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Home » Baseball, The Vine

The Vine: August 5, 2015

Submitted by on August 5, 2015 – 9:51 AM30 Comments

DIGIPIX

Since there's some baseball talk happening in the Vine these days, I'll join in with a question for you and the other baseball-loving Tomato Nationals.

My best friend is hitting a big birthday this year, and to celebrate, she's taking 22+ of her closest friends and family members out to a ballgame. A Mets game, to be exact. I'm on that list, and although I'm looking forward to the celebration, I am not looking forward to…the baseball. Heh. My personal history with that game is limited to awful gym classes as a kid, during which I was handed a bat and told to play…with absolutely no instruction as to what to do or how to do it. I did everything wrong. Strike? Ball? Foul? Walk? I thought I was supposed to try and hit the ball and then run. Oh, the taunting. [shudder] The only thing I finally figured out was that if I stayed in one specific place in the outfield (right? left? One of those, certainly) I would look like I was doing something even though no ball ever came my way. Phew. As an adult I've managed to cultivate a level of ignorance of and disregard for the game that serves my psyche pretty well.

However, my friend and her husband are huge fans of the game, and of this specific team (insert your own sympathetic remark or cruel joke here…I do know enough about the Mets to expect that!). So I want to be excited about going, and although she's made it clear any of us can go hang out in a restaurant if we don't want to watch the game, I'd like to be a more active participant in the day than that. I have gone to a game with her once before (the Rockland Boulders, a CanAm league team; it wound up being a rain-out), but Citi Field and the Mets will be a much bigger deal. Of course, I'm prepared to ask questions about the game, and the players, and watch what's happening — but I'm hoping that you and the legion of baseball fans that read the Vine could give me some tips that might help me appreciate what I'm seeing, and enjoy the whole show — the game, the other fans, the ball park — with the enthusiasm this party deserves. Help!

I actually used the phrase "inside baseball" the other day at work, and I'm pretty sure I learned that from you!

Thanks,
Laura

Dear Laura,

Good news! Watching and enjoying major-league baseball has exactly nothing to do with whatever right-field daisy-picking tortures you endured as a child — even if your last name is Bunting and you had to 1) pretend to laugh at that joke, then 2) endure the self-righteous rage of the opposing team when you had the gall to Keeler* the ball three feet off the plate for a base hit so maybe they'd think twice about making that goofy comment next time, which they never did.

Even better news! Thanks to recent player acquisitions, the Mets team you're about to watch is taking itself as seriously as its fans take it for the first time in a long time. I don't know when you're going** or what the pitcher match-up is, but Friday night at Citi Field is a fun atmosphere. You'll probably see a Mets victory (the team has a pretty easy schedule this month), and you'll eat like a queen regardless (if you eat meat).

Best news of all: this isn't nearly as demanding an experience as you seem to think. Nobody's going to shun you for not knowing where Cespedes usually plays*** or why everyone's booing****; you don't have to know that stuff to enjoy the game. What's more, Citi Field's PA and big screen and audio cues will prompt you when something important is happening or it's a big moment. Ditto the fans around you. You're told when to clap your hands, yell "Charge," start the Let's Go Mets chant, and so on. Don't get why everyone's cheering? Watch the replay or ask your neighbor. Baseball fans love to be know-it-alls. (Well, one at least. Hee.) It's not craps; the game basics-wise isn't terribly hard to understand. Just enjoy the atmosphere and trust that you'll pick up what you need to from seatmates and context.

As far as THAT goes: dress appropriately (i.e., clothes you don't mind getting sweaty/peanut-fragment-y; closed-toed flat shoes). Don't be That Guy who's too drunk to navigate to her center-row seat by the third inning; if you have to pee/get a hot dog/take a field selfie with your friends, try to do it between innings. Be a good crowd citizen.

