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Citi Field

New York, NY
1st Game: March 29, 2009 - St John’s Red Storm vs. Georgetown Hoyas
1st Mets Game: April 3, 2009 - Boston Red Sox vs. New York Mets
Opening Night: San Diego Padres vs. New York Mets

By Ken Schlapp

Once again, the Mets organization does it all wrong.  I kept my season tickets for the first year at Citi Field, so I was clearly prepared to be there for the first game ever played.  The only problem with that was the fact that the first game ever played at the Mets new stadium was an NCAA game between the St Johns Red Storm and the Georgetown Hoyas!  Not only that, but the game is considered a home game for the Hoyas, when St Johns is the local team! To boot, the Mets season ticket holders were not even offered to buy tickets for this game, they had to find a way to get tickets on their own!  I am not even sure at this point how tickets were made available.  My friend Vinny Borriello managed to get us tickets through StubHub or some other source, so I was there, but by no help of the team that I bought season tickets from.  By the way, the Mets offered no discount to season ticket-holders for seats either.  This was just the beginning of all my disappointment in this new Dodger Stadium.

To ensure that all was apropos, the first game ever at CitiField was a cold rainy day.  In addition, as I mentioned above, it was a college game involving St Johns and Georgetown instead of the Mets.  Ridiculous!  The first thing that I noticed when I got off the 7 train at Willetts Point, was that Shea Stadium is no longer part of the station’s name.  CitiField was not part of the station’s name either, because the stadium’s name is subject to change if there is a new naming rights contract purchased in the future.  From there, my traditional walk around the stadium was a wet one, but I was able to get a few pictures of the red brick exterior through the mist.  The CitiField emblem stood out prominently on this stadium built in tribute to the Dodgers Ebbets Field.  Although, I am too young to have seen Ebbets in person, it does give the same look as the pictures I have seen.

I entered the stadium through the Jackie Robinson Rotunda.  What Jackie Robinson has to do with the Mets or Queens, I have no idea.  He was a great baseball player and an even more incredible man, but he was a Dodger with strong ties to Brooklyn.  He never played for the Mets or was part of their organization.  There is a statue of Jackie Robinson in front of the Cyclones stadium in Brooklyn, and various tributes to him throughout the borough of Brooklyn, not to mention that his retired number sits in every stadium, but there is no tie to the Mets.  That aside, the Rotunda leading into the stadium is majestic and beautiful with portraits, a Giant # 42 statue, and videos of Jackie Robinson and other great Dodger moments, but nothing about the Mets.  It would make way more sense if this was the Tom Seaver Rotunda, or the Mookie Wilson Rotunda, or at least the Gil Hodges Rotunda if you had to link this stadium with the Dodgers.

Once inside the Stadium, the first thing I noticed was the Ebbets Club and the 47 store, which of course, are 2 more tributes to the Dodgers, with little sign or evidence that the home team in this stadium is the Mets.  I know the Mets owner, Fred Wilpon, grew up a Brooklyn Dodger fan, and is friends with Sandy Koufax, but the Dodgers left Brooklyn 52 years ago, and he happens to own the Mets and not the Dodgers.  It is truly a shame that Wilpon did not move to Los Angeles with the Dodgers back in 1958 and left the Mets alone.  Better yet, he could have bought the Dodgers too, and ruined that organization instead of the Mets!  OK, I am clearly passionate about this subject, but it gets worse.  I start noticing the ushers in their red uniforms, which coincidentally is the same color as the Phillies uniforms…you know, the Mets biggest rival.  The seats are all dark green and the outfield wall is black.  Nowhere could I find any traces of blue and orange, the Mets traditional colors.  This is all very disappointing.

In my walk around the interior of the stadium, the first thing I noticed was that you could not really see the field too well from the open concourses.  You certainly cannot see any of the scoreboards.  Although the concourses are much wider than at Shea, they are not nearly as nice as other stadiums like Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, where the standing room only seats give you a great view.  In Philly, you even have counters for food and drink for those standing, while there is nothing like that at Citifield.  All through my walk around the concourse, I looked hard for signs that this was the home of the Mets and found that a very difficult task.  Other than the souvenir stores, there was no blue and orange or “Mets” anywhere (note that you gan find Brooklyn Dodgers gear).  It took until I made my way to the outfield and saw the Shea Bridge in right center field that I finally found something associated with the Mets, or at least their old stadium and the man that helped bring the Mets into existence.  For some extra history credit, Shea Bridge was designed after the Hellgate Bridge, which is a train bridge near the Triboro.

