized with adults growing up, being an only child and all.   As I grew up, when people found out I was a baseball fan (and most importantly, a sports fan and liked many different teams), it was a common thread, a bond which we could all agree upon and talk about.

I always went back to those relationships that my dad formed in the stands with those guys he’d met, simply by accident since they all had Sunday plans and sat in the same row of Loge 22.  It was present in my mind when I met Frank, Tommy and Kim — the “Woodside Crew” — in 2002 sitting in Mezzanine 22.  There was Richie and Roger and the Bensonhurst crew.  There was Julie and Ben and Mark and Eddie in Section 10 of the Mezzanine for Saturday games.  There was Drew and the Bayside crew in Mezzanine Section 14.

Being a Mets fan has shaped a lot of my personality as an adult; but the memories I made by sitting with these folks, simply by chance, really had an impact on my life.  I guess I’m writing this as a way to let them know, if there’s any way they can know about it.

The last we heard of Dominic, Rob and Mike was in 1994.  Opening Day that year, I went with the usual suspects — Dad, Uncle Gene, Aunt Melissa and their two kids Paul and little Kyle (who isn’t so little anymore) — and we had seats in Upper Deck.  I believe this was the year we sat in the second to last row in those sky boxes, to which Uncle Gene said his famous, “I specifically asked for the last row!”  Walking up the ramp, Dad spotted Dominic and Rob.  There was a lot of hugs, hand shakes and “How are the kids?”  Et cetera, et cetera.  I was about to graduate high school that year, and it made them feel old I’m sure.  Dominic was living in Connecticut and had two kids of his own.  Mike was up to the same BS.   We never saw them after that day.  I doubt I would even recognize them now.

Times change, people change.  One of the fringe benefits of being a fan is sharing a moment that’s bigger than you with tens of thousands of other people.  Sometimes, you’re lucky enough to find those special someones who become important to you outside of the baseball game.  Mets fans may be the geekiest fans out there, but we also share more of a common thread than I think any fan base.  This fan base was born of Brooklyn Dodger and New York Giant fans, and both of those teams skipped town over 50 years ago.  There was pain, and baseball died in a lot of people’s hearts when that happened.  But as James Earl Jones said in Field of Dreams, the one constant throughout the years has been baseball.  Baseball has marked the time of America as it’s been rebuilt, erased and rebuilt again.

The one constant in my life has been being a Mets fan.  I wouldn’t trade that for anything in the world.  I also wouldn’t trade meeting those three goons in Loge 22.  I doubt they remember me, but they left an indelible mark on my heart inadvertently.  Those friendships formed led me to open my heart to many Mets fans, and caused me to write about them and expand my network of friends.

A lot has changed since I was nine years old.  But the constant in my life has been the Mets.  I’m married to them, in a way.  And whoever is my friend or acquaintance has to understand that.  Everyone has their quirks.  My quirk is being a Mets fan.

I’ll Have Blue Walls For Christmas

It’s official: the dimensions are changing.

I’ve made my position very clear that I don’t like the dimensions changing, especially in the name of making the Mets a more “offensive-friendly” team, or even handicapping the pitching (which the reality is, it doesn’t need any more challenges to being a moderate success…unless they get better pitching…which is another story in and of itself).

As far as the aesthetics of it, I happened to think they did a good job, especially making more seats, which will ultimately drive down the price, or so we hope.  The prices have already come down significantly since the stadium opened in 2009, perhaps we’ll see some people who want to spring for those seats in the Mo Zone or between the outfield reserve or wherever.  Fact is, for this to be a win-win for everyone, the team just needs to play better.  The number of seats increasing or the team hitting more home runs will almost be inversely proportional.

Wow. I think I’ve waited since junior high to say something like that.  I haven’t used that term since Algebra I class, to be sure.

Something that caught my eye is not only the dimensional changes, but the color changes.  See, when CitiField first opened, one of the major complaints was that it was not cognizant of Mets history.  The Jackie Robinson Rotunda was a shrine to a guy who never played for the Mets, and if you dropped a blindfolded Mets fan in the middle of CitiField, and they had no idea where they were, they’d never guess.  It wasn’t just cookie cutter: it had no mention of the quirky history of the Mets.  Certainly, nothing blue and orange, or anything notable besides the team on the field.

