I just didn't expect it to be the second game ever.
So I had to brace myself for the train ride, one which I hadn't taken since the final disastrous game at Shea, sooner than expected. If you normally take the 7 train, and you haven't yet, brace yourself. Because when you get completely used to seeing something and then have it not be there anymore, it's a shock to the system. You know something's different when you can see Citi Field all the way from Junction Boulevard. You really know something's different when the pile of rubble sitting where Shea used to be is getting smaller and smaller (yet you still see some royal blue twisted metal amongst the crushed concrete.)
My relationship with Citi Field is going to be a little awkward for a while. I knew Shea like the back of my hand, but I'm going to have to get used to the new digs, where the stairs are, how to get to the Pepsi Porch (tough for a guy who drinks Coke Zero all the time), and where all the souvenir shops are. (Editor's note: my biggest complaint about the new place so far is walking into one of these shops, and the first thing I see when I walk in are the Brooklyn Dodgers jerseys, while the classic Mets jerseys were tucked away in the back. Until they sell David Wright jerseys in Chavez Ravine, we should work under the premise that the Dodgers are never coming back.)
But for a guy who complains a lot, I have to say that I think Citi Field and I are going to be fast friends. The park is so nice that I'm sitting in the seats and for a moment I'm trying to figure out what time my flight is to get back to New York, because until now parks like this were always elsewhere. Now I leave the park and there's the 7 train home ... and, you know, the rubble and the chop shops.
Food? Great. The chipotle wings have a nice kick, the pulled pork sandwich has the right amount of tang, and I happen to like the smoky bacon sauce that goes with those box frites, thank you very much. And the cannollis? I wouldn't know ... they were all out by the sixth inning. Hopefully, these two days will teach these guys to make sure there's enough for everybody. If you hold press conferences to hype up the food, make sure there's enough.
There also seems to be an overtly friendly atmosphere from the staff, something that many people say have been missing from Shea. Although you could kinda tell that the usher at the left field entrance had his share of fans who didn't know how to scan their barcoded tickets. But everyone seems happy to help.
Of course, I can't have a ballgame go by without a strange moment, and it took place in the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, as I was checking out the pictures of Ebbets Field and taking pictures when an esteemed member of the Citi Field staff asks me:
"Have you ever been to Ebbets Field?"Now, I may have some gray peeking out of my hat these days, but for crying out loud, I'm 38 years young. Ebbets Field was demolished more than ten years before I was born!!! The only explanation I can think of is that the "start" by Oliver Perez aged me about 30 years in one day, which is entirely possible.
So no, I've never been to Ebbets Field. But I was at the park that this was modeled after in many respects, which is Citizens Bank Park, an outstanding park despite the team that plays there. And maybe that's the complaint, that this park came after all of the other new parks, and that once you come in from the Ebbets Field vibe outside, you see a lot of Philly. You see a little Cincinnati. You see a little St. Louis. You see a little of what the Wilpons saw everywhere else. It doesn't make Citi Field any less enjoyable. And it doesn't make it any less home.
At least you can't blame the Mets 9-3 loss on Gary Sheffield ... and I'm loving all of your responses to my Sheffield rant, which I still stand by. Low risk/high reward seems to be the new buzz phrase for anyone signed under a million bucks. But when you're talking Sheffield, the risk is never low as long as there's a chance that he's going to say something stupid. And high reward? Well let's just say that anybody who thinks there's a chance that a 40-year-old who's coming off an injury riddled season and a terrible spring is going to have hit 20/80 is living in a fantasy world. So don't hold your breath for that pot of gold at the end of Gary Sheffield's enormous rainbow. The best you can hope for is finding a lost wallet with no identification and a few bucks in it.
It's obvious that you either love him, or hate him. If you want to read a more even handed approach, check out Dan Graziano's piece on FanHouse. Seems we all might be a little bit right.
So maybe we can all get along one day?