Fun Times in Queens (10-3-09)
For a while, I’d been wanting to go back to Citi Field for a second game. We’d gone in April when the Stadium was just two weeks old. I wasn’t a huge fan of it then. It was too crowded and I felt like we couldn’t get anywhere near the field.
Well, a few weeks ago, I found a pair of $25/ticket upper deck tickets on Stub Hub for $3 each. We couldn’t pass it up.
I was excited to see Citi Field again, not only because I knew it would be far less crowded due to the Mets poor performance but, because it would be our first game ever in the month of October. Plus, I was hoping we’d get a ball — our first ever in Queens.
We started out early by driving to New York (or as Tim says “You Nork”) and, as the picture below shows…
…we headed through the Lincoln Tunnel, parked in the Upper West side, hopped on the C-Train at 81st Street, transferred to the 7-Train at 42nd, watched all of the graffiti go by in the rooftops of Queens, and arrived at Citi Field at about 11:40 a.m.
We entered the stadium through the Jackie Robinson Rotunda and headed up the escalator toward LF to see if there would be BP taking place. After getting denied access to the field section behind the 3B dugout, we headed down the line and grabbed a spot on the railing by LF. The Astros were hitting and this was our view:
There were two Astos pitchers shagging balls down in the LF corner and Tim was watching them like a hawk:
In the picture above to the left, the middle guy is Samuel Gervacio and the guy on the right is Wilton Lopez. Lopez was having a grand old time toying with the crowd. On every ball he caught, he faked like he was going to toss into the stands and then he’d turn around with an ear-to-ear smile and throw it in toward the bucket. Eventually, former Astro and current Astros coach Jose Cruz (above to the far left) walked out to LF with his fungo bat.
As by strolled by, I asked him, “Hey, coach, can you fungo a ball up here for my son?” He nodded “yes” and pointed at Tim as if to say, “Is that him?” I nodded, “Yes.”
Meanwhile, Lopez was taunting the crowd with yet another ball. Quitely but very authoritatively, Cruz called out to Lopez and motioned for the ball. Lopez’s face instantly turned from playful-kid to serious-and-respectful. He toss the ball to Cruz without hesitation.
Cruz turned around and tossed me this:
“Thanks, Mr. Cruz!”
Tim was a little upset that he did’t catch it himself. He got bit by the catching bug, I guess, after meeting up with Ryan Rowland-Smith in Toronto the previous weekend.
At this point, Tim was just wearing his socks and his shoes were in my backpack. I told him to put on his shoes so we could head out to the OF and poke around. He wasn’t too interested in his shoes. So, I popped him up on my shoulders and we walked to the LF seats. On our way, I heard, “Hey, Todd!” I looked up and it was Alex K. from “Riveravenue.” We’d met Alex in Chicago at Tim’s 30th MLB team milestone game. We’d exchanged some emails and knew we might run into each other at this game.
As we went over and started chatting with Alex, I heard another voice call out, “Hi Todd and Tim.” It was Joe from “Baseballexperiences.” I’d never met Joe before, but I’d read about him on Zack Hample’s Blog and, through Zack, on his own blog.
Joe introduced himself and said he reads our blog. Its always cool to meet people from MLBlogs. And these guys would turn out to be extremely cool and fun to roam around the stadium with at several points during the day. They were absolutely great with Tim and he couldn’t get enough of them.
We started by chatting and then a picture:
Joe is on the left and Alex is holding Tim on his lap as he reclines on the back of a seat in LF. Note that Tim is holding his shoe. We pulled the old Billy Madison “everyone my age __________, its the coolest!” trick on Tim (we filled in the blank with “wears shoes”), and it worked like a charm. Tim was happy to wear his shoes after seeing that Joe and Alex were also wearing shoes.
Tim then showed off his first Citi Field ball to his new “guys”:
After a few minutes, one of the guys asked if Tim and I wanted to go over to the dugout. I said we couldn’t because we had upper-deck tickets. They both assured us it was no problem. Joe had an extra ticket on him — maybe it was his dad’s, I’m not sure. Anyway, we were up for checking out the restricted area so we followed Joe:
The guy standing a couple sections in front of Joe in the green jacket asked “do you guys have tickets over here?” Joe flashed his ticket and the guy responded, “Yep, you do, head on in, guys.” I think he automatically assumed we all had the right tickets. He didn’t seem too concerned about checking the rest of our tickets, but I showed our loaner ticket anyway.
