Part 1 – An Amazing Day at Wrigley Field:
This past Saturday, I had a baseball experience that was almost too good to be true. Not only did I set foot in Wrigley Field for the first time, I did it alongside 500 other die hard Mets fans. I’ve been to Fenway Park, and had always wanted to visit the other remnant of baseball’s glory days, Wrigley Field. Being able to do it was incredible, but having the ability to experience it with the other members of The 7 Line Army made it an experience like none other.
Before I left for the ballpark, I remembered James Earl Jones’ quote from the movie “Field of Dreams.” After his character (the writer, Terence Mann) was invited out beyond the cornfield by Shoeless Joe Jackson, Ray Kinsella (played by Kevin Costner) asked him if he’d write about the experience he has on the other side (which is presumably heaven). Mann responded that of course he’d write about it. He then added succinctly, “that’s what I do.” Since I’m a huge baseball fan and writer, and because Wrigley Field is as close to baseball heaven as you can get, I’ll now write about it…because it’s what I do.
The morning of the game, I woke up right around 8 and was out the door of my hotel by 8:30. I was with my wife, Patti, and our initial plan was to take the elevated train to the game for the full experience. When we heard that there was some construction going on with the red line (the train that goes to Wrigley), we hopped a cab instead.
The ride to the ballpark was short, a breezy drive next to the water before a left turn took us into Wrigleyville. When I got out of the cab, I took it all in. The first thing I did was take a lap around the ballpark. As I walked around Wrigley, I was able to finally see everything I had always dreamed of experiencing first hand. There was the surrounding neighborhood and the bars of Wrigleyville, the houses with rooftop seating that sit across the street from the outfield, the statues of Harry Caray, Ernie Banks, and other Cubs legends, the blue and white Cubs sign that adorns the ballpark behind center field, and the red and white Wrigley Field sign that hangs proudly at the front of the park.
After grabbing a beer at one of the bars, I was stopped by the bouncer who asked me what the deal was with all the orange shirts. He was referring to the shirts we were all wearing, the ones that were made by Darren Meenan of The 7 Line specifically for this trip. I told him why we were there, how most of us had flown halfway across the country, and how excited we all were to be at Wrigley Field. He then told me that our group was the largest one he’d ever seen at Wrigley from an opposing fanbase, which was amazing to hear.
Before entering Wrigley, The 7 Line Army staked out a spot on the lines outside the ballpark’s bleacher entrance. Once we entered, we secured a location in the bleachers in left center field. Behind us were the rooftops, to our left was the famous hand operated scoreboard, and right in front of us were the famous outfield walls that are covered in ivy. Out in the distance was the playing field and the majestic beauty of Wrigley, which first opened its gates in 1914.
As we sat there sipping our beers with the sun shining down on us, Mets players and coaches trotted out to our section to acknowledge our presence. John Buck came out to snap a picture of our section, Scott Rice ran over and tossed a bunch of baseballs to us, and Terry Collins trotted all the way from the Mets dugout by first base to engage us in conversation and ask us incredulously how so many Mets fans had made their way to Wrigley. The answer was multifaceted: we were there because of Darren Meenan and his brand The 7 Line, because we’re fiercely loyal, and because that loyalty is to the New York Mets.
When the game got underway, we chanted for the Mets and rooted as heartily as we do when we’re at home. It was kind of strange, but our section felt more like a Shea Stadium crowd from years past than a Citi Field crowd. I suppose that was due to the fact that we were all die hards. In any event, it was spectacular.
As the game went on, I started to notice all the little things that make Wrigley field so special (aside from the ballpark itself and the neighborhood it’s in). There are a few small LED boards in right and left field, but there’s no video screen. Since there’s no large video screen, there are no annoying graphics prompting fans to cheer, and no ridiculous in-game promotions. I noticed a bit of music at times, but the majority of the noise at Wrigley was generated by the organ and the fans. Since I’m only 29, there’s no way to know what it must’ve been like to experience a game at any major league ballpark in the 1930′s, 40′s, or 50′s, but I’m guessing the current Wrigley Field experience is as close as it gets to what that was like. The focus was on the game and nothing else, which is how it should be everywhere.
When the Cubs went ahead 4-0 on their way to building an eventual 8-0 lead, our section started to hear the loud but good natured wrath of the Cubs faithful. They chanted at us, but we fought right back, delivering chants of “1908,” “right field sucks,” and “we’re still partying.” The last chant was a reminder to the rest of the ballpark that even though our team was down, we were still having an absolute blast.
