Sunday, May 31, 2009

Justin's Review: Citizens Bank Park

Ballpark Design: Citizen’s Bank Park is a classic example of the new ballparks that have been built over the past ten years or so. It has all the features that the best new ballparks have – open concourses, an angled outfield, a large scoreboard – as well as many touches that make it uniquely Philadelphia. You can’t help but immediately notice the defining feature of the ballpark, the gigantic glowing Liberty Bell hanging over the outfield that lights up and sways as if it’s ringing after every Phillies home run. Ashburn Alley, the concourse surrounded by shops and food stands in the outfield, is also unique to the park, offering a chance to stroll through the long (and mostly tortured) history of the Phillies. At the same time, however, much of the rest of the park lacks truly defining features – if you're sitting behind home plate looking at the field, other than the big Liberty Bell, you could easily confuse it for a number of other parks built recently. Not totally a problem since all those parks are beautiful, but there is certainly a slightly generic feel to it. And of course, flying above it all is that gigantic flag with the number “2008” on it, making it very clear that you are watching the world champs. B+

Scoreboards/Soundtrack: The video screen is pretty small as far as new ballparks go (although maybe I’m just jaded by that monster screen at the new Yankee Stadium), and it’s one of very few ballparks I’ve seen that still has one of those old matrix boards on the main scoreboard. However, like the Mets, they have a fantastic out of town scoreboard (despite the fact that it had the Yankees and Indians scores were reversed for the first half the game, leading me to believe that Hideki Matsui was pitching for the Yankees), although it is in the right field wall rather then above the upper deck. B-

Food/Drink: We were stuffed full of food by my grandparents before coming to the ballpark, so neither of us ate much during the game. However, the food choices looked great, particularly in Ashburn Alley, including cheesesteaks, burgers, and all kinds of other ballpark food. The only thing I had during the game was a Philadelphia water ice, which was fine. Mike had a couple beers, and had a bit of trouble finding anything other than Budweiser on the upper deck, but eventually found a place with better beers. B+

Fans: The ballpark was probably about 95% full, and many more people stayed for the whole game than at Citi Field (despite the fact that the game was actually a bit longer). The fans were into it throughout, if not quite as loud as at other ballparks I’ve been to. Like at the Mets game, however, they did the wave, which is a big negative in my book (watch the game!!!). We talked to a few Phillies fans during the game, all of whom were pleasant and excited to hear about our trip, contrary to the reputation that Phillies fans usually get. B+

City: I spent six months last year living in Philadelphia, and liked it a lot. It certainly feels much smaller than New York, or even DC (despite having more people), but still is a fun city with a lot to do. We didn’t get much of a chance to explore it yesterday, but my past experiences in the city have been good. My only complaints would be the relative lack of good public transportation in most of the city, and the crime and poverty problems that Philly, like many other cities, is suffering from. But it really is one of the great American cities full of great baseball fans. B+

Stadium neighborhood: What neighborhood? My single biggest problem with Citizens Bank Park is that it’s stuck in the middle of a giant parking lot far from anything remotely interesting, other than a football stadium and a basketball/hockey arena. D

Game: The game certainly made up for the lack of offense at Citi Field. The Phillies won 9-6, powered by two Ryan Howard moonshots into the third deck, the second of which was a grand slam. The Nationals had the lead early, and kept it relatively close after the Ryan Howard slam, threatening a couple times in the late innings, before Brad Lidge shut the door. Not as exciting as the Mets game, but a good game nonetheless. B

Overall: While I wasn’t as impressed with Citizens Bank Park as with Citi Field, it’s a great ballpark in a great city. It was a beautiful night for baseball and we saw a good game, so I can’t ask for much more. B+

Saturday, May 30, 2009


We're winding down a busy first full day of the trip.  We arrived in Philly around 4pm after an uneventful 2-hour drive from New York. (100 miles down, only about 14,000 to go!)  After a wonderful dinner with my grandparents (who we're staying with), we drove over to Citizens Bank Ballpark, about a 15 minute drive from my grandparents' apartment.

Citizens Bank is a great ballpark - both Mike and I had been there before, so it wasn't new for us - and we saw another good ball game.  The Phillies beat the Nationals 9-6, with the highlights being two incredibly long home runs by Ryan Howard (the second of which was a 475 foot long grand slam into the upper deck).  We got the chance to talk to a few Phillies fans, all of whom were, contrary to their reputation, welcoming and kind.  All in all, a great day.

Next up, we leave for Baltimore early tomorrow morning to catch the game against Detroit at 1:35.  We're planning to spend a few hours after the game in Baltimore, and then we head down to DC tomorrow night, where we'll be for the next few days.  Reviews of Citizens Bank Park and more updates will be coming up here, so keep checking in!