And that easily, we were behind the dugout where there was hardly anyone in the stands. This was our view:
…and it worked. Alex and Joe both called out, “Hey, Stech,” to Astros bullpen coach Strech Suba (I think he’s the bullpen coach, at least). I think Suba threw three balls over. Tim and I got one. Joe got one. And, I think (but am not positive) that Alex got one as well. A big time assist and thank you to Alex and Joe for that ball.
Tim was looking the other way when Suba threw us the ball. As I caught it, he turned his head to look toward Suba. My glove was above his head and I instantly transferred the ball from my glove to my bare hand and from my bare hand to Tim’s glove. I then erupted with, “Tim, you just caught that ball!” Joe and Alex followed suit with a lot of enthusiasm. Tim was fooled, and was happy to have “caught” another ball himself.
All of a sudden Astros pitcher LaTroy Hawkins was standing right by us (and was photographed by Tim):
Joe and Alex, along with some other people, went over to see if he was autographing. But he announced to everyone in the section that he wasn’t signing. He was chatting with his friends who he doesn’t get to see much because (he said) he doesn’t get to NYC much. He stood there and chatted with some people for a long time.
BP ended and Alex and Joe suggested we head out to the kids’ play area — they were always thinking about what would make the day more fun for Tim.
When we got there, Tim and Alex posed by the fence showing off the auto-repair slums across the street from Citi Field…
We waited through the line for the whiffle ball field. Before hitting, Tim cycled through the OF:
By the way, the auto-slums are just to the left of the 3B line of the whiffle ball field.
Next, Tim had his chance at bat. You only get a couple hits before you round the bases. But Tim loved it:
In the top left, we see Tim taking a hack on the whiffle ball field’s jumbo screen. Top right, two fielders make an effort for the ball but Tim shots it between them for a liner off of the LF wall. Then it was time to round the bases.
Tim loved the whiffle ball field.
Next, we parted ways with Alex and Joe. They went to watch the Astros play catch down the RF line. Tim and I went into the second deck to look down at the field and the home run apple:
Then it was time to grab an ice cream helmet and some seats in section 122 (I still had the ticket Joe gave me — he told me to keep it):
To the left, you see our view of the plate. To the right, Alex took a shot of us as Tim scarfed down his chocolate ice cream with sprinkles. By the way, I just mentioned Alex again. He and Joe saw us in our seats and came and sat by us in the first inning.
This was our field view:
Remember how I said we got $3 tickets because people were disenchanted with the Mets by this point in the season? Well, check out the empty seats to our left and right:
I took my only action shots in the first inning. Miggie Tejada laced this pitch up the middle for a line single to CF:
In the bottom of the first, the third out was made at first. The Astros first basemen (who is that, Berkman?), ran over to the dugout and a cluster of kids gathered in the first row to ask for the third out ball. Alex said, “hold on, I have to run down there.”
As he left our row, Berkman launched the ball over all of the kids. It was like it was in slow motion. Alex left us at the perfect time. It was like he was a wide receiver being led by a deep bomb. He and the ball converged just as it reached head level. And then he ran back up showing off the third out ball:
After the second inning, Tim was getting restless. I asked him if he wanted to go see the Pepsi Porch in RF (second deck)…where I told him he could see the train passing back-and-forth. He did.
On the way, we stopped by the Jackie Robinson Rotunda to get pictures with the big 42 (Tim took the picture of me and the 42):
Here is a panaramic view from the bridge leading out to the Pepsi Porch:
Here was the view from the top:
We continued touring around the upper deck. I decided to head back to the home plate area of the upper deck. On the way, I took a panaramic view into the stadium from the back side of the upper deck concourse:
See all of the glass on the second deck across the stadium — behind the LF foul pole? That’s a restaurant. I asked Alex and Joe if they’d ever gone there. One of their dad’s had been and wasn’t impressed. There is a deck at the bottom of the restaurant (outside the glass), but apparently they won’t let people out on the deck because they made the railing too short and fear that people will fall into the field level.
