Monday, July 13, 2009

Mets making a mess at Citi Field - July 7/11, 2009

After the weekend in the Bronx, it was time to head over to Queens to catch the Mets in their new stadium, known as Citi Field, after bailout recipient Citigroup - why not call it U.S. Taxpayer Gets Screwed Field until the bailout money is paid back? OK, enough political commentary. The stadium is located in Queens, and you can reach it via the 7 train from Manhattan, made famous by John Rocker so many years ago. Try to get the Express train (the one with the diamond), it's a bit faster. The stop is Willets Point - Mets; no longer is Shea Stadium included in the stop name, although it is still on the MTA subway maps for souvenir hunters.

Citi Field

As you emerge from the newly constructed exit from the 7 train, you are presented with a good view of the stadium, its brown brick contrasting nicely with the bright blue sky (if you are lucky enough to go on a clear day). You can see in the picture above, with a plane taking off from nearby La Guardia. At this point, you are right in front of the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, the main entry point which contains a large area dedicated to the memory of the man who broke the colour barrier. A large blue number 42 is prominent beneath the escalators and offers a good photo op, while his values are etched in the wall around the rotunda. This gate opens 2.5 hours before game time, so most fans enter here - it's a good idea as it is the highlight of the park.

I say that because the rest of the stadium is rather average. Gone are the colourful seats that made Shea Stadium unique, replaced by the typical green seats that almost every new stadium uses. I found few good viewpoints here: there are many overhangs that reduce the open air feeling from many seats and also give the stadium a dark feeling, as shown in the picture to the left. I had a first row seat in the upper level for one game and was forced to look through a small railing to see the pitcher and batter - rather annoying. There are standing areas which have cup holders, a good idea.

There are two electronic scoreboards in center-field, one that shows the lineups and video, the other that shows player stats. There is also a large ribbon board that encircles the stadium. The out-of-town scoreboard (shown below) hangs from the roof above the left field seats. It seems like a last minute addition, but it does show the number of outs and base runners, which does allow you to follow other games closely.

Behind the scoreboard on the field level concourse lies the 2K Fanfest area, a small section with games for children, such as a mini-field where kids can try to hit a homer (the Mets will sign any kid who knocks 3 out in a row), pitching cages, and a dunk tank. Just in front of the scoreboard lies the Big Apple, which pops out after every Met homer. Sadly it did not make an appearance in the two games I saw, the picture below is from batting practice. Otherwise there is little to distinguish this park from any other.

Food options are decent and relatively inexpensive, at least compared to what you would see at Yankee Stadium. There is the World's Fare Market, which offers sushi and other international "cuisine". I was impressed with the hot dog topping options here, much better than other ballparks, with hot peppers and jalapenos even covered by a silver lid. Fancy! But at $4.75 for a dog, you wouldn't expect much less.

Seats are not as expensive as those at Yankee Stadium, but they are still overpriced, especially given the product the Mets are trying to sell. There are five different price structures depending on the opponents, and 38 different seating options, which makes things ridiculously confusing. I'd try Craigslist before going to the ticket office if you have time, or just get the cheapest seats and stand on the field level.

Finally, a word about the customer service people - in Shea they were the rudest old geezers you could find. At Citi Field, I found them generally pleasant and helpful. One guy asked me if the new guy (Jeff Francouer) was starting when I was filling out my scorecard. So at least that's improved.

Overall, I really didn't like this stadium that much - just too pedestrian. But I did appreciate it's simplicity when compared to Yankee Stadium. I think the best way to put it is that Yankee Stadium is the better of the two, but I'd rather watch games at Citi Field - it seems like baseball is still the main attraction there.

The Mets are garbage - sadly all too true this season

The Games

The Dodgers were in town for a 3-game set with Manny Ramirez back from suspension. Mike Pelfrey started for the Mets and was awful. Meanwhile the Mets anemic offense made Clayton Kershaw look like the second coming of Cy Young. Manny Ramirez was ejected after throwing his elbow pad, but it didn't matter. This game was terrible - the Dodgers won 8-0 and took 3:13 to rub it in. Perhaps the least pleasant game I have ever seen.

Manny Ramirez with a broken-bat single early in the game

I had planned to see the next game on Wednesday, but was so put off by the display I witnessed that I needed a few days away from baseball. So I decided to wait until Johan Santana (shown below) started against the Reds on Saturday, which was also lunch box day. Definitely the baseball highlight of the trip - a great giveaway and almost enough to make me return to work, just so I can carry this thing on a train in Japan.

The game itself was not that exciting as Johnny Cueto had a rough first inning, giving up a 2-run bloop single to Francouer, and a 2nd-inning triple to Angel Pagan as the Mets took a 4-0 lead. Santana was good, shutting out the Reds through 7, although it took him 114 pitches to do it. Pedro Feliciano and K-Rod pitched an inning each to complete the shutout as the Mets won 4-0. Unfortunately for the Reds, right fielder Jay Bruce fractured his wrist in the first inning, and looks to be out for some time.

Canadian (and future MVP) Joey Votto swings

After the I returned to Manhattan to celebrate my last night in New York. The baseball part of this trip wasn't that good, but the rest of the trip was incredible, and I'll update you on that next.



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