The best way to learn about the game or a specific team is to follow them, but while I love going to games, if you actually want to follow the actual game, at least for me, that's harder to do from the sorts of seats I can afford, so going to a game is about having a social experience. If you feel like you'd get more out of it with some foreknowledge, watch a couple games beforehand, if you're local (or just find MLB Network on your cable system and see what they're discussing). Listen to what the booth is saying about ongoing season "stories" and get a sense of the players and who/how they do. Visit Mets.com and skim the blog. Or, when you get to the park, wander around and look at stuff. Go to the Jackie Robinson Rotunda; visit the Mets Hall Of Fame downstairs. Count the number of Throneberry shirts.***** Cross the Shea Bridge.

But: don't overthink it. You'll be with friends; it's a lovely park with friendly staff; it'll be great. Try to sit next to someone with some Mets knowledge who can answer your questions, I guess, but when a Met crushes a breaking ball that didn't break into the left-field seats and everybody gets up and gives it body English and yells stuff like "GIT OUT" and it gits and the big apple comes out of the hat? You know what to do.

—————

* Don't worry about it.

** Is it the Mets/Sox series at the end of the month? Let's meet up! Free-Shirt Friday!

*** Trick question anyway. Sometimes center field, sometimes one of the corner outfield positions; depends on who's pitching.

**** Could be anything: crappy third-strike call, Mookie Wilson ("Mooooooooookie") is in the stands and they just showed him on Diamondvision, opposing manager's wasting time challenging a call.

***** Spoiler: one. And it's got to be my husband, so introduce yourself. He's nice.

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30 Comments »

  • Cora says:

    As a veteran of a few Sox games who knew no MLB going in, believe me, you will not be the stupidest person there. If you're a good crowd citizen like Sars says, no one will notice you, at least not in the smirky god-what-an-idiot way. There will be clueless parents who had to get center seats with nine year old boys who have to PEE RIGHT NOW in the middle of every inning; there will be mall-hair chicks having LOUD conversations about, like, omigod, those outfits are so, like, ugly, can't they , like, wash out those gross brown stains, like, ew, like, omigod, did someone just score? Like, why is everyone, like, standing up?

    And the like. Heh.

    Find out where your seats and pack accordingly: hat with a brim for sun, a bottle of water, butt pillow. If people notice, they'll appreciate that you came prepared.

  • Leigh in CO says:

    Everything about today's Vine makes me so happy. SO happy. I have Rockies season tickets, and admit it's getting to be sort of a chore to get to the ballpark these days. Laura's question, and your answers, remind me of all the reasons I love the game and love my ballpark.

    I went to a short-season minor league game (the Eugene Emeralds) on the Fourth this year, and it was the absolute most fun I've had at a baseball game in I can't remember how long.

  • Lauren T. says:

    A few more things:

    I know the game can get boring. Even those of us who go often and watch all the other games at home get bored sometimes. But if your seats are in an area that may be hit by a ball, you need to pay attention. If you are sitting on top of the dugout and you get out your phone while someone's batting, you can't count on the people around you to shield you from foul balls. It's best to check your phone between innings. (You can ask your friends if you're in a safe zone.)

    Odds are good that if you ask a question, the surrounding men will want to mansplain baseball to you. They will sound confident, but sometimes they are wrong. Feel free to ask other people questions, or ask follow-up questions. If they get huffy, just explain that you're new.

    Finally, the Mets just picked up one of my favorite players, relief pitcher Eric O'Flaherty. He is -very- pretty. Get out the binoculars for him.

  • Melanie says:

    I love my Metsies (and my Mr. Met in particular) but honestly? I enjoy watching them on TV more. You get more information, and trying to track the ball in real time isn't easy in a big stadium. Going to a game at Citi Field, to me, is more about the food and drink. To that end (and this is just my Hungry Hungry Hippopinion):
    ~Pressed by Josh Capon – gourmet grilled cheese (GET THE SHORT RIB) to die for. And not a skimpy portion either, for $10. Comes with chips.
    ~The main food court area has Shake Shack, Blue Smoke bbq, El Verano Taqueria and Box Frites (gourmet fries). My faves are practically anything from Box Frites (they have a variety of dipping sauces), the street corn (elote) from El Verano, pulled pork from Blue Smoke. The Shake Shack burger I had did nothing for me. Haven't tried an actual shake, though….
    ~I hear good things about Pat La Frieda's steak sandwiches, and not to bother with Two Boots' pizza.
    ~Pig Guy NYC has BACON ON A STICK. 'Nuff said.
    Go, have fun, and root-root-root for the home team!

