Let me start off by saying that my wife and I have been attending Mets Opening Days together since we met. It is our favorite time of the year; a fresh start, a new beginning, a glimmer of hope and experiencing something new (yet so old and rich in tradition and comfort) along with tens of thousands of strangers each and every April. We anxiously lay out our Mets gear the night before, get up early the day of the game, get to the ballpark around 1030ish and head right into the park, now Citi Field, to explore what has been added or is missing, downgraded or improved and, most importantly, what delicious new food there is to be tried before the Opening Day ceremonies begin!
Yesterday was no different, except one minor detail. We now have a baby girl! Our little girl is 8 months old and from the womb was, and is, being groomed to be a die hard Mets fan just like mom and dad. So now instead of preparing for 2 to spend the day at the ballpark, it’s laying out 3 sets of gear… plus bottles, and diapers, and extra outfits, toys, teethers, and everything (and anything) else that comes along with an outing with a baby.
Once all of the night before prep was completed, came all of the questions we have never had to consider before such as; can we bring the stroller into the stadium, are they going to wave that wand (with all of that bad radiation) over our baby, will they allow us to bring in her bottles, is there a feeding area, do they have family bathrooms, will she sit on our laps, and it went on and on and on. Searching the Mets website did little to answer our questions or relieve our concerns. Some quick Google searches on taking babies to ballgames provided a little more insight, but even more confusion, as we quickly determined that there is not one standard across the league. So we figured, forget it, it’s Opening Day and our Mets are back, we are going with whatever we feel like we need and we will deal with any obstacles that present themselves along the way. Nothing was going to ruin our tradition and prevent us from making this Opening Day for 2 into an Opening Day for 3.
So we packed up the car, and the baby, and were on our way from Long Island to Citi Field. It was a perfect day, sun was shining, not cold nor hot, just perfect. We got to the park in no time (but enough for the baby to fall asleep in the car), parked in the MTA lot and by 11am were strolling past the Shea Stadium Homerun Apple up to the Jackie Robinson Rotunda to get through security. First question of concern, was getting through security going to be an easy task with a diaper bag and a baby in a stroller. We read some horror stories of security personnel asking parents to remove the baby from the stroller for further inspection. All of you with kids know that asking a parent to remove a sleeping baby from their stroller is on par with asking me to cut off my right arm (YOU NEVER WAKE A SLEEPING BABY), but our fears were quickly averted. The lines moved quickly and the security people at the gates couldn’t have been nicer. They quickly checked the bag, commented it appears to be all baby stuff, and told us to have a great day and enjoy the baby’s first game. Phew!
Now we get into the Jackie Robinson Rotunda and easily maneuvered through and around the Opening Day crowds over to a surprisingly empty 42 area. We quickly snapped some pictures and even got one as a family thanks to a nice couple that was walking around behind us. I am always surprised that since having a baby there is always one of us missing from a majority of our pictures, but I guess that is the case for many parents (I refuse to purchase or use a selfie stick). It is amazing how much nicer people get when they see someone with a baby. It really does provide hope that there is still some good out there in the world. So we got our pictures and now had to figure out how to get up to the field level to walk around and check out the stadium and all that was new this year. This is where we ran into our first hiccup, but not a major one. We couldn’t find any elevators (no signs were posted or maybe there were and we missed them) and there was no way we were attempting to get the stroller, with baby in tow, up the super crowded escalators. Being a guy, I insisted on looking around, as where my wife immediately found a Mets fan assistant and asked for guidance. We were shown glass doors which led to elevators to any level of the stadium. Before even arriving at the glass doors, a Mets staff was already opening them and greeting us. The best part was that most of his attention went to the baby and how excited he was to see her dressed in her Mets gear, and then to us for introducing her to the Mets at such a young age. He also informed us that since it was clearly her first game (post womb), we should head right up the Fan Assistance booth where we can obtain a First Game Attended Certificate with her name on it. Amazing! If not for the friendly staff, we never would have known such a thing existed and missed out on such a great keepsake for us and our baby girl!
So far so good. Our biggest fear of just getting into the stadium is now behind us, we have gotten onto the main concourse and we were good to go. Again, we were greatly surprised at how accommodating and friendly people can be when they see you coming through with a baby in a stroller. People of all ages had no problems stepping aside or waiting a second so we could pass, and even alerted others to allow as easy of a time as possible for us (and i’m sure other families with young ones as well). We took a tour around the field level, introduced our baby to the Shea Bridge, took in a view of that fresh green grass and Citi Field dirt that will hopefully be a sight to see for the family for many years to come, and debated what food to try before heading back to the elevators to head up to the Promenade level to our seats. Every year it becomes more difficult to choose what to eat with so many delicious options available, but this year the challenge was even greater. While we are usually torn between Blue Smoke (my preference) and Mama’s of Coronas (wife’s preference), we were stopped in our tracks by the new Pressed by Chef Josh Capon. Who doesn’t love grilled cheese?! Especially a grilled cheese that comes loaded with bacon or angus short rib or marinated grilled veggies. We both decided on the Slow Braised Black Angus Short Rib Grilled Cheese and it was amazing! I recommend that to everyone looking to try something new at Citi Field.
Now we got in, got our food (and devoured it) and we were ready to find our seats so we can enjoy the pre-game festivities and player intros. We made our way through the crowds back to the elevator and up to the Promenade we went. We got to our section and were immediately greeting by a staff to check our tickets and see if we needed assistance storing the stroller. We explained that we wanted to wait until right before the ceremony so the baby wouldn’t get restless and he took the time to explain where he would store the stroller and to ensure us he would keep an eye on it, although he also promised that it is very safe as the security around the stadium always walks around and keeps an eye out to protect people and their belongings. After snapping a few pictures, to our seats we went. The staff placed the stroller behind railings under the stairs of our section and made sure we checked that we didn’t leave a wallet or any valuables just in case. The baby sat with us on our laps and we all enjoyed the ceremonies and intros and even the first few batters of the game before she started to loose her cool. It was time for a diaper change and a bottle. My wife insisted I stay to watch the game and she would take care of it. I told her to call me if she needed any help getting the stroller or finding a family bathroom. Again, as to be expected, she received immediate assistance retrieving the stroller and getting to one of the many Citi Field family bathrooms which was not more then a few feet from our section. My wife reported it was very nice, spacious and most importantly, clean. There is plenty of room to bring in the stroller and any other belongings you may have and there is no need to worry about privacy as the doors lock when occupied. Another win by the Mets for supporting families with young ones at the game. I don’t like having to use a crowded restroom with a dozen strangers, can you imagine how a naked baby going through a diaper change would feel?!
Well, that pretty much sums up our first Citi Field experience as a family of 3. Despite all of our nerves, questions and concerns, it went more than smoothly and better than we ever could have expected. The Mets and Citi Field really go above and beyond to make it a pleasurable experience for all who attend, both young and old fans alike. Their facilities are top notch and the staff around the stadium couldn’t be nicer or more informative. While I am sure there are a few sour apples here and there (as there are anywhere), it really is the exception not the norm, because every single person we encountered was friendly, willing, and able to assist with whatever was needed. We can’t wait to bring our baby girl back for another experience, and hopefully another Mets win. If only the product on the field matched the level of the staff, we would be having lots of reasons to celebrate the orange and blue around New York.