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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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The Tenth Game of the Rest of My Life

First of all, I'm crazy about the President, Josh. I've been crazy about him for longer than you've known who he was. And I'll keep poking him with a stick. That's how I show my love.

—Amy Gardner on her gadfly tendencies, The West Wing

With no flourishes or ruffles, a personal milestone of sorts was established earlier this month, one that you might say was almost a dozen years in the making.

On the last weekend of August 1997, I attended back-to-back Mets-Orioles games at Camden Yards. Those were my third and fourth games at the Birds' nest, making Camden a solid second on my ballpark list in terms of most games seen (it had been tied with Yankee Stadium and Veterans Stadium with two apiece). Through 2008, I'd notched seven contests from OP@CY in the “Elsewhere” section of my Log, certifying Oriole Park at Camden Yards a solid if perpetually distant No. 2 behind Shea.

On May 10, Citi Field passed Camden Yards for second place when I made it to my eighth Mets game of 2009. Unless I move to Baltimore immediately and become a big-time Orioles fan — or go anywhere else and switch allegiances, I suppose — second place belongs to Citi Field probably forever.

The current standings (games that count only):

1) Shea Stadium — 415

2) Citi Field — 10

3) Oriole Park @ Camden Yards — 7

4) Yankee Stadium II* — 5

5) Wrigley Field — 4

*The “renovated” version that opened in 1976 and closed in 2008.

By week's end, Citi Field's total is slated to rise. It will, like the Mets' Mojo of a decade ago, keep on risin'. Citi Field is here to stay in my life. Yours too, of course, but you probably arrived at that conclusion sooner than I did

Citi Field's probation period is over. I've been to ten games, not counting an exhibition and various walk-throughs. My approach to it as a stranger in a strange land has been altered. It's still a little unfamiliar, I'm still not wholly used to it, I still have my issues with aspects of it and I'm still hyperconscious of my surroundings, but it's no longer some new ballpark whose mysteries consume me. It's where I go to ballgames. It's where I go to Mets games. I find it hard to spit out that it's my home park, seeing as how that phrase will always be reserved for what no longer stands next door to it, but in all practicality it is.

It's either Citi Field or nothing at this point. I'm not prepared to go to nothing.

Maybe it was reaching double-digits sooner than I ever expected. I'd had it as a long-term — like September — goal to beat Camden's total in 2009. I can't believe how quickly Oriole Park fell. Maybe it was the glance to the left where there had been a moderately comforting pile of rubble all season but where now there is just asphalt that is part of more asphalt. Deep down, as long as there was a little something left of Shea, I clung subconsciously to the notion that it was somehow not completely gone, even if a pile of rubble was nothing more than a pile of rubble. But there is, at last, nothing left of Shea and it is completely gone. Its commemorative base markers are down and the rubble's been cleared. There is, at long last, no physical evidence that until very recently there used to be a ballpark right there. There's only the ballpark that is there now, and that's the one I went to for the tenth time Monday night.

The Mets came home. After San Francisco, after Los Angeles, after Boston, the Mets came home. Citi Field was not a strange land Monday night. Citi Field was where they needed to be and, by association, where I needed to be. I needed to see the Mets in home uniforms, even if they wore what appeared to be Nationals caps (it took me about four innings to get straight that I didn't necessarily want the guys in the red hats striking out). I needed them to come off the road, away from the traps and the turmoil that came close to swallowing their season alive but didn't. The Mets needed home cooking. The hot plate's plugged in a little to the east of where it used to be, but that's just a matter of wiring. The Mets came home. It was good to have them back where they belong.

Where I belong, too, I guess.

The tenth game of the rest of my life yielded a positive result through torpid means. When the Foxwoods Resort or whoever sponsors it now turning point of the game requires an off-camera conference of six or more minutes, you know you're getting a later train than you'd like. But if you're going home with three Gary Sheffield RBI and a win in your pocket, you don't mind. You'll wait six minutes for the umpire's finger to twirl definitively in your direction.

I waited in style and comfort befitting a traveler whose flight to Charlotte had been delayed due to mechanical trouble. Monday night was my second trip to the Logezzanine, what the Mets refer to as the Excelsior level. Because I came home in late April half-raving about and half-cursing at the existence of this hidden in plain sight Loge-Mezzanine hybrid — raving because it was nicer than where I'd sat previously, cursing because except for a few Value dates it was prohibitively expensive — Stephanie requested a looksee when the prices would be relatively accommodating. Monday night with the Nationals equaled just such a paradigm, so I grabbed a couple of “reasonable” $45 tickets and gained us admission to the rarefied air of Not Promenade.

