citi-field

The Village of the Damned: San Francisco at New York Mets May 7-9, 2010

All that was missing in the three game set between the Giants and Mets were laser-shooting robotic killing machines roaming at will around the Mets’ Citi Field. All three of these road games had the look of an out of control Ridley Scott film (the ones where the studio gives him too much money): high tech chaos, frightening visions of futuristic anarchy, and an alarming lack of any real authority in the land.

Now…   let’s play ball!

mr-met-sadBefore I get sidetracked, let’s briefly discuss the new Mets baseball stadium, Citi Field. Completed in 2009, Citi Field is located in Flushing, which I‘m guessing is the city’s historic plumbing district. The new stadium is remarkable in ways you really don’t want things like stadiums, meat, and medical procedures to be remarkable.

In the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, ugly muti-storied concrete bunkers were used in most American cities for Major League baseball and Aerosmith concerts. Then, starting in 1992 with the wonderful Camden Yards in Baltimore, baseball-only cathedrals began replacing the old concrete cereal bowls, bringing players and fans back to the architectural roots of the game. Often, the new ballparks were seamlessly grafted into the urban landscape, one more beautiful brick building on a city boulevard full of brick buildings. Inexplicably, the designers of Citi Park (apparently budget cuts forced the use of the less expensive “i”) decided to do the exact opposite with the new Mets stadium.

Here’s what they did: located the $610 million Mets ball yard in the middle of a sea of parking lots. Really. No integration with the local Queens neighborhood, just an edifice completely surrounded by acres of concrete. Don’t get me wrong, the edifice itself is pretty nice, with its front façade replica of old Ebbets Field and the soaring Jackie Robinson Rotunda entry area. But, just about the time you’re remembering that Ebbets Field was the Dodgers’ ballpark, and just as you finally get past the endless nightmare of parking lots, you come face to face with the worst urban blight possible— blocks of cheesy car repair shops, used car lots, and oily junkyards.
As I said…. let’s, uh, play ball.

On the field, the Met’s front office has brilliantly reflected the surrounding neighborhood by allowing environment-threatening amounts of garbage to blow all around the infield and outfield during games. Throughout the Sunday May 9th game with the Giants, the scene was ridiculous— food wrappers, plastic bags, cups, napkins, and newspapers everywhere. It was embarrassing watching the players on both teams trying to catch used cheeseburger wrappers and stuff them in their back pockets. Citi Dumpster Park, yo.

Back to the game. Wind blown fly balls dropping everywhere like fresh pigeon poo; the hurricane-like weather worse than the nastiest windy day at Candlestick Park; pitchers walking batters like they had base-on-balls incentive clauses in their contracts; and umpires Paul Schrieber, Rob Drake, Hunter Wendelstedt, and Angel Hernandez making more bad calls than Morgan Stanley. Oh, and throw in the soothing sounds of jet planes constantly landing at nearby La Guardia Airport and the scene is complete.

For the Giants, leaving New York City was the end of a bad dream, but it’s the beginning of their next big test in the race for the National League West: five games with the surprising San Diego Padres in the next eight days. The Padres swept a three game series from the Giants in San Diego in late April; if the Padres truly aren’t for real, now is the time to prove it.

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