Underneath the Shea Bridge, is the Mets bullpen, but more importantly, when you look down from the bridge towards the Bullpen Gate, you can find the old Apple from Shea hidden next to the stairs.  Thankfully, they did not destroy the apple with the rest of Shea Stadium.  Here I will provide my first positive comment about CitiField; when you walk down by the apple, you can also look into the Mets bullpen to see who is warming up.  You also get a look at the Mo Zone section in right field where group outings take place, in which you can see onto the field through the outfield fences.  The other side of the bridge leads to the main food concourse. Thankfully, the city skyline with the ribbon over the twin towers was removed from Shea and placed over the specialty food stands.  I am happy that the city emblem that was such a part of Shea is still here…so I am not completely down on Citifield, it does have some good attributes.  Another of which is the scoreboard behind the giant scoreboard is designed like the one at Shea with both lineups perpetually shown along with the inning-by-innings scores and totals.  This allows fans getting food to see and know what is going on.

The most positive thing about CitiField is the food, and I generally despise stadium food.  The biggest sensation at CitiField is Shake Shack for their burgers and shakes.  People form long lines to get food at Shake Shack in Bryant Park and other Manhattan locations, and CitiField is no different.  During games, people often wait on line for 3 innings just to get a burger.  Personally, I think this is insane to miss the game for food.  I did not try one of the burgers until late in the season when I got there very early and there was no line.  It was good, but not good enough to miss any part of a game.  There is also Blue Smoke BBQ, Mexican food, Sushi, and a good Italian deli.  The great sausage and peppers, kosher dogs, and other traditional food from Shea are still good here, but for me the best food at the Stadium is the Pizza.  I am a true-blue-blooded New Yorker, so I am serious about my pizza, as my wife Hiroko will contest to.  Actually, since I moved to California, home of the worst pizza on earth, she is sick and tired of me complaining about pizza.  Unlike Yankee Stadium and most other stadiums, CitiField does not just heat up frozen pizza; they actually have pizzerias and make the pizza in front of you like a typical New York Pizzeria.  In addition, there is actually a good choice of beer at the beer kiosk in center field.  I will complain a lot about this new stadium lacking a Mets feel, but I will not knock the food.

Back behind the food concourse, there is also a small wiffle ball field designed like CitiField, a dunk tank, and some video games, so there is some entertainment for kids as well, assuming they would not prefer to actually watch the game they came to see.  The next thing I was curious about was the bathrooms.  Other than Wrigley Field, the bathrooms at Shea were the worst.  They were too small and the plumbing was often broken.  I figure that they had their opportunity to improve on that with the new stadium.  They did improve the plumbing situation, by having a very green waterless system that is great for the environment.  The only problem though, is that there are not nearly enough urinals and stalls in the Men’s rooms.  During games, you often have to miss a half-inning or more because the lines are so long.  This is unacceptable to me.  The concourses are much wider and more comfortable, but they failed on the rest rooms and the ability to see the whole field in a standing-room-only situation.

I have written a lot to this point without even getting to the field and in-game situations.  Dimensionally, I think the field is fine even though it is cavernous.  CitiField’s fair territory is huge.  The left field alley originally was 371 feet from home plate and 16 feet high.  Center field is 408 feet, with a quirky right center field nook that was 415 feet away.  Right field was 378 feet away and the left and right field lines were 335 and 330 respectively.  Needless to say, there were not a lot of home runs hit in this stadium, and especially by Mets players.  David Wright’s home run production plummeted.  Many people complained about this, but I have no problem with it.  I would rather see a triple than a home run anyway.  Considering that the Mets best player was triple-machine Jose Reyes, I am all for it.  It also helps to keep the Mets traditionally good pitching statistics intact, considering Shea was also a good stadium for pitchers.  Another quirk to the dimensions is the Pepsi Porch.  This is the upper level seats in the outfield that stretch into fair territory…literally.  This upper deck juts out over the right field wall and at times can turn a high fly ball to right field from a flyout to a home run (Just ask Danny Murphy).  Again, I like this.

