A few weeks ago I treated myself on a Thursday when my beautiful wife was off at a campus interview (more on THAT later...)I decided to treat myself to something I don't recall ever having done before and that is go to an Opening Day of the Major League Baseball season. It was a nice day for early April, sun drenched the field and the blue sky was picture perfect. I got on the G train and switched to the 7 at Court Square and in no time I was standing in line to purchase my ticket (and Club Pass) to Citi Field.
It was my first time at the new park built in the parking lot of the now demolished Shea Stadium. A place where I never had a bad time weather my team won or lost. Weather sitting in the press box with the crew from where my mom worked at Major's Supermarket, or sneaking down into the box seats as kids to watch Seaver pitch, or climbing into the upper deck with my hobbled father who gamely followed so we could share that experience...it was seat-cushion night and when Dave Kingman finally hit a home run in a lopsided rout of the Mets, the would-be collectors items rained out of the stands and littered the field in a hilarious delay of game...or when Gary Carter ended a rain-delayed double header with a home run in the second game that went into extra innings...or when Doc Gooden as a rookie pitched a one hitter against the Cubs...or when Strawberry hit a mammoth homer in a play-off game against Houston in '86 and Nails won it with a walk-off shot that just cleared the right field fence where we were positioned to see both very nicely and our feet did not hit the ground until we got home...or at Yankee Stadium when Thurman Munson turned away laughing at the fiasco on the field as a couple of portly security guards tried to coral a streaker...or when Bobby Murcer tom-a-hawked a homer into the short porch in right...Jim Rice taking Ron Davis deep as he turned on a fastball...Reggie calming a heckler down behind home plate who was demanding the slugger get a hit...and then he doubled to right-center starting the rally that won the game...Guidry with two strikes on anybody...Mattingly braking up Moose Haas's no hitter with a line drive double off the padded wall in right...
These are not all the stuff of legend, but the minute details that make baseball religion to some...In fact you can take a course at NYU, as reported by Samuel G. Friedman in today's New York Times, with John Sexton in his class "Baseball as a Road to God". To be honest most of my church-going occurred via television where I followed ardently both the Yankees AND the Mets (I know, sacrilegious to some)...I kept score one time watching channel 9 as Tom Seaver was pitted against Bob Gibson in a game that ended with a score of 1 nothing for the Mets with both pitchers going the full nine innings.
The Mets won their opener and began the year in first place with a 1.000 winning percentage. Citi Field is not Shea and I really did not have a feel for it. A visit to the New Yankee Stadium in 2010 left me with a similar impression, but the game is the same and in a very secular way it is a unique harbinger of Spring and Summer, and ultimately the Fall with the World Series and all the new play-off games.
I had my hot dogs, I had my beers and I had a great time. I can check Opening Day off my bucket list. Play Ball!!!