Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
April 4, 2009
BASEBALL: Day At The Citi
I was out at Citi Field today for the Mets-Red Sox exhibition. Thoughts and impressions:
-The new park really is gorgeous, but it is most definitely not ready for Opening Day quite yet. Part of that impression is just the fact that it's new and nobody - least of all me - knows their way around, and perhaps part is where we were sitting (down in the lowest ("Sterling") level seats behind home plate - spectacular seats)...construction seems to be finished, but there's a distinct lack of signs showing you where to go and it was extremely difficult to get from one place to another, with a lack of ramps and escalators, stairs with no re-entry and elevators that don't go down. There's a bar and grill down there but there's no signs anywhere to tell you what food is for sale where or at what prices (there were also no vendors in our section and no waiters either, as Shea generally had in the priciest field-level seats). We had to go up a level to get a simple beer and hot dog, were told that other food choices required a trip to right field, and had to beg passage in a freight elevator to get back down again. The scoreboards were out of sync and sometimes showed the wrong team's pitcher. There's a disturbingly large amount of un-sold or at least un-posted ad space on the scoreboard. And the lines everywhere were bad, especially on entry. I suspect a lot of this is more in the nature of initial disorganization than lasting problems with the park, but we shall see. I was at a similar dry run at Camden Yards, the first game ever played there in the spring of 1991 (a Mets-Orioles exhibition that Sid Fernandez christened with a classic Sid outing, five no-hit innings followed by a 5-run sixth), and that place was totally ready in a seamless way that immediately made you realize you were walking into the future of baseball stadiums. This is still a work in progress.
-There were, so far as I could see, no championship banners up. I know they are selling the old ones from Shea online, but I'd expected they had the replacements ready.
-One overwhelming impression: man, was there a ton of garbage on the field, just loads of wrappers, cups, plastic bags - Youkilis and Ortiz were stopping to scoop up trash. The grounds crew would clean up between innings, and then it would get bad again. I don't know if it was the wind, the closeness of the seats to the field, the exhibition game crowd or what, but they're going to have to do something about it.
-Like I said, though, it's a wonderful park. There's a lot of foul territory around first and third but home plate is barely in front of the backstop, so sitting in the field level seats behind the plate is like being at a Little League game (in a good way). The padded seats are much more comfortable than anything I have previously seen at a ballpark. The Magic Apple, which didn't exactly have a busy day today, is enormous, and the irregular outfield dimensions will make life interesting. There's no longer a screen above the seats behind the plate, so it's prime foul ball territory, but they may have to rethink giving people plates and glasses to sit at some of the little tables back there - we heard quite a crash when a guy knocked a plate over diving for a foul ball. The party area in right field is also kind of unnerving. The color scheme on the fences has more of a (baseball) Giants than Mets motif. Also, the field really has a close view of incoming airplanes, perhaps due to facing a little different direction than Shea.
-I don't know if the radar gun was slow, but between Perez, Maine and Matsuzaka we didn't see a single pitch above 86 mph.
-It could be a long year for Oliver Perez. I don't know that I have ever seen a guy booed like that in a spring training game. The Mets have purged most of the unpopular guys from the bullpen, so the boo birds will need a new favorite, and when Perez is like today and can't find the strike zone, he's an easy target.