The fourth professional ballpark I've had the pleasure of visiting, Shea Stadium (Camden Yards, Yankee Stadium, & the altar otherwise known as Fenway Park being the others) was all things considered, not that bad. A side from the mock Sopranos auditions going on everywhere around me I had a pretty good time. An added bonus of my first ever trip to Flushing, Johan Santana was on the hill. I've gotta admit though this isn't the same guy that went 20-6 with a 2.61 era in 04' then again I was a few pounds lighter and my hair line didn't start as far back so he gets a pass, but I digress.
So we arrived at Shea a little after the first pitch (I admit that might have a little to do with my err celebrating the night before) and were ushered to our seats by a small old man who has been working in Long Island since Shea's inception, that would be in 1964, he was also called "that small old man" back then too. Ahhh nothing like being at a ballpark where the seats fit an averaged size human in 1964, 45 years and two bills heavier, the seats remain the same, comfy. I've been on Long Island for all of 30 minutes and I've seen 139 fake gold chains, on two different people. Words don't even describe the unintentional comedy of this day, but I'm going to do my best, in report card fashion:
Heckling of the visiting team: In Camden Yards the fans barely knew who the Orioles were playing. At Yankee Stadium I was verbally abused by Yankee Fans (I had to be cheering for the Sox), and at the Fens, well I gotta admit they are extremely clever but can get a bit tiring. While at Shea on a Saturday afternoon against one of the worst franchises in sports, the Cincinnati Reds, the Met fans were actually pretty great. Starting in the very 1st inning while Griffey Jr. was settling into right field, one particular Mets fan who was good natured in his heckling of the future Hall of Famer with rants of "I love you, but YOUR FATHER'S BETTER." This continued until midway through the fourth inning when the aforementioned fan was tossed from the game while shouting "Don't touch me" to the five foot tall security guard who took his job entirely to serious, you know like a librarian. Then came the boo birds, enter Mets reliever Aaron Heilman and his near 5.00 era after twenty appearances. Boo them when they suck, cheer them when they succeed, you pay the salary. The Mets fans officially won me over when their own right fielder Ryan Church, trotted out to his position to chants of "Al-le-luya" it doesn't seem like it took alot of thought, but it meets the requirements, clever, witty, and harmless. A-
The Ballpark: You have to wonder what designers were thinking when they built a baseball stadium with barely any seats in the outfield and the majority of its seats to high up. It's cheap, tacky, and kind of lame but I do love the apple popping out of the hat when the Mets hit a homer, gimmicks aren't always a bad thing. I actually think Shea would be better if it wasn't so BIG, as close as I was to the field you still felt kind of far away from the actual game. What really turned me off to Shea was the audio system, I don't think that a franchise in the biggest city in the world needs to be TOLD to make noise, nor do I feel like they are giving their fans much credit. Baseball isn't hockey or basketball or football, you don't need to be told to cheer for "D-Fence" holding up a fake white picket fence. You get on your feet with bases loaded, you stand up and clap when there are two outs and two strikes, you give standing ovations when the pitcher comes off the mound after a great game. No fake pounding of the bleachers needed. B-
Beverage Distribution: I do find this an important aspect of any sporting event, especially baseball. I don't know if handing out aluminum bottles or bottles made of any metallic substance to Vinny from Long Island is a good idea, people who choose to use baseball bats to inflict pain may find another use for the empty bottle. Anyway, what really puzzles me is why at Fenway Park beer is not distributed via beer vendors yet is okay on Long Island, New York? $8.00 bucks a beer is a little steep, but you don't get em' any less expensive at any of these venues, so I can deal. The beer distribution grade was a C+ because I thought for sure a bottle would be used as a weapon if push came to shove. I say was because just before they cut off everyone in the ballpark the vendors made their way through the aisles encouraging one more beer like it was Jordan's last season and Bulls fans were chanting "One More Year." I LOVE IT, because seven innings and 3 hours wasn't enough time for anyone to get their full consumption in. B+
Finally, The Game: When you view a ballpark for the first time you spend the majority of the first half of the game just taking it in (as lame as that sounds) From the die hard fans with their hats they've had for years to the little kids just waiting for the guy on the back of their jersey to make a big play, your impressed. It isn't until your used to that, when you start focusing on the game in front of you. When you don't have a rooting interest, game day becomes something much different, you find yourself waiting for someone on the Mets to hit a homer so you can see the apple come out of the hat, you no longer argue balls and strikes and whether tie actually goes to the runner. After peanut indigestion took place and the Mets secured a 12-6 clobbering, Shea Stadium was officially crossed off my list of parks I haven't been to, all the while its' replacement looms in the backdrop.A