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OpinionOpEd

A twist in my Citi Field tradition

Queens College Hillel performs during Celebrate Israel Night

Queens College Hillel performs during Celebrate Israel Night at Citi Field. Photo Credit: Marc Levine/New York Mets

When I go to Citi Field for a Mets game, I keep a small tradition. I sit for a while, as I used to outside Shea Stadium, and people-watch. I enjoy the spectacle of folks going to a ballgame, with our special New York blend of joy and anticipation.

I remember exactly how it felt as an 8-year-old going to my first game with my dad, being a teenager and going to Shea with friends, and, a few years later, attending with a girlfriend.

After sitting for a while, I'll walk over to parking lots B and D, where much of Shea Stadium's playing field existed. This is where ownership has wisely and kindly placed plaques in the pavement showing exactly where the pitcher's rubber was, along with all the bases. I'll journey to home plate, kiss my fingers and touch the metal that marks so much history, so many memories, and most important, so much pleasure.

The night of May 26, there was an unusual surprise. In an area outside Citi Field known as Mets Plaza, a small section was roped off with several microphones stands, a drum set and some sound equipment.

A Mets official told me that a group was going to sing, a revelation which explained the presence of several young people, all wearing the same T-shirt bearing the word "Tizmoret." A young woman told me they are a cappella singers from Queens College Hillel, specializing in Hebrew and Israeli songs.

It was Celebrate Israel Night at Citi Field, which took me by surprise, particularly since I was there to meet up with a small bunch from the Episcopalian Actors Guild who had raised funds by selling tickets for "a day at the ballpark." The guild is a nondenominational organization dedicated to helping actors in need.

In a few minutes, Tizmoret began to sing with a sweetness and purity that seemed perfect for the warm spring air. I'm Jewish, if not necessarily devout, and it was moving to hear the language that my forefathers prayed in put to such another beautiful, if secular, purpose. In what has become, for decades, the great melting pot of Mets fandom, could there be something more winning than hearing an amazingly talented company of young New Yorkers rhapsodizing so harmoniously?

The crowd clapped and smiled when Tizmoret sang its last song, about an Israeli hero. I wiped a tear, as I responded to this pride in heritage.

I lingered outside, enjoying the sunshine and an early evening breeze.

There are many charming elements along the borders of Citi Field, not the least of which is the chance to see so many cheerful faces. I've been sitting with many of these baseball "neighbors," no doubt, for ages.

Reader James H. Burns is a writer-actor who lives in Franklin Square.

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