It must have looked like a scene straight out of Bull Durham, but last night at around 11:00 PM the Mets arrived at their new home and took to the field.
Ben Shpigel of the NY Times gives us a fascinating glimpse into what it must have felt like as the players wandered about their new digs with such wonder and amazement.
“I’m overwhelmed,” Bobby Parnell said. “The other guys, they’re used to this.”
Their curiosity piqued, players wheeled their hand luggage to their lockers and started to explore. John Maine and Mike Pelfrey bounded down the steps, past the sprint track. “Mainer, you want to race?” Pelfrey said.
Ascending another set of stairs, they funneled into the dugout, joining Delgado and Carlos Beltran. Everyone looked up, almost instinctively, and then out, to the fences, scoping out the dimensions.
Ryan Church, pointing toward the 415-foot marker in right-center field, told Delgado, “I don’t think they made it deep enough.”
For the occasion, the lights had been turned on — “I should have brought sunscreen,” Darren O’Day said — and the grass glistened. But with rain in the forecast for Friday, when the Mets are scheduled to play Boston in an exhibition game, a tarp lay over the infield, preventing Johan Santana and friends from climbing the mound. Undeterred, many of the pitchers walked in the grass toward right-center, toward the bullpen, as quickly as their suits and dress shoes would allow them. Every few feet, J. J. Putz stopped, pointed the camera on his cell phone and snapped. The Mets occupy the bottom level of the two-tiered bullpen — just as the Phillies do in their ballpark — and the bullpen catcher Dave Racaniello wandered in. Assessing where the plate will be, he got into a crouch for a few seconds.
As “In My Life” by the Beatles played, the lights suddenly went out. All part of the plan, explained Jeff Wilpon, the team’s chief operating officer, as a montage of highlights, player introductions and construction footage played on the video screen. Luis Alicea, the first-base coach, spotted Wilpon and thanked him. “Beautiful,” Alicea told him. “Absolutely beautiful.”
I can’t even begin to imagine how incredible it must have been for some of them. To just walk on the moist and neatly manicured outfield grass for the first time, or even pick up a handful of the reddish brown infield dirt… What a feeling…
As Kelly posted earlier today, we can all get a free glimpse of our Mets in our brand new home on MLB.com, where both exhibition games against the Red Sox will be available. It can never compare to actually being there, but it’s the next best thing. Also, Matt Cerrone posted a video of the Mets arriving to CitiField on MetsBlog (love the new look!) and it’s definitely worth a peak.
As for last night, Shpigel’s article had a definite whimsical and magical charm to it. I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it all season long, but I can’t help feeling that 2009 is going to be an amazing season for us all.