Citi Field

2010 Regular Season at thenew Citi Field. Just a year earlier, the New York Yankees would have their own inaugural season in 2009 at the New Yankee Stadium. Going into Citi Field, they were also defending 2009 World Champions after defeating the 2008 World Champion Philadelphia Phillies the previous Fall. It was early in the season. But, just the day before, the New York Mets had a team meeting to stress the “importance of winning.” They would go on to win (8) of the next (11) games: they had momentum on their side. Regardless of what the situation is, when these two teams meet, they play with the utmost urgency. Needless to say, there was a lot at stake here. Constant trash-talking from fans in the stands reminded you of that.

Design of Citi Field includes the main entrance exterior that strongly resembles the old Ebbets Field. The lobby area housed inside is the Jackie Robinson Rotunda. Below is the inscription along the barreled wall.

“I life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” Jackie Robinson.

The original “Home Run Apple” measures (9) feet high and is located just outside of the main entrance of Citi Field. It was replaced by another “Home Run Apple” measuring (18) feet. Twice as tall, it carries on the tradition of popping up beyond centerfield when a Mets player hits a Home Run. Transitions to other the parts of Citi Field are not so smooth. Walking around the park leads to obstructed or blocked views of the field. The major trade off to the Jackie Robinson Rotunda is that the skybox suites or other facilities lined behind home plate do not allow a view of the game as you walk down the hallways in that area; reduced to seeing the game on occasional monitors.

In its (58) year history, the New York Mets have played in five World Series (1969, 1973, 1986, 2000, 2015); winning two of them in 1969 & 1986. Both those teams represent a renaissance era for the organization. The 2021 regular season marks a new beginning for the New York Mets franchise. On November 06, 2020 Associated Press reported that Steve Cohen, CEO of Point72 Asset Management and lifetime Mets fan, closed on a deal to purchase the New York Mets at $2.64 Billion; increasing his financial interest in the New York Mets from 8% to 95%. The Wilpon and Katz families (previous owners) will retain the remaining 5%.

Many changes on the way. But, the biggest game-changer was the recent signing of superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor for a year at $22.5 Million. The plan is to lock him in for the long term (similar to what the L.A. Dodgers did with Mookie Betts). If they do, and with the potential for other signings in the horizon, the New York Mets stand to be a big threat in baseball. “Yes, it is what the Mets fans wanted to see, their team acting like a big-market bully,” wrote Ken Rosenthal in “The Athletic.” For the Mets fandom, its hopefully an end to disfunction within the organization and the start of a new renaissance era.

New York Yankees @ New York Mets

PNC Park

San Diego Padres @ Pittsburgh Pirates

2010 Regular Season at PNC Park. The Pittsburgh Pirates host the San Diego Padres for the second of a three-game series. Adrian Gonzalez was still holding first base down for the San Diego Padres. The team recently swept the Pirates in the six previous games they played in. Andrew McCutchen was in his sophomore year. Pirates were in the process of rebuilding the team around him. Though the Pittsburgh Pirates finished last in the NL Central Division with a 57-105 record, these “Bucs” would manage to win their first post season berth in 2013, 2014, and 2015. In 2013, the Pirates advanced to a best of five NL Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, a hard-fought matchup that they lost. The next two seasons ended abruptly as the Pirates would lose each of the single elimination wild card games. These were the first play-off hopes since 1992 when Barry Bonds and crew were so close but yet so far from the World Series. But the Pirates faithful never forgets the Iconic Honus Wagner of the early years, Willie Stargell in the “Family” of the 1970’s, and of course the greatness of Roberto Clemente. There is a statute of each one out side PNC Park as a reminder. A memorial from Forbes Field was relocated in PNC Park and can be found in the hallway behind home plate.

Founded in 1882, this Pittsburgh National League ball club has won five World Series Championships (1909, 1925, 1960, 1971, & 1979). PNC Park opened in 2001 and is the sixth MLB field in Pittsburgh. The two more popular and recent ones are Three Rivers Stadium (1970-2000) and Forbes Field (1909-1970). Ball Parks were originally made of wood. They easily caught fire. The first stadiums built of wrought iron, concrete, and steel were Forbes Field and Connie Mack Stadium. That was no coincidence. The steel mills of the early 20th Century were here in the State of Pennsylvania. They helped usher in the Industrial Revolution, building the Brooklyn Bridge and the first sky scrapers. Hence, the “Steel City.” This is a blue-collar town.

The memory of Roberto Clemente is ever present in the Steel City.  Since 2002, the official Roberto Clemente Day in all 30 MLB Parks is always on September 21. But, on any given day of the week, it’s hard to forget “The Great One’ when you’re here, signs of him everywhere, from the number 21 jerseys worn by countless fans in the stands, to the statue, to the bridge named after him, to the signs and memorials. Then there is the Roberto Clemente Museum on Penn Avenue. As I walked around PNC Park, the feel was like that of Jackie Robinson Day.

