Look closer: SportsAngle revisits Mets Opening Day at Citi Field

Taking care of business

Despite the fact that I’ve been a Mets fan since I was nine, I waited 21 more years to attend my first Opening Day game of any sort, as an appetizer for Duke’s national title game that night. Being jaded, I never saw the need to get to an Opening Day game, but I have to admit it was pretty cool. And since Johan Santana pitched, the Mets actually won. After going through some pictures I took that day, I figured I’d share some images from Citi Field.

Black sunshine

When I pulled up in front of Citi and began looking for a parking lot, some cop came up and told me to simply stop my car and get out – right on the main street, in front of a “No Standing Anytime” sign. For once, I wasn’t being arrested, resulting in the greatest parking spot ever. I still expected to come out and have a ticket, but in a far bigger upset than the Mets winning, that didn’t happen.

 

Mystery wagon

In the parking lot, I noticed the Sterling Mets van. Here’s this team with a sparkling new stadium, a $120 million payroll and its own cable network. And the company car looks like a dented, beat-up van from 1981 that a terrorist would use. I could draw an analogy here to Alex Cora, but it’d be too obvious.

 

El Sid!

They’ve stepped up the Mets signage outside the stadium big-time with Mets legends such as Edgardo Alfonzo and Sid Fernandez. Oh, and Tom Seaver.

Shades of '86

More Mets branding, after everyone was furious that they didn’t have enough of this last year. They stuck Gary Carter and Dykstra (and Mookie) above an elevator in the middle of nowhere.

Murderer's row
They post the lineup for the game on Topps baseball cards in the Jackie Robinson rotunda. Here’s the least inspiring bottom third of the order ever. And Jeff Francoeur.

 

Canadian bakin'

Canadian import Jason Bay. His knees may be near totally shot, but he somehow hit a triple. He then attempted to get up from the ground in what most likely resembled Eddy Curry getting out of bed.

 

GMJ FTW

Here’s Opening Day center fielder (!) Gary Matthews Jr. making some adjustments, so to speak.

 

Grinning and winning

As a result of meeting him during my trip to the Royal Rumble in Atlanta back in January, I’m a humongous Jeff Francoeur apologist now. I don’t think he’s a good player or anything, but he’s a heck of a nice guy with a smile that could melt the coldest of hearts. (Pause) Here’s Francoeur absolutely thrilled to be warming up before the game.

 

Scoreboard 1

Here’s scoreboard proof that Francoeur actually worked out a walk in this game, complete with his trademark grin. But he’s not always in such a jovial mood…

 

francoeur_serious

A different area of the stadium had Serious Francoeur. It’s as if they told him, “Listen Jeff, we really need you not to smile for this picture.” And bless his heart, he did his best.

Superstars

From our seats in right field, here’s David Wright and Hanley Ramirez – two of my favorite baseball players, and until this year, my two keepers on a fantasy team. I dropped Wright for Roy Halladay this year, so predictably, Wright blasted a homer in his first at-bat of the season to make me feel terrible about it.

Not a pivotal moment in the game

Left-center-field view of a Battle of Titans: Dan Meyer vs. Alex Cora. I can’t recall who won. It probably doesn’t matter.

elevator

Greatest elevator ever: They all started in with a rousing Let’s Go Mets chant in between the upper deck and the field level, fueled by inexplicable team pride, and some beer.

Beer and stuff

Speaking of which, here’s a Bottled Beer stand, and yet all they had was cans. Thanks Omar.

 

Kaz for celebration

A favorite pastime of mine at games is seeing what jerseys people wear, and everyone was dressed to the nines for Opening Day, so here are some of my favorites. This is some guy in a Kaz Matsui jersey and an orange wig. I’m a Kaz apologist, so I wholeheartedly approve of this.

Big Mo

Spotted a Mo Vaughn jersey up on the Pepsi Porch, appropriately backdropped by the Hospital for Special Surgery sign on the scoreboard. HSS has stepped up signage at Mets games this season, a shrewd marketing move.

Guy needs lots of sunscreen 

Spotted: What appears to be Stone Cold Steve Austin wearing a Super Joe McEwing jersey in colors the Mets have never actually worn.

