Sunday, April 04, 2010

Change Is Good

Many of you know that today, Sunday, April 4, CitiField was open for business...sort of. Today was the traditional pre-Opening Day open workout session, where we can see batters hit, pitchers pitch, maybe catch some stray fly balls thrown to us by Mets and most importantly...have the fans check out what modifications occurred over the winter.

The last time I was there, as pointed out to me by blolleague Ed (and Joey) from Studious Metsimus, was four months ago, when we did the CitiField "Behind the Scenes" tour. Potentially less of a wait than others who may have had their last edition of CitiField in October. As a season ticket holder, I kind of felt like they took us for granted. Certainly I knew they took mini- and weekend-plan holders for granted as well. Oh, hell, they took ALL of us fans for granted. I think they did underestimate the amount of passion there is behind the franchise and the branding of the Mets. We not only identify with the Mets...we ARE the Mets. Boom. End of story.

I was curious to see what kind of show they put on for the fans at these events. As of last year, full season ticket holders were not able to go, and now they have allowed us to participate (I suppose many complained about it...I didn't mind though, I figured I knew enough people that I could always go if I wanted to).

There were two things I was curious about this season. One was the new Mets Hall of Fame and Museum, which was still under construction when I was there in December. The other was my new Fanwalk Brick, which was ironically, in the #7 section...the home of the infamous "incorrect" brick, labeling Sid Fernandez as the winner of Game 7 in the World Series, and not Roger McDowell. Not that it mattered, since the team won. It was the principle of getting the damn thing right.

So of course we are there bright and early, along with several other fans. The vibe was different this year, heading to CitiField. There was no mourning in the air, clearly because we had mourned the passing of our beloved Shea Stadium the year before. Also I think there is a notion of "just shut up and play," since it's all about expectation level...which is none for me, right now. The first thing you notice coming off the train is the old Home Run Apple! No more having to go into the stadium to see it...it's right there in the main "Piazza" leading to the Jackie Robinson Rotunda!
(Photo by Ed, as my camera sucks)

That sucker is HUGE!!! I didn't think I would be overwhelmed by it, not as much as it had when it was inside still. When I saw it outside, I just thought for a moment...welcome home.

We took a walk to the bricks next, although I had almost forgotten about it! Meaning, I got so excited to go inside, that I almost bypassed the whole brick thing. It hit me as I walked right past it. Anyway, look for the Coop's Family brick, right here.
Par for the course on any given game day, the lines at the Jackie Robinson Rotunda to enter the stadium were ginormous. That's fine though, since the LF entrance was open today as well. I am used to using this entrance since that's the closest one for the Coop's seats. Although that also meant that we'd have to take the "scenic route" in order to get back to the HOF and Museum. Fine, always up for a bit of exercise.

Then I realized I had some unfinished business to attend to on the field level...namely...visiting where Coop's Consortium and Jason's Bay-Watch will be sitting this season!!! I was able to get some views...we are VERY close the HR Apple (the new one, of course!) and apparently, in home run territory, since we saw many batted balls going straight there several times.

If you bought any tickets from the Coop this year, remember to bring your mitt! (And yes, that is Ed and Joey in the foreground of the apple there. Hi Ed and Joey!)

Moving right along, we walked around the entire back of the concourse, through the Shake Shack and Blue Smoke areas, over the Shea Bridge......and into the woods of the 1B side to the Rotunda...where we entered what we'd heard so much about this offseason. Ladies and gentlemen, the Mets Hall of Fame and Museum!
I will say this. I wasn't sure what to expect when I first got there. I half-expected kind of what it used to be like in the Diamond Club, but maybe being a bit on steroids. Not sure who was in the old HOF before but let's just say that even then, they could have done a better job in that. It was basically a glass case, evoking memories of sports trophies in a high school gymnasium for winning the all-state competition in track and field, housing the plaques of the Mets greats "retired" in the Hall of Fame, and the World Series trophies. I guess for the toilet bowl that used to be Shea (and yes, I still miss it), it was apropos. But for a "world class" ballpark like CitiField has been touted, the lack of Mets memories or acknowledgement of Mets greats (besides Seaver, Stengel and Hodges) was embarrassing.

