We were not shown the time machine that would make it possible for us to adjust our career choices in order to earn what it will take to afford a seat at the Excelsior Club conference table.
—The author, after visiting the Citi Field Preview Center, September 27, 2007
First class is what's wrong, honey. It used to be a better meal. Now it's a better life.
—Dorothy Boyd to son Ray, Jerry Maguire, 1996
Omir Santos is no mere Santos. And a seat on the Excelsior Level isn't your typical perch at Citi Field, at least not as I've experienced it in its young life.
It was on something of a lark that for the first post-Shea Mets home game I ever bought tickets to I went for something identified as Caesars Club seats. Back in March, I had no idea what that was, but I figured the proverbial Monday night in April against the Marlins — a Value Date during which the true value was delivered by our new starting catcher and a return to form by an old starting pitcher — would lack the demand later, sexier appointments might inspire, thus giving me a semi-affordable shot at how the other half would be living. Nothing against Porches, Promenades and the other proletariat positionings placed up and away from the action, mind you. Just wanted a feel for what I'd be railing against.
I can see why I will resent this level. Because I want in. “I want to go to there,” as 30 Rock's Liz Lemon would put it. I want very much to be in da club. I won't be, not at those well above 50 cent prices most non-Value Date nights carry. Yet now I understand what they were trying to tell us at the Citi Field Preview Center nineteen months ago when I had a hunch that I should've gotten rich or died trying in anticipation of the day when the pretty nice seats for Mets games would grow out of my general reach.
This is the World Class part of Citi Field. Or at least it's the phenomenal upgrade that we were promised as we lined up for propaganda and flowers at that Preview Center. Taste of the City might be the home of the tangy tacos, but Excelsior is where they keep the good china.
If you've ever squeezed a packet of Dijonnaise, you can relate to understanding Excelsior as the Logezzanine. That's all it is, really. If they took Mezzanine, scaled it down and lowered it a little to more or less where Loge was, you'd have Excelsior. You'd be covered, you'd have some sightlines (not all of them — still couldn't see a portion of the outfield, right this time) and you'd feel if not that ballyhooed intimacy, then at least familiarity with your 2009 New York Mets. That's all any Sheafolk could want, structurally: not an improved-in-spots Upper Deck, but an objectively better Mezzanine.
I'd strongly suggest taking a stroll through Excelsior, getting a sense of the amenable ballpark view, maybe sampling some of the fare at the Caesars Club if the Mets are up by five or six runs and you're comfortable following the action on a few dozen HD screens for a couple of innings…but you won't be doing that because this is the part of the park where they turn you away if you flash the wrong ticket. The right ticket can be yours for the correct combination of presidential flashcards — that's baseball in 2009 — but you're on your own there. I'm on my own after this fluky Value Date purchase. Each of my tickets Monday night was $45, about the upper limit of what I can/will ante for a single game of a nonhistoric nature. Hence, next homestand, when the Bronze Buccaneers sail in from Pittsburgh, the same very nice if not particularly spectacular right field seat in Section 308 would cost me $60. A glimpse at the Silver-tinged World Champion Phillies from that very same longitude and latitude would set me back $75. A fan-friendly quote no doubt exists to remind me there are affordable seats up in Promenade, that for $15 Bronze and $19 Silver, I can sit in something that isn't as high as the Upper Deck at Shea. And indeed, I've sat there four times already, in the company of good and gracious friends with whom I could gather anywhere and feel enriched.
But y'know what? These seats are better. Not the best, but better. Better and essentially unaffordable to me and, I'm guessing, most people I know. Maybe that's my fault for having waited 'til I'm deep in middle age to achieve a scintilla of accomplishment and a nugget of recognition in my chosen field — or for going into writing instead of hedge fund management when that kind of thing was clubworthy. Maybe it's my fault that I cheered as Beltran was signed and Delgado and Santana were acquired, forgetting not just that you get what you pay for but you pay for what you get. Maybe I shouldn't have put such an emphasis all winter on shelter and groceries. Or perhaps I've been so brainwashed by sports that it is I, the forty-year loyal fan, who feels I've failed myself and my team by not being able to sit in pretty nice seats for its games whenever I wish. I'm not asking for Sterlings, Deltas and Ebbetses. I'm asking for an occasional evening in the Logezzanine with a price tag that doesn't make me wince hard. I don't remember Loge or Mezzanine being almost uniformly and almost unfathomably prohibitive. Excelsior, with its Caesars Club entrée, kind of is. I expect to see Omir Santos hit another grand slam before I can see paying more than I did for a single evening in Section 308.
Not that Santos doing what he did wouldn't look good from any sightline.
Read it on the level of your choice: Faith and Fear in Flushing: An Intense Personal History of the New York Mets, available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or a bookstore near you. Keep in touch and join the discussion on Facebook.
Stay up after tonight's Value Date to listen, come midnight, to WOR 710 AM when I join Joey Reynolds to talk Faith and Fear and whatever else comes up.