Hey batter batter! With the Mets taking down the Atlanta Braves Monday night in their home opener, baseball season has officially arrived in New York City. Time for lovers of the ole ball game to dust off their caps and jerseys—and for the haters to start moaning and groaning about how long an inning takes.
Believe it or not, you don’t have to be a diehard fan—or even know anything about the sport—to have fun cheering on the Mets or Yankees. Between the stadium grub, free swag and zany mascot antics, there’s something for every New Yorker to enjoy. Here’s why spending an evening at Citi Field or Yankees Stadium belongs on your spring and summer bucket list.
Even if you couldn’t tell the difference between a ball and a strike to save your life, you can still appreciate some baseball history. Legends like Babe Ruth, Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle have all played for the Yankees, who have won 27 championships since 1921.
The Mets, on the other hand, are constant underdogs with only two World Series titles in their 55-year history. When they do make it to the championship, though, it’s an incredible thing to experience.
Checking out the massive ball parks themselves is enough reason to trek out to the South Bronx or Queens. With a total cost of $1.3 billion, Yankee Stadium is still the most expensive baseball stadium ever built. The overall look mirrors the original 1923 stadium, from the limestone exterior to the gold leaf lettering to Monument Park. Citi Field doesn’t harken back to Shea Stadium, the original home of the Mets, very much at all, but fans can still get their history fix in the Mets Hall of Fame and Museum on the first base side of the park.
You can sing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” and do the seventh inning stretch at any ballpark, but the Yankees and Mets have more unique, New York–specific traditions. After every home game, the Yankees play Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York”. Fun fact: The team used to play Liza Minnelli’s version of the song after a loss, but had to stop after she complained.
Look behind the centerfield fence at Citi Field and you’ll spy the top of giant red apple (the “Big Apple,” get it?) poking out of an upside-down top hat. Whenever the Mets hit a homer, a hydraulic lift propels the apple out of the hat. This is the new-and-improved model—the original was a somewhat shoddy handmade contraption that left fans chanting “We want apple! We want apple!” when it failed to pop out after a home run.
It’s not just hot dogs and peanuts anymore—both Yankee Stadium and Citi Field offer seriously impressive grub options. This season, Yankee Stadium added Mighty Quinn’s barbecue to their roster of restaurants that already includes Parm, Bareburger and Linda’s Egg Creams. Not to be outdone, Citi Field has an even wider array of options, from Shake Shack to Arancini Bros to Two Boots to DŌ.
Both teams give out everything from garden gnomes of the players to freezer mugs to plush Peeps at select home games. Notably, the Mets host Free Shirt Friday whenever they’re playing at Citi Field—a steal, considering you can almost always find tickets for as little as $15. Just make sure you check the promotional calendars before you go to score the best free swag.
No, we’re not just talking about the walkup songs—though this writer will always have a soft spot for Mets center fielder Juan Lagares for playing Nelly’s “Hot in Herre” whenever he steps up to the plate. The Mets usually get some big acts for their postgame concert series. The 2017 list hasn’t been released yet, but Andy Grammer and Styx were among the acts who performed last year.
Though both teams once had mascots, only one remains: Mr. Met. The Yankees’ Dandy only lasted a few years in the ‘80s, and the poor mustachioed, pinstriped bird was thrown into the dumpster when the team’s lease on the character ran out.
Mr. Met is still alive and well, posing for photos with Mrs. Met and starting a Twitter feud with pitcher Noah Syndergaard. A grown man trading jabs with a six-foot-ten mascot with a baseball for a head is undoubtedly a little weird, but it’s all in good fun.
The local watering holes
Skip the overpriced beer at the stadium and get a buzz at a nearby sports bar instead. Supporters of the Bronx Bombers know all about The Dugout, a cheap dive popular for pre-game happy hours and located just across the street from Yankee Stadium. Mets fans will probably have better luck after the game at Roosevelt Sports Bar in Flushing, where bartenders are known for offering generous buybacks—especially on game days.
The celebrity sightings
As if you needed another reason to get yourself to a game, just think of the potential for seeing famous New Yorkers. Jerry Seinfeld is a huge Mets fan and still goes to games from time to time. He’s even been spotted at Citi Field with fellow fan Chris Rock. The Yankees can count the likes of Billy Crystal and Jay-Z (just listen to “Empire State of Mind,” people) among their supporters.
Now, who's ready for some peanuts and Cracker Jack?