Mikkeller Brewery, a new pub connected to Citi Field, is sure to be bustling on game days. Yet, on a snowy Monday night without New York Mets baseball, the crowds still came thanks to one of the city’s newest professional teams.
New York Excelsior is the first esports team to represent the city, competing in Activision Blizzard’s popular “Overwatch” video game. Known as NYXL for short, the team is coming off its championship in Stage 2 of the inaugural Overwatch League. The team, comprised of eight South Koreans, was scheduled to hold a meet-and-greet with fans during the Mets’ series opener against the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday.
When the game was postponed, NYXL’s head of events and business development Ben Nichol feared the worst. Fortunately for the team, the snow couldn’t keep fans away.
“I’m absolutely blown away to see them showing up in these numbers in this kind of weather,” he said. “Here on this day, when there’s no game and there’s just a team of ‘Overwatch’ pros.”
Citi Field was a logical location. The team is bankrolled by Sterling.VC, an investment fund co-founded by Mets COO Jeff Wilpon. Los Angeles currently houses NYXL, but the team hopes to move operations to NYC full time in the future.
No player was in a bigger “New York State of Mind” than team captain Park “Saebyeolbe” Jong-Ryeol. Saebyeolbe was supposed to throw out the first pitch at Citi Field, but the great turnout helped turn disappointment into elation.
“With the game getting canceled, this is the best thing that could happen,” Saebyeolbe said. “It almost feels like I won a match, I’m that happy.”
Nichol plans for much more local engagement in the future.
“I hope for lots of this, opportunities for fans to meet the players in a fun place,” he said. “Also, lots of opportunities for us to celebrate the culture to get people excited about gaming and culture around gaming.”