The 2009 Gloat Tour makes its final stop in the Big Apple at brand-new Citi Field, the home of the amazing(ly far out of first place) New York Mets.
Taking in a game between fierce rivals such as the Philadelphia Phillies and Mets loses some of its luster when one team is so far ahead in the standings, while the other is forced to field a minor league lineup because of huge injuries. However, it's always fun to stick it to New York, so no mercy will be shown.
After boarding a series of trains and subways to make it to the ballpark, my four traveling companions and I exit the platform and are greeted by the new facade, an homage to Ebbets Field.
As we enter the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, my awesome streak of promotional giveaway item luck continues as we are handed small replicas of Citi Field. I guess I will have to start smoking because it will make a fine ashtray.
We soak in the ballpark. I can see design elements from Citizens Bank Park, Nationals Park, and PNC Park on the concourse. The place seems fairly wide open and pleasing to the eye, but slightly on the generic side. The seating bowl also strikes me as very similar to PNC Park's.
After I devour a Nathan's hot dog and some very good fries, the Phillies come to the plate and immediately put up three runs against Oliver Perez on a colossal Jayson Werth home run to left field following a 15 pitch at-bat.
By the time Ryan Howard flies out for the first out, Perez has already thrown over 30 pitches. Four hitters later, Carlos Ruiz sends another three-run bomb into the seats. It's 6-0 in the top of the first. The many Phillies fans are going wild. This is great.
Pedro Martinez gets a good round of applause from his former home fans as he comes to the plate before taking the mound. Several hundred Mets fans have decided to wear their old Pedro t-shirt jerseys, which is pretty idiotic. Spring for a new shirt, guys.
The count goes to 3-0 on Pedro, and Perez is unceremoniously yanked from the game right then and there. I think he has thrown his last pitch as a Met. Former Phil Nelson Figueroa, a critical piece of the Curt Schilling trade, comes on and gets Pedro to finally end the top of the first.
Things get strange when Angel Pagan leads off the bottom of the inning with an inside-the-park home run that shouldn't have happened. The ball barely sticks below the padding in center field and Shane Victorino throws his hands up to call for a dead ball. But the umpires, seemingly out to get the Phillies however they can this year, let Pagan circle the bases.
Pedro doesn't have his best stuff, but he has an 8-2 lead going into the bottom of the third before he serves up a more traditional home run to Pagan. The Mets tack on another run to make it 8-4.
An incredibly annoying, drunken, and red-faced (from booze and the beating sun) Phillies fan behind me continues to yell "Pedro!" and other inane things, but he thankfully passes out for a few minutes and then stumbles out of our section, never to be seen again.
Pedro exits with the 8-4 lead after six innings. Chad Durbin comes on and gives up one run in the seventh to bring it to 8-5.
Matt Stairs then puts on a clinic in the top of the eighth. After he walks, he advances to second on a wild pitch, moves to third on a groundout, and scores on another wild pitch. It's 9-5 and we're all very comfortable. Mets fans have hardly made a peep.
Ryan Madson makes it a lot more interesting in the bottom of the inning by allowing a run and making it a save situation. Brad Lidge time.
Charlie Manuel is ejected in the middle of the ninth inning for arguing after the umpires again give the Phillies the short end of the stick. I think he did it just so he didn't have to see Brad Lidge.
The inning begins, and it's a nightmare. Back-to-back errors on Ryan Howard and Eric Bruntlett bring across a run to make it 9-7. Daniel Murphy singles to put men at first and second with still no outs and Jeff Francoeur coming to the plate.
Citi Field is getting loud. The Mets fans haven't had much to cheer about this year, but they are hoping their team can play spoiler. Lidge looks headed toward another blown save, even though this one is not his fault.
You won't believe me, but at this point, a thought goes through my head—the thought of an unassisted triple play. I can remember watching as a kid when Mickey Morandini turned one. I usually talk too much, but this time the thought does not pass to my mouth, and I don't say anything.
Francoeur works the count to 2-2. Lidge delivers and the runners take off. I will remember the next part for the rest of my life.
Bruntlett moves toward second base to cover, only to find a line drive coming directly at him. In one motion, he catches the ball and steps on second base. Murphy, the runner from first, tries in vain to elude him but can't.
It was an unassisted triple play to end the game—the most ridiculous, miraculous, unbelievable ending to a baseball game that I have ever seen in person.
I will probably forget the final score was Phillies 9, Mets 7, but I will never forget how my first trip to Citi Field ended.
So now, for the rest of my life, every time I walk through the gates of Citi Field, this day will be frozen in my mind—the World Champion Phillies finding a way to deal the already downtrodden Mets and their fans a thoroughly demoralizing loss.
I think I may just have a smile on my face every time I lay eyes on that ballpark over the next couple of decades.
As for the quality of the park itself, I would rate Citi Field higher than Nationals Park. But it's still no Citizens Bank Park. Maybe it was hard to be objective given the team that plays there.
It's a decent park and certainly worth a trip for the serious baseball fan, although be careful not to sit in one of the many sections where your view will be badly obstructed.
The Gloat Tour is over. What a success. Three trips into enemy territory with a sparkling 4-0 record.
I hope to write about, and I hope that you will join me for, the 2010 Championship Gloat Tour.
Let's all keep our hopes high for the rest of 2009.