Ballpark Roadtrip: Citi Field
Citi FIeld hours before game time of a scheduled baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds on July, 12, 2009. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)
Every year I enjoy traveling on vacation to see a ballpark I never visited. Due to the economy, my distaste for flying and rental car costs, gas prices and sleeping in strange places (I can never sleep on the road). I decided to stay local and visit some ballparks only a short bus ride away so I could be home that same day.
My trip started with a visit to Citi Field for a concert by Paul McCartney. To Citizens Bank Park on Monday to see the Cubs play the Phillies followed by Nationals Park on Tuesday to see the Mets and Nats. Wednesday I was at Yankee Stadium where the Orioles took on the Bronx Bombers. On Friday I made it to Fenway Park with a stadium tour and to see the Red Sox play the Orioles.
As a die-hard Mets fan it pains me to say that Paul McCartney was the best performance at Citi Field so far this season.
The first time I went to Citi Field after the Mets installed the fan walk, I looked at this new beautiful park. I saw a couple in their early 50's checking out the new park. The man's father who was near 80 years old sat there teary eyed. The new ballpark awoke memories of a field and team that picked up left Brooklyn after the 1957 season.
Unfortunately that is one of biggest problems with Citi Field. It honors the Brooklyn Dodgers and Jackie Robinson, not the New York Mets. On Opening Day, the ballpark was sterile, no memories of the Mets' 47-year history and two world championship teams. The Dodgers won only one championship while in Brooklyn.
As you enter the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, old images of Brooklyn Dodgers and Ebbets Field are on display. The rotunda is beautiful, but where is the Mets stuff? How about the Giants? Aren't the Mets the team that replaced and the Giants and Dodgers and took their colors and logo? The Mets played their first seasons at the Polo Grounds and then Shea Stadium. I don't see images of those parks, just Ebbets Field and a big number 42.
The ballpark is great, except I wouldn't know you were in New York. It feels like you're at a Met fan on the road. The outfield area is filled with food vendors and areas to eat. Shake Shack is a must. An hour before game time the line is 45 minutes long. I was there at 5:30 and got a burger hot off the grill in a minute with a shake. I went back for seconds and waited one minute.
I have seats in the front row of the Pepsi Porch in right field. Great seats, great view, the porch hangs 8 feet over the field of play. The only problem is when a ball is hit into right field beneath you, you lose the action. People in the third row or further back lose more of the playing field and need assistance from people in front to learn what happened.
Citi Field is a much better and larger facility than Shea Stadium, which you can walk around the entire park at the field level. The porch was a 20-minute exit to the field, because there's one way up and out. The staircases get cramped and crowded. Security will not let you pass through the Caesars Club to exit down that staircase.
Things move very slowly when you hit the 7 trains, because there's one staircase there with five openings, two of them taped off by the MTA and causing congestion. Maybe the MTA will add an additional entrance/exit near 126th Street and perhaps add a handicap accessible elevator.
Ballpark: B - New ballpark, upgrade from Shea Stadium. More bathrooms, elevators and restaurants. Some bad sight lines and seating. Lose plays down the line from some seats. Can’t see the field from the main concourse behind home plate or food court in centerfield. Seats are more cramped with long rows and so called extended leg room. No more box seats. No more great firework nights since the stadium is enclosed. Lovely view of chop shops across the street in the outfield.
Fans & Atmosphere: A - Great new ballpark and baseball scene despite Mets fans whining and wanting to fire or trade everybody. Great for families but overpriced. Tickets in Pepsi Porch Gold (front row) - $60.00 a ticket and you can't see right field beneath you or scoreboard. One fan with a big mouth consuming too much alcohol abused Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran the entire game.
Food: A - Shake Shack burgers and shakes are a must. Great fries across the way at Box Frites. Sausage and pepper hero sandwiches are excellent. Food Cost - $30.50. Amazing upgrade from Shea Stadium's 1964 World's Fair leftovers. Not enough tables to eat.
Mascot: A - Mr. Met, its Mr. Met. He should abuse a Phillie Phanatic stuffed doll some times but that would not be Mr. Met. Mrs. Met makes appearances some days. Always posing for photos and tossing t-shirts in fifth and seventh innings.
Staff: B - Great friendly staff, left some of the nasty ushers in Shea. A few are in a bad mood or think they own the park, it's New York after all. Ushers always have a hand out and security is a bunch of what-to-be cops.
Team Tradition: D - Mets history is all but absent, you feel like you're at a Mets game on the road. Very sterile atmosphere. Brooklyn Dodgers are represented in the Jackie Robinson Rotunda. Nothing about New York Giants, although Jeff Wilpon said the seats match the color of Polo Grounds. Slowly they have been photos, pennants and banners. Plans are being made for a Hall of Fame. They laid bases and home plate from Shea in the actual spot where the parking lot is now. They did bring the Home Run Apple and old scoreboard's NYC skyline over from Shea.
Location: B - The ballpark is in the old parking lot next to where Shea Stadium stood in Corona, Queens. Lots of parking and people tailgating before game. The 7 trains are the best way in and out. Train station needs to be renovated and be made handicap accessible.
Photos taken July 11-12 and 28, 2009 using a Canon EOS 50D Digital SLR with a EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Standard Zoom Lens, EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM Telephoto Zoom Lens.