Ah, my first baseball game of the regular season…
I had been working/vacationing in New York for the few days prior to this trip to Citi Field and I had been excited all week. A new ballpark, my first chance to get on the board snagging baseballs, and I was hoping to simply take in the joy of watching a game in the newly built stadium. I took the #7 train from Manhattan and headed down the steps from the platform and the first thing I saw was this:
I would later find out it was Shea’s old apple… which in the 2009 season had been located inside Citi Field. Now it resided in a little landscaped garden out in front. Interesting. It was about 4:10 at that point and the gates were going to open at 4:40. I didn’t see more than a few people milling about outside the Jackie Robinson Rotunda so I took a walk around the stadium.
The architecture of Citi Field is pretty cool, though it does look just like Ebbets Field used to look:
As I got back to the front gate I noticed a guy a few years younger than me with a backpack on and I asked him, “You look like you know what you’re doing, is this where they start letting people in?”
“Well, yeah, they open all these gates,” he replied, gesturing to the six or so openings. He noticed my black Mizuno glove and asked, “You’re here for batting practice?” I told him I was and he asked, “You ever hear of Zack Hample? The guy that catches all the baseballs?”
I told him I had, yes, and that I read Zack’s blog. He told me Zack and some of his friends had been to the stadium the day before and he added that, “They must’ve gotten, like, thirty baseballs between ’em.” I told him I would be excited by one or two, since I’d never been to the new Mets stadium before. I told him my name and that I was from California and he introduced himself as Steve. After that, I went to a line and a few minutes later I saw a tall, skinny guy pass by, then he appeared over my right shoulder and said, “Are you Matt?”
I replied in the affirmative and he introduced himself as Greg, a frequent reader of Zack’s blog, as well, and he and I had e-mailed back and forth about Spring Training and about my trip to Citi. We chatted for a bit and then he mentioned he didn’t know if anyone else he knew would be there… I pointed to a kid I thought I recognized from the blogosphere and Greg said, “Oh, is that Clif?” It must have been because Greg went over to talk to him and they played catch for a bit as we all waited for the gates to open.
Sure enough, 4:40 came and I darted in… I ran up the escalator, took a left and headed toward the outfield. I passed by a few people who were jogging out there and was the second one to the left field bleachers… after Greg. I told him he was pretty quick and he said, yeah, he had to be… he was used to it. This was my first look at the field:
Citi Field is a pretty place. I’d have a lot more time for photos later… the next thing I noticed was the wind. It was a strong, gusty wind that night and my hat nearly got blown off my head a couple of times. I realized quickly that any ball that was hit to left-center got caught in the swirling winds and died on the warning track. Anything that was going to reach the seats on the fly would probably get pulled down the line or hit out to straight left. In the following photo you can see the sparse BP crowd as the Mets were hitting including Clif (in the foreground), Greg (in the black shirt), and Steve (wearing green). Note how Clif and Greg are playing the staircases. Nice.
My first baseball of the day was thrown to me by Hisanori Takahashi. When he fielded a ball in left-center I held my hands up and gestured to him to throw it, as he was looking for someone to throw it to… he hesitated but then I asked him for the ball in Japanese. He tossed it right up and I yelled out, “Arigato!” and he gave me a thumbs up. Nice! I looked at the ball right away… my first Citi Field commemorative. Check it out:
I was excited. The day was off to a good start… a few minutes later Takahashi fielded another ball and I yelled out, “Hey, how ’bout one for this guy?” and I pointed to Clif, who was standing to my right. Clif looked over and Takahashi threw him one, as well. Yeah, teamwork.
Though I didn’t catch a David Wright home run on the fly, I watched him hit at least ten out of the park… but most of them went to the second deck. That dude can seriously crush the ball in BP. Jason Bay was underwhelming… but he hit a baseball that Angel Pagan caught just shy of the warning track that he then threw t
o me. It was another commemorative ball.
Greg saw me in the seats and asked me how I was doing. I told him I had two… he offered to let me know names of players and I told him I had the rosters in my pocket. I added, “Guys from California know how to do this, too.” We laughed and ran to different sections. I’d already seen Clif make a home run catch and Greg would snag a homer on the fly during Marlins BP while in a dead run through a row. It was a pretty active batting practice. Fernando Tatis hit a few out, Gary Matthews was kind of a jerk in center field (no change from his Angel days) and then the Marlins came out to hit.
I went down to the third base side and watched while some of the players warmed up and Cameron Maybin started off their BP. After a few minutes Ronny Paulino threw one to me as he finished his warmups. I then decided to play back, farther out in the outfield but still in foul territory where the pitchers were throwing. I nearly caught a Maybin foul ball… but I think Clif ended up with that one. Jose Veras told me (in so many words and gestures) that he would thrown me his warmup ball after he was finished… but he didn’t, despite my polite request in Spanish. Meh. I headed back to the left field seats. Maybin was in center field and he made a great running catch at the wall which he then threw up to me when I told him, “Nice wheels!” That was my fourth ball of the day… but I wanted to catch one on the fly.
