How do you get home? I take New Jersey Transit into Penn Station. After what will hopefully be a short wait, I hop onto the Long Island Rail Road. Anxiously, I peer out the window while I ride, hoping to catch a glimpse of my home. The train stops at Woodside where, although there isn’t any room, more and more people pack into the small train car. With barely enough space to breathe, I cannot wait for the next stop. Finally, the train begins to slow, and I can see my home in the distance. I get off, run up the stairs and then walk for about three minutes down the wooden ramp.
Soon I can look up and see it there in front of me: the massive blue structure built with tacky neon lights in the shape of baseball players. There it is, Shea Stadium – home of the New York Mets and home of me.
How can you call a baseball stadium home? Well, in my case, it is quite easy. In 20 years, I have lived in eight different houses – seven of which in the same town. Never living anywhere more than five years, it’s hard to grow any sort of attachment to where you live. After recently moving this past January, I return to a house I have no connection to. How can I call that home?
However, if home is where your family is, then Shea Stadium is where I live. My grandfather was the first to call Shea home when he started working as an usher in 1964. Since then, my whole family has been there, and in 1992, I went home for the first time.
Being at Shea, I am surrounded by the people I know and love. My parents and brother have always been there with me, and of course, so have my fellow Mets fans. Soon though, I realized my family was growing larger and larger. Everyone I saw felt like a member of my extended Mets family.
There was of course Cow Bell Man – the guy I would see every game walking around the stadium hitting a cow bell from the first pitch to the last out. There was also the vendor known as the man with two hats – one a baseball cap, the other an inexpensive and ineffective toupee.
When you talk about family though, the Mets players themselves really become one of your own. From David Wright to Mike Piazza to John Franco, I have seen these players grow up before my eyes. There is a connection between the players and the fans, and the second you walk into Shea Stadium, you feel that connection come alive.
With family comes emotion, and whether it’s being in the ballpark or watching the intensity at Shea from home, it is impossible not to feel your heart get kicked around in every way possible while watching the Mets.
That emotion was never stronger than the Mets’ first game back at Shea Stadium after 9/11. With a whole city grieving, we all allowed ourselves to escape from what had happened for just a few hours that night. When Piazza’s bat connected with the ball for the most beautiful home run you could ever imagine to give the Mets a win, there was a sort of happiness that entered every Mets fan’s body that had been absent since the terrorist attacks.
However, with as much joy as can be caused by a baseball team, there is an equal level of pain and misery. None was worse than a fateful October night in 2006. The year had finally come. This was the team that was going to bring the Mets their first title in two decades and the first in my life. With Shea rocking, they were just one win away from the World Series. Then, with one swing of the bat, the thunderous noise that came from the building silenced all at once. Minutes after Endy Chavez made his famous, acrobatic catch over the left-field wall, Yadier Molina hit a home run to give the Cardinals the lead – a lead they would never relinquish. It would be a lie to say I did not cry that night, but if something bad happens to your family, it’s natural to cry.
Soon, Shea Stadium will host its final game. Unlike Yankee Stadium across town, it will not get the hoopla or the fond farewell. Instead, the last pitch will be thrown, the fans will clear out and the place will be torn down soon after. They will play right next door in a newer and supposedly better ballpark. However, it will never be the same for me. Although, I’ve moved from house to house and from state to state, leaving Shea will be the first time I have to move away from home.
David Cassilo is a junior communication major from Chatham, N.J. He can be reached at [email protected]