It's still nice. It's still not worth putting on a pedestal beyond what good ol' Mezz used to be. It still includes access to that airport lounge they call Caesars Club. I'd happily wait for my flight to be called there. I happily waited for the flight of Gary Sheffield's game-changing home run to be called correctly there. I felt kind of silly, otherwise, munching away in a room at a ballpark while a ballgame was going on out of view. So did Stephanie, though she revealed she's never much cared for eating at her seat (the activities one takes for granted when one grows up partaking in them) which is how we wound up in there for the bottom of the sixth. Citi Field doesn't need a lounge filled with high-def screens showing nothing but an in-progress Mets game. Everywhere else in the world needs that lounge. Imagine how much you'd enjoy everywhere else in the world if that service were in fact available.

Our right field, last row Logezzanine experience, pretentiously isolated from the heart of Citi civilization as we were, put us in mind of the Third Ring of the New York City Ballet…except maybe for the way the ushers at Lincoln Center don't pace behind you cursing out misstepping dancers the way our green-jacketed guy dismissed Parnell and Putz every time they threw ball one. When I find myself enthusiastically spending a stray Sunday at the ballet, do you know what I wish for? A Caesars Club-type refuge: dozens of TVs beaming the Mets game, and maybe a few snacks. There is not a setting in the Western world that wouldn't benefit from the addition of a vaguely Mets-oriented faux sports bar…except for a ballpark where you've got the ballgame itself to entertain you.

Otherwise, the “club” feels like a high school cafeteria that nobody who really knows the school spends their lunch period in, not with everything else that's available on or near campus. I don't really get the exclusivity angle that permits only people who have tickets on that level to come in and pony up for a roast beef sandwich — they didn't restrict access to the TGI Friday's when I went to what was then called Bank One Ballpark, and this isn't even as special as what they had at the BOB. In Phoenix you could see the field from your table; from Caesars you can see the William A. Shea memorial parking lot.

Logezzanine would be an unqualifiedly fine place to watch a ballgame, but the Mets took what should be a simple, swell middle tier of seating, cloaked it in “amenities” and priced it out of reasonable most nights. I assume they have a business model that works for them, but if they lowered the tag on Excelsior seats a bit and opened up the club to anybody and everybody who wandered by and was willing to indulge their curiosity, the environment would probably feel less balletic on that level — and they'd make more money overall moving roast beef sandwiches on novelty alone. Get people walking through there, they'll find something to spend on. It's a sensation endemic to Citi Field.

I grant you this is not a real problem, just a ballpark problem, and not as pressing a matter as the slices of outfield you can't see or the evidence of Mets history that remains camouflaged. I'd like everything to work better, though, not because I don't like Citi Field, but because I do. I'm rooting for Citi Field to work as well as it possibly can. It is my home park, which means I feel a vested interest in its potential, my tone and tendency to list grievances notwithstanding. If it's going to be my home park, I want it to be the best home park it can be. As much as I adored Shea Stadium, I never stopped detecting its drawbacks or informally advising its keepers on how they might improve it. Their ultimate answer was tear it down and replace it. I don't think that's an option with Citi Field for a few decades, so ideally its paying customers and those who operate it should join forces toward an ever brighter tomorrow. As one of our esteemed blolleagues recently reminded me, we're supposed to have a voice in this. It's our place. I just want as much of it as possible to feel that way, and not merely by default because it's Citi Field or nothing.

Looking for something to do while umpires confer on whether a fly ball has cleared the fence or not? Try 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.

17 comments to The Tenth Game of the Rest of My Life

  • Anonymous

    It's our place.

