Chase Utley creates opportunity for Citi Field’s first lasting memory

From 1964 to 2008, Shea Stadium provided the backdrop for countless, defining New York Mets moments. It was not uncommon for the papier-mâché-esq, architectural monstrosity to literally shake when fans would jump up and down, dance, and cheer with hoarse, unabashed joy during pivotal games and moments.

I know this because, as a life-long fan, I myself contributed to the jeers, prayers, and hugs with fellow tear-filled strangers.

But since moving into Citi Field in April 2009, there has been little reason for fans to transform the state-of-the-art facility into a 41,922-person trampoline. Over the past seven seasons, there simply has not been an opportunity to forge lasting memories at Citi Field.

That is, until yesterday evening.

Aside from the typical excitement surrounding a playoff game — and in the Mets’ case, their first postseason berth since 2006 — the effects of Chase Utley‘s controversial slide in Game 2 rekindled an almost forgotten electricity among Mets fans.

Twitter has been flooded by opinions on Utley’s slide, which fractured Ruben Tejada’s right fibula. Perhaps due to the out pour of social media pressure, Joe Torre, MLB’s chief baseball operator, promptly handed Utley a two-game suspension.

And while the Dodgers plan to appeal the suspension, per ESPN’s Mark Saxson, the drawn-out process put Utley in attendance last night at Citi Field. No, Dodgers’ manager Don Mattingly wasn’t foolish enough to start Utley.

And I also assume Utley didn’t take the 7-train out to Queens.

Due to “Slidegate,” for the first time since bulldozing Shea, Mets fans had a tangible reason to trek out to Citi Field: they were irate.

And it is not that Mets fans have not been irate over the past seven seasons.

Yet, up until Tejada was carted off the field on Saturday evening in Los Angeles, Mets fans’ resentment had been directed towards the organization itself. Fans had been displeased with the Wilpons’ financially and morally corrupt ownership. They had rightfully questioned general manager Sandy Alderson’s underwhelming offseason strategies, like signing dud Michael Cuddyer. And even Terry Collins, who now might very well win National League Manager of the Year, had received his fair share of criticism for dubious in-game decision-making.

Thanks to Chase Utley, however, the Mets themselves aren’t their own worst enemy anymore. Last night, fans were not focusing on the financial affects of Bernie Madoff’s ponzi scheme or why departed-cornerstone Jose Reyes was no longer the starting shortstop.

Instead, Chase Utley and the Los Angeles Dodgers were unequivocally the enemy.

The thumping Twitter-verse was unified on this. The stirred Mets players were unified on this. And die-hard fans, who dished out more than $180 on StubHub for standing room-only tickets, were certainly unified on this.

Prior to Game 2, Citi Field had been a vapid piece of branded real estate; a place for catching a few innings of disappointing baseball while stuffing oneself with overpriced Shake Shack burgers. But last night, starting at 8:37pm Eastern-Standard Time, Citi Field finally became a coliseum of palpable postseason vigor.

I was at Citi Field last night with my older brother, joined by 40,000-plus other Mets fans. Because on a night like last night, how could we all not be at home together?


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