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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 Winning Ways of May 11

You think the Mets bringing in Rod Barajas, bringing up Ike Davis and blotting out Frank Catalanotto with Chris Carter were winning moves? Sure they were. But if this organization really wanted to do nothing but win, they would bring somebody else to the ballpark every single game.

They would bring me.

They want me on that wall. They need me on that wall. They need me somewhere within the walls of Citi Field whenever they play ball.

There is no need for me to be coy about this any longer: I Am Home Field Advantage. Believe in me, Mets. When I’m literally with you, you can do no wrong.

The Mets are 34-11 at the ballpark I didn’t particularly want built when I’m inside it. They’re 8-1 in 2010, including 7-for-7 since Willie Harris besmirched this season’s bid for perfection. They did well with me in attendance last year; they are all but impenetrable with me on hand this year.

Who do you think made this particular Tuesday as Amazin’ as it was? Barajas with his clutch double to the left field corner? Davis with his third tumbling dugout catch (which, unlike his cake-icing grand slam over the foul pole, counted)? Carter the Animal attacking bad luck charm Tyler Clippard in his first Met at-bat? Yeah, whatever.

It was me. I showed up, the Mets won. They needed six runs entering the eighth, but they were going to get them. They were going to get them because they were, eventually, going to pick up my vibe.

Took them longer than usual. For that, I apologize. I was hard to track down Tuesday night. I was all over the place. Perhaps they think I was hiding my vibe from them. I wasn’t. It was a special occasion — besides the six runs in the eighth, I mean.

On May 11, 1987, I was minding my own business, listening to WHN on my Walkman as Rick Aguilera began to lose it in Cincinnati. The Mets lost that Monday night, but I got on a winning streak that’s now at 23 years and counting. That was the night I met my future wife. Four nights later she met the Mets (our first date: Mets 8 Giants 3) and the three of us were off and running from there.

May 11 rolls around, we usually take note of it. These past few years, the Mets have made our anniversary a threesome. In 2007, we spent part of our day at the Met (close enough). In 2008, we double-dated with the Mets and Reds, echoing the same matchup that was in my ears in ’87 (with a better result). Last year, we revisited the neighborhood where we met, Lincoln Square, and giddily clicked pictures of the window at the Barnes & Noble on 66th and Broadway. I tried to imagine my 1987 self imagining this moment: married to the woman I’d just fallen for with my new book about the Mets on display for all to see. But I never had very much imagination about those sorts of things back then.

So May 11 rolls around again and, it happens, somebody offers to sell me, on a Value night, a pair of Field Level tickets for the Mets and Nationals. I probably wouldn’t have bit except I was thinking maybe Stephanie, who almost never wants to go on a weeknight and never ever wants to go when there’s the slightest chance of a chill in the air, would think it would be a fun anniversary outing.

I’ll be damned, she did. It helped that she’s on vacation this week and it helped just as much that she’s been exposed to the Mets for 23 years. The other night when Jeff Francoeur made a nice catch, she let out an unprecedented and enthusiastic “FRENCHY!”

Where the hell did that come from? Oh right, me.

Anyway, one of the selling points of these tickets, besides it being May 11, was that the Mets have widened access to their clubs this season. A Field Level seat means you can wander into the Promenade Club (unlikely that you would from downstairs), the Caesars Club (big whoop, unless it’s cold and/or raining) and the Acela Club.

Stephanie and I spent a memorable afternoon in the Acela Club last November, courtesy of Ryder Chasin upon his ascent to manhood, but I’d never been in there during the actual baseball season. Several times in 2009 I sat on either side of it, not exactly dying to get in but a little curious as to what the fuss was about, or whether there was fuss. For the prices they charge, there ought to be. For the prices they charge, I was never planning on finding out.

But this was going to be May 11. On May 11, we do things we might not otherwise do. Yesterday, I did something I can’t remember having done in at least fifteen years: I made a reservation for dinner. As long as our microwave is working, the only reservation I have regarding dinner is wondering how many preservatives are safe for human consumption. But May 11 is our Night We Met anniversary. This May 11 would present us with the chance to dine finely while overlooking a baseball game.

