My friend Mike and I have a tradition each year of visiting New York City to see a ballgame between the New York Mets and the Atlanta Braves. Mike grew up in Alaska watching the Braves on TBS in the Dale Murphy era when the team was pitiful. I of course spent my first 17 years within 35 miles of Shea Stadium and the next 7 near the Mets top farm team in Norfolk, VA so I’m forever attached to the Mets. Devoted to our wives and children, we usually try to slip out for a day game during the week and the schedule has been kind to us.
Here’s the history thus far:
- April 27, 2005: Atlanta 8, New York 4 – The Mets lose with the help of the Manchurian Brave Tom Glavine.
- April 19, 2006: Atlanta 2, New York 1 – Glavine pitches a much better game this time, but the Mets still lose.
- April 21, 2007: Atlanta 2, New York 7 – With Brave-killer Oliver Perez on the mound the Mets win with the help of a big inning (while I’m getting ice cream for my pregnant wife). See my blog post Another Weekend in New York for more details.
- September 14, 2008: Atlanta 7, New York 4 – Mike was unable to attend this game so I went solo to witness the Mets bullpen implode in the 9th inning. Photos from this game are at the end of my post Shea Stadium: A Personal History.
As you can see the Braves hold a commanding 3-1 lead in the series. The fifth installment of this tradition would be different as it would be our first visit to the Mets new ballpark with the unfortunate name of Citi Field (see my blogpost Stadium Naming Rights for more of my thoughts on that issue).
We got a lot start and encountered delays along the road so we didn’t arrive until after the game started and both teams had scored. Oddly, after having no problems parking when the Mets were constructing Citi Field in the Shea Stadium parking lot we found ourselves shunted over to distant parking by the World’s Fair Marina. Mike declared it our prettiest parking spot ever.
The first impression of Citi Field is that everything is so big, even though it is smaller both in height and capacity than Shea Stadium. The dimensions of the field are large, the outfield walls are tall, the scoreboard (and all it’s ads) is huge and the new Mets home run apple is freakin’ enormous. The Jackie Robinson Rotunda, a much-lauded entrance to the ballpark is bigger than it looks on tv and is quite impressive and attractive. I also like the exposed ironwork support beams throughout the park and the bridge in centerfield.
We sat in the left field reserved section where a long homerun could land (as one in fact did, unfortunately hit by the Braves’ Martin Prado). Seats in the outfield are one of the features I think are necessary for every great ballpark and something Shea Stadium lacked (except for a small picnic area). The other great improvement are wide open concourses so one can continue to watch the game while walking to the concession stand, restrooms, or just stretching your legs. My third feature of great ballparks is an adjacent neighborhood with shops, restaurants and bars is still missing although it is a bit startling that the chop shops of Willets Point are now just across the street from the Bullpen Gate. As Mike pointed out, you can get your car detailed while you watch the game.
The game itself was an exciting back and forth affair. Both the Mets and Braves scored a lot of runs and gave us three innings of free baseball in addition to the standard nine. Sadly, this was yet another win in the Braves column. There’s always next year! And I definitely need to return as our late arrival and need for haste to return to Boston meant that there is much of the ballpark left unexplored. My first impressions though are good. I still miss Shea, but a little less now. Frankly, in some ways I felt a little spoiled by Citi Field. We Mets fans aren’t accustomed to nice things happening to us, but I could get used to this.
See my web albums for more ballpark photos.