Love Affair

the weather was perfect, too

The first time I caught a glimpse of Shea Stadium through the windows of the 7 train, I shivered. And got all teary. The second time, too. Every time since then? I crane my neck, waiting for that first peek, all thoughts of the endless train rides to get to this point forgotten. And yeah, I still get a little shiver.

Sure, I’ve been a baseball fan for most of my life. But truly? It’s only been for the past few years that I’m obsessed, emotional, sputtering with the latest rumors, watching every game I can get my eyes on, waxing poetic about why baseball is like, totally the best thing ever, omg. There doesn’t seem to be any turning back at this point, regardless of what loving this PARTICULAR team does to my mental health.

Magic.

My brother, his best friend Matthew, and I got ourselves some tickets for Thursday night’s game against the Atlanta Braves. I’ve said over and over that I want to go to as many games as I can this season, the last one the Mets will play at Shea. But in reality, it just isn’t that easy, given the cost and the schedule and the interminable train rides (the train rides that I really don’t mind, but my unsuspecting compadres? You better believe they mind. My brother not as much, but he definitely minds a little). So when the stars aligned so that the three of us could make it to a weeknight game, you better believe I was all over that. I was a tiny bit worried, especially after our last trip to Shea was a rainout (which was quite an experience in and of itself, one that I am glad we had, in some weird way), but on Thursday? The weather was perfect – not hot, not too cool, a bit of a breeze, and just beautiful.

I know I probably say it too much, but oh! It is just the best thing, watching a baseball game in person. Even as the Mets’ new stadium looms near-completion just over the center field fence, all shiny and wonderful next to poor, dilapidated ol’ Shea, there is something about Shea Stadium. It’s not glamorous and the seats are rickety, but man, is it something. The lights glow and you groan and yell and jump up out of your seat and cheer and you eat a giant hot dog and try to ignore the fact that the guy behind you keeps dropping peanut shells down your pants (not on purpose, but ew) and you missed your chance for a beer but you sing “Meet the Mets” as loud as you can and and the little girl in front of you just got some completely melted ice cream and it’s a weeknight so half of the men are in remains of their work clothes and oh look, there’s Mr. Met and did you see that guy’s tshirt? and they’re winning and they’re losing and then the most unlikely guy, the one you’ve sort of hated all season because god, he just sucks, except not today, he belts a walk-off hit in the bottom of the ninth and it doesn’t get any better than this.

the MAGIC of Shea Stadium

Rainout at Shea.

I went out to Shea Stadium on Saturday, expecting to see the Mets play the Rangers. My parents, Lindsey, James, John and I were all decked out in our Mets gear (hats, tshirts, jerseys galore) and we took the train to the game. I’ve never been to a game with my parents, so I had been really looking forward to it. It was also a night game, which are sort of magical in a way I can’t really describe.

We all got replicas of Shea Stadium

I’d checked the weather for Flushing yesterday morning, so I knew there was a 50% chance of thunderstorms from 7pm on. But what are you going to do? These tickets were a birthday gift for my dad, and it’s not like we’d let them go to waste. So we put on our most optimistic faces and tried to ignore the gray clouds we could see hovering over New York City as the train got closer.

right after we arrived, they took the tarp off the infield...

One of the most fun things about the 7 train (other than the fact that it’s always jam-packed with other folks in Mets gear) is that it’s an elevated train, so you can watch Queens go by as you get closer to Shea. Or, in our case, you can marvel at the torrential downpours and say sheepishly to your family members, “Hey, there’s still an hour and a half until first pitch. And hey, doesn’t it look a bit like it’s clearing up over that way?” Once we got to Shea, we unraveled our raincoats and umbrellas and laughed as we dodged puddles, because it’s impossible not to feel a little swoony when you crane your neck and look up at Shea. Or when you glimpse their new stadium in person for the first time. Or maybe I’m just a little sentimental when it comes to baseball.

June 14, 2008

The tarp was covering the field when we found our seats, which were mercifully under the overhang of the upper deck. We watched the grounds crew remove the tarp… and put it right back down. We ate hot dogs and drank beer (and a cold beer in a humid stadium is the most refreshing thing ever, I don’t care what you say). We came up with theories about how they decide whether the game’s rained out or just delayed. We avoided talking about the fact that we might have come all this way to have to go home. As game time approached, the skies opened up and we heard a few rumbles of thunder. “Well,” we thought, “if it’s delayed, that wouldn’t be too bad. At least our seats aren’t out in the open.”

rain delay at Shea...

