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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
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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Sleep In The Heart Of Flushing?

Considering the surfeit of extra-inning affairs the Mets have brought us in 2013, you might think something called the Citi Field Sleepover would seem superfluous. Yet the Mets scheduled one (as you may have picked up on from the handful of commercials they ran for it every five minutes), and a hardy band of Mets fans couldn’t have been happier to have plunked down a pretty penny to camp out under the Flushing sky this past Saturday night, with food, entertainment and a once-in-a-lifetime experience all included.

Aftermath of a Civil War reenactment? Nah, it's the Citi Field Sleepover.

Aftermath of a Civil War reenactment? Nah, it’s the Citi Field Sleepover.

A pair of those Metsopotamian loyalists taking the Mets up on their unusual offer consisted of two of Faith and Fear’s favorite people: Rob and Ryder Chasin, father and son who came to our attention in the fall of 2009 when Ryder celebrated his Bar Mitzvah at an otherwise deserted ballpark and invited a flattered yours truly to the festivities. Since then, the Princes and Chasins have made a point of getting together at least once per season, almost inevitably watching the Mets and Rockies tangle on a Tuesday night in August.

When Stephanie and I were at the game with them last week, I learned the guys were going to be part of the Citi Field Sleepover. Thus I prevailed upon Ryder — these days a distinguished high school newspaper editor recently returned from a summer journalism program at Northwestern University — to serve as FAFIF’s special correspondent and let us know what this thing was all about.

Here is the stellar report Ryder Chasin filed after his and his dad’s night under the stars.

***

The Mets often keep us lying awake at night for the wrong reason.

Despite recent improvements, more than half the time they’ve played this year, they’ve lost. They’ve given up approximately a couple of dozen more runs than they’ve scored. And with nearly two months left in the season, the Braves sit above them on a pile of games a discouraging 18 wins high.

Yet Saturday night, as sleeping bags littered the Citi Field grass from foul line to foul line, fringed by a tent-decorated warning track, I didn’t want to go to sleep at all.

Maybe it was because I wasn’t tired. Maybe it was because my adolescent self thought I should be fit enough to pull an all-nighter. Maybe it was simply because I wanted to act contrary to the name of the event, “Citi Field Sleepover.”

In any case, I think I didn’t want to sleep because, amidst the many Met nightmares, it was a night surreal enough to feel like a dream. And if that was the case, if it was a dream, then I didn’t want to wake up.

The surrealistic element of the night came once my dad and I got onto the field, but we didn’t actually start en medias res. We started outside McFadden’s, behind a Shake Shack-long line of the rest of the sleepover faithful, trying to peer above heads and caps and camping packs to guesstimate the wait time until we got in. The “Sleepover Information” packet told us to get there between 5 and 6 PM, and so, evidently just like the other 398 fans on hand, we tried to beat the rush.

At the end of the 45-minute pileup, we passed through a makeshift security checkpoint and presented our waivers — yes, we had to sign waivers — to a bouncer in a maroon polo, the highlight of any sleepover.

But after that, we were in. We were in Citi Field, on a night when the Mets were in another time zone. We were trailblazers, unabashedly tearing down the wall between stadium and dormitory, outfield grass and mattress, Jumbotron and home theater.

And, furthermore, we were hungry.

So, I fixed a plate with a couple of Nathan’s franks, a few slices of Two Boots pizza and a pile of the “Field of Dreams salad” — though it didn’t live up to its cinematic predecessor, as I only dreamed that it had been built with fewer shredded carrots. Top that off with four or five bottles of water, and I had a Citi Field retail-price meal enough to be the showcase on The Price is Right. My dad’s just happy it came with the cost of admission.

On a full stomach, we made our way down to the Bullpen Gate and, quicker than I expected, to the opening in the outfield wall where we witnessed the grand, eye-level unveiling of Citi Field. Already, the grass was covered with blankets and pillows and people, and so we set up camp right in front of second base, close enough to touch the infield dirt if we had been so graciously permitted (curse those darn waivers).