  • Sharon says:

    Good advice from everyone. A radical idea – as a kid I learned so much and enjoyed the game more when I learned to keep score. It's a very baseball thing. You don't need to learn it all of course but going through the basics w someone else may appeal to you if you're nerdy like me.

  • Ann_Margrock says:

    Laura – I have tickets for that Friday night game with the Sox. Not in any good seats, mind you, because I don't have a hedge fund. But really, everything Sars and others have said: try to get up between innings, bring water and a seat cushion if you have one, watch for foul balls. You absolutely don't need to know who's who or what's what. Watching a game in the stadium is a more sensory engagement than watching on the tube. In person you will see all types of entertaining humanity in addition to the game. On the tube you get more of the play-by-play understanding of the game. Personally, I like the human parade. And the ice cream. And the chanting.
    Go and enjoy. I'll be wearing the Rusty Staub jersey. Maybe I'll see you there.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    @Ann, we should try to meet up! Have your Sherpa call my Sherpa (we're in the nosebleeds as well).

  • scout1222 says:

    I recently went to a ballgame with two of my husband's coworkers who were from England and Australia. Neither of them knew diddly about the game (though the guy from England seemed to know a considerable amount just from watching American movies, which cracked me up). Bunting (oh god, I can't imagine the name harrassment) is correct, many of us love to be know-it-alls!

    Whatever you do, when you get back to your seat from getting food, going to the bathroom, etc. SIT YOUR BUTT DOWN. You make a better door than a window, is all I'm saying. :)

  • Jenn says:

    I'm a Giants fan, so I can't give Mets advice, but all the general baseball advice here is solid.

    Besides watching the game, going to AT&T Park is ALL about the food for me. I LOVE ballpark food and AT&T has some of the best in the business. So do some research before you go about what's available and what you'd like to try. It doesn't have to be all hot dogs and beer (though there's definitely nothing wrong with the classic) and searching for new favorites can help you explore the park, if you aren't that interested in the game.

    My department takes our grad students to a Giants game every fall. The grad administrator doesn't care about baseball, but has to go. While I love her very much, the most annoying thing she does is just try to have a regular conversation with me while I'm trying to watch the game. During batting practice, between innings, while waiting in line for food – all perfectly fine times to have a non-baseball conversation. But as a fan, it's hard enough for me to concentrate on the game from where we are sitting (i.e. not great seats) without someone trying to show me how much they don't care about the game. So if you just can't get into it, don't be my co-worker around the people in the group that actually care about the game.

  • S says:

    I love the idea of a themed baseball month on the Vine.

  • mspaul says:

    Also just know that there are somethings in baseball that make no sense, and go with it. Once I took an Australian friend to her first baseball game, and it was hilarious.

    "Who's that guy on third base?"
    "He's the third base coach. He tells the runners if they should keep running or stay where they are."
    "…..Isn't that cheating?"
    "No, everyone has one."
    "It sounds like cheating."

    The conversation about pinch runners went even better.

  • MizShrew says:

    I know pretty much nada about baseball and I still have a great time at a game every once in awhile. Knowing if you're in foul-ball territory is useful, though, and someone in your group can certainly fill you in on that.

    Years and years ago, I asked my brother what BB meant on the scoreboard. Without missing a beat he said, "Batters Beaned." My nephew set me right with the Base on Balls thing, but I still always think of it the other way, especially since if the batter gets beaned by a pitch he gets to walk. Just saying that some folks may have some fun with you when you ask questions. Roll with it. Enjoy!