Mike's Review: Citi Field

After dealing with a crowded 7 train, filled more with commuters returning home during rush hour than mets fans, your first glimpse of Citi Field reveals the outside of the Jackie Robinson Rotunda. The beauty and impressiveness of the ballpark is not fully realized until you enter the rotunda. (Recomendation: Definitely enter citi field at its main entrance.) Head up the escalators and onto field level, the path leads up the first base line and you get your first look at the field from behind the Met's dugout. Awesome.

The ballpark is beautiful.
From the totally open concourses on every level, to the scoreboard area in center field, the Met's did everything right. Even the lighting towers resembled bridges, like the bridge in right center field - no corners were cut as a beautiful ballpark was constructed at every angle. The outfield has many angles that makes things interesting, and Justin pointed out the the furthest point of the field from home plate is in right center, not straightaway center, at 415 feet.
Behind the scoreboard is a large open concourse with tables, restaurants (with an amazing pulled pork sandwich from Blue Smoke), and beer. By beer, I mean a LOT of beers:

Local beer highlight: Brooklyn Ale.

The Mets really did a nice job with this one, and it is certainly an upgrade from Shea!
4.5 / 5

The Game and Fans
A perfect way to start the trip, an 11 inning pitcher's duel that ends in a walk off win for the home team. I just wish the home team's fans stayed around to see it. The game went by quickly, the three hour mark occured in the 10th inning, and a lot of people had left. There were a lot of families and kids (the ballpark is very family friendly). The park doesn't seem to have the same energy and excitement as Shea. Overall the game was great and the fans who stuck around were active and into the game.
3 / 5

Flushing meadows isn't great, although LaGuardia did give us flyovers during the national anthem and God Bless the USA. The surrounding area is under development. Because there's parking around the ballpark it does allow for tailgating, which it looked like a small number of people were doing.
2 / 5

I don't need to describe New York City. It's a baseball town that raises great fans of the game.
5 / 5

Justin Review: Citi Field

After each game, both Mike and I will be posting reviews of our experience at the ballpark we just visited.  The format may change along the way - if you have any other categories you're interested in hearing more about, let us know.  Below the jump, my review of Citi Field.

Ballpark design: Citi Field is a beautiful ballpark.  The Mets really did a great job of incorporating a lot of the things that have been successful in other new ballparks (open concourses, picnic areas, a more general open feel to the ballpark) and adding to them as well.  One of the highlights of Citi Field is the area behind the centerfield scoreboard where they have most of the better food options at the ballpark, tables to sit at, and games to entertain kids.  The bridge in right center field is a very cool place to stand and watch part of the game, and there seems to be no shortages of other places throughout the stadium where you can watch the game if you want to leave your seats.  There are some less obvious positive features as well - I loved the openings they had on the outer edges of the concourses that let you take in the area around the ballpark (which isn't particularly impressive) and offer a view of the Manhattan skyline way in the distance (much more impressive).  And finally, the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, meant to be a throwback to Ebbets Field, is gorgeous, and one of the best entrances to a ballpark I've ever seen.  My only big negative is the layout of the field itself.  The Mets went a little overboard on trying to make a quirky and interesting field -  there are just too many weird angles, particularly in right field.  However, any issues with that are far outweighed by the brilliant design of the rest of the stadium.  A-

Scoreboards/Soundtrack: Another element of Citi Field that impressed me.  The stadium has two large scoreboards, one of which shows the action happening on the field live - something I've never seen at a baseball game beore.  At every other ballpark I've ever been to, the video board doesn't shows plays as they're happening (it only shows replays or live action between pitches).  However, as soon as a pitch has been hit, one of the scoreboards switches to live action to show you the play - a huge plus for us since we couldn't see part of the left field corner from our upper deck seats.  The out of town scoreboard was also one of the best I've seen, showing every game happening in the majors at the same time, with indicators showing who is on base and how many outs, in addition to the score.  I also really liked its positioning at the top of the upper deck in left field.  I would have liked more replays on the scoreboard, and I was a little frustrated that the pitch speed only seemed to appear for half the pitches, and was never up for more than 2 seconds or so.  But overall, well done. A-

Food/Drink: I don't think I've ever walked into a stadium where all the food smelled so good.  I unfortunately didn't get to try most of it (I had a pretty good hamburger and a Brooklyn beer), but luckily I live in New York, because there is so much I want to get there next time I go.  The options along the center field walkway were particularly impressive, from Shake Shack to Blue Smoke BBQ, a "fresh catch" seafood place, a little market selling deli sandwiches, and a huge beer stand with a lot of variety.  There was also no shortage of stands selling traditional stadium food throughout the rest of the ballpark, and the lines at those never appeared to be too long.  I would have liked to see more variety on the upper concourses (most of the more interesting food was in the outfield of the lower level), and the lines at Shake Shack and Blue Smoke were incredibly long. B+

