Behind the scenes at Citi Field

The Mets are on the road this week, and I got to hang out at Citi Field yesterday. Take a look at the following photo, and then I’ll explain:

1_meeting_at_the_home_run_apple

Several weeks ago, the sports editor at the Daily News got in touch and asked if I’d contribute to a piece about how to catch baseballs at the Home Run Derby. I thought about saying no — there are certain secrets that I’d rather not share — but ultimately agreed. And here I was.

In the photo above, the young man on the left is a Daily News reporter named John. The guy on the right is a freelance photographer named Alex, who was hired for the day to accompany him. While we waited for the two-person film crew to arrive, I posed for a few photos . . . like this:

2_zack_photographed_at_home_run_apple

Once everyone showed up, we headed to the Hodges gate:

3_heading_to_the_stadium_06_18_13

In the photo above, the woman looking back at me is a videographer named Lindsay. The young lady walking just behind her on the right is her assistant Taylor.

On our way to the gate, I stopped to take a quick photo of this:

4_all_star_game_apple

It’s hard to believe that the All-Star Game is less than a month away. Who’s planning to be there? How about the Home Run Derby? I don’t have tickets yet, but I’ll probably attend both events. BIGS Sunflower Seeds is thinking about sending me, and there’s also a fan who has offered to pay for my Derby ticket in exchange for half the baseballs that I snag.

Anyway, a security guard met us at the Hodges gate . . .

5_hodges_gate

. . . and has us wait inside . . .

6_waiting_for_the_pr_guy

. . . for one of the Mets P.R. guys to show up.

Several minutes later, I was holding this:

5b_credential_06_18_13

The P.R. guy, whose name is Ethan, led us inside, and I have to say that it was pretty cool to get a behind-the-scenes look at the stadium. There were construction workers milling about, groundskeepers doing all sorts of weird things to the field, random folks playing softball in the outfield, and so on. Check out the hose that was snaking through the concourse:

7_hose_in_concourse

It was connected to this pressure washer:

8_pressure_washer

I don’t know if this is interesting to you, but I *loved* seeing all this random crap sitting around. I felt like I was seeing stuff that wasn’t meant to be seen, you know?

Here’s a hose that was coiled up on a table:

9_hose_on_table

In the photo above, did you notice the scaffolding in the left field seats that extends up to the second deck?

Here’s a random jug of something on a staircase:

10_jug_on_staircase

I should explain my specific purpose for being at Citi Field: the editor wanted me to point out the five best places to catch a home run at the Derby.

I told the crew to head down to the party deck in left field. Here they are from afar . . .

11_left_field_seats_06_18_13

. . . and here’s a photo of them from above:

12_crew_on_party_deck

I think I took more photos/videos of them than they took of me.

While Lindsay set up the camera, I noticed a crater in the warning track in left-center field:

13_crater_on_the_warning_track

WTF?

Before long, she was ready to go . . .

14_camera_set_up_on_party_deck

. . . so we filmed the first segment.

We had to be careful and constantly look over our shoulders because of the softball players in the left field corner. Take a good look at the following photo, and you’ll see them:

15_softball_being_played_06_18_13

One deep fly ball did indeed land on the party deck. I ran back (away from the LF corner) and nearly caught it, but got blocked by a row of stools, and to make matters worse, it bounced back onto the field so I didn’t even get to give it a toss.

John (the reporter) kindly grabbed my camera while Alex (the photographer) had me posing in various ways. Check it out:

16_zack_chillin_on_the_party_deck

Here’s some advice: don’t sit like that at Citi Field. You can get away with it if the team is on the road, but if you’re there for an actual game, it won’t go over too well with stadium security.

I led the crew through the center field concourse . . .

17_tarp_center_field_concourse

. . . toward the Shea Bridge:

18_shea_bridge_terrace

In the photo above, did you notice that some of the railings are laying flat on the bridge? Look closely and you’ll see some caution tape blocking the far end. The whole thing was blocked off. I have no idea what was happening. Last time I was there, the bridge seemed fine to me. I wonder if this type of work happens all the time at Citi Field or if the Mets are simply redoing everything in preparation for the All-Star Game.

Lindsay came and filmed me . . .

19_lindsay_coming_to_film_me

. . . and then we ducked under the tape . . .

20_ducking_under_caution_tape

. . . and headed to the next spot.

(Actually, I skipped a spot in this entry. If you want to see my pick for the 3rd-best area for catching home runs at the Derby, you’ll have to look for the piece in the Daily News.)

We headed downstairs to the Modell’s Clubhouse . . .

21_picnic_area_behind_bullpens

. . . which was cool because I’d never been in there. Here’s the interior . . .

