I've always wondered, had I grown up or ever found myself living in New York City, where my baseball allegiance would lie. Mets or Yankees; how does one choose? The masochist in me believes, without a doubt, that I'd be a Mets fan. I'm all about the struggle; the lean years, when I could easily throw in the towel. When all that remains is hope without reason. I'm afraid that if I was a Yankees fan, I'd take the playoffs for granted. That I'd take winning for granted. As a sports fan, those are my greatest fears. Luckily, I live in Toronto, where those fears will never, ever be realized.
Monday night, on the way to and at Citi Field in beautiful Queens, New York, my latest stop on The Baseball Road Trip Of A Lifetime, I attempted to find out: why the Mets? Here are some of the better responses I got:
"They're not the Yankees."
"I'm from Queens. And when you're from Queens, the Mets are your only option."
"My dad and brothers were Mets fans. Simple as that."
"Pardon my language, but f**k the Yankees."
The last one was my favourite. Because I never thought I'd hear a New Yorker say "pardon my language" before dropping an f-bomb. I love New York. And Mets fans are great, easily some of the best in the business. They're passionate about their team, and very easy to talk baseball with.
From Herald Square in Manhattan, at 5:30 pm, I hopped aboard the W Broadway Local train, heading north, and then east, to Queens. I transferred to the 7 Flushing Local, which drops you at Citi Field's front door, at Queensboro Plaza station, at the east end of the Queensboro Bridge. For my Seinfeld heads out there, Queensboro Plaza is the renowned gyro stall station. Unfortunately, it doesn't exist. All in all, in rush hour, and thanks to a number of delays for both traffic and medical reasons, the journey took about an hour. And remember: it's $2.25 one-way on the NYC subway.
Upon exiting Mets-Willets Point station, Citi Field stares you in the face. And she's quite the looker. Most stunning of all: The Jackie Robinson Rotunda, modeled after Ebbets Field, which serves as the ballpark's main entrance. Inside, Robinson is immortalized, and deservedly so. There's an eight-foot-tall no. 42, and etched into the archway you'll find one of Robinson's finest quotes: "A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives."
Adjacent to the Robinson Rotunda is the Mets Hall of Fame and Museum. I only managed a quick run-through post-game, after I pleaded with a Citi Field staffer to let me in. On display are the Mets' two World Series trophies, and even the infamous ball that went through Bill Buckner's legs in 1986. There's even a rather freaky looking statue of Mr. Met.
The sightlines all over the park are great, and $40 will get you a chair 12 rows behind Jason Bay in left field, but without a full view of the massive scoreboard in centre field. In what I found to be a nice touch, Citi Field's foul poles are painted orange, instead of baseball's customary yellow.
One more thing: the ushers in New York, at both Citi Field and Yankee Stadium, are serious about their jobs. It doesn't matter how many times you've already shown your usher your ticket stub, you've got to flash it again. Every time. Mr. or Ms. Usher will even kindly hold your food and drinks while you fish the blasted stub out of your pocket. Ridiculous.
My good friend Jason, a die-hard Toronto Maple Leafs fan from Connecticut (you figure that one out), took in the game with me last night, along with his lovely wife, and recommended we drink Brooklyn Lager. It didn't disappoint, and sells for $6.75 a can. Your standard draft beer will run you $7.75.
You'll find the "Taste of the City" food court in centre field, and a burger from "The Shake Shack" is what you want to eat. So I was told. But only if you're willing to wait in line for a good two or three innings to get it. We weren't. Instead, we settled for Italian Special Hero sandwiches, $10.50 a piece, from "Mama of Corona's." Salami, pepper ham, and mozzarella cheese, with sides of mushrooms and red peppers. Scrumptous. And they say you should never settle.
They've done a great job with the area out in centre field. A gamut of food and drink options, batting cages, a dunk tank, and wiffle ball for the kids, and a walk along "Shea Bridge" as you cross over to the right field side of the main concourse.
The Chicago Cubs were in town Monday evening, along with more Cubs fans than I expected to see. But the night belonged to Ike Davis, whose career as a New York Metropolitan got off on the right foot, as he went two-for-four with an RBI in his professional debut. Thanks to a five-run 7th inning, the Mets took the contest 6-1. And a hearty personal thanks goes out to New York centre fielder Angel Pagan who, with his two-run home run, brought out "The Home Run Apple" for me to see in all its glory.
Where I Continue to Hate on the National League
Here's the situation: it's the second inning, and Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano hits a one-out double to deep centre field. The next batter, Geovany Soto, grounds out to third baseman David Wright, keeping Soriano at second base. The next batter is number eight hitter Ryan Theriot, hitting all of .235, with a .528 OPS.
Guess what happens next? Jerry Manual and the Mets, employing brilliant National League baseball strategy, intentionally walk the heavy-hitting Theriot, opting instead to face Randy Wells, who makes his living throwing a ball, not hitting it.
Wells, the pitcher, grounds out to first base. Inning over.
Strategy my ass.
I'm headed north to Boston, where Fenway Franks and Neil Diamond's Sweet Caroline are in my future. I'll tweet you from "Fenway Pahk."