Good afternoon from Flushing Meadows, home of the New York Mets since 1964 but now with a slightly new address. As my 7-train approached the familiar Willits Point stop a little while ago, I was immediately struck by what was in my field of vision (Citi Field) and what wasn’t (Shea Stadium, which has been razed and turned into a parking lot).
I was never a fan of Shea. OK, I will freely admit it was my least favorite ballpark in the majors, and I usually dreaded going there (even more after I came down with food poisoning in the press dining room last season).
So I was very excited to walk into Citi Field today for the first time, with the Nats getting ready to open a three-game series against the Mets. From the outside, everything looked nice. The walk from the subway platform certainly was shorter and more pleasant. And the numerous elevators waiting for me (as opposed to Shea’s one rickety old contraption that took six months to get from level 4 to level 1).
But once I stepped off the elevator and found the press box (Lewis and Clark would have been helpful, since I was misdirected onto the wrong floor, then thought I had found the press box only to discover the door was locked) I have to say I’m kind of underwhelmed.
Don’t get me wrong: This place puts Shea to shame. But my initial impression of this place, when comparing it with the other new ballparks that have opened in the last 15 years: Meh. It’s not horrible by any means, but neither is it jaw-dropping.
For one thing, it’s big. Really big. The scoreboards reach up to the sky, nearly hitting the planes taking off from nearby LaGuardia. Also, it’s dark. As in, the shade of green (or is it black?) that dominates the park is too dark and doesn’t look inviting.
Then there’s the outfield fence, which changes direction, angle and height about every five feet. Seriously, it’s the most ridiculously shaped outfield I’ve ever seen in a ballpark not named Fenway. At least Fenway has some charm and reason for it’s odd configuration. This one just seems to be different for the sake of being different.
I don’t mean to harp on all this, and like I said, Citi Field is obviously a huge improvement over Shea Stadium. And I want to take more time to look around the place, see it from field level, etc.
But they say you never get a second chance to make a first impression. And my first impression of Citi Field is that it’s not very impressive.