Archive for the ‘ MLB ’ Category

Citi Field Facts, Figures and Thoughts

One of the most popular questions I get on a daily basis from Mets fans is what to do at Citi Field. While most fans live in New York, a lot of fans live outside of the Metropolitan area or simply do not have the time or the means to visit. So, I decided I would write a small post, a beginner’s guide of sorts, with some brief history, facts & figures, and my personal opinion on the stadium that is turning eight years old this April. 


The first thing I will say about Citi Field is how every fan has a different opinion on the stadium. Some fans hate the stadium, citing a plethora of Dodgers references, and some fans love the stadium, stating that it’s family friendly activities make it a great experience for a Sunday afternoon.

This is a trend among stadiums in the 2000s, starting with Oriole Park in Camden Yards, is the movement of “Retro Modern” stadiums, something Citi Field follows to a tee, where a stadium will look rustic and display heritage on the outside, but look pristine on the inside with all of the modern amenities.

One of the biggest examples of this is the facade, known as the Jackie Robinson Rotunda:

unnamed

Like the title suggests, this rotunda, designed by POPULOUS (or HOK Sport like many call it), is designed after the history of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Some of Jackie Robinson’s best quotes and pictures are adorned inside a replica of the Dodgers fifth and most popular stadium, Ebbits Field.

So why is this entrance criticized so heavily? Well, Citi Field is the home of the Mets, not the Dodgers. When you walk into Citi Field, a lot of Mets fans would have preferred statues of Tom Seaver and Keith Hernandez, even the press has written about it at length.

And while the Mets haven’t added statues yet, they did listen in 2010, when, one year after the ballpark’s first game, they opened a “Mets Hall of Fame and Museum” with commemorative plaques, jerseys and even the World Series trophy.

mets_02_469x327

Another tactic the Mets have done to try to make the outside more Mets centric is the addition of fanwalk bricks, which is very cool to see in practice, as I’d much rather see quotes from Mets fans than Geico advertisements,  but is very costly for the fan.

Moving inside the stadium, we see another new ballpark trend. Team Stores. Two, to be exact, less than 50 steps from the entrance. This no-frills tactic, where you don’t pay much on a ticket, but are forced to pay a lot for merchandise and concessions is a truly brilliant move. If you are a fan that wants to watch the game and nothing else, you can buy a ticket for $6 dollars, and enjoy the game. If you want to have fun with your family, you can enjoy all of the concessions and fun games at Fan Fest (currently called Send In The Clowns Fan Fest, but that always changes….) like dunk tank, a fast pitch game and event  virtual simulator. Additionally, young fans can run the bases after Sunday Home Games (known as the Mr.Met Dash), which is extremely fun for the little ones, and is another example of how teams are becoming more accessible and interested in “opening up” their stadium. Ten or twenty years ago, when ballparks were considered “sacred” a post game dash would never be allowed.

19572008513_efb86964f0_b

Another ballpark staple is food, and Citi Field doesn’t disappoint there. The New York Post and other newspapers have often called Citi Field the best stadium in the world as far as eats, and I don’t disagree.

Last summer, MLB sent me to Citi Field to do a “Culinary Citi” feature. (Well, two actually…. I like ballpark food) And, I completely understand why people feel this way.

From Blue Smoke to Fuku to PRESSED, to Taqueria to Shake Shack (where people will miss 3 innings of a game just to get a milkshake) there are nearly infinite options for dining. Fans that want an elevated dining experience can dine at the Porsche Grille with excellent stadium views or the Pat La Frieda Chop House (again, it’s officially called the Pat La Frieda Chop House presented by Delta Airlines, but, I fly United, so I don’t mention that.)

chophouse_275x193

While the food at Pat La Frieda’s looks good, I kind of question the idea of an indoor steakhouse at a Baseball field, but, I digress.

The actual baseball field has evolved as well (and yes, it’s very ironic that we have made it so far in a ballpark review without actually talking about the field), in 2009 the left field wall and parts of the right field walls was 16 feet high, which is double the size of a standard fence, eight feet high. Another criticism in the wall was the color of the wall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The above picture was taken in 2009. The black wall, a reversal from the Blue wall from the Mets previous home, Shea Stadium, was met with a lot of condemnation. In fact, the only similarity between the fields were the orange flag poles, something unique to the Mets.  Because of that, the Mets have changed the dimensions of Citi Field three times, in 2010, 2012 and in 2015.

citi-field-home-opener-2016-e1460144372469

Today, the wall is Blue, and has two interesting areas in the space between the old fences and the new fences, both of which offer un-parralled views of the stadium, come with free food and drinks, and come with a hefty price tag.

