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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

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Walk in the Park

So today Reuters reported that the Empire State Development Corporation has given preliminary approval for two new stadiums in town — ours, and one to be occupied by some random American League team. (Tip of the cap to Metsblog, where I saw it.) Our park's supposed to start rising in the spring and open for the 2009 season.

All well and good, but it leads me to a basic question I've felt compelled to ask too often in the last year: If there's a groundbreaking in a few months, where the heck are the plans? The renderings? The 3-D, CGI goodness that lets us fly through the park like crazed pigeons escaping death by engine intake? Down there on the left somewheres you'll find a link to New Shea, but it's old and out of date. Then there was that watercolor rendering of an Olympic stadium that would turn into our stadium, but nobody took it seriously, probably not even the mayor. Since then? Not a peep.

So what the heck's going on? Is there a stadium plan at all? Are the Mets keeping quiet to avoid a lot of hoorah from the no-public-money-for-stadiums jihadists? (They're entitled to their opinion, of course, but I can't help noticing that most stadium opponents around these parts don't have a problem with the government paying for a near-infinite number of other things. It's just sports they don't like.) C'mon fellas, it's January. There's nothing going on, unless you count signing another less-than-impressive-sounding Japanese reliever or wondering if Danny Graves is on the Mickey Lolich Diet. (Thank God it's the Indians' problem and not ours.) This is the hell of late January; some stadium pictures would be the perfect thing to get us through it.

In the absence of new park pictures, allow me to rattle on a bit about what I'd like to see.

1. Tradition: This is not the time to decide to think different. Last I heard HOK was the architect, and let's keep it that way. Let the people who claim to be bored by the new breed of ballparks spend an hour trudging up and down stalled Shea escalators and trying to identify the various rusted, piled-up and destroyed curiosities beyond the outfield fence. I would give my eyeteeth to be bored by a beautiful new ballpark. The new Met park doesn't have to be Ebbets Field — there's such a thing as being enslaved by tradition — but it sure as heck doesn't have to be trendy, edgy or any other thing that we'll regret in five years.

2. Shea Holdovers: Um, there's the home-run apple. And honestly, that's all I can think of. The only other thing I like about Shea is the marker for Tommie Agee's improbable home run into the left-field upper deck. Obviously we can't take that with us. Put a marker in the new parking lot where home plate was, put a flagpole where Agee's shot landed, pack up the apple and let's call it an era.

3. This Is Our Turf: You've summed up our annoyance at Snigh's apparent embarrassment to be known as the Mets Network better than I could — I'd rather watch Metography: Hank Webb than anything about the Knicks, Jets, St. John's or what have you. Let's not pull the same prudish act with our park. I want that stadium dripping with Metsiana, darn it.

Such as….

4. Statues: Let's say we get five gates in the new park. How about a statue per gate, one more or less for each decade? Gate A is Casey Stengel. (Or possibly Gil Hodges.) Gate B is Tom Seaver. (Or bump him to Gate A and give it to Tug McGraw.) Gate C is Keith Hernandez. (Or maybe Gary Carter. Doc and Darryl's self-destructions, alas, have aced them out.) Gate D is Mike Piazza. Gate E? Let's leave an empty plinth there for kids to pose on in their Met gear until it becomes more clear. (I'm hoping for David Wright, but once I would have been holding it in reserve for Edgardo Alfonzo. You never know.)

Then there's….

5. The Wall: If you wear the orange and blue, you get your name engraved on the Wall, in chronological order divided by year. Fans would make rubbings. OK, I'd make rubbings. Still.

6. Markers: A new park is like a new house; nobody knows where anything is and nobody's figured out the spots that are comfy or legendary or tormented. That's OK, it'll come. But we can help it along: Put markers on seats for epic home runs, something even the spectacularly hideous Vet managed. (Because of course we'll have bleachers that can be entered without soda bottles on days besides Wednesdays, right?) I wanna see people pay hundreds extra on eBay to sit in the magic bleacher seat where Lastings Milledge's blast that won the World Series landed. I wanna see the knowledgeable fans demand that clueless newbies clear out of the accursed seat where Prince Fielder's drive ruined the playoffs. And so on.

