By Peter Schwartz
Throughout the course of life, there are always things that you experience for the first time. Whether it’s the first day of school, a first date, your first car or the first home that you buy, these types of things are milestone moments in one’s life.
From a sports perspective, there are also special occasions to remember like your first little league game, the first professional game you see in person, or meeting your favorite athlete.
When you attend a game, you generally see a large cross section of people ranging from babies sitting on Mom and Dad’s lap all the way to senior fans that have been going to games for many years.
I’ll always remember the first time that I went to games in various sports and I hold equal feelings for the initial games that my wife and I took our boys to. When a child attends a game, the emotions are special and sometimes breathtaking.
It’s the look on their face when they walk into the stadium or arena.
It’s watching them clutch that souvenir that you bought them at the team store.
Its teaching your child how to keep score and watching them come up with their own symbols.
It’s how they react to the home team scoring or the mascot coming around to say hi.
It’s their messy faces after eating a hot dog or cotton candy.
It’s the hug they give you when they thank you for taking him or her to the game.
It’s the quiet feeling in the car when the child falls asleep on the way home.
Whatever those feelings are like for a game, you can quadruple them for a playoff game.
My first postseason baseball game was on October 11th, 1977 when my Dad took me to Game One of the World Series between the Yankees and Dodgers. I was a mere ten years old and I was treated to a classic as the Yankees came out on top 4-3 thanks to Paul Blair’s walk-off RBI single scoring Willie Randolph in the 12th inning.
The whole night was exciting from the time we arrived at the ballpark until the time we got home and I told my Mom all about it. It was an unbelievable feeling to be in that kind of atmosphere and I couldn’t wait for other chances to go. I’m lucky that I’ve seen plenty of playoff games, in many sports, in my lifetime.
I’ve taken my nine year old son Bradley to many sporting events over the years. I event took him to an Islanders Stanley Cup playoff game in 2013 but he had never been to a baseball post-season game.
That is until Tuesday night.
Last week, I was able to secure a pair of tickets to Game 4 of the NLDS between the Mets and Dodgers at Citi Field. I wanted to badly to share the great news with Bradley that we would be going to the game but my wife Sheryl and I agreed that we would not tell him right away.
We did this for a couple of reasons.
First, we didn’t want him to be disappointed if there wasn’t a Game 4. Second, Bradley goes to Hebrew School on Tuesdays and we were concerned that he would be distracted because of the excitement of the game.
So we decided to pull off an epic surprise for Bradley. We weren’t going to tell him about it until the last possible moment.
We took Bradley to his Hebrew class but had two bags packed in the car. One had dinner, drinks and snacks and the other had a change clothes for him….his Mets hat and jersey. We picked him up at 7pm and immediately told him where he was going.
“Get out of here!” said Bradley. “Where are we going for dinner?’
I pulled out the tickets and then something else came out of his mouth that was wide open with shock.
“Oh my God!” screamed this happy little Mets fan. “We’re really going!”
We then got in the car and Sheryl dropped us off at a nearby Long Island Railroad station for a 15 minute ride to Citi Field. During the ride, Bradley was uncharacteristically quiet. Generally, he’ll ask a bunch of questions when we’re going to a game, but on this ride, not much other than asking how many more stops a few times.
After we arrived, I bought Bradley a program and we went up to our seats in the upper deck.
Bradley had never seen the place packed like it was and he just kept looking around and taking in the atmosphere. He was so excited and just kept spinning around in circles waiting for me to tell him which direction we had to go towards. We sat down in our seats just as Steven Matz fired the first pitch of the game.
By now you all know that the Dodgers won that game 3-1 to force a decisive 5th game Thursday night in Los Angeles. The result though didn’t have an adverse effect on Bradley. Yes, he was disappointed that the Mets didn’t win, but it didn’t stop him from having a great time.
When we go to games during the regular season, it’s generally a given that we’ll leave our seats a few times to go to fan fest, the team store, the bathroom, or just for a walk around the ballpark. But on this night, there was no leaving the seats.
Bradley kept score in his program from the first pitch to the last pitch. He ate his sandwich for dinner, cheered on his Mets, and chatted with the other fans around us. By the end of the night, everyone knew that it was Bradley’s first baseball playoff game and they were all treated to his baseball wisdom.
After the last out was made, Bradley completed his scorecard and we left our seats. On the way downstairs, he told me that, even though the Mets lost, it was an exciting game and he had a great time. He kept looking around the ballpark on the way out and started to talk about the Mets’ chances in Game 5.
That smile was there all night. It was almost as if the final score was irrelevant. For Bradley, being at a playoff game was special.
Because you never forget your first time!