Padres say Citi Field has a 'nice feel'
Players, Black predict Mets' new stadium will play big
NEW YORK -- For the one Padres player who should know his way around these parts, it was somewhat surprising, though completely understandable, that closer Heath Bell took a wrong turn on Monday.
After all, the one landmark Bell was used to seeing when he stepped off the subway, Shea Stadium, wasn't there, reduced to either a pile of rocks or parking spots for Citi Field, the new home of the New York Mets.
Bell, who spent parts of three seasons with the Mets from 2004-06, didn't mind a little bit of a detour Monday, hours before the Mets opened their new stadium with a game against Bell and the Padres.
"I went right instead of going left ... but it actually worked out because I was able to see the whole stadium," Bell said. "Outside and inside, it's a really nice ballpark. I think that they took a little bit of other stadiums and incorporated it here. I think that's good.
"With this one, I think it's going to be a little more fan-friendly."
Bell arrived early to Citi Field on Monday, mostly out of curiosity, wanting to see exactly what they did with Shea Stadium, a place he first got to know as a rookie in 2004, and the new stadium, where the Padres are playing three games this week.
Bell walked out toward the bullpen area in right-center where fans are afforded the, well, opportunity to voice their opinions to relievers, especially those who are wearing visiting uniforms, as that bullpen is closer to the fans than the Mets' bullpen.
"I've already talked to those guys [Mets] ... if we do have a brawl, we're going to stay there and duke it out," Bell said, smiling. "We're going to have a little cage match. ... They are going to lock our door and we're going to lock theirs."
San Diego manager Bud Black, who said before the game that he "loves old ballparks," like the looks of Citi Field, especially with the way they kept a touch of Shea Stadium.
"I like the open park," Black said. "I like the way they incorporated some Shea Stadium things here. The apple, the bigger scoreboard ... it has a nice feel to it."
But then, thinking more as a manger instead of a fan, Black wondered the same thought those across the way in the Mets' dugout are probably wondering: How is the stadium going to play?
"The question everyone asks, is it a pitchers park, is it a hitters park?" Black said. "My early impression is I might lean a little toward the pitching side. It's 408 [feet to center field] and 415 out to right-center. Then with the way it juts back there in right-center."
The fence that borders the bullpens in right-center gives the Citi Field an asymmetrical look and, potentially, a delicate place to play a ball for a right or center fielder.
"It's going to play big," Bell said. "I think it's going to be good for the Mets because they are really fast. If [Jose] Reyes hits a ball just right, he can probably run for days ... without a slide."
San Diego outfielder Scott Hairston, who appreciated the history of Shea Stadium and counted it as one of his favorite places to play in the league, was enjoying the creature comforts on Monday, which included a separate weight room and indoor batting cages near the clubhouse.
"Someone said the cages were a half mile down on the left," Hairston quipped.
But, he said, it's the experience of playing in New York, in front of passionate fans, at Shea Stadium or Citi Field, that really makes this trip a memorable one for him.
"It's one of my favorites because of the fans, who are into the game the whole game," Hairston said. "The passion the fans have here in New York always made it interesting. And this is a beautiful place. What more can you ask for?"
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.