The only sure thing about the Yankees and Rays playing at Citi Field during the next three days is that it sure will feel strange. Take it from the man who managed the opposing team the last time the Yankees had to play in the Mets’ park because of an emergency: Terry Collins.
Collins managed the Anaheim Angels in 1998 when their game in the Bronx was moved because a 500-pound expansion bolt fell from its mooring at Yankee Stadium. On April 15, the teams played a noon game at Shea Stadium before the Mets played the Cubs in a regularly scheduled game that night.
“We were uncomfortable because we had never played there,” he said, thinking back to the time when interleague play still was new and had not encompassed intercoastal games. “We were very uncomfortable. The only thing that made it easier for me was I had been to Shea Stadium. It plays different. It’s a whole different game here.”
His experience as a Pirates coach did not help his club that day. Collins’ Angels lost to David Wells and the Yankees, 6-3. Darryl Strawberry, who had more homers than anyone else at Shea, hit one out for the Yankees that day and “out of reflex,” a Mets official said at the time, someone pressed the button that briefly caused the giant centerfield apple to pop out of its hat.
The apple made a more traditional appearance later that night when Mets pitcher Rick Reed hit a home run to support his 2-1 victory.
The Mets again will be playing the Cubs, but this time it will be in Chicago, so there will be only one game a day in Queens. The Yankees-Rays games were switched from St. Petersburg to Flushing because of Hurricane Irma. The Yankees will be the road team and will wear their gray uniforms. Perhaps former Met and current Ray Lucas Duda will be as fortunate as Strawberry was 19 years ago.
Citi Field will not be such a foreign spot for either side. “Right now, I think it’s a great venue. It’s a tremendous place to play,” Collins said. “But I’m still going to give the edge to the Yankees. Subways go in a lot of different directions here. They are going to be able to put some people in the seats here.”