Gene Barr was walking toward Citi Field for the first time Monday night when he made a pit stop no middle-aged fan could pass up -- especially on an occasion as momentous as this one.
He slid into the commemorative home plate in the parking lot that marks where the dish was situated at Shea Stadium, which until Monday was the only place the Mets had hosted a postseason game.
Was he thinking about Carlos Beltran as he did so, recalling the last at-bat of the Mets' previous appearance in the playoffs, in 2006?
"I was thinking more of Tommie Agee, Cleon Jones, Jerry Grote, Eddie Kranepool and those guys," said Barr, 53, who grew up in Commack but now lives in Denver. He made the trip specifically to witness the first postseason game at Citi.
Barr, who was wearing a Mets jersey with the number "69" on the back, said he remembered coming home from first grade to see the first World Series clincher.
"I'm really digging this," he said. "I used to live in L.A., so I really hate the Dodgers . . . And [Chase] Utley, a former Phillie, that's extra hate."
The locations of the four bases and pitching rubber from Shea, which closed after the 2008 season, are marked in the parking lot and provide a natural pilgrimage for fans old enough to remember the old place.
"I'm still thinking of '69 and '86, and I'm getting goose bumps now thinking about it,'' said Joe Valvano, 55, of Cedar Grove, New Jersey, who stopped by four hours before the first pitch.
He was visiting home plate with Jack Buchalski, 60, of Wanaque, New Jersey, who stood where the lefty batter's box would have been and mimicked Beltran's infamous called third strike against the Cardinals' Adam Wainwright.
"Do we have to think about that?" Valvano said.
Finally, Mets fans had other things to think about.