Back to the tour. Here is the view from the upper deck behind home plate:
Due to the Sterling Club and suites that close-off the main concourse from the field behind home plate, and the railings and ushers that keep the commoners from getting into the seats behind home plate, this is the best view most people will ever get from behing home plate at Citi Field.
As you approach Citi Field from the subway, you will notice that the upper deck seating behind home plate is set way back from the front of the Jackie Robinson Rotunda entrance. Well, in the upper deck there is a huge circular concourse area above the Rotunda and behind home plate. The ground has a huge baseball design built into it, which I thought looked nice. Along the outside of the concourse (the outer edge of the Rotunda roof), there are food stands, a team store (one of at least 3-4 at Citi Field). In the middle, there are standing tables where you can stand, eat your food and watch the game on yet another jumbo screen — this one hanging from the back of the upper deck seats:
I gotta admit, that’s pretty cool. They have a similar picnic area behind home plate and above the main enterance at Safeco Field, but people up there have no clue what is going on with the game. Nice touch, Mets. They have another one of these jumbo screens on the back of the CF scoreboard for the parents standing in the play area with their kids.
Speaking of CF, that was our next stop. This is the view from the concourse in deep CF:
With that, our touring was concluded and Tim wanted to take some hacks in the soft toss cage. There are two cages. One for little kids with soft toss or a batting tee (depending on the kid’s choice). The second has a slow pitching machine. Here is Tim in the soft toss cage:
Right after Tim hit in the cage, the rain started to pour down. It was the end of the fifth inning (an official game), and the umps called for a rain delay.
Tim and I trudged around in our rain gear until we eventually found ourselves back in the Rotunda. Tim saw some teenagers climb half-way up the “2” in Jackie Robinson’s big blue “42.” Tim wanted to do it too, but (a) it was too high and (b) dad was having none of it. By this time, it was about 2:30 or 3:00 pm, and Tim was ridiculously tired (no nap) and he lost it when he wasn’t allowed the scale the wet, slippery and tall 42.
As I tried to calm him down a bit, Alex and Joe found us. They tried their best to cheer him up but he was whiney and crying up a storm. Then, Alex asked him, “Tim do you want to go upstairs and play catch?” Instantly, Tim’s crying stopped on a dime. “Yes!!!,” he responded. “Ahh, HA!,” I said to Alex and Joe, “you’ve witnessed some of Tim’s classic fake crying!” One of them asked, “You were faking it, Tim?!” Tim responded, “well, I was a little sad.” Classic Tim, the actor!
We had time to kill. So next, we went and looked at all of the “game used” stuff the Mets had for sale in the field level concourse.
After looking at that stuff for a bit, Alex and Joe asked if we want to go into the Sterling Club. Now, the Sterling Club is the ultra-exclusive and pricey luxury club level area for all of the people with the big railed-off cushy seats behind home plate. Alex’s dad had got tickets somehow. After paying $3 per ticket, how could I pass up an opportunity for Tim and I to see the Sterling Club.
Joe and Alex entered the club. Safely inside, Alex passed off his ticket to Joe and came and passed it off to me. Joe then re-entered on his own. Tim and I strolled around a minute in the Rotunda and then headed up the Sterling Club escalator and into the club.
The lighting in there wasn’t friendly to my camera, all of my pictures came out blurry somehow. But he is some of what we saw:
In the top left, there is a ridiculously fancy looking restaurant, which looked out of place (and was totally empty) at a ballpark. See the red arrow in top middle of the restaurant? Its pointing to floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the visitors’ practice batting cage, which are pictured at the top right. For perspective, the restaurant is to the left as you enter the Sterling Club and it is located roughly behind the 3B dugout. As you view them in both of the top pictures, the field is to the left of the restuaurant and the visitors’ batting cage.
At the bottom left, there is a fancy bar (and Joe’s head). For perspective, the restaurant is behind me as I took that picture and home plate is behind the left side of the bar.
In the bottom right, we are sitting in a little nook in the far opposite side of the Sterling Club next to a bunch of windows overlookign the Mets batting cages (they have two cages, the visitors have only one). For perspective, the Mets (1B side) dugout is just behind and to the right of me as I took this picture.