And finally:

7. Flags: And no, I don't mean a ring of American flags fluttering in a horseshoe somewhere up there between us and the approach vectors. Put them in order of the standings like they do at Wrigley — a good idea no one should be ashamed to borrow. We did this before Shea succumbed to patriotic overkill, but up there at the top of the stadium no one could tell. Make it so they can.

Is this too much to ask? Well, probably. Heck, between the statues and the Wall it's borderline demented. But you know what? Borderline demented is what you get when fans hear about a park in late January and don't get to see it.

20 comments to Walk in the Park

  • Anonymous

    “Doc and Darryl's self-destructions, alas, have aced them out.”
    By “self-destructions”, you meant “Yankme affiliations”, right…?
    Also, I can't tell whether you are for or against the apple coming to the New Shea.

  • Anonymous

    For the apple. Love the apple. Viva la appel. Let's definitely take it with us.
    As long as we don't lose the leaf for several years in doing so.

  • Anonymous

    The sad and crappy thing is, you know they're going to revamp the apple for the new stadium – and stomp all over its charming simplicity. And if they're going to do that, they should at least let me sit on the design committee. For example, let's accept the fate that the apple is going to do more during games. I say, fine. Have it come up a little bit every time a Met gets a single or a walk. Enough maybe to see the top of the logo. But in utter silence…and then it can go back down from whence it came, like it was never even there. On doubles, it can come up halfway to some kind of celebratory creaking sound. No accompanying music, unless of course, there's an RBI. When a Met hits a triple, the apple should come up most of the way and light up a few times. If it's Reyes, there can be some kind of music with it, and an accompanying animation on the scoreboard. Like, a favorable caricature of him sliding into third base, where the apple itself waits, and the apple can explode or something when his foot touches it, sending everyone but him flying out of the stadium. Then Cartoon Jose can stand up, dust himself off, pull the base out of the ground and hold it up so everyone can see his season triples total. On home runs, you'd have the traditional appearance, and it can bob up and down subtly and light up in concert with the Venga Bus music.
    All I'm saying is, if they're going to insist on giving the apple a more substantial presence, at least do it right. I don't want to see some kind of futuristic cyber-apple vision of what Jeff Wilpon thinks giant apples will look like in 2020. Because in 2020, it will look god-awful and stupid, and not at all charming.

  • Anonymous

    Sweet column, Jason. I love talking stadiums and traditions.
    Here's one thing I'd like to see in a new yard: Have it face another way! I know baseball tradition for generations had ballparks all facing the east , I assume for sun glare issues. Not as big as an issue these days.
    Right now, the configuration of Shea gives people sweeping view of, well, an unattractive part of Queens. In fact, it's the worst possible direction for the view.
    Face southwest, and we might get the Manhattan skyline. A different direction and we might get the Unisphere. Heck, I say move the thing — or plan the stadium — so it's right past centerfield!
    I'd even settle for a view of the bridges!
    I've seen ballparks in Pittsburgh, Cleveland and even Detroit make maxium use of their skylines. Even Philly, though it's well off in the distance. The new Busch is will do the same, Arch and all. New York has hands-down the best skyline in the entire world. And the only place you an see it at Shea is A) facing the wrong way in the upper deck and B) looking at the minitaure version atop the scoreboard.
    And of course you need the Apple!
    Shea = Apple
    Wrigley = ivy
    Fenway = green monster
    Bank One = pool
    Camden = warehouse
    Yankee Stadium = flaming moron devil worshippers