They tried to keep the scoreboard similar to Shea Stadium, even including a giant Budweiser sign, but it is just not the same.  The scoreboard at Shea was my favorite.  It had everything you needed: all the out-of-town scores, both lineups, the line score, highlights from other games scrolling at the bottom, the umpires, and key stats for the batter.  The new scoreboard looks similar except for the out-of-town scoreboard, but has “Let’s Go Mets” on top instead of the City Skyline.  However, I will note that this is the only spot in the stadium that actually says “Mets”, so I have to give it that.  The out-of-town scoreboard is high up on the upper deck façade in left field.  It is similar to other new ballparks with a diamond indicating the number of outs, base runners, who is pitching and the score, but it does not look nearly as nice as the other stadiums.  The batters eye contains the new Home Run Apple, which is a good thing, but it no longer come out of a magic hat and just does not seem as good as the old one that is hidden in the back of the stadium.

I sat in field level seats in right field for this game, but my season tickets were on the upper level in section 508, which was between home plate and first base.  I will have to say that the seats are more comfortable and are designed much better for watching the game at CitiField in comparison to Shea, but they are the wrong color and give no feeling of having anything to do with the Mets and their blue and orange tradition.  The other problem with the seats is that there are not enough of them. Shea held 56,000, while CitiField holds only 41,000.  This is too few for the good times in a city like New York, although the Wilpons cheapness and crookedness in the Madoff scandal, has driven away the Mets fans in droves.  In addition, the Mets poor play has left this stadium often empty and lifeless, which is a big shame.  Like the last year at Shea, I made it to all but eight games during the 2009 season.  I loved going to every game, but missed the home feel of Shea Stadium.  After the first few games, I almost never entered the stadium through the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, because of the annoying crowds that go through there and the reminder of the Dodger-centricity of the entrance.  My entrance of choice was through the right field gate.  The one thing I did miss going that way was the special brick in front, which said:

Ken Schlapp
Trolley Car
NY Gothams

OK, I did watch the first game on this rainy 29th of March.  Again, it was quite strange, seeing all of the firsts of a new major league stadium coming from two college teams, with the New York team actually considered the visiting team.  The all-time blown saves leader, John Franco, both a Mets and St Johns alum, came in to throw the first pitch.  I expected him to walk the bases loaded, before getting the first pitch over, but that was not the case, the first pitch was completed without any problems.  The first in-game pitch came from Georgetown Hoya Hurler Tim Adleman to St Johns center Fielder Brian Kemp.  Adlemen would retire St Johns in order in the 1st.  Georgetown’s Tom Elliot would record the first hit ever at CitiField with a one-out single off Brendan Lobben, but he would be left stranded.  CitiField’s first run was scored by Dan Capeless on a Greg Pustizzi single in the 2nd inning to give the Hoyas a 1-0 lead.

St Johns broke through with 3 runs in the 3rd on a walks to Kemp and Matt Wessinger, and a single by Jimmy Parque, which loaded the bases.  Morris reached on an error to plate Kemp, which was followed by a 2-RBI single by Joe Panik.  Georgetown’s Sean Lamont then made CitiField history, in the bottom of the 3rd, by hitting the stadiums first ever home run!  The only problem was that the apple malfunctioned and did not pop up to celebrate this historic homer.  Typical Mets luck.  St Johns got the run back in the 4th on a sac fly by Kemp to give them a 4-2 lead.  Lobban pitched well for 6 innings, giving up 2 runs on 7 hits and one walk, while striking out 5, but his bullpen did him in.  Specifically, Nick Cenatiempo, who gave up 3 runs on 3 hits without retiring a batter in the 7th.  Ryan Cole also gave up a run in the 7th, before Miguel Valcacel came in to stop the bleeding, but not before Georgetown took a 6-4 lead that would end up as the final score of this inaugural game.  Adelman would record the first win in CitiField history and Jack Bender would record the first Save in CitiField history.  It was not the Mets, but it was still an experience (and disappointment) to see the first game at CitiField.