Fans:  The good: The game was pretty much a sell out, and the fans were definitely in to it.  When the Mets loaded the bases in the 8th, the place was loud, and there were no shortage of "Let Go Mets" chants started by the fans themselves.  The bad: A lot of fans left really early.  By the top of the ninth inning, which started only around 9:30 or so, a quarter of the fans had left, and by the time the game ended in the 10th, the stadium was only half full.  Understandable for weekend night game (when there are a lot of kids) against a mediocre team in May, but still, not a particularly impressive show of loyalty. B

City:  I'll save this for when we come back at the end of our trip.  Needless to say: A+

Stadium neighborhood:  While the new stadium is such an improvement over Shea in almost every way, it's still located in a parking lot next to a bunch of ugly chop shops in a not particularly exciting area.  However, the fact that the 7 train is no longer using really old subway cars, and the fact that they're now running express trains back to the city after the games makes getting there and back much less painful.  They've also done a good job designing the area right outside the stadium, so you no longer feel like you are walking off the subway right into a gigantic parking lot - it feels like you are heading into a ballpark.  Much better. B-

Game: We got to see a great game.  Mike Pelfry and Sean West (making his second major league start) both were dominant, each allowing only one run in 7+ innings.  Omir Santos hit a home run, giving us a chance to see the new, much bigger apple pop up in the outfield, and Santos also won the game with a walk-off single in the bottom of the 11th.  A pitchers duel, extra innings, a walk-off hit - couldn't ask for much more, except maybe a little offense.  A-

Overall experience:  Without question, Citi Field is a gigantic improvement over Shea.  The Mets finally have a real ballpark to play in, not a run down...whatever you would call Shea Stadium.  They've also managed to keep some of the quirky charms that define the team, from the home run apple to their weird seventh inning stretch song.  Add in a great game, and it's going to be a challenge for any of the 29 remaining stadiums to top it.  A-

A great start

What a great start to our trip.  Citi Field is a beautiful ballpark, and we saw a great game.  Both starting pitchers pitched 7+ innings allowing only one run, and nobody else scored until the Mets won it in the bottom of the 11th on a walk-off single by Omir Santos.  We also saw our first home run of the trip (also by Santos), a few nice plays, and had a great time with some of our friends from New York who joined us for the game.

We're back at my house now, ready to get some sleep before starting the "road" part of trip tomorrow.  We're going to spend the morning getting the car all ready to go, and then head down to Philly around 2pm.

Keep an eye out here tomorrow for reviews of Citi Field from both Mike and me, as well as some updates as we hit the road.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Day One

Here we are, day one of our trip.  Well, it doesn't really feel like the beginning for me, quite yet.  Mike arrived in New York yesterday, and we're staying at my place tonight following the Mets game.  So I still have another 24 hours or to finish packing, figure out what I need, and all that other stuff you have to do before hitting the road for two straight months.

Keep an eye here later today for updates before and after tonight's Mets game.  Also, keep on eye on our Twitter feeds on the right for updates during the game.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A quick check of the weather

Taking a quick break from packing to check how the weather is looking for our first few games.  For the most part, it looks like we're in pretty good shape:

Friday, May 29, Citi Field, New York
68 degrees at game time, Isolated T-Storms, 30% chance of rain

Saturday, May 30, Citizens Bank Park, Philly
80 degrees, Mostly Sunny, 10% chance of rain

Sunday, May 31, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore
81 degrees, Mostly Sunny, 10% chance of rain

So, other than the risk of a little bit of rain tomorrow, it should be a beautiful start to our trip.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Eleven Days To Go

Suddenly, we're only eleven days away from the start of this adventure. For something that has been in the works for about nine months, and that we've been talking about doing for years, it's pretty amazing to think that in eleven days, we'll be heading to our first of thirty ballparks that we're visiting in less than two months. As excited as I am, there is still so much left to do.

A lot of people have been asking me about the planning that has gone into making this trip. At some point in the next few days, I'm going to explain a bit of the process that went in to coming up with the schedule, which was, obviously, the most important part of the planning process. Other than a few changes, however, that part was more or less done in October. For now, it's just a matter of figuring out where we're staying in each city (we have most of them figured out) and planning what else we want to see along the way, other than ballparks.

So that's what I am going to be spending the next week or so doing. I'll stick up a post here from time to time over the next eleven days to show a little bit of the planning process, and then, starting Friday, May 29th, make sure to check in every day, as we'll be posting throughout our trip.

Oh, and if you have any suggestions of anything to see or do along our trip, let us know - we'd love some advice. Feel free to e-mail either of us, at or