A major league mixup by the New York Mets in booking the wedding of U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman's daughter at Shea Stadium forced the Public Schools Athletic League's baseball championship teams to play their final game at Coney Island's KeySpan Park.
That's the explanation given by Mike Turo, coach of the Monroe High School baseball team from the Bronx, and Ackerman (D-Bayside), who had reserved Shea Stadium for the wedding of his daughter Lauren, 33.
The wedding was scheduled for Saturday, and the PSAL championship baseball game was to be played at Shea Friday night. But the field was unavailable Friday because a tent and chairs for the Ackerman nuptials had to be set up the night before the wedding, the congressman said.
"The Mets messed up," said Turo. "They double-booked and didn't get back to us somehow."
The Mets, which lease the city-owned Shea Stadium, declined to comment on the matter. Ackerman said he secured the Shea venue for his daughter's wedding in January 2002 and officially reserved the date in November.
Turo said he found out about the double-booking last Tuesday - four days before the game - in a phone call from the PSAL commissioner. The coach said he believed the league had reserved the field in April.
"I feel terrible for the kids," said Ackerman, who found out about the scheduling conflict the same day as Turo did when he was about to finalize the wedding arrangements.
"They said, 'Don't worry, we're working on it,'" said Ackerman, who said the team blamed a communication problem between the stadium's caterer and the Mets for the mixup.
Ackerman said his daughter even checked with the Mets several times to make sure another sporting event at Shea would not conflict with her wedding.
The high school game was rained out Friday and rescheduled to Saturday afternoon at KeySpan, a smaller ballpark used by the Mets' Single-A farm club, the Brooklyn Cyclones. Both the Mets and the Cyclones are owned by Sterling Equities, a real estate firm.
A rainstorm Saturday afternoon also made the Ackermans' wedding tent a critical necessity, the congressman said.
Turo said his players were disappointed at not being able to play at a major league ballfield where the PSAL championship game has been played for several years.
"The chance to play at Yankee or Shea is a big deal," said Turo, whose Eagles were the defending champions. Although his team enjoyed playing at KeySpan, "it's not Shea Stadium," he said.
Monroe wound up losing Saturday's game to Staten Island's Tottenville High School, 8-7.
"I'm more upset about that," said Turo. "The issue of the field to me is not really an issue anymore."
Ackerman called Turo last week to smooth things over, and the coach said he was not angry with the congressman. Ackerman offered to help fix Monroe's dilapidated field during their conversation, Turo said.
"For at least 20 years, we've been promised that our field will be fixed," said Turo, whose school is not in Ackerman's district. "He's going to do what he can to try to help."
The congressman confirmed his offer to find a solution to the school's field problem, and added that he would charter a bus for both championship teams to visit the Capitol in Washington, D.C.
As for the wedding itself, it was "a lot of fun" despite the rain, Ackerman said.
Actors portraying ticket scalpers and tailgate partymakers greeted about 250 guests as they approached the stadium for the ceremony. A rabbi and a Protestant minister related to the groom officiated at the ceremony.
The congressman said he paid market rate for use of the stadium.
On why his family decided to hold the wedding at Shea, Ackerman had a simple explanation:
"We're avid Mets fans."
Reach reporter Ayala Ben-Yehuda by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.
©2003 Community News Group
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