I have a feeling this entry is going to come off in an "I didn't like Citi Field" kind of way. But it's not that at all.
It's just that this ballpark visit was different. It wasn't a visit at all for me...it was a test run. I could make snap judgments on Nationals Park and PETCO Park ("Where The Mets Go") because they were visits. One-time deals (though some of them I liked so much that I may go back in the future).
With Citi Field, I will be going back. Often. And I had to see how it fit, so to speak. Use whatever analogy you like - I was trying it on for size; I dated those other ballparks, this one I am going to marry (that's kind of a weird one). I didn't expect to feel that way - I was over-the-top excited about going. But once I was in the park I knew it was going to be a different kind of visit.
Don't know where else to put this, so I'll do it here, I guess. If you were following me on Twitter last night (which turned into a pretty neat summary of events in the end), you read that I walked past Fred Wilpon outside the park. I am terrible when it comes to recognizing famous people. But I notice when there's an important-looking older person...and we walked past an important-looking older person that looked a lot like Fred Wilpon. So I said to my dad, "Was that Wilpon?" We walked back in the direction we came from, since the other way was a dead end, and passed him again, talking to Mike Lupica. Hence, the picture. I would like to say I barged in there and shook his hand and said, "Congratulations on this fine-looking ballpark" (or maybe I should have asked his permission to take Citi Field's hand in marriage [if it's such a weird analogy, why am I continuing with it?!]), but I did no such thing. I did snap the picture, though, which is kind of an intrusion of privacy that I usually wouldn't do. So I'm getting there.
OK. Now to the park. First of all, there's no denying the park is beautiful. When you think about Shea Stadium versus Citi Field, it's obviously no comparison. Just look at it up at the top of this post. The exterior, modeled after Ebbets Field, reminds me of AT&T Park, as I wrote the other day, with its high iron gates and the curved-window look. I've never been to Coors Field, but the light towers at Citi Field remind me of its light towers. And it's funny the Padres were in town last night, because the outfield walls/dimensions/layout remind me of PETCO ("Where The Mets Go").
What I'm not buying, and I hinted at this on Twitter last night, are some of the biggest deals people have been talking about this whole time. All I've heard about is the overhang in right field, reminiscent of Tiger Stadium. Well, it's not that much of an overhang. Yes, it juts out to the field eight feet, but only where the wall suddenly goes back in right. So it's not the entire right field overhang. No one had made that clear before. And there's been all this talk of how fans can get right up to the visitors bullpen and harrass the opposing relievers. From what I saw, that's not true - there are a lot of barriers...or else you need a ticket for that kind of access that I didn't have.
The bullpen area (that's it above, through the gate), seems to need some work. From what I could tell, it had one of the nicer-looking entry points into the park, but it was really empty. I got the impression from a couple of places that the Mets didn't quite know what to do with them yet. This was one - there are picnic tables set up, as well as the old apple from Shea (new apple also shown at right), where people can take pictures. But it was kind of empty. No concession stands...so I guess you have to carry your food to these tables.
Speaking of concessions, all anyone had been writing about was the centerfield food area, so that was mobbed (I like how they kept the skyline there above the restaurant...not sure if that's the actual skyline from atop the Shea scoreboard). Luckily, quick thinker that my dad and I are, we figured everyone and their brother was in center field...other concessions were probably empty. They were. I had a chicken sandwich, which was good...but everything was very expensive.
The opening ceremonies were nice, but I would have liked some more history. I heard there were old-timers in the building - they should have been introduced and trotted out. Seaver to Piazza was good, and I liked the continuance from the end of Shea...but there could have been more.
(Incidentally, just to throw out a prediction, I bet the Yankees do something involving the old Yankee Stadium when they open the new one Thursday. Like walking across from one to the other. It's still standing...and that has to be by design - they can't possibly be that behind schedule. I'll have some (not-so-great) pictures of those two parks later in the week. )
I feel like I'm throwing out way too much information here, but I have a lot on my mind about this park. So here it continues:
My biggest flaws with the park are:
Someday the Mets will buy out the surrounding area and put in some restaurants and make the area surrounding the ballpark an enticing place. Like Pittsburgh/Baltimore, with their fan walks. They can't exactly duplicate San Francisco's exterior because San Francisco has the water right there, but anything other than junkyards and scrap heaps would be a better backdrop.
Another problem, though I didn't look much for it, was I don't know if the Mets Hall of Fame is displayed any more prominently at Citi Field than it was at Shea. I'll look into that more over the summer.
I already mentioned that there were a couple of places in the park that seemed not-thought-all-the-way-through - the bullpen area was one, and the area above the Rotunda is another. It seems like a usable space, but not a lot is there right now. Maybe that's a good thing...it's not too crowded.
The exits were terrible. Perhaps that's because no one really knew where they were going and it was the first time 40,000+ were trying to leave at the same time - but I didn't see anything other than some crowded stairwells trying to leave the upper sections of the park.
One last complaint (for now, I guess), is that when you come out of the rotunda in the front, you don't walk right out and see the field. There are walls there (some sort of restaurant or the press boxes or luxury boxes are in the way, I think). One of the best things about the park in Houston, and Fenway Park first and foremost, is when you walk out of the tunnel and see the field. I was hoping the field would be right beyond the Rotunda, but it wasn't. You have to walk a bit to get that view at the right - and then the overhang is so low it made me a bit claustrophobic. I didn't love that.
I did love the Jackie Robinson Rotunda - very unique, very appropriate, it's something that sets Citi Field apart.
I loved that there was organ music all night long. My dad made the excellent point that at no point was there blaring music - and the organ played "Meet The Mets" before the game - nothing beats that.
I loved that the first hit at the park for the Mets was a David Wright double. I love that the Mets have a home park that people won't be making fun of. I didn't mind the billboards - people are saying it's too corporate - I think it adds a minor-league-type feel to the park. It feels more throwback that way.
I love that I'll be able to keep going back to this place and find out new things and get more comfortable there as the years go on. I love that this is the place my children will go when they go to Mets games, and I'll be able to compare it to Shea Stadium the way my dad was comparing it to the Polo Grounds for me last night.
Despite the fact that I left the park last night thinking it wasn't perfect (and therefore had no shot of living up to my expectations), I love Citi Field. Like Shea Stadium was for the first 30 years of my life, Citi Field is going to be a sort of home away from home for me. I had 30 years to get acclimated to Shea. I've only had one day at Citi Field.
I can't wait to go back.