    Oh, if you have any special food issues (vegetarian, gluten free, whatever) you might want to hit up the stadium's web site and check out the food vendors. That way you won't wander all over the stadium trying to find a veggie dog when the only vendor that has 'em is on the second level.

  • Ann_Margrock says:

    @Sars, yep! As we get closer, I'll send an email to bunting@tomatonation.com unless you have a better idea.

    @Laura – if you ARE going on Friday 8/28, let me know. It's always nice to meet another TN reader.

  • Helen says:

    @Melanie, 'Hungry Hungry Hippopinion' is delightful. New phrase for my lexicon!

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    "I LOVE ballpark food and AT&T has some of the best in the business."

    So true. The hot-chocolate jet packs! I just love that park.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    @Ann, email's good — though once everyone's in motion, tweeting at me is more efficient. We'll figure it out.

  • Jo says:

    I wouldn't worry. It's not that hard to follow baseball if you don't care about complicated rules. Mostly, if you just cheer when the other fans cheer and yell a few cuss words at the umpire when the other people around you do the same, you're good.

    You want the Mets to get on base and score and the other team to not get on base or score. It's a nice day outside with your friends with beer. Most of going to baseball games isn't really about watching baseball. You can also do what I do with football: Make a couple of self-depricating jokes about being unathletic and get a guy who is nice and somewhat sober to explain the more complicated stuff.

  • attica says:

    Despite what you'll see in the stands around you, baseball unis are pretty good at highlighting the nice butts of the nice-butted players. If you're an appreciator of fellas' badonkadonks, ogling is not discouraged.

    If I can get seats that suit, I love focusing the binocs into the dugouts and watching that stuff. Feels a little like spying.

    Seconding the reminder to watch out for flying bats and balls. If you're way down the lines, you'll have enough time to duck. If you're closer to the batter's box, you'll have next to no time: attention must be paid.

    Pro tip: There will be a crush of people who hit the team store right after the game. Sneak in and grab your swag sometime after the 7th Inning Stretch (when everybody gets up to sing), and you will win the Park Exodus race.

    Baseball parks are fun. Have fun! Go Mets!

  • Lisa says:

    @Jenn – the Giants are my 2nd favorite team and AT&T Park is on my bucket list because I heard there are garlic fries there.

    Garlic fries and Buster Posey? Surely THAT is Heaven.

  • Dayna says:

    Not a huge baseball fan here but my family are all Giants fanatics, to the point of wearing Giants gear when the game's on TV. And there are many, many treks to the ballpark in SF from Sonoma County during the season.

    I live in LA and have been a few times to Chavez Ravine. I really love that old park, not super high tech, at least not when I was there last. But there's nothing like a night game there in the summer. The sun's going down, the air is getting cooler, the lights come up. It feels like all the summers of my childhood going to my brother's little league games. I can sit with my beer and food, keep an eye on the game, watch the people. It is it's own unique experience.

  • Sandman says:

    How much do I love that Sars' answer to this letter has many, many footnotes? I can't even begin to tell you. It does seem in keeping with Bill James and the sabermetrics and all.*

    (How is "Bill James and the Sabermetrics" not the name of someone's band already? How, Nation?)

    Have fun at the game, Laura!

  • Sandman says:

    Also, tags = love.

  • Rindle says:

    I'm in the minority among my friends in that I enjoy neither baseball nor the games. I can't help with the baseball end of things, but I do have some thoughts on the games. Sunscreen / hats / shades are important if there's any sun out. You might want to look up where your seats are and find out what sort of exposure you'll have and for how long. You want to be prepared if you're going to sit in the same spot for a couple hours in direct sunlight. Bring cash in small bills. Try not to bring a purse.

    Also, I learned the hard way to ask my friends what their rain policies are. I was dismayed to find that many people stay in their seats in the rain (just … getting wet) and they find it charming and/or part of the experience. So if you find it miserable, you're the party pooper in that crowd. If you leave your seat and go stand in a covered part, your seat (and possibly the floor) will be wet when you come back. Bring a towel and/or don't wear clothes you care about. Also don't wear shoes you care about. I ended up having to stand in a couple inches of water during a hard shower once, and when we returned to our seats there was standing water on the ground the rest of the game. My favorite sandals were a total casualty.

