Shea Stadium was the site of some wonderful moments in the history of the New York Mets and will be remembered fondly by many. The way their last two seasons ended, however, has the Mets focused on new beginnings.
After calling Shea their home for the past 44 years, the Mets play the first meaningful game at Citi Field—their new $800 million home—on Monday night with the first of three straight against the San Diego Padres.
World championships in 1969 and 1986 highlighted the Mets’ stay at since-demolished Shea Stadium, the team’s home since 1964 after they played their first two seasons at the old Polo Grounds.
With its intricate brickwork and Jackie Robinson Rotunda, Citi Field was designed to invoke the charm of Ebbets Field, beloved home of the Brooklyn Dodgers until 1957. Citi Field will clearly be a much better home than Shea, a multipurpose facility that seated 57,343 and cost $28.5 million to build.
The 41,800-seat Citi Field features a training room, weight room and a clubhouse 2 1/2 times the size of the Shea locker room.
“It has all the best new amenities you can put in a ballpark,” third baseman David Wright said. “That’s only going to help us. You feel comfortable, and guys start showing up a little earlier. You get more of that team chemistry. It’s going to make it a lot more fun coming to the ballpark every day.”
There will be plenty of pomp and celebration before Monday’s game with Hall of Famer Tom Seaver scheduled to throw out the first pitch to former New York catcher Mike Piazza. The game will be televised in Rockefeller Center and Times Square, and the Empire State Building will be lit in Mets’ orange and blue.
The Mets (3-3), who endured a second straight late-season collapse last year, opened 2009 by splitting six games at Cincinnati and Florida. They lost for the third time in four games, 2-1 to the Marlins on Sunday despite a brilliant performance from ace Johan Santana, who allowed two unearned runs and struck out 13 in seven innings.
“I’m looking forward to getting home,” manager Jerry Manuel said. “I love the ballpark. It’s a beautiful ballpark. I like the spirit of our team right now, how we fought, how we played in Cincinnati, I think we’ve got some good things going, I really do. I really feel good about it.”
Mike Pelfrey (1-0, 7.20) has the honor of being the first player to pitch in a regular-season game at Citi Field, as he gets the start for the Mets.
“I imagine it’s going to be kind of like a playoff atmosphere with all of the fans there and the excitement,” Pelfrey said Sunday. “I don’t want to get too amped up and start overthrowing and get away from executing pitches. I’m going into it like it’s going to be another start, but the reality is that it’s going to be an awesome time.”
The right-hander, entering his second full major league season, wasn’t sharp in his team’s 9-7 victory at Cincinnati on Wednesday, giving up four runs and five hits through five innings while walking four and striking out two.
Pelfrey, though, has been very good in two career starts against the Padres, going 1-0 with a 2.13 ERA. He held them to two runs over 6 2-3 innings in a 6-5 win at Shea on Aug. 5.
San Diego’s Jody Gerut is 4-for-7 (.571) lifetime against Pelfrey.
Expected to be among the league’s worst teams this season, the Padres (5-2) have surprised early by winning five of seven. They beat Giants ace Tim Lincecum 6-1 on Sunday for their fourth straight victory.
This is the first time San Diego has been three games over .500 since the end of the 2007 season.
“A lot of people out there don’t have high expectations for us,” pitcher Chris Young said. “It is a long season. We’ll temper the excitement. But I think it is good for us to get some confidence and really believe in ourselves.”
Walter Silva (0-0, 3.60) looks to build off an effective major league debut for San Diego. The 32-year-old right-hander limited the Los Angeles Dodgers to two runs and five hits over five innings Wednesday before leaving without a decision in the Padres’ 5-2 loss.
Silva, signed to a minor league contract in late February, walked four— including the opposing pitcher twice—and struck out one.
The Mets are 30-17 all-time in home openers.