Road Trip To Shea: A fine trek reaches its apex with a 7-1 win

The New York Mets helped make my kids’ first visit to Shea – and likely my final trip – a memorable one.

Oliver Perez shook off a first-inning homer by the Texas Rangers’ Josh Hamilton to pitch seven solid innings Friday night to lead the New York Mets to a 7-1 win that we hope will put the team back on track.

Hamilton’s blast bumped the count up to 7,386 Mets games without a no hitter, but no worries. the Mets needed a “W” more than a no-no at this point in the season and Perez (7 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 7 K) was up to the challenge. As Perez held the Rangers scoreless, the Mets jumped right back with two runs in the bottom half of the first and squeezed out another in the fifth on a David Wright sacrifice fly before breaking out with four runs in the sixth.

It’s been years since I last visited Shea, and during the past few seasons I’ve heard a ton of commentators say what a dump the place is. I wholeheartedly disagree. When I watched my first Mets game in person in 1975, I found the place absolutely amazing and Friday’s trip did little to change that youngster’s impression. Sure, Citi Field looks like it’ll be incredible, but Shea in all its chipped-paint-glory holds my childhood memories and nothing will change that. Now I know what my dad was feeling when he used to wax eloquent about losing Ebbets Field.

Friday (Day 3 of our road trip) started early in Western Pennsylvania (about 400 miles from Shea) with a crappy breakfast and one dad and two kids a tad cranky from a lack of sleep. Michael and Alex grabbed an extra hour of shuteye in the car as I used the gas pedal to try to make up the hour or two lost Thursday after the Cubs game at Wrigley headed into extra innings.

We poked through the Lincoln Tunnel around 1:30 p.m. and after uttering – and apologizing for uttering – a few profanities while trying to readjust to NYC-style driving (I don’t get much practice in South Dakota), we arrived at our hotel at 32nd and Broadway and met my nephew Bryan from New Jersey.

Our bellhop (a diehard Mets fan) suggested we skip the 7 train and take the LIRR from Penn Station. I never went in that way, but though slightly more expensive it was a comfortable trip that shaved about a half our off our travel time. That got us to Shea in plenty of time for batting practice.

BP is always fun, but I was amazed at how few players come over to the stands to sign balls or scorecards nowadays. It’s all about “special access” in this era, and we weren’t the on-field folks.

Fortunately, Mets prospect Reese Havens, the No. 22 overall pick in this year’s First-Year Player Draft, dropped by the dugout and signed balls for several fans (including my sons). Both Havens, the 21-year-old shortstop from the University of South Carolina, and fellow recent draftee Brad Holt donned Mets jerseys for BP, though who knows if they’ll ever wear them for real. But my boys were excited to get an autograph, even though none of their favorite players came over.

Some other random musings:

  • Where was Mr. Met? The Mets’ mascot was a no-show through five, then appeared just for a few T-shirt blasts and never mingled anywhere near our boxes. What’s up with that?
  • Hot dog or California roll? Friday night was the first time I got to try out the Metropolitan Club waiter service, and although I was tempted to add a side of sushi to our order just for the novelty, I stuck to the well worn “beer and a dog” philosophy.
  • Eight, eight, seven: My nephew Bryan informs me that the proper number of claps to do in sequence to the “Everybody clap your hands” cheer is 31 – or eight, eight, seven. That helps save that embarrassing 32nd clap.
  • Omar calling: I managed to snap a photo during BP of Omar Minaya talking on his cell phone. I wonder who was on the other end. Another GM? His agent? The Domino’s guy? You make the call.
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