Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Tales From Citi Field I

I know I keep saying updates will be sparse, but I figure for the first few days I should put some stuff up just so you all have something interesting to read and so it looks like I've actually written enough entries to fill up the page.

I feel the most appropriate place to start is with my first regular season game at Citi Field, the Mets new home earlier this year, when I ran into one of a number of colorful characters I have met during this journey. I note that it was my first regular season game because I had attended both of the Mets' exhibitions against the Boston Red Sox a few weeks earlier, which basically served as cash cows taking advantage of anxious fans like myself eager to see the building.

It is a beautiful stadium, with good sightlines, an intimate feel inside and all the exciting amenities newer, modern parks provide. Unfortunately, my first few times there it didn't quite feel like home. It was, without a question, far nicer than Shea Stadium, but when you went to Shea you knew it was the Amazins' home. Citi Field didn't quite feel that way. Perhaps the best thing about it was that, since I and my father attended the first game there, it was the first time in at least a decade when I went to a baseball stadium and was certain that Kris and Anna Benson had not yet had sex in it. Beyond that, I also made a point to use the rest room as soon as I walked into the gate, because, as I told my father, they would never be that clean again.

My first regular season game at Citi Field was on April 25, 2009. It was a gorgeous 80-degree day and the Mets, who had been somehow unable to hit with men on base, seemed to finally get over that hump with an 8-2 win over the Nationals. As I sat in the stands talking with Weg about my plans to see every stadium and which trips I was planning to make later that year, it caught the attention of a man sitting in front of me. He looked like a prototypical Brooklyn Jew in his early 60s, grayed with a beard, glasses, a bit of a belly, an intensely friendly talker and apparently quite fastidious. He had been keeping score on a piece of legal notepad paper and as he explained, he wrote a homemade scorecard at every baseball game he’d ever been to. At the top of each page he wrote what number baseball game that was for him in his entire life, at least since he had begun keeping count.

Today was No. 6,226.

As Jess commented when I told her about him later on, “Well, that’s one way to spend your life.”

Indeed, that is an awful lot of baseball games –- well more than I ever expect to attend. Despite my rather auspicious goal, there are too many other things I want to do in my life to be able to afford sitting in a baseball stadium 6,200 times. If a baseball game occupies an entire day’s worth of planning, that man had spent more than 17 years attending baseball games and doing nothing else. And that doesn’t even include the travel time required since, as he would go on to tell me, he had already accomplished my goal. To a fairly impressive level no less.

In his life he had made a point to see every team in the four major North American sports leagues and whenever a new stadium opened up he dropped everything to make a trip to go there. The man had seen the Quebec Nordiques, Winnipeg Jets, Houston Oilers, Montreal Expos, Charlotte Hornets, Seattle Supersonics and Hartford Whalers. He had been to Wrigley Field more than 100 times despite the notable obstacle of having never lived in Chicago. He had seen Maple Leaf Gardens, the Montreal Forum, the Astrodome, Candlestick Park, the King Dome, Tiger Stadium, Milwaukee County Stadium and old Comiskey. He made a point of stating how he wanted to get out to Pittsburgh next year for one more Penguins game at Mellon Arena before the Pens moved into the Consol Energy Center.

The man had done it all, been everywhere and then some. I did not feel hindered or daunted or beaten. Surely I wasn’t the first to attempt this type of lifelong journey. Rather this was an opportunity, a chance to learn the ins and outs of the trip from someone who knew what laid ahead. As I talked to him about my experience he told me that at my age he had only been to about six or seven stadiums. In other words, my 23 before the age of 24 was a solid head start. But as we discussed the various arenas he told me once and for all what the ultimate secret to completing the mission was:

“Never get married.”

I suppose I’m lucky in that I’m not married yet, and perhaps this is the opportunity to knock out as many different teams as I can before I get tied down by the wife and kids. But make no mistake, I will have the wife and kids. Finding someone to share my life with and raising a family are important to me. Not immediately, of course, but down the road sure. One might say that it’s even more important than seeing every professional North American sports team. But that doesn’t mean I won’t still try to find some way to combine the two. At some point I will find a woman wonderful and kind enough to put up with me.

And when it comes to this journey, well, she’ll just have to understand.


  1. "When the facts changed, I changed my mind."

    This was my response when I moved to Delft after saying I would never live in such a sleepy little town. It was also my response to spending a year learning Dutch after I had said I would never have to use it, so why bother. It's the reason why my friend and I haven't moved to China, and possibly never will. It's how I came to own a small pooch, when I really wanted a Newfoundland. It's why I do yoga instead of boxing and why I haven't gone to a tap class in five years.

    I think you see where this is going. We all have plans. We all know kind of what we want to do. But that's just based on what we know today. When it comes to this journey of yours, she many NOT actually understand. But you may not need her to anymore.

  2. I don't know if this is cryptic or inspiring.