NEW YORK -- Joe McEwing hasn't been here long and he already has his fill of Flushing.
A former New York Met along with White Sox manager Robin Ventura, McEwing held an impromptu press conference prior to Tuesday’s game. Although the location has changed to Citi Field from his playing days at the now-defunct Shea Stadium, McEwing felt right at home when a plane taking off from nearby LaGuardia Airport interrupted one of his answers.
“Classic New York,” McEwing said with a smile.
Two heroes from the Mets' 2000 National League pennant team, Ventura and McEwing held court in front of nearly two dozen media members Tuesday. A clubhouse attendant noted how no visiting team had attracted more media attention thus far than the White Sox. Most of it was for Ventura, who spent three seasons with the Mets (1999-2001), and McEwing, who played here from 1999-2004.
This is the first official game in uniform at Citi Field for both men, though they both attended the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 nearly two years ago. Though both like the new venue, they feel nostalgia its predecessor.
“There was something about that stadium,” Ventura said.
Shea Stadium was demolished in 2009 to make room for additional parking for Citi Field. McEwing loved the old building so much he made a return trip back to New York in September 2009 after his season managing at Single-A Winston Salem had ended with his son, Joseph.
“I needed to,” McEwing said. “It was such a historic place in my heart, to be here for five years and the memories you had of particular games. I needed to see if before they knocked it down and I brought my son back to let him know that’s where Daddy played and it’s not going to be here any longer.”
McEwing still has his old clubhouse chair, a pair of cufflinks made from stadium seats and a lifetime of memories. He counts the 2000 World Series against the New York Yankees and the way the Mets and Yankees helped New York and the country recover less than a year later after 9/11 as two of his favorites.
Ventura finished sixth in the National League MVP vote in his first season with the Mets when he hit 32 homers and drove in 120 runs. He also had the famous walkoff grand slam-turned-single in the 15th inning of Game 5 of the 1999 NL Championship Series when he by passed the runner at first base and was credited with an RBI hit instead of a homer.
Both said they are intrigued to see how Citi Field plays over the next two games. But both also made it clear their loyalty lies with Shea Stadium.
“It’s a beautiful building and we’ll see how the atmosphere is during the game, but I kind of miss that Shea feeling,” McEwing said.
First-base coach Daryl Boston also played for the Mets in 1991-92. Boston delivered the lineup card to home plate before Tuesday’s game.