Even with COVID-19 capacity restrictions still in place, the fans were true to the orange and blue at Citi Field in Flushing, Queens on Thursday for the Mets’ home opener against the Miami Marlins.
With raised arms and booming cheers, Citi Field once again was full of life with the attendance of more than 8,000 socially distanced fans, many of whom see each other as a big, happy family.
This theme of family played a crucial role in the day’s proceedings. With many New Yorkers losing family members to the deadly COVID-19 virus or being forced to quarantine away from them due to the pandemic, rendezvousing with fans who feel akin to extended family has done a great deal for mental health and morale for those returning to the ballgame.
Known as “Pin Man,” Nicholas Giampietro is something of a Citi Field celebrity; he’s been attending games for more than 16 seasons, and fans can recognize him by the hundreds of pins attached to his Met jersey.
He couldn’t be missed in the parking lot, either; Giampietro rode up to the stadium in a car adorned with Met stickers to greet those who he considers to be family.
“I get part of my life back,” Giampietro began, voice thick with emotion. “I miss all my Met family; it’s been 18 months. Now I get to see all my friends again, and that makes me happy,” Giampietro told amNewYork Metro.
“Pin man” spent the morning welcoming back fellow fans home, but he was not the only one.
“Welcome back,” were two words that often left the lips of Citi Field staff as they accepted hordes of returning fans who lined up outside the stadium’s many entrances. While it was a rainy day for Yankee fans on April 1, Mets fans were treated to a warm sun beating down upon them, which only added to the excitement, especially for those who have anticipating the day for months.
Giulliano Quesada has been attending opening days ever since he was a child, a tradition he now continues with his wife.
“I have been doing it since I was five- or six-year-old — I got to do it. It’s a family thing, it’s something we do to bring in the summer and to support our team,” Quesada said.
Although it was hard for Quesada to break an annual family event last year, he recognizes the importance of putting health concerns first.
“This year it is a glimmer of getting back to normal. Thankfully, we have our health, we are vaccinated, and it seems like New Yorkers are doing the right thing,” Quesada added.
Like Quesada, many of the returning fans were picking up where they left off well over a year prior, but the process was not as straight forward as back in 2019.
To gain entry, ticket-holders were required to present proof of full vaccination or a COVID-19 test that had been performed in the last 72 hours. Not only that, but the stadium was also capped at 20% capacity, allowing 8,492 people inside — each undergoing temperature checks on their way in.
For father and daughter Hector and Jessica Gonzalez, the ability to be able to spend time together outside is a Godsend after self-isolating for months. The duo are season ticket holders, regardless of the strict regulations imposed.
“I get tested already because I am in college—I get tested weekly, so it wasn’t an issue at all,” Jessica said. Hector agreed, stating: “We are coming back Saturday, and we will get tested again. If everyone continues to do the right thing, the numbers will go down.”
As the gates were opened, the gathered crowd unleashed a roar of cheers. Still, the sense of reunion did not only extend to crowd members.
Members of the NYPD K9 unit posed outside the stadium with their furry fellow officers and even Mayoral candidate Andrew Yang arrived to celebrate the return of the Amazin’ Mets.