Another thing that Citi Field improved on with the new fences was their capacity, which is technically 41,922, but is actually over 42,000 when you consider club level seating. The record attendance was the sole All-Star Game that the Mets hosted in 2013. In that mid-summer classic, 45,186 went through the turnstiles, which included a lot of standing room tickets, something the ballpark was meant to include.

Another feature of the stadium that is ultra fan-friendly (and great for fans like me that still keep score in a old fashioned scorebook) are these new ginormous Daktronics boards:

cmz0fc5xaaa0ydw

These boards feature all of the statistics one could ever want, from batting average to WAR+, and yes, that is a baseball term.

Off the field, Citi Field hosts a lot of events through their Metropolitan Hospitality Division. A corporation that is owned by the Mets, and one that I’ve had the privilege of collaborating with in the past.

Some of these events include Tours, the Bacon + Beer Classic, The Color Run, various concerts and most notably the Meadows Concert, which, while it might have been fun for spectators, created quite a problem for the Queens Ballpark Company, which is the  company that owns Citi Field; and my hunch is the Meadows will be canned or re-located after this upcoming year.

Simply put, Metropolitan Hospitality does everything, from a birthday party to a lacrosse tournament, which, while un-conventional for a baseball stadium, is better than having the stadium stay closed all winter.

So, we’ve touched on all the elements of Citi Field. Most everything is positive, and all of the negatives have been rectified, but here’s the interesting thing. I personally wish Citi Field wasn’t built. 

I know, I know, that’s crazy, but I’ll explain.

Citi Field is infamous for being funded with $615 Million Dollars in Public Subsidies, and is privately owned. Furthermore, New Yorkers don’t have any attachment to something that they payed for, something that is very different from a lot of privately owned stadiums.

Citi Field was made without the fans input, and the owners paid for that. Attendance was very low the first few years, despite good transportation options with un-limited parking, the New York City Subway and the Long Island Rail Road. Many people were outraged by the lack of “Mets” in the ballpark, instead featuring nods to the Brooklyn Dodgers, the favorite team of Mets owner Fred Wilpon when he was a child.

Additionally, many people took objection to the naming rights deal, which was given to CitiCorp for $20 million dollars per year, the first major sports team in New York to have such a deal. T-Shirts were made reading “I’m Calling It Shea!”, and were worn by popular figures, like Jonathan Lethem, during occupy Wall Street.

Yes, Citi Field has grown on me, and has grown on many other fans, and I do realize that some children, teenagers and even adults need alternate forms of entertainment during a baseball game, citing the game is too slow, but there was something nice about Shea Stadium, a classic ballpark and a real marvel of it’s time.

It was no beauty, but with a renovation, I think it could have been a better solution. At the end of the day, however, Citi Field is a beautiful ballpark, and, you don’t even have to like baseball to attend a game, but wether or not that’s a good thing is something that has been bothering me ever since I walked into Citi Field for the first time in April of 2009. Unfortunately for me, owners have a different question nowadays: Wether or not an amenity is profitable.

MetsPlus Minors Preview: The 2017 Columbia Fireflies

Today, as we inch closer and closer to Opening Day 2017 (even though the Blizzard makes me think we are still two months away). I wanted to preview the seasons for some of the Mets affiliates, specifically ones that some people might know a little bit less about, but will still root for even if they don’t know the roster by memory. The Columbia Fireflies fit that criteria, and without further ado, here’s a preview of the 2017 Columbia Fireflies season: 
columbia-fireflies-logos

That logo is awesome, isn’t it?

Anyway, I first head of the Columbia Fireflies like most people did, during the announcement that the Savanah Sand Gnats, the previous incarnation of the franchise, was moving out of Savanah after 2015, and after seeing their name, uniform and cap combo, I was hooked, and wanted to see the team and feel the atmosphere up close.

I did so by attending one of their games and speaking to some of their folks last July, which I wrote about on the blog. Noticeably absent, however, were the Mets fans that one typically sees at a Brooklyn Cyclones, Binghamton Mets or even a St.Lucie Mets game.

Not that it is a bad thing, as the attendance was about right for a minor league game, so I was perplexed about what it was about the Fireflies that made them a unique minor league team that appeals to a wide demographic. Being a college town, there were way more than 20 year olds at the Fireflies game I went to, so I decided to get in contact with the Fireflies to ask them some questions.