  • Anonymous

    Statues I'd Like To See:
    Gate 1969
    –The Koosman-Grote hug with Charles fast approaching.
    Gate 1973
    –The Tugger slapping his glove on his thigh.
    Gate 1986
    –Orosco on his knees, hands in the air, no glove in sight.
    Gate 1999
    –Pratt exploding in ecstacy just past first base when he realizes he's deposited one over Steve Finley's head
    Gate Forever
    –Seaver and Gooden linked in eternal Met fellowship as pictured here. It was taken on June 6, 1987, the beginning of Tom's aborted comeback bid and right after Doc's first post-rehab win. In other words, the two men who made anything seem possible at a moment when anything seemed possible.
    Of course there should be something for Mike, but I'm still haunted by that Piazza statue we placed at first base in 2004.
    I would also like to have a plaza of some sort in which the centerpiece is a found art object of a portion of a restored Shea escalator. Of course the escalator won't be moving.
    I'm with MGIM on the bridges. The Pirates have a bridge in their vista. The Giants have one. We've got one in our logo. Maybe we can build one from the 7 platform to the new park (which will be further away from the subway than before) that will mimic the Whitestone, save for the traffic.

  • Anonymous

    I like 'em. Though we could get more bang for the buck if '99 was Pratt carrying Ventura over one shoulder. Plus someone could confuse the sculptor by insisting that Robin look vaguely pissed.

  • Anonymous

    It would not only memorialize one of the greatest moments in baseball history but make the Mets the only team to honor a grand tradition of leaving runners on base.
    But what the hell, it is a family trait.

  • Anonymous

    Agreed on the need to go traditional rather than too modern & gimmicky. To that end, whatever Fred intends as far as rotundas and other features to conjure Ebbets Field, the on-field dimensions should remain exactly the same. 410 to straight away center, 396 in the alleys, walls the same height as Shea's, outfield symmetrical. That's our tradition, after all.

  • Anonymous

    By the way, a little something on the Japanese reliever to indicate he might be a little more impressive (and a little less Matsui) than we would readily assume.

  • Anonymous

    Also extremely necessary in the House that Fred Builds is an honest-to-goodness Mets museum and Hall of Fame. That would be a good spot to pay homage to our Giants and Dodgers forefathers. The space could have touches of the PG (our first home), Ebbets and Shea.
    I've also just now decided that the signs marking the entrances or gates or something should be made to look like banners. Not pennants, but bedsheets with SECTION 17 or whatever seemingly painted on them the way Mets fans have always done. That's Mets tradition right there.
    I've always wondered what happened to the winning banners from any given Banner Day. It would be nice to see a couple of those on display.
    I'm fired up. Let's grab a couple of shovels and break some ground.

  • Anonymous

    I like that banner idea. In 71, me and my buddy were riding on the LIRR to banner day and some friends were going to the Bangladesh Concert at MSG. Anyway, we got to march on the field with our banner, “Lindsey, Bob and Kiner Make the Mets Finer” and of course, I heard it got on the tube. The Mets don't have a Banner Day anymore, do they? And did any other clubs have such an occasion?

  • Anonymous

    Reminds me that 28 seasons ago, my sister and I, aged 7 and 10 respectively, carried a banner reading: “Who says the Mets Aren't Great in '78?”

  • Anonymous

    I think a new ballpark should keep the scoreboard. I love that scoreboard.

  • Anonymous

    If nothing else, they should call it “Rheingold Park” and have numerous Rheingold Beer signage around the stadium. And to go with your statue idea, Gate B should be guarded on three sides by Sid Fernandez, Benny Agbayani, and Rusty Staub, with only a small opening for people to get through.

  • Anonymous

    i would just like it clear that Apple Polishing is not unanimous.
    which is to say, i hate the apple, detest it, loathe it in all its unadorned cheesiness and second-ratedness. it practially confers minor-leagueness upon the team all by itself.
    I hope they schedule a special fan unappreciation event in which folks can throw vince coleman sanctioned firecrackers at it (heck, maybe saberhagen can make a guest appearance in the bleachers) in the hopes of blowing it up.

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  • Anonymous

    The “apple” is New york, right?