Some of my greatest memories with my father have revolved around sports. High-fiving eachother after witnessing an Islanders overtime win at the Nassau Coliseum. Sitting on the LIRR on our way to the Giants ticker-tape parade while my dad called me in sick to school; the attendance secretary not buying it for a minute. Nearly getting our heads taken off by a Skip Schumaker foul ball at Camden Yards. There are so many great memories around some of our favorite sports, yet none of them involved going to a Mets game together.
At least that was until earlier this season, when on April 1st, 2013–Opening Day–the two of us finally got out to the ballpark together, in a day I’ll never forget.
I have gone to my fair share of games, but it had always been with friends, or with groups or covering games for MMO. My father and I had always planned and promised each other that we would go to a Mets game together, but something would come up on my end or on his and we just kept putting off going.
This past year was my first year of college at Seton Hall in New Jersey, leaving my father as the last man standing in a house full of women. To keep in touch–and to keep my dad sane–I called home almost every night. Being away at school made me appreciate the time I had at home with my family.
It was March 1st, the morning that tickets first went on sale for the upcoming 2013 season. I decided that this was going to be the year. I called my dad from my dorm room and told him that we were going to a Mets game this season, and not just any game, but Opening Day, an occasion neither of us had ever attended.
I skipped my history class–history? That’s so yesterday–and sat in my bed, avidly refreshing my laptop until the clock struck ten. I snagged two severely overpriced tickets, way up in the nosebleeds for Opening Day, but I couldn’t have cared if I was being seated in Lot C. It was official, for the first time I was going to be cheering on the Mets on Opening Day with my dad at my side. I was so excited I wrote a post about it for MMO.
The Mets found out about our story and got in contact with me, telling me nothing more than to meet them outside Citi Field on Opening Day for a “little surprise” they had for me and my dad, only adding to the anticipation of that amazing day.
Finally, April 1st came, the last day of my spring break and the first of the baseball season. I had already laid out my jersey and packed my bag the night before. I hardly got any sleep and was up well before the sun.
We arrived at Citi Field around 10am and headed over to Randy Medina from ReadTheApple’s tailgate, where we were treated to hotdogs, burgers and countless tales from different fans of their favorite Mets moments, not to mention plenty of corny Cowgill puns from Randy.
After a quick run-in with Ed Leyro, The Coop, Joey and the whole bear gang, we were greeted with our Mets Opening Day “surprise”. A lovely women with the Mets introduced herself and spoke with us for a few minutes. At one point I made a comment about how we’d be sitting way up in the 500’s, to which she replied “well then, I think you’ll be very happy with these”. She pulled out two tickets and handed them to me. I took the tickets, thanked her and left.
As we started to get in line at the main gate, I looked down at the tickets, and almost fainted. Unable to speak, I started smacking my father on the arm and pointing to the tickets to which he irritably quipped ‘What?’. I finally spat out, ‘Dad, this isn’t our entrance.’ and pointed toward the Gil Hodges entrance; the VIP entrance. As I looked at my stub for the fifteenth time, my eyes starting to well up, I was in utter disbelief.
That “little surprise”, was front row seats on the third base side for Opening Day.
As we were escorted down to our seats and told to “enjoy the game”, my father and I just continued to look around, still not believing what was happening. We must have looked at each other 100 times like ‘can you believe this?!’ before we finally asked someone to take our picture.
Typically, one of the most difficult things to do is to get my father to smile normally for a picture. I sometimes resort to whispering something inappropriate to get him to laugh right before the camera flashes. However, when we got down to our seats and had our photo taken, at that moment, he was smiling ear-to-ear; we both were.
The field was beautiful, the stadium was dressed to the nines for the inaugural game of the 2013 season. I got Chase Headley’s autograph, watched batting practice and took a number of pictures for MMO’s live blog (including all the pictures in this post). When the game started, we realized just how close we were to David Wright. Niese had a nice curveball working, and Wright was feeling frisky on the basepaths as he would steal two on the day and at the time lead the majors in swipes.
In the second, third and fourth, the Mets lineup exploded. Ruben Tejada was safe at third and new-Mets backstop John Buck slid on home with the first run of the season. The hits just kept coming before they blew it open in the fourth with a three spot.
Then came the big one. The bases were loaded. After Jordany Valdespin forced out Kirk Nieuwenhuis at home, Collin Cowgill stepped up and clobbered a 2-2 pitch into the left field corner. Despite being 6’5″, I stood up on the railing to see the ball over the crowd. Assuming it was a grand slam, my dad and I immediately hugged one another and started screaming at the top of our lungs; I had never heard Citi Field so electric. It wasn’t until we saw Cowgill stop at third that we knew that there was any question to the legitimacy of the blast. The third base umpire waved him home as he completed the grand salami, putting the Mets on top a massive 11-2, which would go on to be the final. Somewhere around here, I thought, Randy is screaming “More Cowgill!”
As the game ended, everyone left in smiles; the Mets just won! As we shuffled through the sunflower seed shells and soda cups on our way out, I couldn’t help but feel the same remorse I always do that the game was over when leaving the ballpark. It was then that it occurred to me that this was my dad’s first time at Citi Field, he hadn’t been to a game since I had been born.
Evading the herds of people funneling out to the parking lot, I gave him a speed-tour of the ballpark including Kiddie Field, the Shea Bridge, the Jackie Robinson Rotunda and the Mets Hall-of-Fame. We got but five steps out of the Rotunda before it started pouring rain, forcing us into a dead sprint as we raced to the car. We passed by the markers of the bases from Shea and I continued my tour by hollering ‘there’s first base!’, ‘there’s home plate!’, as we hurried to the Jeep. Now caught in monsoon and saturated from the Flushing precipitation, we headed out to New Jersey so I could be dropped back at school.
The next morning I got a text message from my father telling me how much he enjoyed going and that he can’t wait to go again. It wasn’t until later on that I found out that my dad never got to go to a game with my grandfather. It hit me how fortunate I was to be able to experience a ballgame with him, as there are plenty of people like my dad who weren’t able to do so with theirs.It was such a special day made even better by the Mets incredible surprise for us on our first time out to ballpark together.
So the Amazin’s aren’t so Amazin’ this year, sometimes baseball is more than wins and losses. The 2013 New York Metropolitans will always be special to me because I got to step right up and greet the Mets alongside my dad.