NEW YORK -- Partially because Matt Harvey was pitching, and partially because of fireworks night, a sellout crowd of 41,257 packed into Citi Field on July 3. The ballpark's typical decibels increased. The line at Shake Shack snaked along the outfield concourse. Despite a nearly two-hour rain delay and a Mets loss, the stadium stayed filled to capacity for most of the night.
Afterward, several players marveled at the scene. Josh Satin called it "electric." Manager Terry Collins "applauded" Citi Field's fans for the atmosphere that they created. It was, in essence, a preview of what lies ahead next week, when massive crowds again will descend upon Citi Field for the All-Star Game (Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX) and its preceding events.
For the Mets, it will be an opportunity to showcase their five-year-old jewel of a ballpark, the driving reason behind their hosting the All-Star Game in the first place.
"The game itself is an enormous attraction, and certainly it does bring a global audience to Citi Field as a ballpark," said Mets senior vice president of marketing and communications David Newman. "So it's exciting because we're very proud of the facility. We've had some special moments here in our first five years. Obviously we look forward to many, many more going forward."
Following more than a decade of planning and construction, Citi Field finally opened in April 2009 in a lot adjacent to the one that once held Shea Stadium. It immediately represented everything its predecessor did not; whereas Shea defined the quintessential "cookie-cutter" look of its era, Citi drew its influences from the smaller, more modern ballparks of the 1990s and 2000s. Whereas Shea was colossal in size, Citi was more manageable, holding less than 80 percent of the old capacity.
Citi also boasted one of principal owner Fred Wilpon's favorite features, an entrance rotunda that celebrates Jackie Robinson's life and contributions to the game of baseball, while also molding Citi's image in the likeness of Brooklyn's old Ebbets Field.
What earned Citi Field its most positive early reviews, however, was not size or aesthetics or anything of that nature. Instead, it was the food.
The Mets' decision to partner with New York City restaurateur Danny Meyer proved to be a shrewd one, with Shake Shack, Blue Smoke and other concept concession stands becoming a selling point of Citi Field itself.
"The fan experience here is something that is very important to every person that works here, and is something that we have gotten positive feedback on as it relates to when people come to the ballpark," Newman said. "The intimacy of it is equaled by the warmth and friendliness of the staff that work here."
Of course, not everything at Citi Field was immediately flawless. The Mets drew significant early criticism for the lack of team-centric features at the ballpark, which they eventually rectified by opening a Mets Hall of Fame and Museum, naming entry gates after various Mets legends, dedicating the "Shea Bridge" in center field and painting the outfield walls blue.
That last bit was a byproduct of the dimension changes that took place after the 2011 season. Believing the stadium's original outfield dimensions were too skewed toward pitchers, the Mets moved in portions of the wall and lowered other sections, creating what they now believe are fair dimensions.
In those ways and others, the Mets have spent the past 4 1/2 seasons tweaking Citi Field into its current form, which they consider among the game's elite. Still one of Major League Baseball's newest handful of ballparks, Citi Field has rarely drawn to capacity in recent years due to the Mets' string of fourth-place finishes.
But team employees and players have had plenty of opportunities to see Citi Field in its more glamorous moments -- Opening Days, Subway Series, even just last week at fireworks night. They know what the ballpark looks like when it is full -- Harvey, for example, said it will make his All-Star Game assignment "all the more special." And the Mets are eager to share that vision with the rest of the world.
"I think all players want to play in front of those big crowds that give a good atmosphere," said David Wright, Harvey's All-Star teammate. "It kind of rubs off on the players and trickles down onto the field.
"It's a tremendously exciting thing for everybody that works with the Mets," Newman said. "And it's incredibly exciting for our fans."
The 2013 All-Star Game will be played at Citi Field on Tuesday. Visit MLB.com for extensive online coverage of the All-Star Week festivities.
The 84th All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and SiriusXM also will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.