The colors black & gold is synonymous with Pittsburgh. They are used by Hockey’s Penguins, Football’s Steelers, and Baseball’s Pirates. The pride near the Ohio, Monongahela, and Allegheny rivers run deep. They meet in the downtown area just as its citizens do during game day. PPG Paints Arena, Heinz Field, and PNC Park are all walking distance from each other.

You can take the Duquesne Incline up to the South Side neighborhood to get a view of the entire Downtown Pittsburgh where the Sixth Street Bridge, the Roberto Clemente Bridge, and the Andy Worhal Bridge come into perspective. During the day, the view of Downtown from up there is a must see. You can almost reach out and touch the metropolitan microcosm. At night, the view is magical. PNC Park is considered one of, if not the best, stadiums in Major League Baseball, and rightfully so.

Crosstown Journal

2016 Regular Season and both the Chicago White Sox and the Chicago Cubs are home. It’s a rare occasion, during the regular season schedule, that Major League Baseball is played both on the north side and the south side on the same day. It may happen once or twice a season. Growing up in Chicago, I took it for granted and never tried to go to the ballparks. I had to be a tourist to think of it.

This time, its a Thursday in September and the Chicago White Sox play at 1:10PM in the last of a 4-game series with Cleveland Indians here at U.S. Cellular Field. White Sox would leave town after the game for a 3-game set in Kansas City. At 8:05PM, the Chicago Cubs were just starting their homestand, as they played the Milwaukee Brewers, the first of a 4-game series.

A huge contrast between the two contests for many reasons; the biggest one being that the energy was mostly on the north side, as the city was anticipating the Cubs to clinch a spot in the post season and fans were putting all their marbles on a World Series win. Over on the south side, White Sox were basically playing for pride, as 15 games remained in the regular season. The math would not add to anything more for the 2016 White Sox.

Game 1 at US Cellular Field: A day game with a free Jose Abreu t-shirt promotion for the first 10,000. In his third season, Jose Abreu was just grabbing a seat to the rebuild that took place on the south side. He went 2 for 3 in this one with an RBI and a run scored. That was the other glaring contrast; alow turn-out. It’s a problem the White Sox have had for some time, placing between 25-30 in attendance the last few years. Many reasons why that is. It’s also part of a bigger problem the MLB has. Still, it’s a source for grief from Cub fans who remind everyone that White Sox are second in the second city. Needless to say, I arrived in the third inning from out of town and was still able to get a t-shirt, glad that it worked in my favor.

Speaking of rivalries, the feud between White Sox teammates Adam Eaton and Todd Frazier was brewing. It would tip over in an on-field incident one day last year at Citi Field, when they were playing for Washington Nationals and New York Mets respectively. Chicago native Jason Kipnis was patrolling second base for the Cleveland Indians. He was traded this year to Chicago Cubs and is now playing for his boyhood team.  Chicago White Sox beat Cleveland Indians 2-1 in a walk off win. Cleveland Indians would eventually clinch the AL Central title on September 27.

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) train system makes it really easy to get from one game to the other. Of the color code system identifying the routes, you only need to remember the red line. It takes you door to door without having to switch trains. Of course, you will need to change trains when traveling from one of the airports (blue line for O’Hare, orange line for Midway). Considering the time of day, it’s the best way to get from 35th Street to Addison Avenue.

Game 2 at Wrigley Field: Arriving with enough time to take in the scene. Wrigleyville is landlocked and you will not find huge parking lots or multi-level garages; plan accordingly. If it’s your first-time visiting Wrigley, you can get a free personalized certificate to make it official (concession is usually located behind home plate). Within a short period the seats, the standing room, the roof tops, and the streets were shoulder to shoulder, waiting for some one to yell play ball. A Cub win or a St. Louis Cardinals loss in San Francisco would turn this place into an all-night party. Milwaukee Brewers beat Chicago Cubs 5-4 but San Francisco Giants won at 12:49AM eastern standard time.

Ironic that two storied franchises were in Chicago unbeknownst of their opponent across town. The Chicago Cubs faced the Cleveland Indians in the 2016 World Series and won. Besides the historical significance for the two teams, it was a hard-fought contest that made 2016 iconic. The only thing that would top that in Chicago would be a Crosstown World Series. The last time it happened was 1906, during the dead-ball era. They called it the “Chicago Panic” and it was the biggest event in Chicago since the 1893 World’s Fair. It’s September and both teams are going into the post season in 2020. If it happens, we can call it the “Chicago-Pandemic.”