Citi Field ready to host LGBT Pride Night

Citi Field ready to host LGBT Pride Night

NEW YORK -- Saturday night's home game against the Padres will be important not only for a Mets club engaged in a tough National League Wild Card race, but for a large LGBT community where the gay rights movement began nearly a half-century ago.

Saturday will be LGBT Pride Night at Citi Field, making the Mets the first team in New York's four major professional sports to host an official event for this community. Tickets are available at mets.com/pride; more than 5,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender fans will attend sporting commemorative Pride Night T-shirts.

A portion of each ticket sold through this offer will benefit the non-profit LGBT Network and its Safe Schools Initiative to stop bullying on Long Island and in Queens. Pregame festivities will include a Pride in the Plaza show just outside the Jackie Robinson Rotunda.

"I'm just really, really excited to be a part of it, support it and see a group of fans come through the turnstiles at Citi Field and really be able to be their best self and be there for the one thing we all have in common, a love for the ballpark," Billy Bean, Major League Baseball's vice president of social responsibility and inclusion, said on Thursday at the Commissioner's Office.

"The fact that it was picked for a Saturday night in the middle of the summer shows the generosity of the Mets. This is not a gimmick to sell tickets. This is something that organically they really felt and embraced -- an olive branch to another part of their fan base."

Clubs that have held official Pride events so far are the Athletics, Blue Jays, Dodgers, Giants, Mariners, Nationals, Padres, Rays and Red Sox. The Phillies will have their first club-produced Pride Night on Aug. 29, followed by the Cubs on Sept. 4. So while the Mets' Pride Night is not the first of its kind around the Majors, it is seen as an impactful one.

"To see the tens of thousands of fans who are going to be enjoying a baseball game -- many of them for the first time, because they are going to feel safe and included at the ballpark -- is just going to be an incredible experience," said David Kilmnick, CEO of the LGBT Network and a longtime Mets fan. "I hope we build a lot more Mets fans, and it doesn't matter what their sexual orientation or gender identity is. Saturday is going to be a night where we see the Mets pave the way for the rest of New York sports and be inclusive of the LGBT community."

Kilmnick said it is only appropriate that the Mets are leading the way with this event, given the franchise's history.

"I have so many great memories, and so many painful ones," he said. "That's part of being a Mets fan. I think back to last year, when Citi Field for the first time felt like Shea Stadium. I remember as a young kid growing up in Far Rockaway, Queens, my friends and I would somehow navigate the Long Island Rail Road and the New York subway system and make our two-hour trek to Shea Stadium. No matter how the Mets were doing, it was just a joy to be there, to be able to root our blue and orange on.

"Through all the victories and the many heartaches and defeats, I think the Mets really represent what social justice is all about. The Mets have always been an underdog. The Mets have really never been given a chance in many ways. So the Mets sometimes play second fiddle in New York to the other baseball team. The Mets represent really overcoming diversity, overcoming challenges, and I think that's how many of us in the LGBT community can relate to such a team that faces those challenges that we faced as a community."

The pregame show will feature the Lesbian and Gay Big Apple Corps marching band and a performance by the Grammy-nominated Martha Wash, formerly of the Weather Girls. There will be a special performance of "Meet the Mets," and what Kilmnick hopes will be "the largest sing-along" of that song. The Mets will present a check to the LGBT Network, and after the third inning, the Mets and the crowd will recognize an LGBT military veteran.

"We're going to all rise in unison, to show pride in our community, pride in our country and pride in the diversity in our Armed Services," Kilmnick said. "So it's going to be an incredible night, and I think the first of many successful Pride Nights at Citi Field that I hope will spread to the rest of the country."

Bean eagerly awaits the day when there is no such need for a night recognizing a specific segment of society. But for now, he said, it is a hallmark event.

"Not everybody wearing a shirt that day that says 'Mets Pride' is going to be a part of that LGBT community, but they'll be an ally, a family member, a friend, and for them to support it is really, for me, what the message is really all about," Bean said. "Together, when we are joined, baseball has a great way of creating communities, and this is an extension of that. ... To move a conversation forward, you have to create visibility for it. Then, hopefully, we can move forward to a day where it doesn't matter the color of your skin or your gender or your sexual orientation."

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.