Citi Field, Queens, New York
First game: June 22, 2021 (Braves 3, Mets 0)
It was 1999 when I took the 7 train to Shea Stadium. I was 29, single, and scrounging together money to travel around the country trying to conduct long-distance relationships and attend ballparks before starting a new job. I was 51 when I returned, a married dad, leaving my wonderful wife and equally-wonderful children behind for three days of solo R&R. It feels different doing this as a middle-aged man, but it’s certainly fun either way. I like the idea of having fun and heading home to my wife more than having fun and leaving behind a sort-of-but-not-really girlfriend. Man, time sure blasts on. The last time I watched a game in Queens, Ronald Acuna was in diapers. Now he’s on the field and a household name…
Some things, however, stay the same. The ballpark is still surrounded by oceans and oceans of parking lot. As a result, it’s hard to succeed at the is-there-any-question-where-this-is test. The small-but-nice Mets museum? Yes. Billy Joel singalong (10,000-plus fans singing “Piano Man” in the middle of the 8th, which sounds cool)? Wonderful–and you don’t get more Long Island than Billy Joel. And I was taken by a dilapidated muffler shop across the street, which seemed to be holding out in the middle of all of the parking lots: people were actually working in there as the fans streamed in. Loved it.
Still, there’s a little bit missing here. I got myself a nice seat with access to a swanky club behind home plate.
I liked the super-cushy seats, but the setup was such that we were behind the press boxes and had no view of the
good place to wait out a rain-delay: probably the best way to wait out rain, as I have learned in the past. I couldn’t sit in the comfy chairs for too long: my 51-year-old self doesn’t handle red-eye flights quite as well as my 29-year-old self did, and I’d have fallen directly to sleep. But it still seems strange that someone would pay all that money to get to a ballgame and then just watch it on TV. Different strokes, I suppose. (But I can’t argue with that killer pastrami sandwich. Wow. 15 bucks and worth every penny.
I am not a huge Mets guy, but the dude checking us out at the metal detectors looked a LOT like Keith Hernandez of the 1986 World Series winners. For one thing, wearing a mustache in 2021 is way different
from wearing one in the era of Tom Selleck. Turns out I wasn’t the only person to notice: the people in front of me told him so. He said he gets that a lot. I would imagine
working at Citi Field is one place where that happens a ton.
I appreciated the passion of the fans for their first 3 or 4 beers. But thereafter–and especially on this night, when the team couldn’t get anything going of offense against Atlanta–it got uglier. One profane and ugly fan was letting loose a section over. (Man, have some perspective! Your team is in first place by five games! And the Yankees are having an off year!). Ushers said “sir? Sir?” to him a few times, and he stopped without leaving (it was the ninth inning anyway). I found the Mets staff to be delightful: they gave me Tylenol at the first-aid space (I headed off a red-eye headache) and the wonderfully-New-York-accented usher remembered me and asked how I was doing several times thereafter. So I got the best and the worst of this fan base.
On the whole, this was a great kickoff to a self-directed three-day NYC tourist blitz by me. I’m not sure when I will get to go back, but I’m glad I got to this one as I try to re-assemble the 30 parks again.