Couldn’t not do it. And when I called for the reservation and was asked if I wanted a windowside table, I couldn’t not say yes. Oh, there’s a surcharge per person, I was told. Good information to have, but it was too late. Of course I wanted the window. What’s the point of the Acela Club if I can’t see the ballpark? If the rest of the ballpark can’t see me?

We showed up, per our reservation, at 6:45. Somebody with a clipboard greeted us and asked us nicely to show a ticket to prove we were allowed up here, lest we be denied the privilege of willingly forking over beaucoup bucks. We had our ticket. And we forked.

You walk into Acela with your reservation, you’re sent to the front desk. The front desk confirms you, and you are passed along to somebody else with a headset. There’s an army of people in headsets throughout the Acela Club. The Acela Club’s aura is less gracious living than military precision. They are going to get you to that table if it’s the last thing they do.

Correction: The last thing they do is present you with your check. The surcharge is on there. So is everything else. It’s not a cheap night out (never mind that you already bought Field Level tickets so you could be up here). But it’s May 11, so you rationalize your head off. Well, we don’t this very often. Well, I never ate at the Diamond Club. Well, we can buy groceries next week.

Is it worth it? I decided it would be, so it was. Your prix fixe dinner entitles you to unlimited access to a super salad bar (it’s called the Market Table and it’s very generous in its offerings, but really its spiritual ancestor is the Ponderosa) plus a serious entree. Stephanie ordered the swordfish. I went with the lemon chicken. Neither one of us was going hungry. The whole thing was very good and very filling. The service was very courteous and our waitress was extremely friendly, particularly when we mentioned it was our Night We Met anniversary. The field spread out below us. The windows were sealed shut in deference to the gametime temperature of 52 degrees, so we felt rather removed from the action, but the action was there to be taken in from a distance.

The only problem was that dinner was served with an Adam Dunn three-run homer, so that can kill an appetite. (Only kidding — when you’re paying the Acela Club prix, your appetite will remain robust for the duration.) The night was developing as a lovely detour into heretofore untrod territory and, oh by the way, the Mets were going to lose. They were down 3-0, Niese was struggling, let’s try the carrot cake (prix fixe does not include dessert, but Night We Met anniversaries must).

Consumed by the Acela experience, I didn’t realize why the Mets were losing. They were losing because they didn’t think to peer through the window to see me. Remember, I’m the key. If I’m there, they win, but I guess they have to know that I’m there. After three innings, we took our Field Level seats. The Mets apparently didn’t know I was there either. That had to be why Niese got knocked out and Acosta got touched up and the score was 6-1 by the middle of the fifth.

Then it began to rain. Barely, but rain is rain. Me, I sit in light rain at ballgames. I sit — and stand — through gale-force winds. It’s what I do. But Stephanie…not so much. First sign of rain reminded her of why night games before Memorial Day aren’t her cup of tea. It was quite obviously time to take advantage of that Caesars Club access.

This is where all those headsets came into play. They weren’t just for seating Acela Club customers. They were to get the word out to the Mets that I was in the house — me and my winning vibe. They couldn’t confirm it until Stephanie and I settled at a table in the Caesars Club (which should be called the Seavers Club or, better yet, the 41 Club). The headsets went to work; somebody tipped off somebody; somebody else let the dugout know it was safe to start hitting and start winning. I’m pretty sure I saw Jerry Manuel wink at me through one of the TVs over the Caesars bar.

At first, per usual, it was kind of lame in there, with nobody besides us seeming to pay much attention to HD heaven. But then, in the eighth, when the game got intensely interesting, suddenly everybody was watching the Mets at the Mets game. Caesars went from being the place you take your wife to get out of the rain to one of the better Citi Field crowds I’ve ever been in. Sure, it was a little bro-ey in there, but what the hell? The Mets were loading and clearing bases with spectacular alacrity. It deserved the bro treatment. Let us all bump fists like the Romans did! A deep chant of RE-PLAY! went up for Ike’s ghost slam, which charmed Stephanie. She was also amused by Howie Rose’s kvetching about Milwaukee, which she heard in the ladies room prior to the six-run outburst. I love that they pipe play-by-play into the men’s room. It never occurred to me they do the same next door.

Stephanie’s been listening to Howie and Wayne a little bit lately. She’ll get ready for bed in the late innings. The bathroom radio is sometimes tuned to the FAN and she simply doesn’t change it. Or maybe she changes it to the FAN so she can follow along while she brushes her teeth. When did that start happening?