Jorge Cantu started hitting and I lined up a deep drive of his pretty well. The wind got it and it ended up falling just short of the row I was in and into a group of three or four people two rows in front of me. It tipped off someone’s glove or hand though, hit the row of seats in front of me and ricocheted right to me. I gloved it and was up to five on the day!
It got a bit more crowded after that and I had a bit of exploring to do so I ran out of left field and behind the batter’s eye over to right. I snapped a few pictures, including this one:
That player in that photo threw me my sixth ball on the night… it wasn’t the ball in the photo… it was a bit later. But I don’t know exactly who he is… I believe it’s John Baker. After that I headed down to the first base side near the dugout but realized too late that I needed to be on the third base side for the end of BP. The Marlins trotted off the field and I was at the Mets dugout. Bummer…
Oh, well. I headed over that way, casually snuck by an usher at the top of the section, and ended up in the fourth row behind the visiting dugout. Clif and a friend of his were nearby for a while. I was snapping photos and a young boy in front of me was amazed by my camera. He started talking to me… a little while later a kid behind me (who looked like Russell from Up! but in Mets garb rather than scouting attire) started up a conversation with me, too. Jorge Cantu signed a few autographs near the dugout so I got him to sign the ball he’d hit that I caught:
Nice–especially now that he’s set a record for most consecutive games with an RBI to start a season.
A few guys showed up and had the seats I was currently occupying so I picked up my stuff to move. One of the guys said, “Actually, there are only three of us,” and I assumed they had the four seats nearest the aisle. He continued, “So, you can just move down to that one and stay here if you want.”
Did I want? Of course, a license to sit in seats that cost waaaay more than the fifteen dollar, upper deck seat I had purchased? Duh. So, here was my view for the entire game:
The Marlins. Watch out for them this season.
The Fish scored in the first, and the Mets tied the game at 1-1 in the fourth. Nate Robertson pitched just a bit better than Jon Niese… the Marlins would score single runs in the fifth and sixth innings to make it 3-1.
I ate a hot dog–delicious, and went for third out balls a the dugout. As the Marlins came off the field in the seventh inning Cameron Maybin tossed one to me about three or four rows back but the teenager in front of me stood up at the last second and got his bare hand right in front of the pocket of my glove… and ended up with the ball. Bummer. A gamer would’ve been nice. ::sigh:: By the eighth inning most of the fans had left, except for an awesome heckler near me who got a laugh out of the third base umpire and Marlins third base coach. He told them, “Hey, blue, make him get in the box!” referring to the coach’s box, which no coach ever seems to stand in. After a few minutes the ump did it, laughingly. And the coach went in for one pitch, then back to his normal spot.
Mr. Met came out during the seventh inning stretch:
It stayed windy and cold the whole night. There had been rain in the forecast but it didn’t hit until long after the Mets lost, 1-3. I made it to the umpire’s tunnel as they came off the field but couldn’t score a ball there. I ran back to the Marlins dugout and, as some guys were coming in from the bullpen, I noticed a player in a coverup tuck a ball in his pocket. When he got near the dugout I asked for it. He looked at me and threw the ball high up along the dugout’s edge. There was a line of fans all squeezed in there and the ball was falling a bit too far to my left. I held my glove hand (my left h
and) out and missed the ball, but the guy two people to my left had the ball bounce off his hands. It ricocheted sharply to his right and sort of toward the field. I leaned out and barehanded the ball. Seven! I was pretty proud of my quick reaction on that one. The fan later spent a solid minute trying to convince me to give him the ball. Sorry, dude, learn how to catch.
I saw Greg as he was exiting and we chatted for a minute, shook hands, and wished each other well. The people I met at the stadium were all really nice. Who says New Yorkers are rude?!? I returned their kindness by giving away three of the baseballs I’d snagged to little kids. A lot of parents shake my hand when I do that… interesting.
After that there wasn’t much left to do except take one last, long walk around the stadium. I headed up the stairs and went behind home plate to snap this panoramic view of the stadium:
Then I went out to the outfield, across Shea Bridge, past the Shake Shack, then had an employee snap a picture of me:
And I headed back toward the Rotunda. A nice family took this photo of me:
And what Citi Field entry would be complete without Jackie’s #42? The Rotunda sure is pretty.
My opinion of Citi Field is this: It’s big. BP is active. The stadium is new and beautiful, though it does have some weird quirks, and as long as the Mets are lousy (yes, they are lousy right now) the place will only attract 25,000 or so fans per game. So, there’s space, ample snagging opportunities, and it’s a pretty place to watch a game. I would totally go back… though my guess is the next time I’m in NYC I’ll want to check out New Yankee Stadium. I had a blast at the stadium and I can see why people say great things about it and why people say terrible things about it, but really, once you’ve gone to see a game in Oakland or Dodger Stadium, new, pretty ballparks really have a lot of niceness about them. You don’t feel as bad spending money there, you don’t feel gross when you see pipes leaking or trash overflowing. You can focus more on the beauty of the game. Next up: Angels and A’s in Anaheim.
Thanks for reading.