Brad Shank, the Executive Vice President of the Fireflies was nice enough to answer some of them, from a question on Solar Eclipses, Tebow, to being in the ballpark in the Winter. Here is a condensed transcript:


 

Niko/MetsPlus: What was your favorite part of the Inaugural Season?

Brad Shank: Well, we didn’t really know what to expect, going into it, you have your goals and I think we were really able to hit some of those in a big way, but also some room for improvement down the road. A highlight for me was the July 4th game, in Famously Hot Columbia, with temperatures over 100 degrees, but we still had our largest crowd of the year with over 9,200 people in the ballpark. We were also able to honor four active duty military personnel before the fireworks with them and their families, and they were able to kick off our fireworks.

Screen Shot 2017-03-14 at 5.44.24 PM.png

Sprint Communications Ballpark on July 4th, 2016

N/MP: I took a look at the Promotional Schedule for 2017, what are some of the highlights this year?

BS: Well, you know, we have some of the classic promotions, like the days of the week promotions, which have started to really kick off down here. Thirsty Thursdays, which includes a happy hour, which, being in a college town, should be pretty popular. As far as the unique promotions, we have some theme nights coming up, the biggest one of the year will be August 21st, a 1:05pm game, only because there will be a total solar eclipse, and Columbia just happens to be right on the path of the total solar eclipse, which will happen just after 2:30. The game will be delayed for five minutes to allow fans and players to enjoy the once in a generation sighting of a total solar eclipse. We will also have a NASA night with an appearance of an astronaut who grew up here in Columbia.

C6arEPZWAAAszYL

N/MP: A unique feature of Sprint Communications Ballpark (the home of the Fireflies) is that it is open 365 days a year, which is something I’ve never heard of before. Is there anything behind this? 

BS: It’s a community thing, but, as much as we try to get the word out on that, some people don’t realize that’s an amenity that they can come out and enjoy any time. The idea behind it is that this is a public-private partnership, and I’m sure everyone’s heard the debates over whether public money should be used on athletic venues, or if the ownership should pay for all of it. We are a public private partnership, so as we talked with the city of Columbia, we told them we don’t want this just to be a ballpark, we want this to become community asset. It’s also a marketing tool, as someone who might be doubting the ballpark, we can talk to them and invite them down, being open dawn until dusk. Fans can come out and check things out. Fans can also come out and have lunch, take a run, there are also even boot camps that have been coming down as the developments around us continue to grow.

N/MP: Why should a Mets fan come down to Columbia during an extended weekend to catch a game? 

BS: It’s one of those things where Columbia has a lot going for it. A family can come into town for a weekend, and it will be affordable, which is a big thing. Plenty to do, including a adventure-children’s museum, with a full sized fire truck, and all kinds of things for the kids. We’ve got the state museum, which has a lot of history. A great weekend can be made out of this town. And, for a Met fan, getting to see the stars of tomorrow. We just watched P.J Conlon pitch in the big-league game, and that’s a huge jump. Guys like him, David Thompson, and the other big time prospects that we are expected to have. You also get way more access when you are at a minor league park, so being able to get close, especially on Sunday’s when players sign autographs after the game. It just gives fans to have that access that you wouldn’t be able to have at a big league level.

pj-conlon-2016-tp

P.J Conlon

N/MP: How have the Fireflies been utilizing social media to captivate far away fans? 

BS: The power of social media for us is great. When we went on-sale with individual game tickets, we sold tickets to people in 15 different states, so, the majority of that is through social media. We have a full time employee that focuses on new media, social media, and as we got started with the grassroots campaign, social media was imperative to us. Getting those followers on-board when we were going around the community and selling merchandise after unveiling the logo was huge for us. The other thing being, in a college town, social media is very important for us, as they will go there when looking for something to do for the weekend.

allstargamelogounveil_small_4yvkm6lg

N/MP: Thanks Mr.Shank! Good luck with the All-Star game this year…

BS: Absolutely, it will, it’s going to be huge. Also, while the prospect watchers aren’t really to excited about it, but being in SEC county, people are going crazy asking us about Tebow right now, so we will see; we are ready to go, we’ve purchased some extra #15 jerseys.


Thanks to Brad Shank and Kevin Fitzgerald for their time and the insightful responses. 

 

 

Citi Field Facts, Figures and Thoughts

One of the most popular questions I get on a daily basis from Mets fans is what to do at Citi Field. While most fans live in New York, a lot of fans live outside of the Metropolitan area or simply do not have the time or the means to visit. So, I decided I would write a small post, a beginner’s guide of sorts, with some brief history, facts & figures, and my personal opinion on the stadium that is turning eight years old this April. 


