I wonder what Matt Harvey was thinking. The 23-year-old pitcher spent his first day in a big league clubhouse yesterday, having been called up from Buffalo in preparation for his first major league start on Thursday. Did he look around Citi Field and ask himself, “What the hell did I get myself into?”
Other thoughts that may have passed through Harvey’s head:
There weren’t this many Storm Troopers in Buffalo.
I’ve never seen a Jersey Shore cast member do play-by-play before!
No rain delays in the big leagues? I better toughen up.
Yesterday the Mets hosted Star Wars Night, a promotion shared by nine other MLB teams. Fans were encouraged to dress up as characters from the films, and it appeared the Mets had planted plenty of “professionals” in costume as well. I can’t decide if I should recommend fans in Atlanta, San Francisco, Chicago (White Sox), and Oakland rush out and buy tickets or stay far, far away from the ballpark on August 3, September 3, September 8, and September 14, respectively.
Watching the Jumbotron as your star pitcher refers to Darth Vader as his father was equal parts hilarious, perplexing, and embarrassing. R.A. Dickey did a solid job in his supporting role, but relief pitcher Tim Byrdak stole the show, appearing in multiple skits alongside Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Chewbacca. And you’ve never truly experienced the Kiss Cam until you’ve seen a college softball coach make out with a couple of Storm Troopers.
But wait, there’s more. Snooki, everyone’s favorite cast member from everyone’s favorite reality show, Jersey Shore, was at the game, apparently doing play-by-play with her fiancé for an upcoming MLB.com program. How this idea came about is beyond me, as is why the Mets felt the need to promote her appearance. But unlike Lady Gaga, who showed up at a game two years ago, stripped down to her underwear, and flipped off the fans, Snooki flashed only the peace sign when her face appeared on the big screen. The gesture didn’t affect Mets fans; they booed her anyway.
Oh, and there was a baseball game, too. I was excited to see Bryce Harper, the 19-year-old Nationals phenom, in person. He didn’t disappoint, smacking a home run in his first at-bat. When he finishes with 800 career homers, I can tell my grandkids I saw his ninth. “When was that, Grandpa, when umpires were humans?”
More impressive than the two-run blast was when Harper nearly caught his teammate as he rounded the bases. That was during a casual home run trot. I thought Harper would pass the guy—same player, Washington leadoff hitter Steve Lombardozzi, who is not slow—on a bases-clearing double in the 10th. They touched home within a second of each other.
Along with my girlfriend, Megan, I went with my younger brother, Steve, and his college friend, Andrew. Andrew is a Nationals fan, but I’ve learned going to a baseball game with a fan of the opposing team is a lot different—and easier—than doing it for a football or basketball game. Two reasons for this: the 162-game season makes each game less significant and cheering matters less in baseball (fans of both teams are often cheering at the same time anyway). It’s especially easy for the Mets: I didn’t have to worry about Andrew’s rooting interest affecting the outcome; I knew the Mets would self-destruct at some point. Sure enough, a dropped ball on a potential double play—and subsequent bullpen meltdown—undid the Mets in the 10th.
On top of everything else, a steady rain started midway through the game and didn’t let up until the Nationals had scored six in the 10th to go up 8-2. Steve forgot he had an umbrella until the 8th inning. Megan’s did a good job covering her left side and my right, but my left leg was soaked to the skin. Rain at a sporting event usually makes for a wild atmosphere, and last night was no different. Lesser fans headed for the exits, leaving a rowdier, more delirious group. So by the time John Cena, WWE Superstar, appeared on the big screen and demanded we root for the Mets, I was crazy enough to think Jason Bay might actually get a hit.
My rain-drenched memories of Shea resulted in victories, making the experience worthwhile instead of miserable. When David Wright and Ike Davis homered to tie the game, I thought the Mets would pull it out. Instead, for the second straight game, the Mets lost by at least five runs in extra innings. (Elias tells us this is only the third time in baseball history such a thing has happened.) At least we got to see The Apple (twice!) and the two Mets homers meant discounted shampoo for all.
Before the rain started and I tucked my phone away in a dry pocket, my Twitter feed informed me Ichiro had been traded. “Guess who got him?” I asked Steve and Andrew. They both guessed correctly; of course it was the Yankees. After acquiring Lance Berkman in 2010 and Eric Chavez last year, the Yanks eliminated someone else from MLB’s dwindling “lifers” list by trading for Ichiro. Seattle not only sent New York cash, but received two no-name pitchers in return. Making the deal even crazier was that the Mariners and Yanks were playing each other, so Ichiro simply had to change his shirt and move to the visitors’ dugout. The Yankees then rubbed it in to the Seattle crowd by batting Ichiro eighth.
But even with Ichiro’s trade and Snooki and the Star Wars trivia questions and the rain and the fourth straight loss…and the W.B. Mason toy truck giveaway, a night at the ballpark is still better than a night most anywhere else. That’s why I’m going back tonight. Lord knows it’s not for the Dunkin’ Donuts gift card.