The first time Tom Seaver visited Citi Field, the new home of the New York Mets, he studied the ballpark, took a deep breath and said, "It looked like Yellowstone Park."
04/16/2009 12:15 PM ET
Players like new New York parks
Citi Field, Yankee Stadium offer many attractions
By Hal Bock / MLBPLAYERS.com
Across town, when Yogi Berra was ushered into the new Yankee Stadium, he had a more practical observation. "You need a scooter to get around here," he noted.
Big is the order of the day for New York's two new ballparks, and the resident baseball teams have been very impressed.
"Incredible!" marveled Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira, after getting his first taste of Yankee Stadium. "It's got everything you could ever want in a ballpark."
And that includes laptop computers in the players' lockers, a Peter Max art gallery where original works are available for purchase and a Lobel's Butcher Shop, in case fans get a yen for some filet mignon.
"Absolutely beautiful!" gushed Mets catcher Brian Schneider over Citi Field. "They didn't leave anything out."
And that includes a ladies fashion boutique and a miniature diamond for children, which includes a batting cage, live disc jockey, video game kiosks and, of course, a dunk tank.
Both ballparks are equipped with high-end restaurants, auditoriums and computer-equipped centers that will enable companies to combine business with baseball.
If Yankee Stadium is a baseball cathedral, then Citi Field is a five-star hotel. Both are handsome structures, dramatic additions to the landscape of a city that hasn't opened a new stadium in 45 years.
Both ballparks had warmup exhibition games, the Yankees against the Chicago Cubs and the Mets against the Boston Red Sox. Ironically, those visiting teams play in two of baseball's oldest, most cherished stadiums, Fenway Park and Wrigley Field. Those are vastly different venues, full of charm and character, qualities New York's new ballparks will have to develop.
David Wright, who had the first Mets hit and first Mets home run on opening night at Citi Field, admitted that at some level he was sad to see Shea Stadium, the team's longtime home, come down.
"I'm a fan of the game, a history buff," he said. "I appreciate the things guys did before me. I have great memories there. But you can bring them next door."
That's what the Yankees did at their new Stadium, carefully transporting the plaques of Ruth and Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle from the old Stadium's Monument Park to the new one across the street. While the Mets leveled Shea, turning its space into a parking lot, the old Yankee Stadium still stands, looking almost like a ghost in the shadow of its new, flashy replacement.
The new Yankee Stadium field dimensions make it virtually a replica of the old one.
"It seems like the old stadium," Yankees catcher Jorge Posada said.
Citi Field, though, is quite different from Shea, equipped with intriguing nooks and crannies that could make for interesting sequences in the outfield. "We have to learn the bounces and the angles," Wright said.
Wright noted that Citi Field gives the Mets the opportunity to erase some bad memories of September collapses the last two seasons, which ended in disappointment at Shea.
"This is a chance for a new beginning," he said. "That's a good thing."
Inside, both ballparks have cavernous clubhouses adjacent to state-of-the-art weight rooms, complete with therapy pools and indoor batting cages. Outside, both have their own iconic touches.
The Yankees returned the trademark facade of the original Stadium, circling the roof of the ballpark. The Mets welcome fans with the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, a tribute to modern baseball's first African-American player, in a ballpark that seems like a reincarnation of Ebbets Field.
Both are sparkling, new additions to the baseball map, places that will take time to get used to but one day are likely to feel as comfortable as a favorite easy chair.
Hal Bock is a freelance writer based in New York.