April 17, 2009: Queens, New York
Since becoming a Mets fan in 1988, I’ve followed them through the highs and lows of the past 28 years. Unfortunately, the highs have not been as high as the lows have been low. This was on display during the Mets’ final regular season home game at Shea Stadium in 2008. After missing out on the playoffs in 2007 with a brutal loss to the Florida Marlins, they were back playing for their postseason lives. Tied with the Milwaukee Brewers at 89-72, a win would assure at least a one-game playoff. What followed was typical Mets, coming back from 2-0 to tie the game headed to the 7th. With the team’s bullpen running on fumes, it was only a matter of time before the Marlins took the lead, which they did in the 8th on solo home runs by Wes Helms and Dan Uggla. Marlins 4, Mets 2. The playoff tickets I purchased became bookmarks. Losing out on the playoffs a second consecutive season (you thought the Brewers were going to lose?) was bad enough, but what followed only made the day worse. The Mets held their Shea Stadium Closing Ceremony AFTER the game in front of a catatonic crowd. “Sorry we just missed the playoffs again; here’s Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza to throw out the final pitch at Shea. See you next year at Citi Field!” I did not sleep that night. Citi Field is the world-class home the Mets and their fans had been waiting for since the retro ballpark craze began with Camden Yards in 1992. With over 15,000 fewer seats, Citi Field offered improved sightlines, concessions, and club seating. The brick exterior façade and rotunda home plate entrance were designed to replicate Ebbets Field, with the green seats and black fences a hat tip to the Mets’ first home the Polo Grounds. Citi Field is built on the land formerly known as the Shea Stadium parking lot. This brings fans closer to the beauty and aura of the Flushing chop shops on 126th Street. Most new ballparks are built in urban areas with plenty of bars and restaurants for fans to patronize pre- and post-game. The Mets offer no such attraction.
The Mets opened Citi Field against the Padres in April 2009. Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza returned to throw out the ballpark’s first pitch; then, Padres leadoff hitter, Jody Gerut, christened Citi Field with a solo home run. #MetsLOL Home runs were hard to come by throughout the first season at Citi Field forcing the Mets to bring in the fences on more than one occasion. The new fences are blue, just as they were at Shea Stadium, complementing the orange foul poles that were brought over from Shea. The Mets also brought over the New York skyline portion of the Shea Stadium scoreboard which now sits on top of the center field food court. Additional aesthetic improvements were made to Citi Field after fans complained there wasn’t enough acknowledgement of Mets’ history throughout the ballpark. Mets orange and blue were added throughout Citi Field as well as Mets Moments photos, player banners, and logos.
The Mets Hall of Fame was added after the 2009 season, located in the Jackie Robinson Rotunda. The Rotunda serves as Citi Field’s home plate gate and honors Jackie Robinson, who was influential on and off the field while playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers. A walk through the Jackie Robinson Rotunda is a history lesson all fans should experience while visiting Citi Field. Outside the Rotunda is the Home Run Apple from Shea Stadium and a Mets Walk of Fame. The Citi Field Apple is four times as large and rises behind the center field fence after a Mets home run and victory.
New York is a city of bridges, 2,027 in fact. The Mets were a bridge for National League baseball fans when the Brooklyn Dodgers and San Francisco Giants left for California after the 1957 season. Despite the Mets’ poor showing (53-109) on the field in 1964, they outdrew the pennant-winning Yankees in the stands by 426,959. Citi Field features the Shea Bridge, located in right center field, and is modeled after the Hell Gate Bridge that connects Queens and Manhattan.
Despite living 171 miles from Citi Field, I’ve made it to Citi Field for 36 games in eight seasons. Initially, I kept my Sunday ticket plan and added the Friday ticket plan for the 2009 and 2010 seasons, making the commute when I could. My first game was a Mets comeback on the Brewers behind Gary Sheffield’s 500th home run. It’s where I took my son and daughter to their first Mets games, both memorable affairs for very different reasons. Reaghan picked up baseball during the Phillies’ run of success and did not understand why so many fans were rooting against them as R.A. Dickey was on his way to a one-hitter during the 2010 season. She cried on the way out of Citi Field; it was a lesson for an 8-year-old Phillies fan. Griffin’s first game was in 2015 against the Diamondbacks, and featured home runs by Ruben Tejada, Lucas Duda and pitcher Matt Harvey. Citi Field has become my home away from home; it’s where I hope to see my first World Series game and continue to share the game I love with the people I love. #LGM