Below is a modified version of my submission to Mets Magazine for its “Shea Stadium Memories” series. The magazine had a word limit, plus I figured I shouldn’t say anything negative about the Mets’ current stadium, Citi Field, so this post has been adapted for my blog. Then again, it was never published anywhere else.
The first thing you noticed was the grass. There was so much of it and it was so green. Modern stadiums have a lot going for them, but with open concourses you lose the awe of seeing the field explode out of nowhere. Walking through the tunnel to my seat at Shea Stadium for the first time is a sight I’ll never forget.
I’ve had the privilege of attending many classic Mets games, including Robin Ventura’s grand slam single and Todd Pratt’s walk-off home run, but I have vivid memories of Shea that have nothing to do with the games: the oversized neon figurines that lit up the outside of the stadium; sitting in the loge and cheering for the blue plane to win the race around the city; walking for what seemed like forever down the ramps after a big win, chanting with fellow orange and blue faithful.
Any reasonable person would tell you that Citi Field is nicer than Shea Stadium and better in every way. Citi Field has an open-air concourse that allows you to view the game even when you’re not in your seat. It has seafood and Mexican and Chinese (and Shake Shack, Pat LaFrieda’s, and Blue Smoke). It has a really big video board. It has more luxury boxes and bathrooms.
I prefer Shea. As my t-shirt says, it was a dump, but it was our dump. It was outdated within a few years of its birth and it didn’t age well. Management didn’t invest a dime into maintenance in Shea’s final seasons. I was at a game delayed by rain and saw two gaping holes in the upper deck concourse where water was just gushing through. (I also saw a man lean over a rail to drink this water, but that’s another story.) I didn’t mind that my food options were limited to hot dogs and pretzels. Or that I couldn’t play video games out in center field.
What Shea had (occasionally) that Citi hasn’t is a winning team. The Mets have not finished above .500 since moving into Citi in 2009 and have played particularly bad at home (103-140 from 2011-13). Criticizing a stadium because the team stinks is like saying a hat is ugly because the person wearing it is a jerk. That being said, why should I like Citi Field? Its most memorable moment is a scene from Sharknado 2. Will it rock like Shea did for a playoff game? I’d like to find out.
There are reasons to believe it will. Mets blogger Greg Prince wrote after a Matt Harvey start in April 2013 that Harvey “transformed a facility into a ballpark. He made Mets fans pay attention to a Mets game [at Citi Field], for crissake.” Mets fans are still Mets fans, after all—if the team is winning, the crowd will respond.
I am going to Fan Appreciation Day at Citi Field next Sunday, the last day of the regular season. I will get a bobblehead and a 2015 calendar and players will thank me in pre-recorded messages on the Jumbotron. But the best way to show fan appreciation? Field a winning team.