Sunday, April 7, 2019


On Beginnings, Big Brother, and Baffling Baseball

Citi Field
Not Shea Stadium, 2019

Sunday, April 7, 2019
Washington Nationals vs. New York Metropolitans
Not Shea Stadium
Major League Baseball
Queens, NY
1:10 PM

Outside the Game:
So this whole endeavor started with a calendar mistake. Way back when I was buying these tickets in January, I purchased my first regular-game ticket at the same time as I bought my Spring Training tickets. I'm not entirely sure how I did it, but I managed to buy a ticket for a Sunday game instead of a Saturday game. As they were both afternoon games, and not the dreaded Sunday evening game, it was a bit of a wash, but it didn't really bode well for my planning capabilities, especially as I also managed to buy it as an eTicket and not a Will Call. I was firmly convinced I had tickets for the Saturday game until the end of the week, and only when I was showing someone at work on Friday my eTicket did I realize that I actually had a Sunday ticket.

And so on Sunday I arose extra early, got my breakfast in along with a soak in the tub, and headed off to the game at around 9 AM. I was able to get a Lyft quickly to deposit me to the PATH station, and again I arrived just as a 33rd train was leaving the station. This repeated for the orange line, and the 7, and I made it to the park in an unprecedented hour and a few minutes. I thought at the time that I had blown all my luck for the day, and I was mostly right.

There was a big crowd waiting to get in already with over two hours before gametime. They were giving away a Jason deGrom Cy Young bobblehead, and that brings out big crowds. I took my pictures and was sorting out where to enter when I saw some friendly blue tents advertising faster entry to the park, and so my interest was piqued. This turned out to be a bad idea.

Big Brother loves you.

The tents were from "clear," and they were advertising special express lines into the stadium if you signed up for something at a kiosk for free. Okay, sure. So I walked up to a kiosk, and it asked me to put two fingers on the screen. I asked an overly friendly attendant why it wanted me to do that.

"So it can scan your fingerprints," she cheerfully replied.

I replied with something rhyming, "Duck off."

She then went into a spiel telling me how safe it was, and I asked her who got the data. She said her company, MLB, and the Department of Homeland Security. I told her to do something with waterfowl harder. I then went around to the other people signing up to ask if they realized they were giving their fingerprints to the cops, and a couple of people started to walk away. A less friendly attendant came up and told me I was causing a disturbance and they would call the police if I didn't leave. Truly amazing.

So I went to the right field entrance and joined a short line and waited for the gates to open. I made some conversation with a family in front of me who apparently were from the area and coming back for the first time in a while. My only issues were with the eTicket MLB Ballpark app, which kept crashing. But I managed to get my ticket stable enough to be read. The time passed quickly on the temperate morning, and the gates opened at 11:10 AM, and I entered, and received a bobblehead without giving my unchangeable biometric information to the government.

deGrom Bobblehead
My precious

On the way out, I dallied a bit to finish my scorecard, and then immediately boarded a "super express" 7 back to the city, and hit all my connections immediately again, so at least that was still working. I unpacked everything and settled in for an evening of Sunday TV watching.

The Stadium & Fans: 
Home to center, Citi Field
Home plate to center field, Not Shea Stadium

Beside the fascist data collection outside, Not Shea Stadium hadn't changed all too much in the passing year.

There were a couple of new team store locations, a switch up on some concessions (including the welcome addition of a rice balls kiosk, but the removal of Raos), and a little more of the Iron Triangle slowly gone in redevelopment. There was no sweeping changes, and that's not really a bad thing. Although they absolutely need to do something about the center field plaza. They've squeezed in more and more concessions across from Shake Shack and Blue Smoke, and getting around just before gametime is an absolute scrum, and someone is going to get hurt if they don't do something.

Casey Statue
Love ya, Casey

There was a huge crowd for Opening Weekend, plus the bobblehead giveaway, so the crowd was very involved during the ensuing fiasco. Mr. Met and his misbegotten wife were in attendance, as always. The minor cut-down to commercial time in the name of pace of play were in effect for the first time, and although they were minor, they were, in fact, noticeable--at least to me. But then again, this game dragged on to four hours anyway. Who knows how long it would have gone in the bad old days?

At the Game with Oogie: 
First Shack of the Year

After entering through the Right Field gate, I went straight to Shake Shack for my first Single Shack and Fries of the year. There was already a small line, but I got up to the front after a short wait and almost immediately got my food, eaten with gusto on the center field patio prior to my walk around the park. Upon getting to the club level (and again struggling with my eTicket [never again]), I was disappointed to find that the Raos concession had closed down and been replaced with some or other new generic concession. I only ended up getting a hot dog and souvenir soda on the special level.

Scoring row

I took a trip through the museum, but the Team Store downstairs was far too crowded, so I went to a new satellite store on the field level to do my shopping. After walking around and taking my pictures, I ended up Ass in Seat at about 45 minutes before the start of the game. To my right was a group of Asian friends who bailed relatively early when things started looking grim. There was a family in the row in front of me with a young baby in Mets gear who didn't know he was in for a lifetime of pain and disappointment. To my left we two old Jewish season-ticket holders. They were also scorekeepers, so we got to talking during the game and the building insanity towards the end. We had a good time of it trying to figure out some of the more intense absurdities of it all. It would have been a worse game to sit through without them there, so there's something to be said for community, I suppose.