The first thing I will say about Citi Field is how every fan has a different opinion on the stadium. Some fans hate the stadium, citing a plethora of Dodgers references, and some fans love the stadium, stating that it’s family friendly activities make it a great experience for a Sunday afternoon.

This is a trend among stadiums in the 2000s, starting with Oriole Park in Camden Yards, is the movement of “Retro Modern” stadiums, something Citi Field follows to a tee, where a stadium will look rustic and display heritage on the outside, but look pristine on the inside with all of the modern amenities.

One of the biggest examples of this is the facade, known as the Jackie Robinson Rotunda:

unnamed

Like the title suggests, this rotunda, designed by POPULOUS (or HOK Sport like many call it), is designed after the history of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Some of Jackie Robinson’s best quotes and pictures are adorned inside a replica of the Dodgers fifth and most popular stadium, Ebbits Field.

So why is this entrance criticized so heavily? Well, Citi Field is the home of the Mets, not the Dodgers. When you walk into Citi Field, a lot of Mets fans would have preferred statues of Tom Seaver and Keith Hernandez, even the press has written about it at length.

And while the Mets haven’t added statues yet, they did listen in 2010, when, one year after the ballpark’s first game, they opened a “Mets Hall of Fame and Museum” with commemorative plaques, jerseys and even the World Series trophy.

mets_02_469x327

Another tactic the Mets have done to try to make the outside more Mets centric is the addition of fanwalk bricks, which is very cool to see in practice, as I’d much rather see quotes from Mets fans than Geico advertisements,  but is very costly for the fan.

Moving inside the stadium, we see another new ballpark trend. Team Stores. Two, to be exact, less than 50 steps from the entrance. This no-frills tactic, where you don’t pay much on a ticket, but are forced to pay a lot for merchandise and concessions is a truly brilliant move. If you are a fan that wants to watch the game and nothing else, you can buy a ticket for $6 dollars, and enjoy the game. If you want to have fun with your family, you can enjoy all of the concessions and fun games at Fan Fest (currently called Send In The Clowns Fan Fest, but that always changes….) like dunk tank, a fast pitch game and event  virtual simulator. Additionally, young fans can run the bases after Sunday Home Games (known as the Mr.Met Dash), which is extremely fun for the little ones, and is another example of how teams are becoming more accessible and interested in “opening up” their stadium. Ten or twenty years ago, when ballparks were considered “sacred” a post game dash would never be allowed.

19572008513_efb86964f0_b

Another ballpark staple is food, and Citi Field doesn’t disappoint there. The New York Post and other newspapers have often called Citi Field the best stadium in the world as far as eats, and I don’t disagree.

Last summer, MLB sent me to Citi Field to do a “Culinary Citi” feature. (Well, two actually…. I like ballpark food) And, I completely understand why people feel this way.

From Blue Smoke to Fuku to PRESSED, to Taqueria to Shake Shack (where people will miss 3 innings of a game just to get a milkshake) there are nearly infinite options for dining. Fans that want an elevated dining experience can dine at the Porsche Grille with excellent stadium views or the Pat La Frieda Chop House (again, it’s officially called the Pat La Frieda Chop House presented by Delta Airlines, but, I fly United, so I don’t mention that.)

chophouse_275x193

While the food at Pat La Frieda’s looks good, I kind of question the idea of an indoor steakhouse at a Baseball field, but, I digress.

The actual baseball field has evolved as well (and yes, it’s very ironic that we have made it so far in a ballpark review without actually talking about the field), in 2009 the left field wall and parts of the right field walls was 16 feet high, which is double the size of a standard fence, eight feet high. Another criticism in the wall was the color of the wall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The above picture was taken in 2009. The black wall, a reversal from the Blue wall from the Mets previous home, Shea Stadium, was met with a lot of condemnation. In fact, the only similarity between the fields were the orange flag poles, something unique to the Mets.  Because of that, the Mets have changed the dimensions of Citi Field three times, in 2010, 2012 and in 2015.

citi-field-home-opener-2016-e1460144372469

Today, the wall is Blue, and has two interesting areas in the space between the old fences and the new fences, both of which offer un-parralled views of the stadium, come with free food and drinks, and come with a hefty price tag.

Another thing that Citi Field improved on with the new fences was their capacity, which is technically 41,922, but is actually over 42,000 when you consider club level seating. The record attendance was the sole All-Star Game that the Mets hosted in 2013. In that mid-summer classic, 45,186 went through the turnstiles, which included a lot of standing room tickets, something the ballpark was meant to include.

