Baseball season just started so that means your summer ballpark road trip is that much closer! In a bid to help you with your upcoming journeys, Big League Stew has solicited the help of the locals. Over the next month or so, we'll be hitting up our usual guest blogger crew to feature 10 tips for enjoying each of the 30 ballparks like the locals do. Have a suggestion in addition to the ones listed here? Make sure to list it in the comments below
First up are our pals Greg Prince and Jason Fry from the great Faith and Fear in Flushing. Want some more Mets-centric reading before you hit Citi Field? Check out Greg's book "The Happiest Recap," available now in paperback and Kindle versions.
Faith and Fear in Flushing welcomes you to our home ballpark, Citi Field. It took us five seasons, but we can now pronounce its corporate moniker without unconsciously (or otherwise) tripping over our tongues and instinctively referring to it as Shea Stadium. Shea — whose former parking lot provided the space for the current facility — will probably always remain psychic headquarters from a New York Mets State of Mind standpoint, but we’re comfortable at last with what this place is called and, more importantly, what this place is.
It is indeed our home. Yes, it lays on the Ebbets effect a little too eerily out front. And it did come off upon its opening in 2009 as about a dozen years late to the Camden Yards wannabe party. It has also yet to host anything remotely evocative of 1969 or 1986. But it has grown on us even as its team-in-residence has made us groan over four postseason-less campaigns.
1. Go to Shea: Before you do anything, however you arrive at Citi Field, make an immediate detour to the memorial markers for Shea Stadium, consisting of all four bases plus “the pitcher’s plate” (you can call it the rubber). They’re in the main parking lot, unmissable, because somebody is always out there before a game paying homage to 45 years of memories. Crouch where Jerry Grote did. Field the grounder Bill Buckner couldn’t. Pivot with your inner Edgardo Alfonzo. Wonder why it took forty years to come up with a third baseman as permanent as David Wright. Go into your windup as Tom Terrific did, knee touching what used to be dirt. Take a moment and realize you stand where 55,000 on any given day or night watched Amazin’ness transpire from 1964 to 2008.
2. Meet your companion at the Apple: Even if you’re not meeting anybody, pick the Apple as your next attraction. It’s another Met icon you won’t have trouble finding, conveniently located as it is between the 7 train exit and Citi Field’s main entrance. This is the Apple from Shea, the one that rose to the occasion every time Kingman, Strawberry, Piazza or any Met took an opposing pitcher deep after the biggest fruit in town was installed over the right-center field fence in 1981. It grew from kitschy (the top hat is a vestige of the “Magic Is Back” advertising campaign that ran when Jimmy Carter was still in the White House) to beloved enough to have been a) saved, b) planted out front in 2010 after it was mostly hidden away during Citi Field’s first year and c) charmlessly replicated inside the new park.
3. Enter in style or enter just in time: If you’ve lingered too long outside and the game looms as a particularly crowded affair, peel off down the left or right field line for shorter queues and perhaps a better shot at coming away with that day’s “first 25,000” giveaway (if the Mets are giving away something besides a ballgame). But if you’ve arrived early — and why wouldn’t you? — make your way straight ahead to the Jackie Robinson Rotunda. Look for Sam, the mustachioed security guard and the friendliest face working Citi Field. Always has a smile and a kind word as he respectfully searches your stuff but keeps things moving. And once you’ve been wanded/patted down and your ticket’s been scanned, pause for a moment and consider Mr. Robinson’s contribution to baseball and America, if not the Mets directly...it’s a sore spot for many Mets fans that their signature foyer is dedicated to a Brooklyn Dodger, but we do our best to big-picture this detail.
4. Hall in the family: The best reason to breeze in through the Rotunda is that it deposits you immediately at the New York Mets Hall of Fame and Museum, a must-stop on your visit. It’s not as enormous as we wish it was, but it’s crammed with treasured artifacts from a half-century of Mets baseball, an array of informative interactive kiosks and video presentations definitely worth absorbing. Every intermittently inducted Mets Hall of Famer — from original owner Joan Payson and image mastermind Casey Stengel to high-wire closer John Franco — has a Cooperstown-quality plaque on display. Though the team has been erratic and squirrelly about celebrating its own history, you’ll feel Mets pride without irony in this cheerful space.