I can honestly say that I walked out of the HOF impressed, excited about the prospect of showing Mr. E the ropes there and most of all, proud to be a Mets fan. (For some great commentary on it, visit Metsgrrl's site for her piece on that today -- she points out there were lots of Cooperstown-esque touches there, which I totally agree). There were shadow boxes of historical events and people integral to the Mets experience, interactive booths that showcased broadcasters of the past identified with the Mets, and ongoing footage of the two World Championship teams of 1969 and 1986. I have to say, since I grew up with the '86 and great '80s teams, that I still get chills whenever I see footage of the big season and the subsequent playoffs.
What Mets Museum would be complete without an homage to its own "Franchise" player, Tom Seaver.
The rolling footage tracked George Thomas' career from his college career to his Mets domination to his induction to the Hall of Fame (the big one, not just the Mets version). I attended that ceremony back in 1992, and remember feeling bad for Rollie Fingers, who was also inducted that same year. Nothing against Mr. Handlebar Mustache himself, but when the guy you are inducted with gets 98.84% of the vote that same year, well, you're going to be overshadowed. The Seaver station was well-done, and I can predict right now, it will quite possibly be Mr. E's favorite spot of the HOF.

There were some other cool highlights in there such as Gold Gloves, game-worn jerseys, and the first Mr. Met, made of papier-mache!!!

Oh, and the hot chick in front of Mr. Met isn't part of the museum (unless they pay me, ha ha).

Something else to note: the novelty of standing next to the 42 in the JRR was not nearly as urgent as it was in 2009. EVERYONE had to have their photo taken next to it. There was always a line and it seemed impossible to get a plain shot of the 42 without tons of people trying to get in the way.
Now, I realize there were not nearly as many folks there as there would be on a given game day. I like to think that the Wilpons really did an A+ job in making the Jackie Robinson Rotunda a classy nod to a humanitarian...but adding to that the experience of New York National League baseball history and of course, Mets history and passion involved. I finally feel as though, the JRR is complete and not just a lesson in social studies. It's quite possibly what it should have been from the get go.

Next thing to check out were the amenities, namely the food changes that occurred over the offseason. For one, I will tell you right now...MacFadden's will NOT be "finished" by Opening Day. Not only did we overhear a Mets official-looking person say that while crossing the Shea Bridge, but we overheard that it will not be complete until the next home stand. Notice I did not say, it would not be "open" tomorrow, because I believe it will be in presentable condition, perhaps having a limited menu and drink options (if I remember correctly, the same was said for some of the stands in the main food court last year).

We located the gluten-free stand just outside of the World Fare Market. A crab-cake sandwich was added to the menu of Catch of the Day. Prices have gone up slightly on MANY things in the park (not much, maybe you'll notice a 50 cent increase here, a dollar there). Most of all, Box Frites has added two very important things on their menu...garlic parmesan fries and "disco" frites, which is their version of French Canadian delicacy poutine!!
A little on the pricier side, you get a LOT for it, so I guess in the end, it's all worth it. Not sure my ass agrees though.

They also redesigned the bullpens, so as not to be in that ridiculous fashion they were last season.
What else? I guess on the side of the players, they stood as a backdrop to the rest of what was going on in the stadium. I can't really attest that the players are more approachable, but you can certainly get good photos of them in action. They are certainly very kid-friendly, having several kids in the audience ask questions of the players and what not.

Here are some photos from above the Mo's Zone in right field for your viewing pleasure.
All in all, a great Sunday afternoon in the park, a great day overall. That said, tomorrow is Opening Day. My motto for this season is "Expect the Unexpected." We are not sure what to expect, so let's just take this season for what it is. Be happy with the good stuff, take it with the bad stuff, but most of all, enjoy the art that is baseball.

One thing I have learned over the years is to be thankful. Thankful for life, love, thankful for what we have. Nothing makes me happier to be alive than to be a baseball fan, for baseball season to start and for being a Mets fan. And with that, Opening Day is tomorrow!
Now let's really confuse the shit out of the Mets and win a championship this year!! Whatever will they do, with THREE pennants? They'd have to redesign the whole stadium!

1 comment:

Ed Leyro (and Joey) said...

As always, a good time was had by all. I believe your readers will have a blast at Citi Field this season with all the new amenities.

Thanks for the happy re-Coop of Workout Day!