Saturday, October 09, 2010

Hot in the Citi

I've been attending live Mets games since 1984, and most importantly, at Shea till we brought the Grande Dame down in 2008. For most Mets fans, myself included, the transition to CitiField wasn't an easy one. It seemed there was a lot missing in the new state-of-the-art stadium we had built for us, but most of all including the Mets' soul (and subsequently, the Mets' fans soul).

Some people couldn't see Shea Stadium go fast enough. In some respects, I agreed because it was old, outdated, the toilets were abominable, the food was ok, and it was saddening to me that I could have a better experience at another team's stadium than at my own. On the other hand, what made Shea "home" was the feelings associated with it. And that to me was the biggest "con" on the CitiField Pros and Cons list, that we tried very hard to get that "noise" back, bring the old feelings we had associated with Shea back home.

It was evident that CitiField was merely a "house," it wasn't yet our home. My friend, Greg Prince, over at Faith and Fear in Flushing did a marvelous job (redundant, as far as the FAFIF guys go) of commemorating the two-year last game at Shea anniversary coinciding with the Last Play at Shea move. Definitely a must-read for those of us who had a particularly hard time to transition to the new digs.

I will say this though. In two seasons played there, CitiField has become my "summer home" for better or for worse. Some of it might be resignation, knowing full well that Shea Stadium will never return (despite what my buddies at The Apple say). In the last two seasons, I have visited eight road stadiums (For those of you keeping track at home: Nationals Park, Petco Park, Angel Stadium, Dodger Stadium, Camden Yards, AT&T Park, Citizens Bank Park, and PNC Park). Some of them where I had a rooting interest in the Mets, some of them not. To a baseball fan second (Mets fan first), there is nothing better than to watch a baseball game for art of it,where you didn't have a care in the outcome, just being able to take in the surroundings. So I tried something different, and perhaps CitiField is a bad example since I do visit there at least 20 times per season, but I wanted to look at it from the superficial view, where I didn't care about the outcome of the game, and truly enjoy myself at being a baseball fan.

CitiField, I have concluded, aint half-bad. I won't go so far as to say it is "home" to me, though I have felt "at home" several times in the season. However, as Greg said a few weeks back, it's no longer not Shea, but someplace in between where we could be comfortable again and find our heart.

Since I have given my readers a view of what it's like at the road stadiums, I realized I was doing a great disservice not reviewing CitiField from an unbiased perspective. While CitiField isn't my favored "modern throwback" stadium (that would be PNC Park to me), I certainly enjoy going there and appreciate some of the "quirks" we have at our new house while compared to other stadiums.

As an example, prior to this season, Camden Yards had been a favored destination of mine, yet I had never seen the Mets play there till 2010. I really like, an example, the 360 degree views that CitiField offers on the field level, and Camden Yards does not offer that. I hadn't realized it yet, but I had taken that aspect for granted at CitiField until I visited Camden this summer.

Another thing is that I LOVE the Shea Bridge area. It's a great place to meet up once people are in the stadium, as opposed to meeting at an offsite place such as McFadden's or by the HR Apple in front of the park. As Dee Wrighter exclaimed on this picture below:

Coop, you OWN that Bridge!

Well, I wish I did, heck I'm not even Mayor of it on Foursquare. But I do appreciate having that luxury of chilling out there during the games. That is not found at say, AT&T Park in San Francisco, where the ushers wouldn't even ALLOW people to walk on their version of the "bridge" (which is just a fancy bridgeway to the food courts in the back of the stadium and a nicer view of the Bay which is it situated). Yet another nicer modern stadium that does not offer unobstructed 360 views.

Lastly, CitiField has nicer fans (if you can believe it, given how many Mets fans dislike each other). I mean, of course I am comparing them to the fanbase that drinks from the douchewater as those inhabitants at Citizens Bank Park. I feel like other fans might have a better experience, especially if they are rooting for a team not named the Yankees nor the Phillies at CitiField.

So this year, CitiField has been in some aspects home but a place that I can now sit back and enjoy the very art of baseball. Since My Summer Family's inception year, I have taken it upon myself to discuss the road stadiums I've visited but I have never given a critique of where the Mets play. If you've ever heard the saying "hitting close to home," well, yeah, that would be why. I feel like I have seen CitiField enough as an observer to be able to speak freely about it.