The “Great Wall of Flushing” had an orange line, but other than that, the ballpark was a generic black.  I wonder if the Wilpons got a sale from Home Depot for buying it in bulk.  Yet, some people thought that there was not enough blue representation.  I was neutral.  I could honestly care less about the wall color in the back.

But now it’s blue?  And orange?  According to the new schematic, it is.

I’m sure it won’t bother, but of all the things they’re concentrating on, repainting the walls in the back just smacks more of disguising a cake that’s actually full of dog doo.  It’s pretty on the outside, but it covers up something hideous.

Remember 2009?  My friend CharlieH said as he sat up in the Promenade Left Field, that the left fielder was simply a “rumor” from where he sat.  To address the sight line issues, the Mets added some shiny new TVs, probably to distract us from the ugly product that was taking the field each night.

I went to Camden Yards over the weekend to do a tour, and I got to hear a lot about the history of how it was built, and the idea that was put behind it.  The architect studied the old school ballparks and used inspiration from Ebbets Field, Polo Grounds, Wrigley Field, Fenway Park, among others.  The idea was to put the generic in it and make it an overall enjoyable experience for the fans, to make it an interactive experience.

Is painting the walls really necessary?

Look, I said I was Switzerland on it.  I would have been fine if they stayed black, or fine with painting.  I really don’t care.  It just makes me wonder how much of it is to silence the vocal minority, or maybe from doing customer satisfaction surveys, Hell maybe they are reading Metsblog for ideas.  I know it’s flogging a dead horse, but out of all the things they could be concentrating on to make the team actually WIN ballgames, the emphasis on the cover-up seems to be the rigeur du jour.

Gaming the Market

It’s funny how my status as a Mets ticket plan holder has evolved over the years.  I was in some way shape or form a mini-plan holder, then became a full season holder.  Believe it or not, depending on where you sit, being a baseball season ticket holder is not prohibitively expensive; of course, it’s all in the eye of the beholder on what you want to spend your discretionary income on.  For myself and my husband, though, we enjoy going to games, good or bad, win or lose, plus we can barter or sell tickets to go on road trips.

I would be lying though, if I didn’t tell you that each year I wonder if I’ll still want to be a season ticket holder.

It started in 2007, the “whispers” of being “priced out of CitiField.”  Everyone started freaking out because the Mets couldn’t figure out how to package their mini-plans, and season ticket holders really weren’t given a fair shot at where they wanted to sit.  I’ll be the first person to tell you that.  In 2008, they raised prices at Shea Stadium, to give us an idea of what we’d be up against.  For the marketplace though, it was almost fair.  Try going to a game at that place in the Bronx, or even a basketball game at Madison Square Garden.  You’d be hard pressed to find a cheap ticket there.  I’ve always argued that when we visit smaller market teams like Pittsburgh or even Baltimore, the tickets are priced according to that market.  They are cheaper to us and more bang for the buck because of where these teams play.  Whether their teams are bad is inconsequential.  When I visit those stadiums, if I don’t have a rooting interest, I just enjoy the game.  The prices, though, may be prohibitive to those who live in those markets, however.  This is something we need to consider when griping about the Mets’ pricing structure.

Of course, in 2009 when CitiField opened, the Mets put the screws to some of their loyal ticket plan holders.  I had seats in the Mezzanine, and the comparable area would be the Excelsior level or “Logezanine” as Greg Prince from Faith and Fear in Flushing calls it.  The tickets were not realistically priced, and I had to settle for the Promenade.  At the time though, it wasn’t that big of a deal.  Remember, the Mets were supposed to be good that year, right?  Fast forward a few months later, I had trouble selling my $18 seats for 18 cents.

