NEW YORK—He sat in the upper deck, basically unrecognized amid a sea of happy baseball fans. He let out a cheer when the best hitter on his favorite team smoked a home run and diligently scanned the out-of-town scoreboard to consider playoff implications. And he waited his turn in the long Citi Field men’s room line, just one more fan spending a hot summer day watching the Mets and the Red Sox play.
Except this fan had four bodyguards standing nearby.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio went to a baseball game over the weekend. Actually, he went to all three games played between his beloved Red Sox and the Mets, frustrated by his favorite team’s disappointing season but excited for the upstart Mets and what their surprising resurgence could mean for October’s playoff possibilities in the nation’s largest city.
But beyond that, he was simply happy to take a break from his municipal concerns to watch a game, chow down on a Nathan’s hot dog and reminiscence about what baseball has meant to him and his family.
“It’s a current that runs through my life,” de Blasio told an Associated Press reporter invited to spend several innings with the mayor during Sunday’s game. “As a child, I was totally hooked. I love all sports but this is the one I love the most.”
De Blasio grew up just outside Boston and fell in love with the local team during their magical, if ultimately bittersweet, playoff runs of 1967 and 1975. He said he and friends, even as middle schoolers, would frequently buy Fenway Park bleacher tickets for $1.
De Blasio, who rarely discusses his parents, candidly revealed Sunday that his love of the game was forced to grow “outside of my family dynamic.”
“Because my mom and dad were splitting up, and my dad wasn’t obviously able to do a lot of the physical stuff because the loss of his leg,” the mayor said. “And my mom wasn’t sports oriented, my brothers weren’t sports-oriented. There wasn’t a real sports culture in my home. I got it from my friends.”
De Blasio’s father battled depression after being injured World War II and later took his own life. The mayor has instilled a love of baseball in his own children, both now college-aged. He coached their Little League teams, took them on spring training trips and raised them to be Red Sox fans even while growing up in Brooklyn (acknowledging that, at times, he had to rein in their strong anti-Yankees sentiment while in public).
The mayor, on this Sunday, demonstrated he could hold his own in any barroom baseball debate. He thinks the Red Sox should avoid offering long-term deals to veteran players. He believes the Blue Jays or Astros will capture the American League. He squeezed in Dodgers and Brewers games while on political road trips this year. And he stays current on the sport by a combination of old-school newspaper box scores and late-night ESPN.
And while noting “this is hard for me to say,” he’s been impressed with Yankees’ slugger Alex Rodriguez’s bounce-back year and said, yes, he would honor the Bronx Bombers at City Hall if they were to win a World Series while he’s in office.
He has yet to attend a Yankees game as mayor. If he does, it seems likely that his loyalties to the Yankees’ oldest rival would cause him to be more conspicuous than he was on Sunday at Citi Field (where he has received some boos back in the past).
At the end of one inning, a Mets’ camera man walked to the upper deck to broadcast images of screaming fans onto the giant scoreboard. He stood mere feet from de Blasio, whose City Hall colleague was waving his arms frantically to point out that the mayor of New York City was right behind him.
The cameraman never turned around. And de Blasio happily turned his attention back to the field.