Monday, September 28, 2009

Joey's Soapbox: I Still Miss Shea

It's going to be a little difficult getting up on my soapbox today. I'm feeling a lump in my throat as I write this. My home, my place of birth, Shea Stadium hosted its last game one year ago today on September 28, 2008. My colleague at Studious Metsimus posted a blog on MetsMerizedOnline ( <---click on it for the blog) sharing his thoughts on the game. Since we went together, I have my own memories to share with you.

I was born right behind home plate at Shea Stadium on June 20, 2004. It was Father's Day and the Mets were celebrating Mike Piazza breaking the home run record by catchers two nights earlier. The Mets won that interleague matchup with the Detroit Tigers behind the pitching of Steve Trachsel and home runs by Richard Hidalgo and fittingly, Mike Piazza. The final score was 6-1.

The score was secondary to me that day. It was my first Mets game. I've been to hundreds of games since then. But it was special to me because it was my home. It was Shea Stadium.

I went to many games at Shea. I've cheered during playoff games and miraculous comebacks. I've cried during late season collapses and when I dropped a cookie that one time. I've also wondered why Shea never served cake.

A boy should always have a catch or go to a game with his dad and I did just that when I went to Shea's final game with my biological father, Bear (see photo above right).

We left early to take some final pictures of Shea, hoping that the Mets would erase the bitter memories of the epic collapse of 2007 by beating the Marlins and hoping the Brewers would lose to give the Mets the wild card berth.

We even brought my grandma along. Her name is Güela (that's how I pronounce the word "abuela", which is the Spanish word for grandma. Abuela has too many syllables which would slow down my ability to sample ballpark cuisine.) She also came in the hopes the Mets would clinch a playoff spot. I think she really came for the Dunkin' Donuts coffee (see photo below).

Oliver Perez held the Marlins scoreless through the first five innings. However, the Mets had not scored either. Florida was able to put two runs on the board in the top of the sixth inning and visions of 2007 danced in my head.

However, before the 56,059 humans and handful of bears could collectively say "here we go again", Carlos Beltran hit a two-run homer into the picnic area that I never got a chance to sit in (no thanks to my Studious Metsimus colleague) and the game was tied 2-2. Because of Beltran Baby, I was beginning to think that there would be no repeat of 2007 and that this would not be my last game at my home. Unfortunately, I was mistaken.

Scott Bloweneweis (that's the clean version of the name I gave him) came into the game to face Mike Jacobs in the eighth inning. However, Wes Helms (a righty) came in to pinch-hit for Jacobs (a lefty) against Bloweneweis (a loser). Helms proceeded to hit a go-ahead home run to give the Marlins a 3-2 lead. Luis Ayala then came into the game and channeled his inner Aaron Heilman when he gave up a homer to the following batter, Dan Uggla.

The score was now 4-2 Marlins and the end was near. The Mets still made us get out of our seats a few times. First, Carlos Delgado hit a long drive to left-center with two men on and two men out in the bottom of the eighth inning. Instead of finding the picnic area seats (the same seats that my Studious Metsimus colleague never took me to. I'm not letting him forget it!), the ball found Josh Willingham's glove.

Then, in the bottom of the ninth, Damion Easley drew a two-out walk from Matt Lindstrom bringing up Ryan Church as either the tying run or Shea Stadium's final batter. With my prayers being directed at Church, Ryan hit a long fly ball to center field...

(Unwelcome interlude time: In the 2000 World Series, Mike Piazza (the man who was honored on my date of birth) came up to bat in Game 5 as the tying run in the bottom of the ninth inning. The season was on the line for the Mets. The score was also 4-2, there was also a man on first and Piazza hit a long fly ball to center field...)

...and my prayers weren't answered. Church's fly ball settled into the glove of Cameron Maybin and the season was over. No more games at Shea...not then, not the next day...never again.

The events that took place after that are still a blur to me. I've been told that there was an on-field celebration featuring the greatest players who had donned a Mets jersey. I was told there were fireworks after the game. I had no clue. My Shea, my home, was being taken from me and that was all that was on my mind...

Since then, I've grown to like Citi Field. There's still no cake there, but it's a nice place to eat and watch a ballgame. Unfortunately, the team on the field still hasn't given me any great memories. That's probably why memories of Shea are still vivid in my mind.

Have you ever heard of the saying "you can't go home again"? It's true that I will never go home to Shea Stadium again, but all I have to do is close my eyes, open my mind and I will be home. I love you, Shea Stadium. You will always be home to me...

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