NYC’s finest ballpark

24 08 2009
I'm partial to the Pepsi Cola sign in right field. The company had a bottling plant in Queens and there is still an existing Pepsi Cola sign in Long Island City, which you can see below.

I'm partial to the Pepsi Cola sign in right field. The company had a bottling plant in Queens and there is still an existing Pepsi Cola sign in Long Island City, which you can see below.

Despite what Yankees brass would like you to believe, there is baseball outside The Bronx. And of the two new MLB ballparks in New York City, I believe the finer one resides in Queens. Despite the fact I’m a Queens (Long Island City) resident, there isn’t a hint of bias in my opinion. Unless it’s the bias toward ballparks with a ton of character and without an air of superiority.

I visited Citi Field for the first time on Saturday as the Mets took on the Phillies, more or less their chief rival. After two games earlier this season at Yankee Stadium, I have to admit that not only does Citi’s brick exterior make for a more homely look than the Stadium’s limestone, but the stadium’s interior seems more reminiscent of the great older ballparks from the early 20th century.

Despite its reputation as a pitchers’ park due to its generous field dimensions, Citi feels much more tightly packed than it looks on TV. My unscientific opinion is that the seats, most notably in the outfield, are built ‘up’ instead of ‘out.’ Stadium architects will do this to create a nosier environment, and it seems to have succeeded in this case.

There it is in all its beauty! The Pepsi Cola sign on the shores of the East River in Long Island City.

There it is in all its beauty! The Pepsi Cola sign on the shores of the East River in Long Island City. (That's the 59th Street Bridge a.k.a. Queensboro Bridge in the background.)

Where I think Citi really succeeds more than Yankee Stadium is that they don’t make you feel like you’re taking a trip to worship their team. (Mets fans will often counter that Citi’s Robinson Rotunda, the main entrance, makes fans worship Jackie Robinson, who didn’t play for the Mets or in Queens.) What’s distinctly different from the Mets ‘and Yanks’ parks is that the Mets just want you to have a good time while the Yanks want you to have a good time AND bow down to everything that is the Yankees legacy. It’s apparent the Yanks organization models itself as if they’re the modern-day Roman Empire of MLB.

While there’s no sense in downplaying the Yankees’ impact on baseball, it doesn’t mean fans have to be force-fed everything factoid about a team’s history.

I feel like parks have to hold a certain charm. There has to be something that draws you back, something that makes you think about the experience during the week.

It’s probably easy to roll your eyes as I, like any deep-rooted baseball fan, romanticize about the looks and grandeur of a near $1 billion park inhabited by spoiled multi-million players. Yet ballparks are the cornerstone of our national pastime, the real national pastime, despite what NFL fans might want you to believe. What separates baseball (MLB) from basketball and football (the NBA and the NFL) is that the game can be played in a variety of physical dimensions. This adds an inherent quality to the sport that you can’t find anywhere else — the mood of fans and outcomes of games can be shaped literally by the positioning of the outfield walls, among other ballpark dynamics.

All that's missing from this short is the clearly exasperated usher with the Dale Earnhardt mustache who was noticeably pissed off from all the beer drinking around him.

All that's missing from this short is the clearly exasperated usher with the Dale Earnhardt mustache who was noticeably pissed off from all the beer drinking around him.

This is what I love about Citi. The quirkiness takes away any air of superiority. You’re there to watch a baseball game, hopefully a decent one, and aren’t inundated with a history of the franchise and how incredible it is and what you can do to view the museum that is the ballpark. The self promotion is at a minimum. As a baseball fan, that’s all I need.

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