That intro was to lay down the foundation for how the ticket pricing is going on now.  It’s evident then that the Mets and most appropriately the Sterling Equities group (Wilpons/Katz, etc) were not gaming the market efficiently. A new stadium in the biggest media market should have been sold out at every single game, or close to it.  Some will point to the season itself; some will say it had to do with pricing overall; others will say it was economic factors.  What is evident is that the Wilpon/Katz family in their infinite wisdom thought it would be wise to introduce premium luxury seats to a blue collar fan base to settle their own monetary issues stemming from bad investments on their watch.  Quite possibly, CitiField was one of those investments.

Each year I have been at CitiField, my prices have gone down significantly.  In 2010, I even moved my seats to a lower level, as it was still cheaper than my 2008 seats at Shea Stadium.  In 2011, my seats went down even further.  I had about three games that people did not attend in my seats.  They also introduced “perks” to ticket plan holders, such as taking the field with a player (I took position with Scott Hairston back in April!), subscriber events (such as breakfast at CitiField, raffles, winter team events), and ticket vouchers for additional tickets to a game, in premium seats.

Photo credit to Sharon Chapman

Photo Credit to Me!

The Mets just released their ticket pricing structure for 2012.  Season ticket holders once again get savings, I am saving nearly 20% if I decide to renew for 2012 (which I probably will).  They are issuing “dynamic pricing,” which means you get a structured level of pricing for what game you go to.  This is nothing new, they’ve been doing this for years.  You pay a higher dollar price for Mets/Yankees, Mets/Phillies, but you save going to see Mets/Nationals, etc.

The kicker?  We need to renew by November 7 in order to indulge in the Season Ticket Perks, which was introduced last year.  In previous years, we’ve been able to pay by December 15, and even have had payment plans introduced to us.  The whole saving-money-thing doesn’t bother me: this the whole commitment-thing-before-hot-stove thing does.

At a season ticket holder function the last Sunday of the season, another fellow season ticket holder and I started chatting about the park.  “Nice stadium,” he said.  “Shoulda been sold out every game in 2009.”  I agreed; it shouldn’t have been so hard to sell tickets.  It still shouldn’t.  There are several factors at play.  The injuries are one thing.  The AAA supporting cast is another.  The lack of a plan or foresight in both 2009 and 2010 adds on to the uncertainty.

The team neglected to game the market.  The Wilpons thought wrong in making the stadium for them, by making it smaller and raising ticket prices in a down economy and after two late season failings (though in fairness, there is no way they could have seen the last two things).  They brought in new ticket people (including parting ways with Bill Iannicello, who had been with the team for as many years as I could remember), but it was a year too late.  Even all the perks they are trying to woo season ticket holders with may not be enough.  I remember the days when they didn’t offer us jack, just the good name of the Mets and the tickets.  They figured a nice new park would be shiny enough to make us forget we were watching a crappy team after a while.

But will any of this make us want to go to games?  Lowered ticket prices are nice.  Would you pay an average of $29/ticket for outfield reserve (that’s how much mine cost, if you’re looking to buy next year, ha ha)?? Other monetary factors figure in like parking and tolls, gas even (As an example, I invited Randy from Read the Apple to a game where the ticket was FREE, and he said that even though the ticket I was giving him would be free, by the time he made it to the park, it would be upwards of $40, and he’d have to do it again since he was going to another game that week).  Some people who have to travel find that the SNY broadcast along with the comforts of home like HD TVs and surround sound plus your own food make it enticing to just stay home.

Factor in a crappy team.  At least they’re trying to game the market, but like most Mets’ efforts, they will probably fall short in this plan too.

Candy Coating a Poison Pill

If you listen carefully, you will hear the mumblings and grumblings of several in-the-know folks about the walls at CitiField.  Hell, even our very own Howie Rose calls the wall over in left field the “Great Wall of Flushing.”

On one hand, I can understand the venom.  Home runs have dropped off noticeably for the Mets in the time since CitiField opened, and in the design, our owners went for the “quirk” factor and not “realistic helpful” factor.  On the other, if there were low walls, the dimensions were any shorter causing a MORE homer friendly scenario, we’d hear all about how “CitiField is a little league park” or “bandbox” (similar to the refrains we hear about Citizens Bank Park and Yankee Stadium).