The first game for the Mets came a few days later on April 3, 2009.  I was there in my seats for the first time with my brother Steve. This game, however, was not a regular season game; it was an exhibition game against the Red Sox.  To keep things consistent, this game was also rainy and even included a rain delay, but I was glad to see the Mets actually play on their home field, instead of another college game.  Since this was still an exhibition game, there were many substitutions throughout the game.  Livan Hernandez started for the Mets, while John Lester started for the Red Sox.  The first pitch by major leaguers was from Livan Hernandez to Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia got the first hit by a major leaguer when he doubled off Livan Hernandez in the top of the 1st.  Danny Murphy was the Mets 1st base runner in the bottom of the 1st, when he was walked by Lester, then promptly became the 1st Met to get caught stealing.  Fernando Tatis leadoff double in the 2nd was the Mets 1st hit.  JD Drew scored the 1st run when he doubled to lead off the 4th and scored on Chris Carter’s RBI double.  The Mets 1st run came on an RBI single from Bobby Kielty (the Mets DH of all things), which plated Carlos Beltran in the bottom of the 4th to tie the score at 1.

Now that all of the main firsts are out of the way (until opening day), I will continue with the game recap.  The Mets added 2 more runs in the 5th on an RBI single by Carlos Beltran and an RBI groundout by Tatis.  The Mets added another run in the 6th on a bases loaded walk to Ryan Church to give the Mets a 4-3 lead.  Then, before that happened, it was nice to hear Take Me Out to the Ball Game and Lazy Mary during the 7th inning stretch.  The Red Sox threatened with an RBI groundout by Dusty Brown in the 7th and an RBI double by Chavez in the 8th, but Frankie Rodriguez shut down the Sawx in order in the 9th, while topping it off with a strikeout of JJ Reddick to seal the Mets 1st win in their new stadium.  So Babby Parnel got the 1st win and K-Rod got the 1st save.  Overall, it was a fun rainy experience to see the Mets at CitiField for the 1st time.

Now the real fun begins.  Opening day for the regular season was April 13, 2009 vs. the Padres, which was a night game.  The frustration of how things are done wrong by the Mets never seems to stop.  Opening day at a new ballpark should be a day game and not an opening night!  However, it was still fun to be at the first game with my brother again.  Despite my negativity on the CitiField from my trips to the 3 pre-season games (St Johns game and 2 Mets games vs. Red Sox), I was still excited about opening day, especially since the Mets have a phenomenal open day record, despite all their poor seasons.  Jody Gerut of the Padres, however, was nice enough to knock out that optimism and take care of several firsts at once. He was the first batter against Mike Pelfrey, got the 1st hit, 1st run, 1st RBI, on the 1st official home run in CitiField history.  Clearly, not a good start, but apropos for the Mets recent history.  David Wright got the Mets 1st hit with a double in the bottom of the 1st off Carlos Silva, but did not score.

The Padres kept on hitting in the 2nd, starting with a 2-out single by starting pitcher Silva, followed by the best hitter in CitiField history (to date), Jody Gerut’s double, David Eckstein’s 2-RBI double and Brian Giles RBI single to give the Padres an early 4-0 lead.  The Mets scored their 1st CitiField run in the bottom of the 2nd on a walk to Ryan Church, a fielder’s choice groundout by Brian Schneider and an RBI double by Luis Castillo to allow Schneider to be the 1st Met to cross home plate.  The Padres were not done though.  Adrian Gonzalez hit a home run off Pelfrey in the 5th to increase their lead to 5-1 and effectively knock Pelfrey out of the game after 5 innings.  He ended up giving up 5 runs on 8 hits, 2 walks and 3 strikeouts.

