Got to admit it. The Mets did a darn good job of entertaining their fans at their inaugural in-stadium Fan Fest on Saturday.
They’d held various limited forms of a Fan Fest on occasion many years prior, usually held off-site, but this was the first time they turned Citi Field into a Disneyland of baseball. Fans were not only able to meet the guys who wear their favorite uniforms, but interact with them as well in a variety of situations and events.
Virtually the entire 40-man roster, plus freshly hired manager Luis Rojas and coaches were on hand, and they were all over the ballpark all day long, from throwing bp to anyone willing in the batting cages of the visitor’s clubhouse, to playing ping-pong, video games, table hockey, foosball, and other amusements with the fans on the Delta Level. Or to just hang out, have a conversation, or pose for photos with the people who spend their money so they can shout, “Let’s Go Mets.” All for the price of a single admission, which was a bargain compared to some ticket prices these days.
In addition to the current roster, the Mets also drafted a distinguished group of former players which the fans readily welcomed in autograph sessions and other events, among them: Keith Hernandez, Ron Darling, Ed Kranepool, Art Shamsky, Dwight Gooden, Mookie Wilson, Tim Teufel, and Turk Wendell.
Kranepool and Shamsky were among those dispatched to participate in an amusing staging of games on the Foxwoods Level, where a pseudo game-show host pitted Krane and Sham against J.D. Davis and Dominic Smith in a bizarre but funny version of the Newlwed Game, in this instance re-labeled, The Newly-Met Game.
The old guys versus the new guys were challenged in questions to see how well they knew their teammate. For instance, Davis was asked what Smith likes to splurge on. J.D. responded, “Shoes.” Smitty, who will now be wearing number 2 this season (he yielded his No. 22 to new pitcher Rick Porcello) repelled that answer with “Food.” Shamsky was asked who he thought Kranepool would say was the “toughest” ‘69 Met. Shamsky offered, “Koosman.” Kranepool blew that point with “Don Cardwell.”
The stage there was also used for Q & A sessions with the fans throughout the day with various groups of players.
And just like Disneyland, fans were allowed to roam the ballpark and visit the various highlights on self-guided tours as they wished in whatever order suited them.
Fans were able to explore the TV and radio booths, sat through highlight films in the auditorium, won prizes in a spin-the-wheel game, found Mookie in the Mets Museum and were able to take photos with him alongside the 1986 trophy, and got to see the inner workings of the Mets clubhouse and dugout, and even areas where not even the media is allowed during the season.
For example, the team’s workout room in the clubhouse would put just about fitness center to shame with all its equipment and ability to keep the team in playing shape. And for those who have never seen it, in large letters on the wall is this mantra, situated amongst the words, “Confidence,” “Dedication,” and “Discipline,” “We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training…Archilochus.”
The team’s press conference room, where you normally see the manager detail the game’s highs and lows with the media post-game was turned into a high-end souvenir shop, where fans could buy hundreds of autographed and team-issued items, including player jerseys for hundreds of dollars, the player banners that normally ring the exterior of the ballpark, and everything from a David Wright-signed bat to bases from various games.
The room was also used to host a puppy adoption event being run by the North Shore Animal League, where players such as Jeff McNeil, Daniel Zamora, and Jacob Rhame hung out to play with the puppies before they were handed off to qualified new owners.
McNeil has become the Mets poster child for puppy adoption, having brought home a furry new companion last summer.
“This is great,” McNeil said. “The fans are great. Can’t wait to get started. And who doesn’t love these adorable puppies.”
The day was a tremendous marketing campaign for the 2020 season, as fans were also, of course, allowed to start buying tickets, and enjoy all the festivites. But the players enjoyed it too.
“It’s cool to see the excitement of the fans getting pumped for the season,” Steven Matz exclaimed.
Pete Alonso equally enjoyed the event. “This is awesome. I love to interact with the fans. They’re why we play the game. We’re excited about 2020 and they should be, too. It’s a fun day.”