Mets open Hall of Fame and Museum

Mets open Hall of Fame and Museum

NEW YORK -- Now, before you even get to your seat at Citi Field, you can pay homage to the legends of yesteryear. The Mets opened up their Hall of Fame and Museum at their home ballpark on Sunday, one day before their 2010 season is scheduled to begin. Several season-ticket and group-plan holders walked through the museum on Sunday, taking their first opportunity to soak in the atmosphere.

"It's very nostalgic," said Steve Bitterman of Bayside, Queens. "I grew up a Mets fan just a few blocks from here in Flushing. I've had some great memories, from my first game ever at the Polo Grounds to being at the stadium here last year.

"They definitely have got the high points here. ... It's a great thing to have this, and hopefully they'll build on this and the plaques will be plentiful again soon."

From the moment you walk into the Hall of Fame -- located right next to the Mets' Team Store, nestled on the fringe of the stadium's Jackie Robinson Rotunda -- you're confronted with the ultimate evidence of team success. The Mets' two World Series trophies are arranged in cases immediately at the museum's entrance, and the team's Hall of Fame busts line the facing wall on your left.

The museum opens up into a deeper room and boasts several interesting display cases that highlight the team's many noteworthy players and accomplishments. The Mets have also installed interactive touchscreens that guide you through various aspects of the franchise's 48-year history, and there are television screens and timelines that help weave all the disparate elements into a cohesive narrative.

There's also assorted memorabilia arranged around the room, ranging from the expected to the completely esoteric. For instance, the ball that Mookie Wilson hit to win Game 6 of the 1986 World Series -- voted by fans as the most memorable moment at Shea Stadium -- is there, and so is an actual scouting report on former Met Darryl Strawberry, and a page of handwritten notes from former manager Casey Stengel.

And perhaps most importantly, none of this is seen as a finished product. The Mets expect to keep adding enhancements to their museum, but they're pleased that they've been able to answer the concerns of some of their most ardent supporters.

"We opened Citi Field last year, and we thought about how we could enhance the fan's experience," said David Newman, the team's senior vice president of marketing and communications. "Certainly, the notion of recognizing our team's heritage -- our greatest moments and our greatest players -- appealed to us. We thought we would open our Hall of Fame, and we worked hard on it all through the offseason."

The Mets are displaying memorabilia on loan from several different benefactors, including the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., and the Seth Swirsky Collection. Tom Seaver's 1969 Cy Young Award is one of the more interesting pieces on display, and it's joined by the 1987 Gold Glove Award won by first baseman Keith Hernandez.

There are several different sections that fans can peruse in the museum, starting with the birth of the franchise and winding through the last five decades. The Mets pay homage to their broadcasting legends in one display, and they have others devoted to detailing their stadiums and the uniforms they've worn over the years. There's something for everyone, and it's arranged so everyone can find it easily.

"There were a lot of different places we could've done this, but we wanted to think about how the building operates," said Newman. "More than 60 percent of the fans come right through the rotunda, so we felt like this was the space to do it. Our hope is that our fans will come in here, or even fans that don't know much and just enjoy a day at the ballpark. They might even be from out of town, but they get the flavor of what it's like to be a Mets fan. The team's story is told in a 12-minute video here, and there are 74 different artifacts from players renowned and obscure."

Seaver, the first player enshrined in Cooperstown with a Mets cap, gets a display case all to himself. Several other icons -- from former manager Gil Hodges through current ace Johan Santana -- have various pieces of memorabilia in the museum. Famous pieces of equipment include the Jesse Orosco glove thrown skyward at the end of the 1986 World Series and the glove worn by Tommie Agee in the 1969 Fall Classic.

Add it all up, and you have a fan-friendly feature that could pay big dividends down the line. Several of the team's most ardent fans stopped through the Hall of Fame and Museum on Sunday, and most of them seemed thrilled with what they saw.

"They did a really good job," said Eddie Hennessy of Suffolk County, Long Island. "It looks like they finished the stadium, finally."

"We've been coming here since it opened, and I've had partial season tickets for 27 years. ... I'm really happy," said Marv Muller of northern Westchester. "This is a good step in the right direction. I was here in the offseason to change my seats, and they were painting the walls blue-and-orange. They got rid of the Ebbets Club, and it's now the Champions Club."

Newman said he expected those kind of reviews, and he also said that any ticket-holder will be allowed access on game days. The Mets still aren't sure how long to open the museum when the team isn't home, but it's a policy that will evolve over time.

"This is our own thing," said Newman. "This is a destination point, and there is certainly no shortage of feedback from our fans. Our fans either called us or wrote to us or we did research on the things they'd like to see at Citi Field, and more Mets history was clearly part of that. And the best way to accommodate that was through a venue like our Hall of Fame. ... It really provides a connection from past to present to future that our fans said we should focus on.

"This building just opened last year, and it's going to be here for many, many years to come."

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.