Monday, April 26, 2010

Home Is Where the Heart Is

To many Mets fans, Shea Stadium will always be home and will the only home for the New York Mets in their eyes. I know for me, I had a tough time adjusting to CitiField at first, especially in 2009. There wasn't an emotional attachment yet, and I even remember the night of the Fernando Tatis Grand Slam game, I was feeling nostalgic and missing Shea. I wanted to go to a game THERE, but that would never be again, since it was no longer there. Even after the grand slam, I thought, "That's nice. Where's Shea?"

It was more than that. Shea Stadium to me is a culmination of memories, feelings, smells (yes, even the nasty bathrooms that I once saw a sign at Banner Day in 1986 proclaim were "Worse Than Chernobyl"), and talking points. "Remember that game...?" Chances are, even if you weren't there, you'd appreciate the visuals we'd construct in our heads after listening to someone else's Shea Stories. As an example, F-O-C Metstradamus has a great story about September 11, 1987, after the Terry Pendleton home run that I won't repeat here, but when he tells it, although I was not there, I could feel the feelings they had and even see in my head what he could talk about.

We have not had those feelings at CitiField yet. That doesn't mean times like that will never happen. In fact, it's up to us Mets fans to create our own memories in our new house and look to the future.

I have been going to Saturday games with the team at Studious Metsimus in the new Coop seats. We have been trying to build a community in the Outfield Reserve, called "Bay-Watch"
or "The Frenchy Riviera." Hopefully they catch on, but it is hard to build a community when people don't go to all the games. I used to see the same people and faces all the time at Shea, but that could have been years of going to the park that cloud my judgment. Although I have had to correct people calling me "Co-Op" instead of "Coop" because they always said my name in their head, not out loud. The recognition is all there, it's just tough to build a community in these new stadiums.

Getting back, one part of CitiField I have taken to call my own is the Shea Bridge. Although I've called it several different names. There was an underground movement (I want to say at Brooklyn Met Fan, but I'm not too certain) to call it the Gil Hodges Bridge, which I liked, but the Mets handling of his memory at CitiField is good, I can't complain about not calling it Hodges Bridge (Though I do think that when the Mets do retire Mike Piazza's number eventually, the Tastes of the City should be called Tastes of the City at the Piazza).

I called the bridge (and still do) the "F-Mart Bridge." The night he made his debut, a few of us hung out on the bridge. I have an Italian family, and the gathering that night was like a family get-together. People brought over calamari to share, bought beers and chatted up while the game was going on, trying to glimpse the future of the franchise. Of course, I started calling it the "Ike Davis Bridge" after his monster home run on Friday night, and I called it so in my Saturday home game gathering manifesto.

If you have not done so already, please visit MSF's Facebook fan page. Each Saturday game, I try to organize a meet-and-greet on the page to get that community-feeling going. This week, we had a small turnout, Uncle Gene and his son Funguy showed up (though I had a brain cramp and forgot to take a picture), and even JimD showed up with his friend Mike. Steve, who is a regular at Crane Pool Forum, dropped by on his way to his seats. It's always good to see good people before the game.
The family of bears of Joey Beartran, Jerry and Billy Bear, even hung out, literally, on the bridge this day, trying to catch some rays
(You can catch plenty of rays in Section 138 - still selling tickets as part of Coop's Consortium, please inquire within!).

Something else stuck out for me this game though.

At one point, I turned to Bear Man and said, "You know what? I feel like I'm home."

I know I am in the minority, and trust me, there are some things that I *don't* like about CitiField. However, I wanted a new stadium, knew that it was needed, and I am fine with the adjustments the organization has made to make the experience more fan-friendly and yes, Mets-centric, which was certainly lacking the first year. That whole idea of connection was not there. Something about last Saturday's game was.

Forget the fact that the Mets won that game and it was against the hated Braves, although the rivalry has waned in the past few years, I always enjoy seeing a nice Braves-beatin' on a Saturday afternoon (especially in Larry Jones' birthday).

Forget that I was chatting up fans for the first time in years (although there was a Yankee fan in the mix in my row -- his seat buddies though made sure to point out they were ALL Mets fans, and heckled their own friend for wearing a Yankees jersey in a park where the Yankees clearly were not playing).

There was a feeling in the air to me that was comforting, that I could finally accept CitiField as my home. It was also nice to share it with some others in the park as well, and wondered if they did as well.
Take for example, the folks in this photo. See, in the back, the dude in the sunglasses is beaming, and the guy in orange looks very happy to be there! The sun was shining and it was a beautiful day!

What? Were you expecting something else?

If you haven't seen it already, former Mets beat writer John Delcos has his own New York Mets Report website, which is a comprehensive analysis and summary of the Mets. There is also live chat during the games, which Delcos is very active in during the games. You can easily sign up for an account, simply register on the top right hand corner of the site and take it away.

Also, become a fan of his on Facebook.

In some more shameless self-promotion, please visit Frankie the Sports Guy's NY Baseball Blogs site, where I am a contributor. My last piece was on Dan Warthen, whom I knew absolutely nothing about, but am pleased with how he's handled the question marks in the pitching staff thus far.

Become a fan of Frankie on Facebook as well.

Maybe I should just work for Facebook. Heh.


Bear Man said...

Besides all the Mets-related items missing at Citi Field, which the Wilpons corrected this year, the thing missing from the ballpark was a winning attitude. Winning bring the fannies out to Citi Field. Those fannies contribute to the ballpark atmosphere that makes it feel like it's their ballpark.

This current successful homestand will go a long way towards bringing the fannies back. Once the die-hards start showing up game after game, not only will we be able to start our own community, but Citi Field will truly become the Mets' ballpark, not just Shea's replacement.

By the way, those guys smiling at the camera in Section 137, row 6 look like potential additions to the community. They're also very photogenic! You know I love those photogenic Mets fans!

DyHrdMET said...

now that's a good shot of those 2 Mets fans featured in the last photo. Maybe with Joey, it's "2 1/2 Fans" (a new sitcom on CBS next fall?).

Reading your words about Citi being "home", I had a thought. When one goes away to school (college, or in my case, colleges, and also in my case, boarding school), you're taken from home, placed in a new environment, and at least for me having done it 3 times, that new surrounding felt comfortable long before it felt like home (it took at least a year of being there every day for that feeling). I think the new ballpark is a lot like that. I've been there once this year after about 8 times last year, and it felt more comfortable this year. It's also good to know that I have friends to meet at every Saturday game I go to (I'll probably see you next Saturday).