Ryder Chasin and Ed Kranepool do not let the lack of a 7 come between them.

Ryder Chasin and Ed Kranepool do not let the lack of a 7 come between them.

As we were finishing our setup, my dad noticed a young Mets fan, no more than 10 yards away, handing a ball and a pen to an older man in dress shoes. It was Ed Kranepool. Wearing my FAFIF shirt, I went over to take a picture with the former all-time Met hits leader.

“37, 14, 41, 42,” Kranepool said to me, pointing to each individually. “Where’s my number?”

“I don’t pick which numbers they retire,” I said, smiling. “I only wear the shirt.”

Kranepool was my first of two ex-Met pictures on the night, as I snagged one later with Edgardo Alfonzo. Most of the rest of the photography and video, however, was captured at the hallowed Dunk Tank, as I was pressured by my loving father, once again, to hit the target in the center of the clown. It took two turns in line, but I hit the peg with a 73 MPH heater, only to be outdone when a college kid in a Stonybrook T-shirt hit it at 76. We shared a playful acknowledgment of our Dunk Tank prowess, and, while he beat me in speed on the one that counts, I did reach 77 on a throw a few inches off-target. Chalk one up for personal pride, I guess.

Ryder receives excellent advice that leads to the catch of a heretofore t-shirt launch t-shirt.

Ryder receives excellent Edgardo advice that leads to the catch of a heretofore elusive t-shirt launch t-shirt.

We returned to the outfield grass around 8 o’clock to watch the game broadcast on the scoreboard, and stayed there long enough into the game for me to catch my first ever “Pepsi t-shirt launch” t-shirt, though my odds were admittedly a little better than usual. But before too long, my dad and I went back upstairs to sit in the stands and watch the rest of Zack Wheeler’s excellence, Juan Lagares’s sudden opposite-field power and — as Gary Cohen called it — LaTroy Hawkins’s “reluctant” but successful closing.

After the game, and after a trip to Mo’s Zone for midnight snacks, the second half of the double feature began. Although we were shown Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs, there were neither clouds nor meatballs in the New York night sky. Only stars.

That’s when it became surreal.

Lying down in the Citi Field grass, under a starlit sky in the heart of Queens, I realized how ridiculous the whole night was. Four hundred people left the comfort of their homes and their beds for a night to sleep on cold, hard ground. But not just any cold, hard ground. The Mets’ cold, hard ground. The same cold, hard ground where Johan Santana threw his no-hitter; where — to the possible dismay of Mr. Kranepool — David Wright set a new all-time Met hit record; where Matt Harvey continues to contend for the Cy Young; and where the Mets will, fingers crossed, someday win a World Series.

And for the next 50 years — or however long Citi Field sticks around — I can point from my seats at the ballpark or at the screen at a friend’s house and say that I slept right there, right behind second base, close enough to touch the infield dirt (if the waiver had let me).

When the movie was over, both scoreboards played a looping animation of a cartoon sheep jumping over a fence with an eerily superimposed Mr. Met head over where the sheep’s head should have been. Written above it was, “Get some sleep/Count some sheep.”

This mildly unsettling animation, coupled with fathers and sons still playing catch in the outfield, made counting sheep a bit difficult — let alone getting sleep. But I didn’t want to get sleep anyway.

Sure, the Mets give us a lot worth sleeping through between their string of sub-.500 records and generally underwhelming offense. But Saturday night, watching Wheeler from the outfield grass, I understood:

All that sleep doesn’t come void of dreams, even if those dreams might sometimes leave us a little less orange and a little more blue.

This time, luckily enough, I think I erred on the side of orange.

20 comments to Sleep In The Heart Of Flushing?

  • Jo Leather

    Really nice work, impressive writing for a teen!

