Shea Hello, Shea Goodbye
I had been thinking about taking the girls to Shea Stadium - effectively "home field" for my entire life - before they knock the place down after the current baseball season in favor of the new Citi Field, which has been under construction for the last couple of years and now looms over the outfield wall. Games with my father, and then friends, concerts, so many trips to that 1970s-looking blue and orange behemoth, which could probably have been considered a "dump" on the day it opened, but it was our dump, an oddly-endearing dump, an underdog's dump.
Noticed earlier in the week that the Mets were playing the Braves on Saturday afternoon, so I got Gwen on board and then tapped a connection to secure some great seats - wanted to do it right, for our family to go both in and out on the proper note. It was more for me than for them, of course, the girls know nothing of 1969, or 1986, the Sack Exchange (before the Jets moved to converted swampland in New Jersey), hopes and dreams hanging on the arm of Richard Todd, the Beatles concert their grandparents went to, none of the moments that have brought the place to life. But somewhere along the line I'll be able to point at a book, or at an image on a computer screen, and say, "we took you there, we went there once."
We got lucky with Friday night's rainout, which turned yesterday into a double-header. Ava started saying that baseball was "boring" and demanding to leave around the second inning of the first game - with Santana on the mound, no less - but we managed to make it all the way to the middle of the nightcap by distracting her with a steady supply of peanuts, soft pretzels, popcorn, chicken nuggets, french fries, soft-serve ice cream and Cracker Jacks. We drew the line at neon blue cotton candy.
By the 4th inning of the second game the crowd was getting a little, shall we say, boisterous for little ears, as Ava continued her "I want to go home!" demands, so we got our stuff together and trekked out of the place before things really went off the rails. But not before witnessing a funny and disarming exchange between a fan and a player that seemed perfect for the scene, and for the spirit of Shea.
Our seats were near the Atlanta dugout, and at the end of one of the innings as the players trotted back a typical ballpark loud-mouth in our area shouted out to Braves' Rightfielder Jeff Francoeur, who I guess is wrapping up a bit of a challenging year.
"Hey FRANCOEUR!" the guy yelled. "I had you on my fantasy team, you were TERRIBLE!"
As the player approached the dugout, he surprised everyone by stopping briefly on the top step, looking up in the direction of the heckler, offering a slightly sheepish nod, shrugging his shoulders and saying, "I know."
The guy was stunned to have gotten a reaction, let alone an admission. "It's OK," he finally called out. "I'll pick you again next year."