Another feature of the stadium that is ultra fan-friendly (and great for fans like me that still keep score in a old fashioned scorebook) are these new ginormous Daktronics boards:

cmz0fc5xaaa0ydw

These boards feature all of the statistics one could ever want, from batting average to WAR+, and yes, that is a baseball term.

Off the field, Citi Field hosts a lot of events through their Metropolitan Hospitality Division. A corporation that is owned by the Mets, and one that I’ve had the privilege of collaborating with in the past.

Some of these events include Tours, the Bacon + Beer Classic, The Color Run, various concerts and most notably the Meadows Concert, which, while it might have been fun for spectators, created quite a problem for the Queens Ballpark Company, which is the  company that owns Citi Field; and my hunch is the Meadows will be canned or re-located after this upcoming year.

Simply put, Metropolitan Hospitality does everything, from a birthday party to a lacrosse tournament, which, while un-conventional for a baseball stadium, is better than having the stadium stay closed all winter.

So, we’ve touched on all the elements of Citi Field. Most everything is positive, and all of the negatives have been rectified, but here’s the interesting thing. I personally wish Citi Field wasn’t built. 

I know, I know, that’s crazy, but I’ll explain.

Citi Field is infamous for being funded with $615 Million Dollars in Public Subsidies, and is privately owned. Furthermore, New Yorkers don’t have any attachment to something that they payed for, something that is very different from a lot of privately owned stadiums.

Citi Field was made without the fans input, and the owners paid for that. Attendance was very low the first few years, despite good transportation options with un-limited parking, the New York City Subway and the Long Island Rail Road. Many people were outraged by the lack of “Mets” in the ballpark, instead featuring nods to the Brooklyn Dodgers, the favorite team of Mets owner Fred Wilpon when he was a child.

Additionally, many people took objection to the naming rights deal, which was given to CitiCorp for $20 million dollars per year, the first major sports team in New York to have such a deal. T-Shirts were made reading “I’m Calling It Shea!”, and were worn by popular figures, like Jonathan Lethem, during occupy Wall Street.

Yes, Citi Field has grown on me, and has grown on many other fans, and I do realize that some children, teenagers and even adults need alternate forms of entertainment during a baseball game, citing the game is too slow, but there was something nice about Shea Stadium, a classic ballpark and a real marvel of it’s time.

It was no beauty, but with a renovation, I think it could have been a better solution. At the end of the day, however, Citi Field is a beautiful ballpark, and, you don’t even have to like baseball to attend a game, but wether or not that’s a good thing is something that has been bothering me ever since I walked into Citi Field for the first time in April of 2009. Unfortunately for me, owners have a different question nowadays: Wether or not an amenity is profitable.

 

 

 

 

Mets bringing back Racing Stripes as a Sunday alternate

Mets, swapping Camo for 86 Racing Stripes was the best thing you ever did.

According to the Mets official press release, “The 1986 Mets made an indelible mark on the baseball and New York sports scene, capturing the hearts of fans like few other teams,” said Mets COO Jeff Wilpon. “This 30th anniversary celebration provides our fans a way to re-connect their excitement to the historic achievements of 1986.”

If your itching to buy one, (or to stop reading this post) you can buy one at the MLB.com Fanatics Shop HERE.

Now, this is a great idea that the Mets had. Along with 1986 Weekend and Piazza Weekend, we can finally see the Mets are honoring and commemorating their roots.

The only issue I can see with the racing stripes jerseys are that they are going to look a bit ugly this year, considering MLB is adding a “tucked in” feature to the lower backs of their authentic uniforms, and, as always they have to be 100% authentic, which means the “tuck in” (which fans are dubbing the “diaper”) looks band “un-tucked”. Here’s what it looks like, according to UniWatch.

6401986metsjersey

Buy and large I love the throwbacks. I might just get one, and you should too. It’s the thirtieth anniversary of the 86 Mets, and hopefully this year we will be raising a World Series trophy, just like the guys did thirty years ago.

 

Baseball World Tour: Japan

File:NPBLogo.pngThe 12 Team NPB League in Japan has recently kicked off. Multiple players from various teams have played in MLB as well. The most famous team, the Giants. Play in the Tokyo Dome or “The Big Egg”. To date the Giants have 22 titles in the Japan Series. There are a couple a fundamental differences between the NPB and MLB, such as Ball size, Inning regulations and stadium size. NPB has been recently robbed of their prime stars in recent years, like Yu Darvish and Masahiro Tanaka.
Japan’s Baseball Grade: A