  • March'62

    Very well written!! I’m wondering why the Mets opted for the ‘Meatball’ movie (withholding Jose Lima reference here)instead of maybe Yearbook episodes or 1969/1986 highlights or the like. Or even the Jackie Robinson story. Or if they wanted to induce their guests to sleep, they could have tried the 2003 year in review. But at least they tapped into most young baseball fan’s fantasies by providing this opportunity. Thanks for sharing the experience.

  • This is great! Now I’m kind of mad I didn’t go.

  • Ryan F

    The big question though… did anyone actually sleep?

    • Ryder Chasin

      Believe it or not, a lot of us finally got to sleep. It wasn’t until two or three, but sleep nonetheless. Was it comfortable? Not so much. Though we turned the grass into a mattress, it wasn’t exactly Tempur-Pedic.

  • This was great. The only thing that would have made it better would have been if they had done this at SHEA STADIUM. I would have given anything to sleep there. But I have one important question about the sleepover nobody has answered yet. What happened if someone had to pee in the middle of the night? Were there portapotties? Did you get to use the clubhouse bathrooms? (Which would be worth the price of admission in itself–”David Wright peed here!”) Seriously, where did you have to go? (It’s important to me if I decide to take my young cousins with me next year.) Thanks. And again, really great article. Nicely done!

    • Ryder Chasin

      The bathrooms actually weren’t as much of a problem as I had expected. No portapotties, but all the bathrooms up on the concourse level were accessible, and there were a couple of bathrooms in the Mo’s Zone closer to the field in case of the unlikely emergency — though those had the longest lines in the morning, of course.

  • Matt

    Terrifically written, immensely enjoyable story. Now I wish I had gone, but I’m glad it went over so well.

  • JPB

    Sounds like a great time!

  • Inside Pitcher

    Great job Ryder!

    And perfect wardrobe choice.

  • Kevin From Flushing

    Sounds fun! I might do it one of these days. Funny that I thought to myself, “I’m not paying that much to sleep on the field,” when I should have been thinking, “I WILL pay that much to play catch on that field!”

    What was the wakeup situation like? Did they play a rooster crowing over the PA at 7am?

    • Ryder Chasin

      The Mets are all too clever to play a rooster… No, they woke us up nice and early — 6 a.m. — to the sound of the CitiField PA guy saying, unnaturally excited, “It’s time to get up, fans,” and introducing both Mr. and Mrs. Met.

  • Dave

    Great article, Ryder. I know that teens can write beyond texting language…my daughter is about to head off to college as a creative writing major and has written 2 award winning novels. So I look forward to Ryder’s NY Times columns in a few years.

    We saw the initial marketing for the event and my wife immediately said “No alcohol? Forget it.” But I bet it was fun anyway.

  • Joe D.

    This was great. Ryder did a fabulous job of sharing his special night with us. Thank you.

  • kjs

    Wonderful, thoughtful writing. Thank you.

  • Joe D.

    Hi Greg,

    Really looked awesome to be there. Would you know if the crowd total was the Mets anticipated or typical for other teams?

    • 80% capacity, approximately. I believe I heard 500 spots available, some 400 sold. Couldn’t say how that compares to other teams running similar promotions.

      • Joe D.

        80 percent of slots sold seems like a good amount of fans.

        Wonder what the contingency plan was for a periodic forecast of heavy rain and lightning – those 400 would not be allowed to sleep outdoors due to safety regulations.

  • Jim

    I agree with Lisa Mets Fan about wishing they had this at Shea. I had the joy of being on the field at Shea three times.1. Escorting my nephew as he ran the bases (I was 40 and had to throw myself against the wall like Lenny) 2. Going to Banner Day with my cheaply written BRING BACK BRUCE BOISCLAIR AND PEPE MANGUEL Pillow Case Banner and scooping a up a handful of dirt and of course last but not least running on the field on Sept 17,1986 when the Mets won the NL East (I still have my grass) but to spend a whole night at Shea well I can only imagine how wonderful it might have been. Maybe someday I will go to a Citi sleepover and it will be great maybe even awesome but it wont compare to being ablle to compare to what it would have been able to spend a night in heaven before I die.