I follow the NBA with a passion that borders on obsessive-compulsive, and every Sunday from September through January, I'm parked in front of a TV for the NFL. But for some reason, there's no sport that can make me feel like a kid again quite like baseball.
On Thursday, I won a Twitter contest for four tickets to Friday night's Mets-Braves game at Citi Field. I found a copule of friends to meet me at the park, and headed down for "Social Media Night", which is one of the cooler things I've ever experienced at a baseball game. There was a pregame meet-and-greet with Justin Turner and R.A. Dickey, two of the Mets more active players on Twitter and two guys who happen to be among my favorite current players on the team -- for what could be called "child-like" reasons: Turner, because he's a redhead, and we have to stick together, and Dickey because he's a knuckleballer, and I've always liked unconventional pitchers. Both guys were incredibly cool about interacting with the fans, despite it being less than an hour before the game.
Just before the game started, I made my way to the Mets team shop. I needed an updated Mets jersey -- my only "current" one was of Johan Santana, who hasn't pitched in more than a year -- and as it turned out, they were having a sale: buy any pre-printed player jersey and get a blank jersey free. On top of that, customization of a blank jersey was free, as long as you weren't getting an active or retired player name on it (though I'm sure if your choice of retired player was obscure enough, they'd have no idea). I decided to take advantage of that and finally get a jersey with my own name and number on the back. Normally I wouldn't think about doing that, but it was free, and it really did make me feel like a kid going to my first game at Shea Stadium, way back in 1987.
The night was topped off by the Social Media Night giveaways, which were done throughout the night. Multiple people in my section won autographed jerseys and baseballs and other prize packs, and just when I thought I might come away empty handed, I landed the final prize of the night, an autographed Jason Bay bat. It's honestly one of the cooler things I've ever won, and just added to that whole "kid again" feeling. For a minute -- well, actually much longer -- it didn't matter that Jason Bay was hitting .233 or that his .659 OPS ranked 67th among outfielders with at least 300 at bats this season (still one spot ahead of Ichiro, it's worth noting). I was holding one of his bats, and it was signed by him.
Doing what I do for a living, it's easy to become cynical about sports, sometimes too easy. So it's nice to be able to have an experience like this, where I can just be a fan, like I was when I was younger. And in an age where sporting event attendance is drastically overpriced, it's incredible that for $169, I was able to get four tickets in the second row, parking at the stadium, two jerseys and an autographed bat. All that for less than half of what I paid for a single Heat-Nets ticket in October. A good night indeed.