- Faith and Fear in Flushing - http://www.faithandfearinflushing.com -

Letter to My Unborn Ballpark

Dear Citi Field,

Hello. We don't know each other yet, but I will be one of the fans who, if nothing terrible happens to either one of us, will be keeping you company during the first years, hopefully decades, of your life. I've been looking at pictures of you since you were conceived and even grabbed a few glimpses of you developing from a distance. Last night, because my friend parked in his car on a street that may not even exist [1] by the time you're up and running (it barely exists now), I came as close as I have yet to seeing what you look like inside.

Once you're truly born, I won't be able to see any of that because you'll be covered with grass and bricks and everything else that is supposed to make you special. You're a long way from being with us in full but you're also obviously and clearly on your way. I could see that as I walked around you before and after Tuesday night's game. You and I are going to be spending a lot of time together starting in April 2009 so I'd like us to commence getting acquainted.

You don't have a lot to show or tell me yet, so I figure it's up to someone like me — an actual Mets fan — to get you up to speed on what we're all about. Last night is a terrific jumping-off point.

I went to the Mets game last night. I do that a lot. It's folks like me who are the reason you are being born. The people who gave you your name (which I'm dreadfully sorry [2] about) might tell you different, that you're also there to be the flagship of a “multifaceted strategic marketing and business partnership,” but no, you're there solely for us, the Mets fans. Those who will fawn over you at first you may not see that much as time goes along, but we will be there with you and for you long after the novelty of your birth has passed. And you will be there for us. That's how it works between baseball fans and their ballpark.

I know your older brother very, very well. I've known him a very, very long time. I will only know him for a short time longer but after last night, I learned something about him: I learned that there's always more to discover in a ballpark. That's going to be great news for you and me when we're together.

Just so you know, your older brother and I go back 35 seasons now. I've visited with him on about 350 occasions. So you'd think I would know all there is to know by now, right? But no, your brother keeps surprising me.

For example, last night I went to the game with three gentlemen who have known your older brother even longer than I have. You'd think that as Mets fans of such standing, we'd get some sort of royal treatment, but we're just like anybody else who makes the trip to see him. We sit where our tickets tell us to sit. That's how it works at ballgames. I hope it still does when we're coming to see you. In this case, we sat deep in the right field loge. Do you know what a loge is? Goodness, I don't even know if you're going to be born with one of those. Since I haven't come across any other loges anywhere else, I'm guessing you won't.

Don't feel bad, Citi. You'll have levels all your own, but a loge can be a special place. It was last night. We were just inside the foul pole and far back enough so seeing the scoreboard was kind of an adventure. Me and my three companions each took turns trundling down the steps of our section to peek at the out-of-town scores. We were like couriers on a mountain expedition, each bringing back progressively better news from far-away lands like Toronto and Milwaukee.

Doesn't sound ideal, does it? But, actually, it added to the fun we were having, and make no mistake, we were having lots of fun. I don't think I had ever sat precisely where we were last night, but I enjoyed a whole new angle on the Mets game from there. Fancy that — 35 seasons of coming to see your older brother and he showed me views I hadn't seen.

There were moments when fly balls were mostly rumor and we had to hold our breath to divine whether they were caught or landed over the fence or what exactly, but that just added to the suspense. In the meantime, I could peer over at the side of the scoreboard and notice holes I had never noticed before, get a sideways glance at the Home Run Apple (I didn't know it stood on a platform) and when I got ambitious, I could walk a couple of sections over and stare directly down at the Mets' bullpen. I had more legroom than I ever had before and I think the end of Row H, Section 29 in loge is the only spot your older brother offers where I haven't had anybody block my view (particularly of the third base line, which came in very handy in the twelfth inning) or nudge me to get up to let them pass through. I felt we were in our own little village out there.

Plus, the seat itself came in very handy when, as has become my custom amid winning rallies, I glued myself into it as bedlam began to unfold. I have a lot of almost-involuntary rituals [3] and superstitions [4], Citi, and I trust you'll grow familiar with them just as your older brother has.

It wasn't just me and my three friends. There were nearly 48,000 of us on hand to see the Mets and the Giants. I guess that's a number that will be out of your reach even once you start to grow up. It doesn't necessarily make you a lesser ballpark, just different. Right now with your older brother hosting crowds like that every weekend and most weeknights, it seems a little offputting to think they've limited you to 45,000 of us. Weird angles that don't let you see all the scoreboard or field and seats that make you squeeze your legs in with one or two exceptions are supposed to be a thing of the past with you and that should be nice. But you should know that on a night like last night, none of those inconveniences mattered with your older brother. They never do.

You and your older brother will have one thing in common, the most important thing. You will have Mets games just like he has. Well, I hope you have a Mets game like the one he had last night [5]. I have to be honest, Citi, I think it will take you a long time to grow that certain something that makes a ballpark and a ballclub mesh the way your older brother and our team do with us. Then again, they've had it for a long time, so maybe not. Still, it's hard to fathom that what I saw last night could take place in any other ballpark in the world.

Hey, I've prattled on so much that I haven't really told you about the game itself. I tend to do that. You'll hold so many ballgames that you'll tend to forget a lot of the details as you grow older, but there are always going to be a few when you remember the feeling more than anything. Last night's was one of those games. And last night felt great, especially at the end, maybe even more especially in the moments leading up to the end.

You're eventually going to be soaked in the legend of the Mets (if the people who tend to you are doing their jobs correctly) and you'll learn all the names and the dates and what they mean, but there's one man in particular, a relief pitcher, who had a very shall we say spotty history with your older brother. He did some good things when he was a Met, but they always seemed secondary to the absolutely abominable things he did to the Mets. When he went to play for other teams, he was not remembered kindly. And when he came back to visit your older brother wearing the wrong uniform…hoo-boy! Let's just say that last night he showed up and did everything we wanted. That's probably the key reason last night felt so great.

I'll bet you're going to laugh when I tell you this, Citi, but I read something yesterday that said New Yorkers were “in a funk” [6] over how another team was doing. What I experienced last night was the total opposite. Most of the 48,000 people who were with your older brother at the end of the evening were positively euphoric over what they had just seen — a pitcher's duel between two young and mostly untouchable guns; two near-winning rallies squelched in a fashion that made us nearly give up; two shortstops with Hall of Fame potential doing what's made them famous; that relief pitcher I mentioned doing what's made him infamous (when you're old enough, I'll attempt to explain the balk rule to you if I can ever figure it out myself); and, finally, a walkoff blast that sailed somewhere in the vicinity of our obstructed view to snatch victory from defeat — and they've seen a lot of late to be euphoric about!

Come to think of it, we were all just like the Mets: jumping up and down and slapping each other on the back and hugging and cheering when the game was over. There was so much utter happiness at Shea Stadium last night, just like there's been so many times in the 35 seasons I've known him. That's one reason nights like last night are extremely special, because one incredible game touches off memories of other incredible games and even some mundane games we've lived through with your older brother. It's all part of that ballclub-ballpark-ballfan relationship I mentioned.

As we walked by you on our way out, I told the guys I came with, “Citi Field is going to have a lot going for it, but it won't have the game we just saw.” Someday, maybe you will. I can't wait for that day. But then again, I can't wait to see what else your older brother has in store for me.

Your day will come. Until then, I remain,

Eventually Faithfullly Yours