A week ago Saturday I took a trip to New York City to visit my brother and go to Coney Island. Specifically I went to ride the Cyclone (it alone was worth the trip) and to see a minor league baseball game on Coney Island. I am attempting to see a baseball game at every current major league stadium and now that I have reduced my "wish list" to six (there are thirty major league parks), I have been branching out to watch games at minor league stadiums.
The baseball game was a joy. The new ballpark has a nice ocean vista along with nice views of two nearby protected historic structures of yesteryear, the abandoned, towering Parachute Jump and the Cyclone. Like all minor league parks, once we were inside we roamed around at will. Players were even signing autographs.
The home team Brooklyn Cyclones (a Mets affiliate) won 8-6, coming back from a 5-0 deficit. Several balls flew out of the park. My brother actually caught a foul ball. That was thrilling. Being a Class A game, a few innings went on for a long time. Sorta like watching T-Ball. Anyone with kids knows what I mean. Interestingly, KeySpan Park has distance to deep center that is two feet further than at Shea Stadium.
The next morning I left my brother's and walked over to see Shea Stadium. To get from his house in Flushing (Queens) to the park you have to traverse a highway bridge over a vast wasteland of Belt Parkways, a turgid creek and auto repair shops. He thought I was taking my life in my hands to do this even in broad daylight.
But once at Willets Point, I walked around the brand new stadium being built for the Mets in the parking lot next door to Shea. It's an emerging steel skeleton right now, right across the street from a long row of muffler shops, auto glass places and body shops. It's like a shantytown devoted to auto repair out there. There aren't going to be any spectacular views from the new stadium like in, say, the new Pittsburgh baseball park.
My brother tells me the plan is to move all the auto shops out and gentrify the place with condos and shops. But there are rumors that there's a lot of chop-blocking going on out there, Mafia controlled, and those shops ain't moving. Shea is like certain other baseball parks which are set down in the middle of nowhere and where half an hour after a game, everyone is gone. Atlanta comes to mind.
Then I got aboard Greyhound and returned home for $68 round trip. At the bus terminal in DC, instead of walking the three quarters of a mile to the Metro stop at Union Station, I went a half mile the other direction on this Sunday afternoon to the Gallaudet University station. A friend I was telling this to later thought I was taking my life in my hands to do this even in broad daylight. It was an interesting walk down an absolutely deserted street bordered by vacant warehouses on one side and the raised train tracks on the other. As I walked along I counted the number of square patches of broken auto glass in the street next to the curb every eighteen feet, where a recent smash and grab operator had been at work on parked cars during the weekday. There were an even dozen.
There was life at the Metro station in the form of the station attendant in his booth at the fare gates downstairs, myself and one other patron who was a transient. No matter where I went on the platform, he followed me. A train came by and we both got on the same car. He sat down opposite me, staring at me before he spoke.
"What year'd cha do it in?"
I thought about his remark, and alighted upon the fact that I was wearing a Marine Corps Marathon ball cap.
"I did it in 2003. I'm trying to get automatic entry."
I looked him over. Ragged clothes, pretty much toothless, carrying around two plastic bags full of stuff, a typical homeless guy. (Disgracefully, Washington our nation's capital is full of them.) Maybe he was a runner although it seemed doubtful.
"How many you need to run to get that?"
"How many more you got to do?"
"Four. How many you done?"
"Only one Marine Corps. I don't run the same marathon twice, there are so many out there."
"Huh. You run others?"
"Yeah, you know. Baltimore. Columbus."
"The thing I like about the Marine Corps one is that extra bit they add at the end. It's all uphill, to the statue. It's just like the Marines, they always got to be better or longer or somethin'."
"I think they're all the same distance."
"No no, the Marines add that extra, what is it, three hunnerd yards? Marines gotta do that. What makes 'em special."
"Yeah. Those Marines. You ever in them?"
He had been, in the eighties, He happily told me all about it. It was very interesting to hear.