In the bottom of the 5th, the Mets finally showed some life.  Brian Schneider led off with a walk, but was erased on a one-out Gary Sheffield grounder to short, before it got interesting.  Jose Reyes worked out a walk, Danny Murphy knocked in Sheffield with a single for the Mets 2nd run and then some fireworks as David Wright got the apple to come out of its hole with the Mets 1st home run at CitiField.  This tied the game and the crowd went nuts.  Would this end up being the house that Wright built?  Why not? It was a dramatic home in the first game, but usually winning the game cements this type of folklore.  That plan was shot when Luis Rodriguez reach on a 3-base error by Ryan Church, then scored the Padres 6th run when Pedro Feliciano committed a balk.  That would be all that was needed at the Mets could muster no more run support.  They loaded the bases in the 6th without scoring then went down in order for the final three innings.  So sad to say the Mets first official game at CitiField ended in a loss, just like their last game at Shea.  Turns out the Mets are not a holy team either considering Church made the last out at Shea and made the big error that cost them their first game at CitField.  To round out all the firsts; Edward Mujica got the 1st Win, Heath Bell the 1st save, and Brian Stokes got the 1st loss.

The 2009 season ended up a frustrating one for the Mets, with lots of injuries, bad play and losses.  In fact this was the beginning of the end for this group of Mets as their playoff hopes would wane for the next several years.  This would also end up being my last and only year as a season ticket-holder at CitiField.  I decided to move to California in 2010 to get married to Hiroko Tanji.  When you find a gorgeous, sarcastic, sports fanatic, that also loves to travel and is a good cook…you go for it and never look back.  I am a lucky man, but that did not stop me from taking advantage of my first ever perk as a Mets season ticket-holder.  Many Mets fans were severely disgruntled with the Wilpons, the lack of Metsness to their new stadium, and most importantly their poor play on the field.  The Mets were quickly about to become the first team in a new stadium that would regularly play to an empty audience within a year of opening.  They realized this and offered current and potential season ticket-holders tours of Citifield after the season was over…and they even announced that they would discount the price for season ticket-holders in 2010!  I was not going to renew my tickets, but I took the tour with Paul Wojtak.

Taking the tour was a lot of fun.  We got to take pictures with the Mets 2 championship trophies and Mr. Met.  We got to walk in the locker room and sit in the player’s chairs and the carpet on the floors were blue and orange with Mets baseballs.  We got to sit at the table in the Mets press room as if we were being interviewed.  Some of the cool things in their clubhouse was an autographed framed diagram of CitiField, which I believe was from opening night.  There was also a Mets pool table in the clubhouse.  The best part of all of this was that we finally got to see a part of the stadium that actually made you feel like this was the home of the Mets!  It is a real shame that that is not visible anywhere else here.  We topped off our trip with a seat in the dugout, which is always a cool thing.  Overall, I am obviously disgruntled with the new stadium, the team and especially the owner, but I still loved having the chance to go to see 77 games here in 2009.

Bottom line – The Mets new home is not my new home.  I hate to say that of all the new stadiums, the one in which my favorite team plays in is my least favorite stadium.  Maybe if I was a Dodger fan, I would think differently…but that is not going to happen.

Basic trip facts:
-Stadium  - # 37
-Old Stadium Sites visited – None (Total – 38)
-Under construction Stadium Sites visited – None (Total – 3)
-Miles traveled – 54 via Subway (Totals: Driving – 19,849, Subway - 92, Amtrak – 460, Air - 18,028 Total – 38,429)
-States, provinces, Districts and/or commonwealths passed through – New York (Totals: States – 48, Provinces – 2, Districts – 1, Commonwealths - 1)
-Seats – Upper level Section 508, row 8, Seats 13 & 14
-Prices: Parking – $18 (but I took subway), Beer – $7, Hot Dogs – $5.25, Program (including pencil) – $8, Souvenir Soda Cup – $5.00
-Credit Card giveaway –  None
-First Pitch -  3/29/09 - 1:10 PM, 4/3/09 – 7:10 PM, 4/13/09 – 7:10 PM
-3/29/2009 - Georgetown Hoyas 6, St Johns Red Storm 4, W – Tim Adelman, L – Nick Cenatiempo, S – Jack Bender
-4/3/2009 – Mets 4, Red Sox 3, W – Bobby Parnell, L – Manny Delcarmen, S – Frankie Rodriguez
-4/13/09 – Padres 6, Mets 5, W – Edward Mujica, L – Brian Stokes, S – Heath Bell
-Home team record to date – 26 wins, 20 losses
-Record of “team I was routing for” to date – 20 wins, 26 losses
-Attendance –  3/29/09 – 22,397, 4/3/09 – 37,652, 4/13/09 – 41,007
-Lodging – Home

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