The Coop for the first season had seats in the Promenade level. I'll be honest. When I bought my first year at CitiField for the full season the seats were less than what I paid at Shea Stadium's last year. Judging from what you guys know about The Coop, though, it was hard to build a community in the Promenade, because of the lack of boxes and I guess the lack of structure that went along with the mini and weekend "plus" plans. However, the sales reps and the Mets did NOT do us right in the first season by offering us "exclusive excelsior" level seats for like 2x's as much as my Mezzanine seats were at Shea. What the heck? Meanwhile, the best they could offer were seats in the Pepsi Porch (I wasn't willing to commit to those for a full season) or the Promenade. I thought it was shitty to do that the season ticket holder and mini plan holders, simply because they were strong-arming us. It was like -- if you don't buy these seats, someone else will. Well, I couldn't justify five-figure seats unfortunately. It was a good thing I didn't.

When the Mets faltered in 2009 and were dropping like flies, all of a sudden, a new stadium's novelty wore off quickly. Whey buy Promenade seats for $10 (which is what I was selling some of them for) when you could buy Delta Sky Club marked down considerably. I thought momentarily of not renewing my plan, when I talked to my sales rep after the Mets announced they would lower prices. The Promenade holders really did not see a difference or one that was enough to justify it.

However, I believe I have found the "value" seats in the stadium, seats you can get the most bang for your buck. They aren't the most expensive seats in the place, but they are not the cheapest nor the worst.

They are in the "outfield reserved," which I guess would be equivalent to bleacher seating in other stadiums. You also get the added bonus of being on the field level, and close to all the cool concessions. One other cool thing they did this year was add Caesar's Club access along with Promenade club access to these seats. I have to say, that for the plan holder who is into resale value, you can't beat these. Plus, we had the best of both worlds: if it was threatening rain, you could bail. If it was sunny, bring your sunscreen but you were able to enjoy your Boys of Summer in the summer sun.

Of course, I am giving you pictures at night, but I'm too lazy to go through my day game pictures right now. You get the idea -- you see a lot of player's hineys, but I can get away with that shit, because I'm a chick. On the flip side, you see a LOT of home run balls -- you are not in foul territory here, babe. Many home run balls were hit in this area this year. I was thinking of trying out a new section, but I think I shall keep these for next year.

Going back to the idea of the Mets' soul, it was hard to find one especially in a ballpark that was determined to be as plain-vanilla-corporate-devoid-of-personality as this one. The Jackie Robinson Rotunda in 2009, great in theory, failed miserably in my eyes because it just seemed like an insincere addition for an otherwise great ballplayer and humanitarian who transcended the sport. CitiField felt too "Dodgery" and nothing felt Mets-like. To me, it also felt incredibly incomplete as a front entrance. You walked in, and were overwhelmed with the crowds, that I truly felt like you couldn't enjoy the history behind it.

Mets fans, many of us including myself anyway, THRIVE on the history of the team. I loved the idea of the JRR, but again, felt like more could have been done with it. Like the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, with the New York National League Baseball history infused in it. Senor Solly even said that it was downright criminal that the San Diego Padres, a team that has only been in existence for 41 years, has a better sense of its own history at Petco Park. I had to agree with that, especially visiting that stadium in 2009.

Now, I have to say that the Mets finally got it right with the Rotunda. Now it feels complete with the Mets Hall of Fame and Museum.

With the Davey, Darryl, Doc and Cashen induction over the summer, I hope the Mets continue the progress with making CitiField FEEL like the Mets, instead of just being "that place where the Mets play." The HOF and Museum made me proud to be a Mets fan. Not that I'm ever not proud, but I was walking around like Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor in Stir Crazy after my first visit.

Now to the good fluffy part of the review...

The food. OOOHHHHHH the food at CitiField is much better than Shea ever dreamed it could be (many thanks to Joey for posting with the various foodstuffs at CitiField).

I would say the best bang for your buck at CitiField is the Taqueria. The picture in the top right hand corner are the taco trio platter, which is one chicken, one steak and one pork. I believe it's only $10.50. Compared to other items that are so-so at best, and the lines at other more popular stands such as Shake Shack, it doesn't get much better. And it's quality food. They have a damn good elote corn on the cob, which is basically just corn on the cob dusted with this magnificent mayonnaise, cayenne and other lovely spices. I don't know whoever thought that would be a combination on corn, but it works.

This year, the Box Frites stand (fancy term for Belgian fries) offered garlic parmesan frites and disco frites, which is their equivalent of cheese-and-gravy fries or the French Canadian poutine. This is pictured in the lower left corner. For $10+ you can easily split these between two people. Unfortunately, The Other Half and I could never agree so I usually ate that damn disco frites by myself. Now, it's good...but I feel like if you have a hankering for cheese fries, Shake Shack's are better.

