Esposito: Hey MLB, Bring Astros-Mets to NY, Not Tampa

If MLB decides to move this weekend’s Astros-Mets series to Tampa Bay due to the devastating storms that have flooded the Houston area, that would be a mistake.

Bring it to New York, MLB. Bring it to Citi Field, and you will greatly benefit the people of Texas.

Why? It was disappointing to see less than 4,000 fans attend last night’s forced move game between the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros. It’s bad enough the area of Tampa Bay doesn’t even want to attend Rays games, so why should they go see two teams with only mild interest. It was nice to see the few fans in attendance were quite supportive with signs and donations, but far too few offering way too little. Yes, the fans paid just $10 apiece to see the game, and all proceeds are being donated to Houston relief funds. But that was a raindrop compared to what could be raised with a three-game series in New York.

Here’s what I would do.

First, bringing the games to Citi Field at very affordable prices would attract thousands of Mets fans – and perhaps some Astros fans as well – for the chance at seeing their team much closer than the affordable upper deck seats. And for those who don’t normally get to come to the games, a chance to give them a shot at good seats at beneficial prices.

Let’s say the Mets charge twenty bucks a head for all lower level seats, first come, first served, with season and partial season ticket holders getting first crack. Then maybe $10 each for upper levels, maybe just five bucks each for the top deck, and you will be impressed with the attendance figures. And yes, all proceeds should be donated.

And here’s how you can raise additional funds. Autographs!

Yes, fans are spoiled by the occasional opportunity to acquire free autographs from their favorite players by coming down to the box seat rails and hope to catch the eye or ear of a player or two. But with the announced intention that all fees acquired for autographs will be donated, many fans will still jump at the chance to have a controlled meet-and-greet with the players and get autographs.

Some hours prior to each game, maybe with a shortened bp time limit, you could set the players up at folding tables on the field close to one of the egresses and have the fans pay a reasonable fee to line up and get signatures from the entire team! Both teams. Mets and Astros. I would even pair one player from each team together at the same table to show solidarity. Maybe $50, maybe more per autograph ticket and you can get a bunch of autographs on something, maybe a special ball or print up some team photos.

Worried about the chaos? Time consuming? Nah, I’ve seen it done properly dozens of times at baseball card shows.

Perhaps the players could meet the fans in some sort of fashion in the large plaza areas behind the main level. Maybe they start a line in the Jackie Robinson Rotunda leading to the field.

And then you call in the special guest stars. Celebrities from the fields of TV, movies and Broadway might be able to join in. But also, call the Hall of Famers and All-Stars.

Did you know that when Mike Piazza attended the recent Hall of Fame Induction ceremony weekend up in Cooperstown, a card show promoter had him spend some time at one of the hotels in the village and fans lined up to pay $169 for each Piazza signature. One hundred and sixty-nine dollars for just one Piazza scribble. More if he signed a bat or equipment, more if he added, “To so-and-so.”

So if Piazza is available this weekend, it’s not unreasonable to ask him to donate some time and his valuable signature for a very worthy cause. Okay, so not everyone can afford those big bucks for one sample of his penmanship. So maybe they charge $50 or so separately from the rest of the group for a Piazza signature. There would still be a sizable line ready to fork it over.

Even fellow Hall of Famers such as former Astros Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell, if available, would likely have no problem participating. It might be worth a shot calling Nolan Ryan as well. The former Astro and Met would be a popular draw.

Former Met and Astros All-Stars and popular players could also help swell the donation buckets.

Of course, Mets management would have to cooperate and be willing to offer up a sizable donation. Just opening up the ballpark and bringing in all the vendors and ushers and other employees cost a minimum of $10,000 per game. You could ask them to donate their salaries for a day or so, but many depend on that income to pay the rent and such.

One of the flys in the ointment would be the ongoing US Open tournament next door to Citi Field. Traffic would be quite cumbersome, which is one the reasons the Mets request to be on the road while the tennis fans dominate the area. But you can manage that, too.

It’s just a thought, and a way to help the flooded people of Texas, but I hope MLB says play in the Citi.

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