Citi Field offers Mets 'new beginning'

Citi Field is 'new beginning' for fans

NEW YORK -- Simon Jaworski took one look around Citi Field and quickly concluded that the Mets' new home is a ballpark worthy of housing a World Series champion.

John Mann of Long Beach, N.Y., sized up Citi Field and figured it would be a pitcher's park. He was surprised when the Padres hit two homers and the Mets one while San Diego disappointed the 41,007 fans who gathered for the regular-season grand opening that San Diego won, 6-5, on Monday night.

"It's beautiful," said Jaworski, a native of Manchester, England, who now lives in Burlington, N.J., and has been a Mets fan for 23 years. "Just the fact that it isn't Shea Stadium. It looks fantastic and it looks like a place that I could call home."

Said Mann, who was on his honeymoon with Justina, his bride of two days, "There's really not another park like it. The porch in right field reminds you of Tiger Stadium. I like the fact they kept it a pitcher's park -- long dimensions and high walls. I would have bet there would be no home runs tonight, but there were three. It's real when it's a pitcher's park."

The general consensus of fans in the stands, those strolling along the wide concourses and many in the long lines at concession stands and fan shops was that the new ballpark needs to have a winner call it home sweet home.

"What better time than now, right?" Justina Mann said.

"The last two years we've missed the playoffs on the final day here," said Jeff Bertinetti, of New York, attending the opener with his pal R.J. Allen, who was also hopeful that Citi Field will become a home to champions. "I was there last year. Crushing ending. Now we're here, and this is a new beginning."

Said Allen: "Last year, Johan Santana alleviated some of the pain from how we finished the year before. Now we have this new stadium to alleviate the pain from last year."

Jaworski, a fan of English soccer powerhouse Manchester United, believes the Mets' luck will change.

"The Mets haven't had any success for 23 years," Jaworski said, recalling the Mets' World Series win in 1986. "But I honestly feel with this new ballpark that a World Series is coming.

"People used to come to Shea Stadium and think, 'I'm coming to see the team, but I'm not coming to see a team in a stadium where I want to watch baseball.' A lot of people are going to come to this stadium and they are going to say, 'I want to watch baseball in this stadium and I want to give my all for this team.' It'll be a stadium that fits the mantra of the team."

Sunil Sirju, a longtime Mets fan from Brooklyn, had already eaten a burger and fries from the Shake Shack. He was wrapping up a pulled pork sandwich from Blue Smoke that he said needed more zip in the fire department.

"I have been a fan all my life," Sirju said, about to start work on a skirt steak sandwich that he gave a thumb's up. "They have hurt my feelings many times. I go home depressed sometimes. With the heartbreak I've had in the last decade, this is a new beginning. Hopefully, there will be a new attitude with the fans. This is amazing."

Karen Gennarelli, a Mets fan since 1964, raised her 19-year-old twin daughters, Laura and Renee, to cheer for the Mets. The three were enjoying the wide porch-like area behind the stands in right-center field that was packed with fans eating and waiting in line for food. Off to one side, kids were trying out the offerings at FanFest. Cameras flashed.

"I love it," Gennarelli said. "I'm melancholy because Shea was my stadium. I feel like I'm on vacation here. I love the space, the space in the seats. I love that we have a new ballpark. We needed one."

Gennarelli and her daughters had taken the train to Citi Field and were quick to realize that happy days were near at hand.

"When I walked down the stairs from the railroad, just seeing the name Citi Field and realizing the pile of rubble next to it was Shea Stadium," Gennarelli said. "We're excited about it."

The Gennarellis wandered to sample some food.

"I like the openness of it," said Jim Moran, who attended Mets games at the Polo Grounds with his father. "You can walk all the way around. The other place they would stop you."

Fans in wheelchairs said their access was good. Fans caught up in pregame traffic said that's a problem that needs to be ironed out. But in general, the report card was full of high marks.

Johnny Lancaster of San Diego sat in Section 11 and took in the view. He held a gray Padres road jersey and wore a Mets jersey. He said he planned to alternate tops inning by inning.

"There's a cozy feel here," Lancaster said, adding that Citi Field offers many of the modern amenities of 5-year-old PETCO Park in San Diego. "It's beautiful."

Some fans said they didn't like the new stadium's green seats, that there aren't enough of the blue and orange colors of the Mets.

"The color doesn't matter one iota," Jaworski said. "All it will take is for the Mets to win either a pennant, or a World Series. Do you think Cubs fans would care if the seats were red and white if they won a World Series?"

"We really have one to call our own," said Bill Sweeney, on hand from central New Jersey.

Kit Stier is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.