  • Mimi says:

    If you do bring a bag/purse, like @Rindle said, make sure it's not one you care about. Leather purse + upset beer = permanent stain on one of my favorite bags a few years back. Now I have a waterproof one that's juuust big enough for my wallet, phone, and keys, and a small tube of sunscreen if necessary.

    Also, the last time I was at a game with a big group of people, I think I literally watched about ten minutes of the actual game because I was just enjoying my friends and the crowds and the atmosphere so much. Despite being a casual sports fan at best, I love going to baseball games. (Although, sigh, Nats, what is going on with you.)

  • bopper says:

    We go to a few Mets games a year, and maybe spend 4-5 innings in the actual seats…you go look at the restaurants, see the Hall of Fame room, do some Mets shopping, see what the giveways are in the Verizon store, get icecream, find the Bacon on a stick,
    etc. etc

  • Laura says:

    Laura here, and thanks to Sars and the Nationals (a new band possibility?), I feel quite prepared for the game I am going to TOMORROW! A day game against the Pirates…and from what I've read in the last few days, things are looking up for these Mets. (Although I just checked tonight's score…waaah.) Oh, well – as I have been expertly advised by you all, going to the ballpark is not just about the game. @Melanie, I have made a list of your food advice, and plan to scout out ALL of that deliciousness – especially the frites and the bacon on a stick, both of which WILL be tried! Apparently we've got pretty good seats (Caesar's Level) and although we'll have a view of the dugout, we shouldn't really be in foul ball territory – but I will stay alert! I have my hat, sunscreen, flat shoes, and binoculars at the ready, and after a chat with my friend/host/birthday honoree, I know that she wants us all to experience the whole scene – the food, the people-watching, the views of NYC, and the game. So I am looking forward to the day, and promise to come back and share my experiences/impressions with you all. Thanks again for the advice and GO METS!

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    Nice pitching matchup! Have fun!

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    …Well, that happened. (hee.)

  • Laura says:

    …no kidding. As my friend remarked to us all as we settled onto the bus for the ride home "You have now had the true Met experience." Heh. They couldn't even break manage a win for her 50th – and she had a message on the damn scoreboard! Oh, well. The balance of the day was just fine. For the first 5 innings, I was really paying attention to the action on the field, and it was great when d'Arnaud (I think it was him…they were passing out magnets and his is the one I got!) scored a home run – the crowd was so excited, and being part of that energy was very cool. And I was sitting next to a mutual friend who was happy to explain why the guy at bat did or didn't swing – even though I know I am a lost cause – I will NEVER be able to visually detect the strike zone. Then a few of us got up and went in search of food, and the lightning flashed and the thunder rolled…and the monsoon set in. Apparently the Pirates have some sort of rain juju…because when I next saw the score, I was all…WTH? Good friends, good food, soooo much to take in (Imperial Stormtroopers for Star Wars Day, the Big Apple you mentioned, my pal knowing the answer to all the Mets' trivia during changeovers, the "Beeeer here" yells from the guys walking through the stands) kept everything interesting. I wasn't even surprised by the size of the crowd, since it's the kind of turnout I'm used to at the US Open across the tracks during the last week of play in Ashe Stadium. Everyone was friendly and helpful, the food I chose was delish – thanks to @Melanie's recs! – and it was truly fun to be with a bunch of friends to celebrate a big day. I suspect I won't be invited back by my bestie, though, since both times I have been with her for any game, there's been a monsoon. Heh. Thanks again for all the advice and support! I'm not saying I've become a fan – but I can certainly understand the love you all have for the whole scene a little better after yesterday. Go Mets!

  • Laura says:

    Ack! I thought I double-checked that post – sorry about the missing punctuation and the word typos! (Must be bacon-on-a-stick hangover.)

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