    I was thinking just that very thought on my first nocturnal journey to the Citi last night…
    This is the first stadium that is truly, unequivocally mine.
    The Polo Grounds was may grandfather's. He spent many many hours there and it truly was his home, in a time made up of cigar stores, haberdashers and barbershops. As he aged, he longed to share it with my Dad, who accomodated when he could.
    Shea Stadium was my father's. He was 38 years old when it opened — right in its demographic wheelhouse, as it were, as I was for Sesame Street. He spent many hours there and graciously invited me in at the age of 8. When able to get tickets on my own, I returned the favor. He always said one of the best Father's Day gifts I ever gave him was tickets for the 2 of us for a twi-night double-header in '83, which –I think. Greg, help me out here — was Keith Henandez's first NYC appearance in a Met uni, and one of whose games was pitched by some fella named Feaver or Deaver or something like that. I had a clue my Dad wasn't much longer for this world when — after a drizzly near-loss vs. the Yankees in 2007 — he didn't want to go to games anymore.
    CitiField is mine, and I relish the opportunity to mark it as my forebears did theirs.

  • Anonymous

    I'm enjoying discovering the Citi as it discovers itself. Although I'm only at 5 games. I blame unemployment, because I really wanted to try out the Ceaser's club via a value game. I'm quickly collecting ticket stubs from different areas of the ballpark, just to truly understand the place. I've done Pepsi Porch, Right Field Reserved (fair territory), Promenade, Promenade Infield, and spending a whole game on my feet roaming. I haven't yet been stuck watching a game where I've been unhappy watching. (Despite my paltry 2-3 record) I haven't yet been disappointed by food yet, and I've had so much of it I'm working on a Citi Field Food Guide all by myself. I had a Scottish Pale Lager and a Lasagna at a picnic table sitting in the shadow of the old Home Run Apple. I've had fries, and an 'exclusive' Blanche De Queens while watching the huge scoreboard tv from the Taste of NY concourse. And I've had regular 'ole budlight with Kowalski overlooking the field from the LF Promenade outfield.
    I assumed Shea would be fully gone by this homestand. I wonder if people will still take pictures of the 'nothing' there.
    Hopefully as the seasons go on, some of these changes and tweaks will happen. Maybe they'll realize they should let people walk through the Logezzanine. Find a better, or taller, spot for the championship banners that doesn't block the scoreboard or Pepsi sign, etc. It'll help that it's the Mets place ,and not the City's place that the Mets play in. a wee bit less red tape

  • Anonymous

    “Polo Grounds was my grandfather's. He spent many many hours there and it truly was his home, in a time made up of cigar stores, haberdashers and barbershops.”
    The Polo Grounds was mine too but willing to bet you a nickle I'm not nearly old enough to be your grandfather!
    While hoping Citifield becomes my new home, with ticket prices being what they are, it might become more my hotel for those rare vacations (and coincidentaly, which is cheaper to purchase on – a ticket or a night's stay at the Holiday Inn?).

  • Anonymous

    As Archie Bunker said, “No intense offended.”

  • Anonymous

    I haven't thought about my 'other stadium visits' much. I'm at three at citizen's bank(Probably add a fourth this season. Maybe a fifth if I try to swing that day/night doubleheader they'll inevitably plan for July 4th weekend). At least 3 at Yankee, but I'm assuming there were probably more when I was littler that I don't remember. I don't have an official count on Shea, My rough guess would be around 200. I'll never know exactly when Citi surpasses that.

  • Anonymous

    My wife and I are going to CitiField for the first time for Wednesday night's game. Since it's to celebrate our anniversary, I splurged on Ebbets Club seats, and I'm rewarded with my largess by it being a Johan game (weather permitting). Not something I'd spend that much money on for just any old reason, but I'm looking forward to it!

  • Anonymous

    Wait, you've been to 5 games already at YS2, or only 5 games total at both Yankee Stadia? If it's the former, I'd like to introduce myself. I am your long-lost cousin/nephew/pal/whatever, and I'd like to be remembered in your will, seeing as how you're obviously quite wealthy. If it's the latter — Really?? A lifetime in NY and only 5 games at Yankee Stadium? That's sad. I currently live in DC, but in my Levittown youth, when the Mets were away, the Yanks were home. Yes, the ushers and fans were surly and yes, I hated the team that played there (though there was always a team to root for playing AGAINST the Yank-Mes). I mean — Babe Ruth!

  • Anonymous

    I refer to the Yankee Stadium that was “renovated” prior to 1976 as Yankee Stadium II. It was billed as “the new Stadium” when the wraps were taken off it, thus I took it at its word that it was different from the one before it. It was only later, in the late '90s, when there was a need for a pleasing narrative that insisted it was all one long unbroken chain of greatness from 1923 to the present that it was sold as the exact same ballpark as YS I.
    Haven't been to YS III yet. Through the kindness of a Mets fan with connections I will be going in late June and look forward to reporting back.