22_indoor_area_of_modells_clubhouse

. . . and here’s the exterior:

23_outdoor_area_of_modells_clubhouse

This was actually my pick for the 5th-best spot. Did you see the gap between the netting and the top of the outfield wall? Home runs drop down there all the time. I’d be surprised if fewer than a dozen end up there during the Derby. Of course, it’ll be crowded as hell, and people will be climbing all over each other to snag them, but hey, that’s not my problem.

We had quite a trek to reach the last (4th-best) spot. We passed by this walkway . . .

24_walkway_behind_bullpens

. . . and got a peek at the service-level concourse . . .

25_concourse_06_18_13

. . . and continued here . . .

26_bullpen_gate_06_18_13

. . . and eventually reached the second deck in the left field corner. Before I show you exactly where we ended up, here’s a photo of a groundskeeper laying down some fresh sod:

27_grounds_crew_laying_down_sod

Okay, so . . . have you ever seen the Acela Club at Citi Field?

28_inside_the_acela_club

Neither had I.

Wannabe fancy.
Devoid of personality.
Typical of stadium clubs.

Of course, sitting behind plexiglass is no way to catch home runs, but have you seen the glorious outdoor terrace? Here’s a look at one small part of it . . .

29_acela_club_terrace

. . . and here’s the rest:

30_acela_club_terrace

WOW!!

Balls rarely fly that far during the regular season, but I guarantee that it’ll be within range at the Home Run Derby. Unfortunately, because it’s located down the line, it won’t get *that* much action, but I do expect to see a bunch of balls fly up there.

By the way, are you aware that most of the “best” spots I’ve shown here are inaccessible to normal fans? That’s Citi Field for ya. The only decent areas are premium seating locations that are sold to huge groups at insane prices. If you’re trapped in the regular seats without a cross-aisle or standing room, forget about it. You pretty much have no chance.

On our way out, I took a photo of this sign in the service-level concourse:

31_sign_for_mets_clubhouse

Here’s another sign that shows the different types of media credentials . . .

32_2013_credentials

. . . and here’s the visitors’ clubhouse:

33b_visiting_team_clubhouse_06_18_13

I can’t wait ’til July 17th.

17 Comments

You want it to just be over?

How hard is it to snag a ball at the All Star game ? Ridiculously hard ? Any toss ups possible ?

BEN WEIL-
Yep.

RAY BURTON-
It’s very hard. Usually. Not only are toss-ups possible, but they’re pretty much the only thing you can get. People are crazy.

Hello, Nice piece, Thanks for sharing. Do you know, where you can stand if you get Standing Room Only tickets to the Home Run Derby ? Are you allowed to stand in the outfield section somewhere ? THANKS

I’m going to the Futures Game. Everything else is way too expensive. I’m banking on the Mets using leftovers like all the other teams have.
- Chris
http://ballhawker.mlblogs.com

Citi Field is one beautiful park. It’s a toss up on which one we’d like to get to first Yankee Stadium or Citi Field.

TOM-
I know lots of people who work at Citi Field. I’ve been asking them all if they’ve heard anything about the rules for the Derby and All-Star Game. No one knows anything.

CHRIS-
It could happen. I’m actually hoping that a few Futures Games balls make their way into the BP bucket for the Home Run Derby.

THE CUB DEN-
It’s a lot prettier when no one is there to nag you.

Zack, in reference to your “BEST SPOTS” to snag a HR ball; that’s how the owners want things…where only people with “MONEY” can have FUN at a ballpark anymore!!! Suites, luxury boxes, Diamond seats, “party decks”, etc., while us poor schmucks get the crumbs…

…looks like you had fun in there! I’ve been to a couple of behind the scenes tours at GABP in the off season like that , and they’re cool. When GABP first opened they opened up the stadium to *ALL* the fans to see every crack of the ball park, club houses and everything!!!

…you should have a “LEG UP” on the competion for the All Star Game being in your home ball park…take advantage of it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! HAVE FUN!

You got Jay Horowitz’s autograph! Woohoo! He is one of my favorite people on Twitter. So funny.

That pass would make a GREAT prize in the charity end-of-year giveaway. Hint hint.

ROCCO-
So true. The “normal” fans are being priced out of the stadium.

LIZ MERRY-
He’s funny? I’ve never heard from him or even heard him talk, I don’t think, or seen anything that he’s written.

Yes, he is funny. http://twitter.com/jay_horwitzpr/status/348437223768723458 he doesn’t tweet a lot, but when he does, it’s usually good. Not bad for an old fart.

Pretty sweet seeing the stadium innits “Raw” and usually unseen form and stages of work.

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