The Game:
First pitch, Nations vs. Metropolitans
First pitch, Nationals vs. Metropolitans

You can't win a game when you walk twelve batters. You can make it close, but you just can't win it. And that pretty much is the story of this Opening Week matchup between the Nats and the Metropolitans.

The game was led off with a walk, presaging the rest of the game. It was erased on a double-play and led to an unconventional 1-2-3 top of the first. Not to be outdone, the Metropolitans started off their game with a hit batsman erased on a double-play, and a 1-2-3 bottom of the frame. Things went off the rails quickly in the Nats' top of the second. Another leadoff walk was followed by a one-out single, another walk to load the bases, and then a short single to start the scoring. Another single brought in another run, while a double plated two more runs and left it second and third with one out. A sacrifice fly to center brought in another run, before a grounder to short mercifully ended the inning at 5-0 in favor of the Nationals. New York retaliated with a leadoff double that got to third on a throwing error on the play. He was brought in on a following single. Another single followed, and then two strikeouts followed. The second strikeout was a lack of awareness that led to a double-play, and the dropped third strike led to the runner trying to go to first, but he was not allowed to do so by the rules, and the runner formerly on first was caught off the base in an inning-ending double play, leaving the score 5-1. Both sides went mercifully in order in the third, and we headed off to the fourth.

Surprisingly, both sides went in order in the fourth, but not so the fifth, for the Nationals at least. Five walks and a wild pitch led to two runs coming in to extend their lead to 7-1. New York went in order in their half. Washington kept scoring in the sixth, where four more walks and a single tacked on two more runs, leaving it 9-1 for the visitors. The Metropolitans stranded a one-out double and another hit batsman in the basement of the sixth.

The scoring was not over, as the Nationals turned a hit batsman of their own and a single into a setup for a three-run blast to left, extending their lead to a powerful 12-1. New York was not done, though. Scoring erupted in the bottom of the seventh, and two singles, a double, another single, and a three-run homer of their own closed the lead in half to 12-6. Washington only had a leadoff single erased on another double-play to show for the eighth. The Metropolitans stranded a hit batsman and a walk, even with two wild pitches to help them along the basepaths. These missed scoring opportunities would prove costly. The Nats were struck out in order in the top of the ninth, and New York made their last bid for parity. Another hit batsman lead off the inning and then a walk set the stage for another three-run bomb, this time to right, closing the gap to just three runs after being down by 11 runs just a few innings ago. But three straight outs followed to kill the impossible rally, and the Nationals went away with a 12-9 win, but not without using their closer for the save. A moral victory of sorts, one supposes.

The Scorecard: 
Nationals vs. Metropolitans, 04-07-19. Nationals win, 12-9.Nationals vs. Metropolitans, 04-07-19. Nationals win, 12-9.
Nationals vs. Metropolitans, 04/07/19. Nationals win, 12-9.

Given the surprising improvement in the Metropolitans scorecard in the last few years, I again delved into the $6 official program scorecard. It is in the centerfold on heavy paper, now thankfully on a white background that makes it easy to make marginal notations. There is also no printing behind the scorecard squares, so readability is improved. Each scoring square has a dimly printed diamond that does not impede scoring at all. There is some oddness with the summaries at the top. You get the regular opponents, attendance, date, and final score, but the odd additions are the win-loss records for each team.

There are twelve players lines with spaces for replacements, which should be sufficient for most games, although this one gave it a workout. There is no formal place for player numbers, but spaces on each line for position and inning entered. At the end of each line are summary stats for the familiar at bats, runs, hits and RBIs, and each column ends in the expected runs and hits. Six lines of pitching lines are at the bottom of each side, with team totals to the right for double plays, doubles, triples, home runs, errors, and left on base. There is no advertisements taking up real estate, so it is comfortably spacious to work with, even with complicated games such as this.

So much weirdness, though the play in the bottom of the second takes the cake, and required an explanatory note on the card. With runners on first and second and no outs, there was a strikeout with a dropped third strike. The batter took off for first, but the problem is that with two men on base and no out, the batter is not entitled to become a runner in that scenario. The runners on the bases took off as well, with the runner on second making it to third. The runner on first broke for second, but was left between first and second, and he was tagged out after the catcher threw to second, for a rather unconventional K-2-6 double-play. Only the Metropolitans.

There was an unstoppable flow of walks from the Metropolitan pitching, which was the story of the game. You just can't win a game when you walk 12 batters, including walking in two runs. Because of all the double-switches, I was compelled to use three placeholder letters on the scorecard for the home team, and one for the visitors. Even with that, I had to double-up on player lines three times due to pinch hitters and pitchers. Two Metropolitans players got the unadorned golden sombrero for three strikeouts.

All in all, it was a bizarre game.

The Accommodations: 
Home, sweet, Jersey City

2019 Stand-Alone Trip