You can’t win, but you get what you deserve too, Fred.

Yet, on my weekly podcast, we’ve had some really passionate debate about moving the dimensions at CitiField, redistributing the field (moving home plate and playing field up a few feet), among other things.  I can’t say that I disagree with thinking that SOMETHING needs to change, but the items I feel passionately about are the Great Wall…there’s no reason why it should be so difficult to hit a home run to that side of the field (nor should it be so difficult to try to “stop” a home run from being hit).  The Mo’s Zone is the bane of my existence. There aren’t things that I think will compromise the integrity of the playing field, and won’t make a bandbox or make it prohibitve.

Sandy Alderson on last night’s game broadcast suggested that not only will changes be potentially made at CitiField, that they won’t be “subtle.”  Translation,they should be drastic.  The cheers could be heard ’round the Twitterverse.

I guess I have to ask this question: is this just candy-coating a poison pill?

Keep in mind, I am just looking at home runs hit at CitiField against Mets pitchers (starters or otherwise).  In 2011, Mets pitchers have given up 54 home runs; in 2010, 47 home runs; and in 2009, growing pains to the new park led to the Mets pitchers giving up 81 round-trippers.  Conversely, the Mets’ pitchers have given up 84 HRs on the road this year, 88 HRs on the road in 2010 and 77 away in 2009.  The disparity really wasn’t that great in 2009, but they were giving up way too many home runs in 2009.  Clearly, they’re giving up fewer home runs at home.  Compared to Shea, 2008 and 2009 numbers were VERY similar: 79 home runs at home, 84 on the road.

We could theoretically argue that the home run factor or lack thereof for the Mets has almost HELPED Mets pitching.

But the question isn’t so much what the pitchers are doing and how the hitters are faring.  How many times have we seen what would be home runs at other parks (and not even bandboxes) that aren’t even close at CitiField, or those infamous 400 foot outs in the Mo’s Zone.  Yeah, you know what, that pisses me off too.  But the Mets’ offense has had THREE YEARS to get used to the dimensions at this place and learn to play to its strengths.

In 2008, Mets hitters had 95 home runs at home, with 77 on the road.  Compared to 2009, they had 49 at home, and 46 on the road.  Due to the nature of the injury-ridden and horrific season in 2009, we could throw that stats out as an anomaly and call it a day (or a year, in this case).  Mets hitters had 63 home runs at home in 2010 and 65 on the road, and finally in 2011, with a few days left in the season, 45 home runs at home, 57 on the road.

Throw out the home run factor for the Mets offense. In 2011, with eight games left, the hitting line has been relatively uniform at home and on the road.  At home, hitters have ..263/.336/.390; on the road, .267/.335/.393.  Compare to 2010, .255/.326/.393 at home, and .243/.304/.373 on the road.  Who says the Mets have a problem hitting at home!  Okay, fine it’s all relative, but the point is all we’ve heard is how detrimental CitiField is to the team, and their stats bear out lower on the road.

Of course, at the end of the day, it’s all about wins and losses at home.  There’s been a distinct home field disadvantage.  CitiField was built for the mantra of “speed, pitching and defense.”  Speed and defense have clearly been lacking in the Mets, but the pitching has been relatively uniform.  I know, there have been inconsistencies but fact is, the dimensions of CitiField have been favorable to the Mets pitching.  In 2011, averages against are .254/.333/.376 and on the road, .274/.341/.376.  Mets pitchers in 2010: at home, .243/.318/.350 and on the road, .276/.342/.437.

It’s clear to me the problem lies in lack of offense, especially in situational hitting.  Unfortunately, that cannot be “taught” and is a favorable argument to saber folks about it being a crapshoot.  Want to know what I think is a crapshoot?  Tinkering with the dimensions and walls at CitiField.   We need better PLAYERS to hit in the park, and the only thing tinkering will do is mess with the pitching progress, and have the other teams hit more home runs as well.

Moving in the dimensions will only silence the vocal minority, when the reality is, a candy-coated poison pill will still kill you in the end.