When Opening Day comes around on the calendar, not being at Citi Field is the worst feeling there is for a New York Mets fan.
I miss Citi Field more than I can say.
I miss Citi Field like a smoker misses a cigarette, like an old man misses his childhood, like a sailor misses his girl back home. I miss walking out of the subway station and seeing that beautiful stadium painted against a bright blue sky. I miss the entrances, the escalators, and the giant card lineup. I miss the first sight of the field, sparkling green and perfectly groomed. I miss sitting in a sea of empty seats in the upper deck. I miss Nathan’s hot dogs and overpriced pink lemonade.
I miss the Shake Shack in center field, and the Arancini stand right off the steps in the promenade. I miss the ramps in the left-field corner, the ones that old-timers say remind them of Shea Stadium. I miss crossing Shea Bridge and seeing the entire park from center field. I miss ushers who insist on seeing a ticket for a seat no one would bother to sneak into, and security officers who glare when you accidentally step into the wrong section. I miss peanuts and cracker jacks, scoreboard trivia, and singing along in Italian during the seventh-inning stretch.
I miss Citi Field more than I can say, try as I might to explain it.
I know what I’m talking about. I have been in a long-distance relationship for three years, and there’s no better way to learn about missing things. But today, as Opening Day arrives on my calendar and Citi Field remains dark and shuttered, I miss the stadium more than I have ever missed anything else.
I should have woken up this morning, leapt out of bed, and chosen a cap and a jersey to wear. I should have been on the subway far too early, four hours before first pitch, driven mad with joy at the long-awaited arrival of baseball season. I should have transferred to the seven train at Times Square, cursing the MTA for not running express trains to Citi Field before weekday games. I should have happily caught the eye of fellow New York Mets fans in my subway car, maybe struck up a conversation here and there. “How do I think we’re going to do? I think we’re going to win the World Series — but I always say that!”
For a short while, I thought the delayed season might be manageable, the kind of thing that you worry about but hardly notice. I thought we’d get to June or July (hopefully — knock on wood) and the season would start, and it would be as if nothing had ever gone wrong. But now we’ve arrived at Opening Day with no baseball, and I can see that I was deluding myself.
Cruelly, the Mets digital calendar plug-in has not been updated to reflect that the season will not start for at least another month or two. “Washington Nationals @ New York Mets,” it says in today’s box, accompanied by a baseball emoji.
I never knew a calendar could be so cruel. I never knew a few words could reflect such loss. “For sale: baby shoes, never worn,” has been dethroned. Today, “Washington Nationals @ New York Mets” is the saddest six-word story ever written.
The last time I was at a Mets game at Citi Field, joy turned to sadness. Down 6-4 with two outs in the bottom of the 11th, Dominic Smith took his first at-bat in two months, and lined Grant Dayton’s pitch over the right-field fence to beat the Braves. Smith rounded the bases as the stadium roared with wild elation. He flung his helmet away and landed on home plate, and the win was official.
Right then, the season ended.
The Mets stayed on the field celebrating. They handed their jerseys to season ticket holders. Suddenly the night was dark, and it had gotten a lot colder. A montage started up on the scoreboard, and as pictures of those wonderful 2019 Mets flashed by, “The Scientist” played.
Nobody said it was easy
It’s such a shame for us to part
Nobody said it was easy
No one ever said it would be so hard
Oh take me back to the start
On the walk back to the train, I paused on the subway station steps and looked back at Citi Field one last time. There it stood, enormous and dark against the night sky, closed for business until early spring. Or so we thought.
We are Mets fans, and on a sunny, 55-degree spring Thursday in New York, Citi Field is where we belong. But not today. No hot dogs, no cracker jacks, no upper deck seats. Citi Field is closed. Forget the warmth and the sun. It might as well still be winter.