Oh right, 23 years ago.

Everybody’s vibe was perfectly synced as we headed to the ninth. The rain had dissipated and a cup of hot chocolaty water had fortified my bride enough so that we could head back outside to watch Frankie maybe hold a two-run lead. Having gained access to the almighty Excelsior level, we grabbed two of the many empty seats behind first base and watched Ike sacrifice his body to the greater good one more time. In the Mets’ dugout, Ike was grabbing the last out and six Mets were grabbing Ike. In the Citi Field rest rooms, Howie was putting it in the books. On the anniversary of the night we met, we — the Mets and me, Stephanie and me, Stephanie and the Mets — all kept our intertwined winning streaks intact.

The Acela Club was fine, and I enjoyed my introduction to Chris Carter, but what I’m really a big fan of is May 11.

Next Tuesday will definitely be Amazin’, as AMAZIN’ TUESDAY makes its Grand Central Terminal debut at the Two Boots in the Lower Dining Concourse. Read about our Mets reading series here.

17 comments to The Winning Ways of May 11

  • Inside Pitcher

    Happy Anniversary!

  • Dak442

    We hit the Acela Club Saturday, justifying it as an extra Mother’s Day gift for the Missus. Plus the forecast was dicey. I wrote up a lengthy summary of our experience late that night, hit [send], and my computer froze up and I couldn’t get back online.

    I concur with Greg’s account of the Acela Club. It’s pricey, but not much more than Diamond Club was, and the food is better. Though I would have liked more than four of the absurdly delicious ribs for my entree. We were done eating at 1:30, but you are allowed to linger longer (I miss O&A) if you want. We sat there sipping water our friendly waiter Yuri cheerfully refilled for over an hour, until he reminded me that I was, in fact, allowed to go back to the market table for more food if I wished, since “you already paid for it”. So I had another heaping plate of antipasti, and some blintzes. My sole complaint, foodwise, is that at lest some sort of dessert should be included (instead of ala carte at $8) but that’s probably designde to facilitate quicker turnover.

    I wonder if your being forewarned about the window surcharge was a result of my inquiry. When the bill came, I flagged Yuri down: “I thought it was $41 per person”. I was then told about the $10 per person extra you pay in order to see the game that you already paid to see. I would have went for the $30 either way (who goes to a ballpark to sit in a restaurant and watch TV?) but it might have been nice to know about it beforehand.

    I’m 3-0 so far this year! Opening Day, Saturday and last night, which was the most fun game I’ve seen (on TV or in person) in a long time.

    • I must say the other entrees that were being delivered to other tables all looked smashing, including the ribs. Several items called for an additional 5 bucks on top of the already fancy prix, so I forewent them on principle, but if money were no object…if money were no object, I’d have season tickets and I’d be there right now.

      The tables that aren’t window seats do have the advantage of not requiring you scale three staircases for the salads and appetizers and whatnot, but as long as you’re confident of your balance, it doesn’t hurt to work in a little walking between courses.

      • Dak442

        I figure the stair-climbing exercise justified the couple of pounds of prosciutto, cappicolo and assorted cheeses consumed.

        Strange – when we left the Acela in the 6th, the bar area was packed. I would have attributed it to corporate types or other non-fans who lucked into free tickets and had nothing else to do, but almost to a man (and woman) they were wearing jerseys and other Met regalia. I guess some people really like TV.

        • Same thought struck me in Caesars. Plenty of Mets regalia on the disinterested patrons. I guess they were just indulging their “I won’t look so I can change the luck” superstitions.

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  • CharlieH

    Happy Anniversarary…

  • I’d argue the view of that window at B&N was also worth a $10 surcharge.

  • Ken K.

    In 1965 when I was 17 my Dad took our family (me, Mom, and sis) to the Diamond Club for dinner before a Met game (vs. the Cardinals, I rememebr that, my Mom took a liking to Phil Gagliano because he was Italian like her).

    For the rest of thier lives (Mom until last year at age 89) they always recalled that evening as the worst food AND the worst dining experience they ever had. It became a family joke over the years (eg. Dad: “Where do you want to eat tonight?” Mom: “Anywhere but the Diamond Club”.)

    Needless to say, they never went back, and, when I got older and could afford it myself, neither did I.

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