Behind the bag

Some kid wearing a Bill Buckner t-shirt. I think it’s signed on the B, but it doesn’t appear to be Buckner’s signature, or even Mookie’s. Maybe the kid’s name is actually Buckner, and this is for some intramural softball team. I’m not really sure what he was trying to accomplish with this.

Luck of the Irish

A few rows behind the weird Buckner shirt was a guy wearing a green St. Patrick’s Day Rod Barajas shirt. It seems like a peculiar choice to purchase an Irish-themed shirt of a guy who’s not even close to being Irish, and an average player at best who hadn’t yet suited up for the Mets. I can’t believe they even saw fit to produce and market these, though obviously they sold at least one. That said, I own an Oliver Perez jersey. Who am I to question any of it?

Razor's edge

Here’s a guy in a game-worn jersey of first-base coach Razor Shines, topped off with a Mets headband. Unsurprisingly, I have one of those headbands.

Pin me, pay me

Here’s some guy named Pin Man. That moniker was on the back of his jersey, which had a whole bunch of pins stuck on it. Even if he hadn’t explicitly printed the name on the jersey, I probably would have figured out he called himself Pin Man.

G.O.A.T.

The greatest jersey of the day – Chiba Lotte Marines Bobby Valentine jersey – happened to belong to a guy I know. Oddly, I didn’t see any riffraff wearing Jerry Manuel jerseys and cheering his decision to bat Mike Jacobs cleanup.

Speed of light

With a late lead, Francisco Rodriguez blurs the space-time continuum. (Either that, or I don’t know how to take action shots)

Shadows on the sun

Francisco Rodriguez salutes the heavens after the Mets narrowly escaped with a 7-1 victory.

Horrible

On the way out, I checked out the gear at the Team Store. Greeting shoppers was this creepy, three-foot plush Mr. Met figure. It sort of reminded me of the basketball-head thing at the NBA Store, or of the clown bed Bart was forced to deal with on The Simpsons.

Unexplainable

They had this radioactive Mets dog in a plaid hat and a necktie. So, there’s that.

When in gnome

Apparently, gnomes are en vogue right now, since the Team Store had a ton of Mets gnome merchandise. I think they had one of these things you put on your lawn too, in case you want your neighbors to know that you’re a Mets fan and someone who enjoys lawn gnomes.

francoeur_locker

They have individual lockers with merchandise for star players on the team, and I was ecstatic to also see one for my man Francoeur. Those jerseys, which retail at Modell’s for about 70 dollars, were priced at $140 at the stadium. For Francoeur? Worth every penny. I asked that kid up there if he liked Francoeur. He said, “Yeah…” and trailed off, which sounds about right.

 Incredible 

The present-day Mets don’t give us much to celebrate, but the new Mets Hall of Fame is really very well done, and a must-see when you go to Citi Field. I got chills looking at some of the stuff they dug up. Here’s a small sampling, starting with the Endy Chavez jersey from “The Catch.” (Note Fonzie from SI’s “Greatest Infield Ever” in the lower left-hand corner)

Behind the bag

The Buckner ball.

Orosco 
Orosco’s glove, which I was unaware actually ever landed.

homerunapple
The original Home Run Apple – one of my favorite parts of going to Shea as a kid. The first time I saw it go up in person? None other than Gregg Jefferies.

*****

After taking it all in, I had to admit that I’m an Opening Day convert. I never saw the specific attraction of needing to go, but even with the Mets currently fielding a team I don’t really enjoy watching all that much, I got into the nostalgia – though I still highly preferred Shea – and slamming the door on a long winter with some good friends and crazy fans.

The rest of the summer may prove to be far more interminable than the winter. Right now, I’m on a bus and there are two guys clearly going to tonight’s Mets game in the car next to me, and they look like they’d rather be driving to Afghanistan.

But an Opening Day in the sun is already shaping up to be one of those baseball memories I’ll wax poetic about as the years go by. I’m already looking forward to going to another opener at some point.

Though I might wait until they field a team that has nothing to do with Gary Matthews Jr.

Esoteric

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