In the ninth inning, a Rick Ankiel two run homer gave our section a reason to stand up and go nuts before the Mets eventually fell by the score of 8-2. I’m an enormous Mets fan and losses bother me, but there was just something about Saturday in the Wrigley bleachers with The 7 Line Army that made the outcome of the game feel secondary.
We stopped for pictures on our way out of the ballpark before heading to one of the bars across the street. Once there, we continued the party. A little while after we got to the bar, Justin Turner passed by to say hello to Darren. Soon after that, Josh Lewin of WFAN joined us in the bar for a drink. On Twitter, both Dillon Gee and LaTroy Hawkins gave our group a shout out. It was a great ending to a day that was close to perfect.
What should be taken from The 7 Line Army’s outing to Wrigley Field, is the fact that baseball is at its best when it’s stripped down. It’s the sounds, sights, and smells of the ballpark, the camaraderie of the fans, our love for the Mets, and the game that’s being played on the diamond that makes it special. I’m extremely proud to be a Mets fan, and thrilled that I was able to experience Wrigley with 500 other fans just like me. It’s something that I’ll never forget.
Part 2 – Why was our Section Ignored by WPIX?
Before leaving Brooklyn, I made sure to DVR the game I would be attending at Wrigley Field on Saturday. I was certain that WPIX would focus on our section, that the guys in the booth would mention us, and that Kevin Burkhardt would make a trip out to the bleachers to see us. None of that happened. Why?
Since I was at the game, I didn’t become aware of the fact that our section was completely ignored by WPIX until @metspolice started tweeting about it. Our section wasn’t mentioned by Gary Cohen or Keith Hernandez, and it was never focused on by the cameras. That struck me as extremely peculiar. The fact that we were ignored by WPIX is even stranger when you consider the following:
The Cubs’ television feed focused in on our section a bunch of times, and the guys in the booth also mentioned us plenty (there’s even a video on MLB.com that’s dedicated solely to the Mets fans who invaded Wrigley). According to those who were listening to the game on WFAN, both Howie Rose and Josh Lewin mentioned our section. We were discussed by the team’s beat writers, and Adam Rubin of ESPN snapped a picture of us and posted it on Twitter. Kevin Burkhardt informed someone who was with our group that he had wanted to come out to the bleachers, but was told that he couldn’t.
Matthew Cerrone of SNY owned MetsBlog suggested that the following could be the reason why we weren’t shown or mentioned by WPIX:
— Matthew Cerrone (@matthewcerrone) May 21, 2013
The above would make sense if our group hadn’t been shown by the Cubs crew and if a video of our section wasn’t being shown prominently on MLB.com. So, what’s the reason?
There are only two potential reasons I can think of. The first, is that whoever was producing the telecast for the Mets is terrible at their job. The second, is that someone was told to not show our section or mention it. If the people who produced Mets games were bad at their jobs, they wouldn’t win Emmy’s nearly every year. The Mets not only have a tremendous production team, but a booth (during this game manned by Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez) that is the best in the business.
Using deductive reasoning, I think it’s safe to conclude that our section not being shown or mentioned wasn’t because the Mets/WPIX producers and camera guys simply missed it or forgot. We were a group of 500 Mets fans in orange shirts screaming in the bleachers at Wrigley Field for an entire game. We were impossible to miss. Moreover, our presence was free publicity for a franchise that’s in dire need of it. Why on Earth would anyone connected with the Mets not want to show a section of 500 fans (most who flew halfway across the country) who came out to see the 2013 Mets, a team that was 16-23 when Saturday’s game began?
I know that Darren Meenan of The 7 Line is friendly with several Mets employees, but I also know that the Mets ordered McFadden’s at Citi Field to stop allowing Darren to sell his merchandise there. I suppose that’s somewhat understandable, since Darren’s brand is in direct competition with the merchandise the Mets sell. If the Mets had any sense, they’d offer Darren a job. I suspect, though, that any job the Mets offered him would squash his creativity and prevent him from having full artistic control – something he would never agree to.
It seems to me that our section was ignored on purpose, and that the order came from someone who didn’t want to highlight The 7 Line in a positive way. What that person failed to realize, is that it wasn’t about The 7 Line, it was about 500 die hard fans, including Darren, who traveled to Chicago during a season when the team is struggling because we love the Mets. The Mets and WPIX pretended we didn’t exist. It was both an insult to us and an idiotic public relations move.