This Sunday I realized that I will not miss Shea Stadium.
If I had any notion that some nostalgic sentiments for the Mets’ former home may lay somewhere in my future, Citi Field put it to rest way before Georgetown’s Tim Adleman could even deliver the stadium’s first pitch.
The opening of a ballpark is an event unlike any other I’ve ever experienced. I imagine it must be similar to the maiden voyage of an ocean liner. After months of man making metal twist and bend and obey his every command, a veil is pulled and a beautiful creation shows its face. And it was St. John’s that got to break the champagne bottle against Citi Field’s hull on Sunday, a privilege traditionally reserved for royalty.
The comparison goes further than production materials and techniques. Like a new ocean liner was at the turn of the 20th century, a new baseball stadium has the ability to rouse a troubled people. Something as exciting as baseball in a new park is just what we need in these trying American times.
Some people say that apple pie is America, some say that the bald eagle is America. Cynics may say its fast food or fat capitalists. But all of them are wrong.
Baseball captures the American spirit better than any other icon could ever dream to. I don’t know why that’s the case, it just is; my dad told me so.
And for the few hours that the 22,397 fans, the Georgetown and St. John’s players and coaches, the stadium security guards, the New York media and the sausage and peppers grillmasters gathered inside Citi Field together on Sunday to celebrate the birth of a new arena of our national pastime, I don’t believe any one of us was thinking of anything else.
St. John’s lost the game, 6-4, but on the field after the game you’d have never known it. The smiles on the Johnnies’ faces stretched bigger than the stadium scoreboard.
“The loss doesn’t take anything away from the day,” said Brendan Lobban, the Storm’s starting pitcher. “Today was just phenomenal.”
The only disappointed member of the Red Storm that I could find was Ryan Cole, whose iffy seventh inning of relief gave Georgetown its ultimate lead. But hey, that’s baseball. You’ll never find anyone more upset than the losing pitcher. I surely was satisfied after nine innings in the Sunday mist. Citi Field is a beautifully modern park, so different from Shea. It’s a personal place, full of open spaces and areas where fans can congregate. For the first time we have a ballpark in Queens that is more than just a place to sit uncomfortably and watch a baseball game. Citi Field is a place to be.
I was at the the seventh game of the 2006 National League Championship Series. I sat in the upper deck of Shea Stadium as the upper deck shook wildly above me and watched the birth of Endy “The Catch” Chavez.
As a result of that game, Shea Stadium will always have a place in the baseball corner of my heart. But I can sit here and write honestly, Sunday’s game will share the same corner.