At this end of the Sterling Club, there is another fancy bar. This one is more of a lounge style bar. The bar is across the back wall (opposite the field) and the rest of the room has scattered seating.
In that picture, we are drinking delicious FREE MILKSHAKES. It was the best chocolate milk shake I’d had in a long time.
Here is the view from the cushy Sterling Club seating behind home plate:
This lasted about 10 minutes before an usher shut us down.
Next, we decided to go check out the old home run apple from Shea Stadium. It is behind the bullpens in deep, deep, deep right CF. On our walk out there, it started to rain hard again. Here is a picture of Tim, Alex and a little girl staying dry under the top hat:
After spending some time by the bullpens and in the RF concourse (where Tim clanked Cow Bell Man’s cowbell, Tim and Joe ran several races and Alex and Joe swung Tim around by his feet and hands), the rain stopped!
We headed toward the 3B dugout just in time to witness the removal of the tarp:
Tim and I decided to hang out in LF. Almost everyone else decided to sit in the infield. As a result, if anyone was going to hit a homerun to LF, there would be great odds that we would collect our first ever home run ball. Check out how empty the OF was (heck, check out the whole stadium!):
In the top of the 9th inning (with the Mets winning), we moved to the infield and sat by the tunnel where we knew the umpires would leave the field after the game. Here was the excellent view:
Although we’d already got two balls on the day (our first ever in Queens), I wanted to get a ball from the umpire because it would be a commemorative Citi Field inaugural season ball — this would be our last and best opportunity to get one of those balls. Soon, Alex and Joe both turned up. They had the same idea.
Tim was ready to catch a foul ball (below to left)…
After chatting with Alex and Joe a little bit more, we said our good-byes (we’ll be keeping our eye out for those guys next season) and Tim and I headed to the 7-Train platform.
On the way out, I took the following night-time photo of Citi Field:
And that’s the story of our final national league game of the season. After this game, I have a much better feeling about Citi Field. I still don’t like the closed-off concourse behind home plate or the design of the standing room areas (no standing counters), but we had a great day in Queens. The following day, we’d be in Baltimore for the final game of the season.
Season Fan Stats:
32 Games (plus one 5+ hour rain out with no game)
1 Ken Griffey, Jr. Homerun (Career Homerun No. 624, August 23, 2009 in Cleveland)
13 Stadiums (Safeco Field, Camden Yards, Citizens Bank Park, Citi Field, Nationals Park, Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, HHH Metrodome, Miller Park, U.S. Cellular, “Jacobs” Field, and Rogers Centre)
25 Teams (Mariners, A’s, Rangers, Rays, Orioles, Tigers, Twins, Indians, Red Sox, Yankees, Royals, White Sox, Blue Jays, Phillies, Mets, Nationals, Cubs, Braves, Padres, Dodgers, Cardinals, Marlins, Pirates, Astros, and Brewers — and sort of the Giants)
27 Ice Cream Helmets (Mariners (5), Phillies (5), Mets, Nationals (3), Red Sox (3), Yankees (2), Twins, Cubs, Brewers, White Sox, Indians, and Blue Jays (and 1 Brewers Cheese Fries Helmet))
35 Baseballs (20 Mariners, 3 Astros, 2 Rangers, 2 Umpire, 1 Phillies, 1 Red Sox, 1 Nationals, 1 Pirates, 1 Twins, 1 Royals, 1 Indians, Yankees/Orioles 1)
MLB Closed Out (NL Closed out on 8/16/09, AL Closed out on 8/17/09)
6 Autographs (King Felix Hernandez, Ryan Rowland-Smith, Jason Phillips, Ronny Cedeno, Jeremy Guthrie, Ryan Perry)
5 Player/G.M. Photographs (King Felix Hernandez, Ryan Rowland-Smith, Jason Phillips, Jack Zduriencik, Ryan Perry)
10 Mascot Pictures (Mariners Moose, Orioles Bird, Slider (Indians), 3 Presidents (Nats), Screech (Nats), 4 Running Sausages (Brewers) — Honorable Mention: The Green Monster statue bench)