The silver shovels have been lowered and raised, the symbolic dirt has been flung, the pols have grinned, the hands have been gripped, Mets on Apparent Permanent Retainer Reyes and Wright and Maine have smiled for the cameras (somebody let these guys go home!), and the new place has a name.
And not a bad name, to my mind.
CitiField. Well, OK, it is a field in a city. As my co-blogger notes, could have been worse. Could have been a lot worse. CitiField is far better than all the parks named after drinks and dot-coms and telephones and cellphones. Just imagine Banco Popular Stadium or Nymex Field or the Donald Field at Trump Meadows. Heck, the Arizona Cardinals had to fend off a restaurant chain that wanted to name their park Pink Taco Stadium. Yes really. How would that one have sat with us?
Should it have not had a corporate name at all? Maybe. But for better or for worse, this is the modern world: For all but a very few parks, a corporate moniker is practically the law of physics, and the parks that are exceptions have a history and character that not even Shea's most-avid partisans could claim for it. No one who hasn't been huffing paint thinner would ever call Shea a lyric little bandbox, or refer to its friendly confines. The Yankees, actually, are an exception to the exception: They play in a park made pedestrian by a bad makeover, yet still couldn't get away with a corporate name. So be it — let their mystique and aura and all that cost them a little money for a change. Besides, you just know they'll make up the difference by unveiling the Enterprise Rent-a-Car Captain Derek Jeter Intangibles Celebrity Pavilion and the Red Envelope Twenty-six Rings Baby Parking Complex, or similar atrocities that will test my co-blogger's newfound calm.
Jackie Robinson Field? It would have been disappointing if the Mets had reached back to Ebbets Field with only an architectural salute. But I think they did enough — and Rachel Robinson, hardly a shrinking violet at 84, said she was satisfied. For Jackie Robinson and Arthur Ashe to face off across the 7 tracks would have been satisfying, no argument there. And if the Mets played in Brooklyn (as I once dreamed they might), I'd campaign loudly for the idea. I saw 42 put on the outfield wall on a frozen night. I live just blocks from a plaque on the site of the old Dodger offices, commemorating where Branch Rickey and Robinson inked his big-league deal. It's a plaque facing a big, empty street corner that could use a statue to join the one outside Keyspan and the one that will be in the CitiField rotunda. But that's another post. For now, in my book, the Mets did enough.
As for those certain-to-heard taunts of ShitiField? Ha. I'm not worried. Because let's face it: That's where we play now.
I have many, many cherished memories of things that happened at Shea. Ordonez's debut. The Mets' last fight. Piazza's first game. The 10-run inning. Clontz's wild pitch. Pratt hitting it over the fence. The Grand Slam Single. Agbayani's dinger. Bobby Jones flirting with perfection. Timo jumping up to make the pennant arrive more quickly. Piazza's last game. The 2006 clincher. John Maine's season-extender. And those are just some of the big ones. I have many, many cherished memories of seeing these things that happened at Shea with people who are dear to me: my wife, my little boy, my good friend and co-blogger, my fellow travelers in orange and blue, my pals just along for a day's ride.
But these things, these memories, are not Shea itself.
That, sadly, is something else. It's broken seats and sticky concrete and bathroom lakes and escalators that don't work on Opening Day and a general, grinding crappiness that wears you down. ShitiField, in other words. And I'm ready for an end to it.
This new park? It may not be your thing if you think the retro ballparks with their bricks and their trusses have run their course. I harbor no fantasy that the decrepit ushers and lemon-pussed security guards and Aramark drones will show up for their first day of work with attitude transplants. Our park being our park, the contests on the videoboard will be a mix of illogical and insultingly easy, we'll be shown Rangers-Royals highlights, and several Met-related facts will be incorrect. But the park itself won't be shitty, if only because it'll be a modern ballpark, with all the seats actually facing the field and the action visible while getting concessions and a host of other little things other fans have been able to take for granted for years. I can't wait.
And that corporate moniker comes with a not-to-be-overlooked bonus. Twenty million dollars a year, every year. Money for a Carlos Beltran-level free agent, every year for a generation. That in itself is no guarantee of anything — Al Harazin and Jeff Torborg could have come in last with it — but it's awfully nice to have working in your favor when free agents come to visit and the draft pick you want has hired Scott Boras and the deadline deals come with contracts needing to be restructured. Does it risk turning us into the Yankees? We don't like to admit this, but to outsiders we already are. Closer to home, we've got a shortstop and third baseman who play this game with such joy you want to laugh out loud, and they've got a shortstop and third baseman who seethe and plot against each other like they're putting on some pinstriped version of “Heathers.” I'm not the slightest bit worried about us turning into them.
CitiField and SNY filling the coffers, Wright and Reyes wearing the colors. I've got a name for it: The Golden Age. Let's get it started.