How is it remotely possible that Shea and I got to its last year together without me and its bleachers making mutual acquaintance? It's no longer a relevant question because (cue the Colbertian fanfare), I DID IT!
So much excitement for sitting as far from home plate (non-vertically) as you possibly can, but it's been my mildly holy grail since 1979 when the bleachers first went up in left field. I've been almost haunted by them. That fall, eleventh grade, Joel and I took a bogus class called Business Law whose textbook offered a hypothetical verbal contract between two people regarding the resale of two tickets to “the bleachers at Shea Stadium,” which was strange because there had been no bleachers at Shea Stadium when the book was published. We informed our teacher of how bizarre we found this example. He didn't care. And neither did the Mets. The Mets couldn't just sell bleachers tickets like every other team that had a bunch of benches. They made it a thing…a generally unavailable thing.
I'll get there eventually, I thought. Sure, they say they're only for groups of 50 or more, but those bleachers have to open their golden chain link fence to the likes of me. I'll get with a group. I'll make 49 friends. I'll find a use for these seat cushions they keep giving me that would just be perfect under my rear end out there. I just know I'll reach those bleachers.
But I never did. Never did the Pepsi can-or-bottle thing after it became the Pepsi Picnic Area; just didn't have the Wednesday afternoons free to stand in line. Once in a while, usually when it was freezing and the Mets were putrid, mets.com would invite me to rush over if I printed something out. That didn't work for me either. But my chance will come. I know it will. I would go on to sit in Diamond View Suites and Metropolitan Clubs and right behind home plate and adjacent to a dugout and in front of Tommie Agee's marker and within peeling distance of the Apple and all the way up in Row V where the world doesn't get any higher. I'd sat everywhere except the one place I really wanted a crack at.
The seasons passed. The opportunities did not present themselves. Until today.
I wasn't attached to a group per se, except for the traditional all-star cast of Faith and Fear's extended family (Jason, Emily, Joshua). Our in was a fundraiser for the Epilepsy Foundation of Long Island, part of the Jack Lang Day festivities. For the first time I could remember, crashing the gates of the bleachers was as simple as buying a ticket, one that included a charitable component and a little buffet action.
Hell yes! Bleachers here I came!
I'm happy to report they didn't disappoint. They were as exotic as they were accessible. It was like being at Shea and having Shea in front of you and being in another Shea all at the same time.
Why did they hide this from me for nearly 29 years? I loved it for some reason. For many reasons, actually.
• There was the legendary picnic tent, at least from the time somebody handed me a bureaucratically tangled wristband until the setup was arbitrarily put away in the middle innings. It wasn't extravagant, but it was the picnic tent. All that was missing was Mike Piazza taking Ramiro Mendoza to its roof.
• There was the Keyspan sign not as an unimaginable target but as a tall neighbor.
• There were the championship flags over my left shoulder.
• There was a bathroom with no lines.
• There was Mr. Met, a pro's pro who gave Joshua a big league hug and his mom ample opportunity to fish out her camera. Honest to god, the difference between Mr. Met and Sandy the Seagull is the difference between the majors and single-A.
• There was a brief glimpse inside the Braves bullpen, a long enough look to cast an effective evil eye on the otherwise impenetrable Tim Hudson.
What I missed in sightlines to the infield was more than made up by understanding a little better what fly balls look like to the outfielders. We couldn't see DiamondVision but we heard it just fine. And when the organized fun of the eighth-inning singalong broke out (“I'm A Believer,” an honorable selection if you have to have one at all), it was kind of kicky when the ooohs boomeranged back at us from the regular seats.
The regular seats…how the other 99/100ths lived. Poor saps. They didn't get to stretch out in the sun. They didn't get to stamp their feet and make aluminum noise. They didn't get to wander around and around a four-row fiefdom like Joshua did. They didn't get not just their choice of ziti or pasta salad but BOTH! It may come as a shock to my system Sunday afternoon to learn the mezzanine doesn't offer the same all-you-can eat ethos.
It helps to be 1-0 in games at which I've sat in the bleachers. After Friday night's “don't just do something, stand there” approach to offense, I was wary that Saturday would wind up a wasted day in the Pepsi Panic Area. But, no, Gustavo Molina and the Mets used their allotted one inning of scoring to collect enough runs to withstand the slings and arrows of Braves dreaded and unfamiliar. John Maine gritted his teeth through five and it took a bullpen of millions to hold them back, but a win is a win — and though there were no shots over its fence, sitting at last in Shea's bleachers turned out to be a personal home run.