I went to the ballgame yesterday (June 23) with my daughter Sonia. We’ve been going to ballgames together, just me and her, since she was seven. The first time we went together, she made a commemoration of it on some construction paper, with the score (we beat the Cardinals, 9-4) and the information that I was the best dad ever. It hung in my office for quite a few years. Last night’s game was to be the first time we’d go together, just the two of us, to Citi Field.
I made sure that we left the house a little later than we normally do. Luckily she was having trouble burning a CD, so I had to help her, and that made it seem natural. I didn’t want to get down there and have to experience what I feared would be the pain and anguish of a Citi Field batting practice. Let me tell you, when you’ve been going to a Shea batting practice for over a decade and you remember the excitement of your little daughter at all these different stages of her childhood as she got to see Mike Piazza and David Wright and Cliff Floyd all close up, the last thing you want to do is take her to a Citi Field batting practice, which just makes you feel like garbage. Later, I told her that I had gotten us out of the house later for this reason and she said that it wasn’t necessary to protect her. I was just protecting myself, which is what parents often do when they think they’re protecting their kids. She said she already knew that “they did that.” I thought her phrasing was interesting. Somebody did that. Somebody made that decision, without any consciousness of the effect that it would have on people. Or maybe they did think, if we’re charging people almost $200 for those seats, they have a right to not have the riffraff on top of them if they get there early. Well, if they thought that, I want them to know that I was talking with someone who came to one of my speaking engagements and she told me that when she was a kid, she’d get to batting practice early at Shea and there was almost no one in the seats, but often Mrs. Payson was. She said that Mrs. Payson really seemed to get a kick out of all the die-hard fans and kids getting to batting practice early and she never seemed to have a problem with all of them hanging around where she was sitting. Maybe if we could get the people sitting in sections 100-125 to tell the Mets that they should let everyone in 2 and a half hours before the game as long as they were gone without a trace an hour and a half before the game. Maybe then.
Anyway, we missed batting practice. We had a great ride down though. For over a decade our rides down have been devoted to sharing our impressions of our places in time and in the universe (no shit). But this was a particularly poignant ride down because Sonia is graduating from high school tomorrow and I think she’s a bit overwhelmed by the degree to which this can be considered a major turning point in her life.
We parked and hung around our brick, which was cool. And we went and had supper. Sonia was too attached to all of our years of eating hot dogs and knishes from the kosher cart to try anything else. So we got her supper from the kosher cart on the field level with the bearded guy in the green t-shirt whose name tag indicates that he’s a rabbi. Then we went over and I had a not-terrifically-kosher meal of the pulled pork sandwich from Blue Smoke and the grilled shrimp po’boy from Catch of the Day. We ate at one of the stand-up tables and observed how nice the stadium looked. We finished the second half of our meal at a different stand-up table up on the Pepsi Porch, which is where we were going to sit. We saw that one thing that’s nice about the standup tables is that if you’re only two, you need to share them, and so then you can get into a nice conversation with other fans. We had a good time talking with a father and son about the same ages as us. They were Red Sox fans from Yonkers and they had just been to the new Yankee Stadium and thought it was lousy compared to Citi Field. We talked about stadiums and about baseball and we didn’t talk about the most important perception all of us were having, which is that there is nothing quite like going to baseball games with your kid or your parent.
It was cloudy and there was a strange looming sunset and the lights were so bright up around our seats on the Pepsi Porch. Sonia observed that the stadium was beautiful and that the Pepsi Porch was wonderful. I agreed. We both liked the fact that you watched the game as you were facing the entire stadium. You could never have that experience at Shea unless you were in the picnic area. We both noted that we liked the eating areas and plazas of Citi Field. We affirmed that even though she was now just about officially grown, we would come together to Citi Field many times in the future and we would like it and we would always love the Mets and we would never be as at home in Citi Field as we were at Shea and that we would just get used to that fact and accept it. To mark the occasion, I got up and bought a couple of beers. They carded me since they have to card everybody. I brought the two beers back to her seat and gave her her choice. She chose the Beck’s over the Brooklyn Lager because she found it refreshing.
The start of the game was fun. Everybody on both teams was hitting the ball on the ground and I calculated that if things kept up like this, it would be the shortest game in history. Then the heavens opened and everybody got up and huddled under the overhang and we got to look at the whole rest of the stadium with all the people in wet clothes or ponchos huddling under all the many overhangs. It looked like there were all these strange birds in wet gray light. The marshmallow-colored tarp on the infield reflected the stadium lights. Everybody was wet, but everybody still seemed happy to be there. Everybody seemed awfully nice too. This wasn’t the same universe as the talk shows. People were cool and friendly and philosophical. And the generous sprinkling of Cardinal fans, blond, in red, curious about the new stadium, just seemed part of the whole scene.
The rest of the game could have been better, of course. But it was mercifully short. At three hours, it may have been the shortest game ever that included an hour-long rain delay. Livan Hernandez continues to be incredibly impressive. We don’t really have any offense, even though yesterday I said that we kind of did (who needs power when you’ve got grit, yeah right). The outfielders seemed like little league outfielders, the guys who can’t field who are put out there because no one ever hits the ball into the outfield.
The game ended and we heard Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind.” The mood in the gray damp with the brilliant light and the tired, contemplative crowd seemed perfect for that song. Sonia and I went out through the rotunda and then headed across the vast expanse of the new parking lot. We were in a ridiculous mood and we sang silly verses we made up on the spot about the lousy game, to the tune of “New York State of Mind.” This was the kind of thing we used to do when she was eight.
We got into the car and drove home. She posted some pictures on Facebook and worried aloud whether she was a curse on the Mets. Many many people responded to her status, because she has like 700 friends on Facebook. I don’t think I’ve met 700 people in my entire life. Anyway, she got a kick out of that. She made the mistake of saying that she was cold and wet which you should never do if your mother reads your Facebook. Anyway there we were again in the car, after so many years and with so many years to come, me and her driving home from a ballgame.