Today, the New York Mets will play their home opener at Citi Field, with Chris Bassitt on the mound and a new statue of the late ace Tom Seaver unveiled ahead of the game. And as usual, fans will be able to purchase hot dogs, beer and Cracker Jacks while they watch the game. But there are plenty of new features at the ballpark in 2022, and on a cool, overcast day in March, a scrum of reporters (including this rabid Mets fan) was ushered into the Citi Field press room to find out more.
There, a variety of speakers touched on everything from game-day specials — a bobblehead gnome Francisco Lindor, a polar bear bobblehead Pete Alonso — to some pretty futuristic technology. “Our new Mets Express entrance technology… will allow fans to use their face as a ticket to enter the stadium,” explained Oscar Fernandez, vice president of technology solutions for the Mets.
We were escorted to the warning track to see new 4K video displays, which was pretty cool, and to the Mets Hall of Fame and Museum, where a new exhibit celebrating the team’s 60th anniversary is on display. “We have the Stengel and Hodges jerseys from the inaugural season, which is the coolest,” curator Alicia Juillet said. “We have Ron Swoboda’s glove from the outlet; we have Mookie Wilson’s 1986 Game Six World Series cleats.
But what everyone really wanted to do was taste the food. Baseball stadium food vendors have set up tables for a tasting menu at one of Citi Field’s restaurants.
“We’re just not selling tender chicken anymore,” Mets executive chef Jason Eksterowicz said. He gestured to the room. “We have approximately 19 different vendor offerings from local vendors, as well as Citi Field exclusives, which you can find throughout the stadium – ranging from a burger and fried pickle to a fried chicken sandwich and tacos. We kind of have it all here today so you can try it out…and enjoy it.
So I did. Although I didn’t sample everything, I stopped at several tables, including some from local businesses new to Citi Field, like Jacob’s Pickles. I met Jacob Hadjigeorgis, the owner.
“I was born and raised in Queens, and this is our first outpost in Queens. So what better place than Citi Field? Hadjigeorgis said, grinning from ear to ear. “So we’re featuring some of our signatures here. We have our fried pickles. And then, of course, our Fried Chicken Cookie Sandwich – the Honey Pickle Chicken Sandwich – to get a little of that spice, a little sweet and salty.
The sandwich was a very tasty if slightly messy bite, with honey dripping down the sides of the cookie. I popped into Pig Beach Barbecue, a restaurant based in Brooklyn. The vendor offers a variety of menu items, partner Shane McBride said, including “those super awesome Sidewinder fries with cheese sauce, slow-smoked pork shoulder and pickled jalapenos and a bit of our blend of spices on it.”
Super awesome seemed about right. Also, kind of a super messy bite.
Finally, I headed over to Murray’s Mac and Cheese. “We were actually supposed to bring Murray’s Mac to Citi Field in 2020, and we all know what happened to that baseball season,” spokeswoman Deena Siegelbaum said. Along with the traditional macaroni and cheese, they offer “Buffalo Mac, which is just a super fun spin on the classic with melty cheddar, buffalo chicken and cheese and sauces to really spice it up.”
It was delicious – and a bit less messy, since a fork was involved.
With the new season only a week old, the team and stadium, with its new facilities, gives Mets fans (including this one) something to look forward to.
Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled Ron Swoboda’s name.