Having had a great opportunity to attend Friday night’s exhibition game at Citi Field with the Mets taking on the Boston Red Sox, I felt obligated to give a fan’s first perspective on the new ballpark.
My first impression as I arrived to the park via the 7 train was one of sadness. No longer are we greeted by our old friend Shea. Her remains are still there. You can see the familiar blue on pieces of rubble. They’ve paved over where many a Met outfielder patrolled in past years. I imagine it will take a few more weeks to get the rest of her remains properly removed.
The sadness was fleeting. Thankfully. Citi Field is absolutely beautiful. Walking through the park was worth the price of admission. They were not kidding when they touted that you can view the field and the game from basically any of the common areas of the ballpark. There were only one or two areas where I felt there were large obstructions.
The one major area where you cannot see the field is in the center field food section named “Tastes of the City.” This is the area where there are multiple choices of food vendors. We went with Blue Smoke tonight and were not let down. For $42.00 (obviously in tribute of Jackie Robinson), my father and I each got a pulled pork sandwich, fries and a beer. While this is obviously pricey, the quality of the food and service is miles above what you received at Shea. I spent a few minutes speaking with the master brewer for Blue Smoke (being a burgeoning home-brewer myself). They created a specialty ale with Brooklyn Brewery especially for the stadium. I believe this something that was done for each of the specialty food shops at Citi Field.
We were lucky to get seats in the Excelsior level (Loge to you and me), section 319, behind home plate. We turned around, and there were Gary, Keith and Ron, basically three rows behind us. At Shea Stadium, they were in a broadcast booth up in the suites, essentially removed from the fans. Here, they basically are in section 319, row 8, just behind some cameras. I imagine this is going to be a bit of an adjustment for them as well. Ron was good enough to smile for some cameras, and give some waves. Wayne and Gary from WFAN were right nearby as well, just as accessible. There was no glass booth separating any of them from the fans. We tried saying hello to Gary as we were walking, but this appeared to be a bit of a distraction to him as he seemed to wave us on. I get the impression that this new “closeness” may make their job a little difficult. A short while later, I turned over my other shoulder to a glass-fronted suite. Whose eyes do I meet but Jeff Wilpon and Omar Minaya. I quenched my need to give the “Seriously, Sheffield?!?” gesture, and waved to Omar and gave Jeff a thumbs up for a stadium well-built. Jeff smiled and Omar nodded.
As the National Anthem was performed, we continued to take in the new surroundings and try to get accustomed to what we were seeing. Just as the players were getting accustomed to the new dimensions and how “she plays,” we tried to do the same thing.
Based upon tonight’s game, Citi Field is most definitely a pitcher’s park. It was obvious that most of the Mets were looking to be the first to hit a home run in Citi Field. And if you look at the distances to the fences, you would think that this would be easily accomplished. However, take into account that parts of that wall are 15 feet high, and you realize that many a homer will be taken away by this field. The only person that came close tonight was Fernando Tatis, and he hit an absolute bomb out to left center that went about 10-12 feet up the wall!
Throughout the creation of this ballpark, many have said that this field is going to be Ebbets Field II with too many Dodgers references. While the exterior is definitely reminiscent of Ebbets Field, and the Jackie Robinson Rotunda is Dodger-laden, the rest of the park is not. For the first time that I can remember, the Mets are actually paying tribute to their historical ties with the Giants. The outfield wall is now black with orange lines and orange numbers. It’s going to take some getting-used-to after so many years with a blue outfield wall, but it ties in with the new ballpark so well.
I left the park feeling excited and bewildered. Citi Field is certainly a beautiful ballpark, and I look forward to calling it Home. I mentioned during the game to my father that I felt like I was watching the Mets play an Away game at someone else’s park. That certainly won’t last.