FLUSHING, NY â€“ We couldnâ€™t resist going to Sundayâ€™s St. Johnâ€™s/Georgetown game. The gates were open to the public, so for a mere $10 for admission and parking combined, we made our covert entry: Short Matt in his Kingman jersey and Tall Matt in a St. Johnâ€™s Redman cap. Mrs. Matt was in her wheelchair and the offspring – Metboi, Kate and Tommy â€“ were in various non-newsworthy outfits. We all sat in the private handicapped section just beyond 3rd base. Though the game was a 45-minute sell-out, Mrs. Matt ingeniously invoked the wheelchair clause to access tickets; she broke an ankle dancing.
The day was chilly and there was dense fog in the early spring afternoon. As we rounded the exit ramp off the Grand Central Parkway, the area that Shea Stadium once occupied was wrapped in a cloud. It was a bit disorienting as the new CitiField emerged from the hazy blanket, a mere 100 yards away. We got it then: Everything was going to be different and we were about to witness a dress rehearsal for what some call New Shea. Shea Shack has also been overheard. So too has Debitâ€™s Field and a whole host of other disparaging monikers. But we got it. The place is called CitiField, for good or worse and until the bank defaults or gets taken over; this is the name we will live with.
The name became irrelevant after we set foot in this spectacular new home for our New York Mets. The awe inspiring Jackie Robinson Rotunda, excellent sight lines, clean toilets, spacious seats and solid concessions grabbed us. Whatâ€™s not to love? We kept pinching ourselves to the point of bleeding. The kids found that disturbing. Tall Matt and Metboi did the rounds for food and beverages, noting that the open concourse offers outstanding views of the action on the field. The sausage and peppers line was too long (GET OUT OF THE â€˜80s, PEOPLE!) and so was the line at the Shake Shake, so we settled on Blue Smoke Barbeque with Blue Smoke amber lagers. Yum. Young Tommy was a little tipsy by the 7th – heâ€™s five. He also had a personal audience with Mr. Met who was very impressed that Tommy was wearing his Mr. Met cap. The only nonplussed member of our posse was 12year-old Yankee fan Kate, who read â€œTwilightâ€ for the umpteenth time and would only look up at the scoreboard when a â€œhotâ€ batter was at the plate. She especially liked Georgetown player, Tommy Lee, save for the pimple on his chin. Mrs. Matt, on a year long sabbatical from the Yankees, was duly impressed not only by the facility but also by the $6 beers served by a Yankee Stadium vendor that she knew. It was interesting to see them â€œcross the aisles.â€
The Mets staff had their own dress rehearsal Sunday and it was clear that many of them still had things to learn. Certain guests (ahem) with VIP field seats in a wheelchair presented them with a 2 Â½ inning problem of how to get them to their section. 5 different elevators and half a dozen earnest employees could not get us to the seats. Then they called in the big gun. Weâ€™ll call him Mr. Brown â€“ Head of Fan Relations and a good friend of MeetTheMatts. Anyway, he got personally involved in the escort process, so special thanks to you, Mr. Brown. The entire staff* couldnâ€™t have been more courteous, even throughout the opening day hiccups. Once we were there, it was nothing but a joy to behold, though it will take some getting used to. We advise minimal pinching.
At the risk of sounding entitled, we Met fans deserve this new ballpark. Having had the privilege of visiting many new stadiums over the last few years, it was clear that Sheaâ€™s time had run its course. It was a dump we learned to love and thankfully some elements of the old behemoth remain. We were comforted seeing both the old Homerun Apple and the scoreboard skyline of New York perched atop the Shake Shake/Blue Smoke counter – Trade Center ribbon and all. Sad as we were to see it go, a new era has begun.
As we left through the grand rotunda we came across Jeff Wilpon. We thanked him in all earnestness for this new home and we wished him good luck. He said, â€œWho the hell are you?â€ Sometimes incognito is not the right approach.
Oh, the Hoyas beat the Redman 6-4.
Angry Ward tomorrow.
*Special shout out to Louise in security, and Kieran from Yonkers who graciously led us to our seats and set us all up.