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.
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).
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.
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.