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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
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.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Field Trip: Petco Park

I'm in San Diego for Comic-Con — so of course the very first thing I did was go to a Padres/Marlins game.

Petco Park is a little different than your basic HOK/Populous design. Yes, it's got the basic hallmarks of today's retro/modern parks: circulating behind the seating areas, quirky outfield walls, private levels, split upper decks. But the first thing that jumps out at you is the white and buff palette. It fits with the clean, desert feel of being at the very bottom of California, making the park feel lighter and somehow smaller. Behind the scenes there are odd, vaguely South American touches: plantings that spill out over bridges and niches and sloping walls that wouldn't feel out of place in a ziggurat. It's subtle, and invisible from the field, but kind of cool — it feels like someone had fun designing it. I like Citi Field, but it feels more self-conscious: The only place where there's a spirit of play is the center-field bridge.

Petco is also in the middle of downtown, so its quirks feel more natural, whereas Citi Field will always feel like an urban ballpark that fell out of the sky and landed in a suburban sea of cars. The Metal Supply Warehouse facade is part of the park, but not a very big one — it's a lot smaller than I'd registered it as being on TV, basically tucked into one corner. It's actually one part of Petco that feels self-consciously retro — you look at it and your first thought is “Why did they keep that?” (Followed by, “I guess it's cool.”) It also creates a section of left-field seats with obstructed views, from which you can't see the left fielder or the center fielder. But — Mets please take note — Padres fans say you're warned about the obstructed views when you buy tickets. And the rest of the park has a perfectly good view of all outfielders without feeling far away — another rebuttal to Dave Howard's fantasy that geometries are an unfortunate law of physics in ballpark design.

The warehouse contains suites and a high-end bar with a balcony from which you can watch the game. There's usually a long line to spend a couple of innings on the balcony, but Wednesday's game had been moved from night to 12:35 p.m., so the park was basically deserted. The warehouse also contains — sit down and stop operating heavy machinery — the Padres Hall of Fame. It's not much — a section of mock lockers that don't contain much of anything real players would have in their lockers — and it's partially blocked by a beer sign, but it's there, so I paid homage to Tony Gwynn (who can no longer beat us with singles between the shortstop and third baseman, heavens be praised) before continuing my rounds.

Another nice touch in Petco is the grassy hill behind the park. There's lots of stuff to eat out here, a kids' field and room to circulate — it's the equivalent of the Shake Shack area out in left field — and you can see most of the game from the hill. There's also an interesting bleacher area right in front of it with grass in the aisles and a big sand pit where kids play that's right up against the chain link of the outfield fence. (Meaning that yes, an incoming home run could skull little Johnny. It's odd what makes Californians uptight and what they're relaxed about.) The Padres open the hill and the bleacher area and show away games on a big screen back there, and you can buy a reduced-price ticket that limits you to this part of the park. It's a cool idea, though it wouldn't work at Citi Field.

San Diego is a military town, and that's constantly evident, though in small ways — the ball-under-the-hat game takes place on the deck of an aircraft carrier, there's a huge aircraft-carrier model to gawk at, and a display proudly declares that the Pads are the team of the military. (If so, I think they're losing the arms race.) Nothing wrong with that, just a bit odd for a New Yorker used to his town's brassy celebration of itself as the pinnacle of all human institutions.

California being California, everybody was insanely friendly — I freely wandered into places I wasn't supposed to be with my blithe explanation that I've “never been here and just exploring around” proving a perfectly valid passport. Padres fans were happy to chat about their park, their team and my team. I was wearing the Numbers shirt — derived from the one sold by the fine Padres blog Gaslamp Ball — and my Mets cap, which meant I was That Guy wearing his gear when his team wasn't involved in the proceedings. One seemingly knowledgable Padres fan thought Willie Randolph was still running things, though — perhaps as they're West Kamchatka to us (“What uniform are they wearing this year? Is Brian Giles still around?”), we're East Silesia to them.

As for the baseball, well, the Padres struck out and made errors and looked half-awake and lost to the Marlins, 5-0. That felt all too familiar.

You can see photos from my field trip on Facebook. (While you're at it, let's be friends!)

Far from home? Curl up with Faith and Fear in Flushing: An Intense Personal History of the New York Mets, available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and a bookstore near you. Keep in touch and join the discussion on Facebook.

6 comments to Field Trip: Petco Park

  • Anonymous

    “San Diego is a military town, and that's constantly evident, though in small ways[…]”
    Good thing that guy in the other thread who was all freaked out about the alleged “militarism” of the opening of CitiField isn't with you. He'd probably be overcome by the vapors, or something.

  • Anonymous

    i was in petco this time last year- i just missed ComicCon. i loved petco- it was a nice park, in that i cared less that the padres lost than i do when the mets lose (peavy v. zito, 3-1 final score, i believe).
    the main thing i remember was cost- i purchased a seat 19 rows behind the first base dugout for the same price as my first seat at CitiField in the excelsior level.

  • Anonymous

    Mets Schmets, tell us about Comic-Con! Why is Seth Rogen Green Hornet? How awesome does the Black Beauty look? When is Brand New Day gonna end? Who's playing Thor?

  • Anonymous

    Likes comics. Likes Kingman. I get it now. At his best, Kong was a little cartoonish.

  • Anonymous

    Being a Met fan, I needed an outlet where my side actually won once in a while.

  • Anonymous

    Screw the DC./Marvel behemoths.
    Get Phil Foglio to draw you a Jaegermonster in a Mets uniform!