  • Anonymous

    Mex's first Mets appearance at Shea was the twinighter of Monday June 20, 1983; Seaver (or Feaver) pitched in a twinighter two nights later. There were loads of makeups that week against the Cardinals.

  • Anonymous

    “Whatever” as he would also say :) :).

  • Anonymous

    OK, so we were at the 6/20 twin bill — I remember it being a Monday.

  • Anonymous

    Happy anniversary and Citi seal breaking!

  • Anonymous

    Hi Greg,
    Was at YS1 numerous times as a kid (rooting against them, of course). By 1966 it was depressing to be there as the Yankees averaged under 16,000 in a canaverous park holding way over 60,000. Not only did it appear empty but it was old and run-down as well (especially when compared to brand new Shea Stadium).
    But in 1967, Mike Burke had the entire place re-painted, both inside and out, cleaned it up and added a Yankee history exhibit allowing fans to listen to historic play-by-plays through a telephone (unique for the time).
    The park was 44 years old but it does show that Yankee ownership at least took more pride in it's home than ours did when it started to get on in years.

  • Anonymous

    Citi is currently tied for second in my attendance log at three games, with Fenway and Wrigley. It has already grown on me. We splurged on Excelsior seats for a value game vs Pittsburgh. The club is magnificent. If I can afford more visits there my routine will be the same – arrive two hours early and eat steak sandwiches at a table like a gentleman rather than juggle dinner and beer in a seat.
    I went to Yankee Stadium v.2 on four occasions and went home happy every time: Seaver's 300th, a U2 concert ,the Mlicki game, and last years' Papal Mass. With today's prices and dearth of business freebies, it'll be a long time before I see v.3.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, the 1976 rebuild was awful. Aesthetically, it ruined both the exterior and interior (disclaimer: I was 11 in 1976, too young to travel to the Bronx by myself — at least the Bronx of 1976 and prior — so I don't remember YS1). Practically, the rebuild added nothing, as YS2 still had no parking, lousy concessions and poor sight lines. Nonetheless, it was still the SAME PLACE where Ruth, Gehrig, Dimaggio et al played.
    I gotta say, 5 games from 1977-2009 is kinda low. I hate the team and I dislike the American League, but I always enjoyed going to YS2 at least 5 times per season, despite its shortcomings.

  • Anonymous

    The upper facade became the most famous part of YS1 and had it been retained, along with the individual light stations, YS2 would have more closely resembled the original structure. Even moreso had they continued using the original bullpens in left and right.
    Instead, the old bullpens turned into empty corridor space seperating the stands and bleachers while extra rows were added to the upper deck, topped only by a bank of lights.
    Still, the renovated stadium was hailed by most when it re-opened in 1976 and few seemed to care about the loss of architecture – the only complaint was those added rows were way too high up and far away (which is funny since nobody complained about the distance from the seats to the field at Shea when it opened in 1964). I'm glad to see with YS3 a return to the original look (although it should have included death valley and the bullpens).
    To really get the feel of the original stadium all they need to further do is get the likes of a Mel Allen, Red Barber, Jerry Coleman, Frank Messer and Bill White (sorry Phil, you were a nice guy but probably the inspiration for the three clowns (Sterling Kay and Waldman) they have in the television and radio booths today.

  • Anonymous

    I realized that the biggest problem, for me, is that it's still too generic when you are sitting there looking out. The “let's go mets” doesn't stand out compared to the crappily designed advertising that's all around it (and god does that look godawful when you're driving toward the place from the whitestone, but that's another post). The bridge is there, but it doesn't say “citi field” yet.
    When we were at Fenway, I noted that one of the reasons the place looked so neat is that the large advertisements are either styleized and part of the ballpark (John Hancock, Coca Cola) or they are in Fenway Green and white. The only color advertisements are small.
    So when you look in or look out, nothing says “This is Citi Field” distinctively. When you look out at CBP, there's that huge light-up Phillies logo. That damned bell is always in your line of vision. And of course the city is behind it.
    At the House of Evil, there are those damned friezes.
    I'll stop this now and make it a blog post. But I think that is the biggest problem. Or at least one of them.
    Thanks for the nod. It's nice to hear from such an august colleague, whose knowledge and experience surpasses just about anyone's, that I'm not wrong about this. And I hope everyone puts pen to paper and lets the Mets know how they feel.