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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
@coopz22 Is it me, or is there finally a buzz at Citi tonight?
— David Whitham (@dgwhitham) April 20, 2013
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.
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.
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.