5. Get your feed on (pregame): Because you showed up early, you have plenty of time to inspect your many Citi Field food options. Given the glaring sightline deficiencies endemic to several swaths of seating sections and the generally subpar baseball played down below, it’s no exaggeration to say the dining has been the best part of the Citi Field experience from day one. Though ballpark security that isn’t Sam can be an unnecessary pain about letting you wander here or there, you’re good to walk the perimeter of Field Level anytime, and the gastronomical world is your proverbial oyster there.
In fact, oysters may be about all you won’t come across at Citi Field. You like tacos? El Verano Taqueria has you covered like a tarp. Sushi? Daruma is a staple inside the World’s Fare Market (as is another old-time Shea favorite, Mama’s of Corona’s turkey and mozzarella hero). Keith’s Grill out in left serves a Gold Glove burger worthy of bearing the name of the Mets first baseman of yore and SNY announcer of present. You’ll figure it out as you take a lap — it’s all seriously good — but we make one recommendation above all: Don’t kill your entire pregame waiting in line at Shake Shack. Shake Shack’s delish, no doubt, but you can enjoy it at several locations in the city. Go with the stuff you can’t find as easily elsewhere and can purchase here in a fraction of the time.
6. You’re sitting where?: The only benefit to rooting for a team that keeps forgetting to compete in the second half of every season is you’re not going to have too many tough tickets. Aside from opening day and the Subway Series (the latter of which we can do without), StubHub is probably your friend in landing you decent seats and leaving you enough to sample ample eats. If you’re a little splurgey in your tastes, we recommend section 326 on the excelsior level for a glorious view of baseball and more (bonus: amble by the nearby CitiVision control room and be dazzled by the technology and colors that are free for the staring). If you want to hover above right field, you can’t go wrong in the open-air Pepsi Porch (night games preferable to day games, unless you like to boil). Or just buy a cheap promenade ticket and find an open seat somewhere between approximately 512 and 520. That’s your best look at everything and inexpensive, too. Avoid left field if you can and accept that you’re going to miss a few balls straight down the lines wherever you are on account of skewed construction. Like at least half of your Faith and Fear crew in ninth grade, Mets management struggled mightily with geometry when they built this place.
8. Listen closely: The Mets take the field to “Meet the Mets”. We stand and bounce along to “Lazy Mary” during the seventh-inning stretch. Should the team be so lucky as to take care of business, then “Takin’ Care of Business’ blares and PA announcer Alex Anthony recounts the details of the joyous occasion with “the happy recap,” an understated tribute to the late, great broadcaster Bob Murphy. These little touches are worth enjoying as long as the Mets are savvy enough to include them.
9. Ease on down the ramp: If you’re not rushing out of Flushing and find yourself in Promenade, it’s worth lingering down the left field ramp as you’re exiting Citi Field. Ramps were a very Shea thing and even those who don’t necessarily miss the old ballyard acknowledge there was something momentous and communal about the alternating sensation of glide and gridlock that took you out. There are elevators and staircases, too, but a ramp is the perfect place for repeated rounds of “Let’s Go Mets!” to resonate into the night. But wherever you’re saying farewell to Citi Field from, be sure to ultimately exit through the Rotunda. It’s more magnificent that way.
10. Be a Super commuter: Faith and Fear doesn’t generally drive to the game, so we can only advise you expertly on mass transit. Your best bet, no matter the recurring raising of subway fares, is the 7 Super Express that runs surprisingly efficiently after weekend and night games. Just a handful of stops get you into Manhattan. The head car is recommended for maximum egress at Times Square.
Now you pretty much know what we know about our home ballpark. If you can tell us who’s going to constitute our outfield all season, we’d appreciate your input in return.
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Previous parks: Citi Field, Marlins Park, Great American Ball Park, Petco Park,Comerica Park, Progressive Park, AT&T Park, Rogers Centre, Wrigley Field, O.Co Coliseum, Yankee Stadium, Coors Field, Minute Maid Park, Fenway Park
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