And just as things started to look like they were clearing up, and the grounds crew lined up to remove the tarp for real this time, a giant clap of thunder made our seats rattle and the skies opened up and our hopes were dashed. We watched the folks down in the open-air sections scramble toward the stairs for cover, and couldn’t help but notice that the field was starting to look a bit waterlogged. We started to quietly poll each other about when we should decide to leave, dreaded the long train ride home, and dejectedly realized that since this was an interleague game (aka the Mets aren’t going to be playing the Rangers again this season), it would be rescheduled for Sunday, and I was the only one of us who could have come back.

It was in that moment of total despair that the mood was lightened in a totally unexpected way. A handful of Under-Armor clad Rangers emerged from the visitors’ dugout and walked out into the downpour. “Are they really…?” “No, it can’t be possible.” “What are you doing? Get your camera out!!!!!” And those Texas Rangers ran out onto the tarp covering the infield and proceeded to use it as a giant Slip-N-Slide. The crowd erupted, and it was a pretty amazing moment. Of course, I was scrambling with lenses, trying to swiftly switch out to my dad’s zoom lens so I could get some proper photos. The Rangers took their bows, returned to the dugout… and a few minutes later, came back for more, this time with more of their teammates. Sure, I didn’t see any Mets except for Travis, the batboy, but the moment of pure, unadulterated childhood glee left us smiling, even as we donned our raincoats for the long walk back to the subway platform for a standing-room-only 7 train home. Also, they announced that our tickets could be exchanged for any other game at Shea this season. So even though we went home, not having seen a minute of baseball, we’ll be going back.

time to go home.

It’s not without a bit of bitterness that I watch the doubleheader today, though. It looks like a beautiful day at Shea, and it’s just so unfair. Oh well. Like John said, it’s bound to happen that we go to at least one game in our lifetimes that gets rained out, so better to get it over with. And hey, I got a replica of Shea. So at least there’s that. And the fact that barring all of the gloom, it was a fun day with the family.

Can we go back today? How about tomorrow?

Just before first pitch

I’m surprised I slept at all on Friday night. I was that excited. Like a little kid, really. We took the 9:15 train, and then the subway. We got to the stadium about two hours before game time, and when we got there, they weren’t even letting anyone in yet. Luckily, we didn’t have to stand in the sun for all that long before we got to go inside. The 7 train is an elevated train, so we could see the stadium as we got closer and closer. It’s really strange to see something in person after seeing it on TV for years, that’s for sure.

Our seats were great – just past the foul pole in right field, in the first level above field level. They were also in the shade, and we got this breeze that was perfect. Once I got past the fact that some of the people who were at the game were just weird, plain and simple, it was amazing to be in among throngs of people who were just as excited to be there as I was (well, for the most part). We walked around the stadium a bit, and got some ridiculously awesome hot dogs and a beer that came in an aluminum bottle plastered with Mets logos. In retrospect, we totally should have gone to the Clubhouse Store before the game started (we certainly had more than enough time), because we didn’t get a chance to at all. We didn’t want to miss any of the game to go (hell, we missed the entire fifth inning waiting in line for beers), and by the time the game was over, they had the doors locked and closed, and they would only let people into the store when someone else came out. (Which, actually, is probably a really efficient system, but we didn’t want to wait in the line.)

The game itself was a good one to see in person. They were behind for a lot of the game, and then came back in really exciting fashion in the sixth inning. There’s something to be said for being there, living it, jumping out of your seat to yell and cheer along with thirty thousand other people who are also jumping around and screaming their heads off. I can’t even IMAGINE what a playoff game would be like. Wow. When they scored their runs to retake the lead, we got so excited that we were jumping up and down, and while I was sort of nervous that I was going to spill my beer, I found that I really didn’t care very much about that after all. THAT is why it’s so much fun to be there. Because you just don’t care if your beer gets spilled, for one day in your life.

After the game, we walked down to field level and got to look out on the field from the home plate area, which was just as cool. While the logistics of season tickets sort of baffle me (don’t people have jobs that they have to go to? It takes a lot of time to get there and back), I can completely understand why people do it.

Plus, we had dinner at Chipotle, which would be worth paying for a train ticket all by itself.

It was a great day.

Here is a slideshow of all the pictures.