However, that's not to be said that I think Shake Shack is overrated at CitiField. Don't get me wrong: since I gave up soy and being a vegetarian in recent months, the Shack burgers and fries have been a welcome source of beefy goodness in my life (picture in the lower right hand, with Joey posing with the goods). However, for the prices at CitiField and the lines that go along with it, I prefer getting mine six blocks away from where I live. However, I have that luxury: many do not. That said, I think if you are dying for a Shack, and don't care about the lines, it's certainly well worth it. I guess it really just is not a "treat" for me and I'm a bad judge when asked about it.

My old standby recently has been the chicken nachos grande -- there are only two stands in the entire stadium. But they are DAMN FINE (top left hand corner). I am kind of a nachos snob. I love real cheese nachos and think that fake nacho or cheez whiz is just the most disgusting and vile thing ever...that said, that combo seems to work on CitiField's nachos. Please note though: when we go to other stadiums and I see that orange goo they put on corn chips, I pass.

I used to go to the Shea Stadium at night and after work on weeknights, and I could never be truly satisfied with dinner. In fact, I used to either eat dinner before hand or wait until after the games. At CitiField, a BIG draw to the atmosphere and baseball experience is the good food. You would not believe how many people buy tickets from me and are not even Mets fans (and not seeing their team play) who want to go to enjoy the culinary delights. No, I don't kid.

When I get sick of beer (I know what you're thinking...The Coop gets sick of beer?????), one of the distractions were the premium mixed drinks that we are able to get. Unfortunately, these are in limited editions on open levels, and are mostly found in clubs and on the Excelsior level. My go-to drink was normally the DomQ Rum Punch which is uncannily like a hurricane (one of my favorite drinks ever). I'm not even a "rummy" as some may call it -- fortunately for all fans to enjoy, the rum stand is by the World's Fare Market, however, I think their choices are kinda sorta lame (pina coladas - which I am not a fair judge because I don't like them - and rum and cokes I's a travesty the rum punch is not offered at those stands). The Taqueria offers their Patron margarita, which is pretty good, but could be a little heavier on the tequila for the price ($12!! I get a yard frozen one at Nats Park for that much). They also offer an Absolut lemonade at the Box Frites stand...again, could be heavier on the absolut for the $12 surcharge. Your best bet if you are not a beer fan and want to imbibe and do not have club access, try the Bacardi malt drinks (mojito, I believe) at the Beers of the World stand.

The Mets did right by the season ticket holders this year, including on the last weekend of the season giving us unlimited club access, 30% team merchandise in the stores and the opportunity to run the bases "Mr. Mets Dash" style after the last Saturday home game. Okay, that was pretty cool.

To the area's credit, they are trying to revitalize the area. I mean, I have to say that the Chop Shops are ugly, but they are OUR chop shops and I guess add to the local charm, and by "charm" I mean "absolutely none at all."

With the advent of McFadden's at CitiField that is supposed to be open year-round (complete with Sunday football), I suppose that if they raze the junk yards, the area could be a happenin' place. I do have to say this about McFadden's. It is not an attractive place. I would not hang out there if not for the fact that it was at CitiField. However, their game day specials and packages (such as the $45 VIP package that gives you one-hour pre-game open bar with chicken wing appetizer, one free drink post game plus a game ticket with "VIP" access in the Excelsior level) are hard to beat. I hope they keep this tradition next season. Also on a side note, if all goes well, some of us December babies might have a joint bday party. I've always felt slighted that I could never celebrate my birthday at a Mets game. Well, I could celebrate it at their stadium now. Noodge.

So this baseball chick has rocked-and-rolled around the country this year following the Mets. Yet, I found myself longing for a place to call home, and while I'm not quite ready to call CitiField that yet, I find myself wanting to go back there sooner rather than later. That is a good thing.

I know how much the Mets have broken our hearts these past two years at CitiField, I know how much the Wilpons and Sterling Enterprises have pissed us off so much in the time that CitiField was being built to the time it was standing. I hope, I pray, they are trying to make it right this time around. For everyone's sake.

But hey. CitiField has a lot of alcohol to drink. So I can still get hammered and at least believe it's five o'clock somewhere. Or that Jose Lima is still pitching (that's another story).


DyHrdMET said...

didn't I call you "the most popular person on the (Shea) Bridge" only 4 days into the season. you DO own that bridge. It's the "Coop Bridge".

I'll argue one point about the Rotunda (and not the technicality that the Museum is off to the side, but including it in the argument) - it's missing one of the New York NL teams (the Giants). The 42 should be sideways with the appearance of blue 42 on one side and orange 24 on the other.

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