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Queens Chronicle

Mets’ best secret: its backstage tour

Learn facts about Citi Field and see where players prepare for games

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Posted: Thursday, July 28, 2011 12:00 pm | Updated: 1:13 pm, Thu Aug 4, 2011.

Want to see what David Wright keeps in his locker or learn how many bricks it took to build Citi Field? All it takes is a tour of the Mets’ stadium, a little-known backstage look at a Major League facility.

The tours were implemented on Memorial Day weekend in 2010 and have been a popular attraction for out-of-towners, but many Queens residents don’t seem to know about them.

“We’re very proud of the tour and want people to come,” said one of the nine guides, Billy Woodward.

The friendly young man who hails from Oakland, NJ, knows all the minutiae about Citi Field and is a whiz at walking backward while conducting the one-hour tour.

The walks are limited to 15 people and are given when the team is playing out-of-town on Thursdays and Fridays for groups and Saturdays and Sundays for individuals. In the winter, tours are given on weekends.

The tour costs $10 for adults and $7 for children and seniors. For groups of 10 or more, it’s $8 for adults and $5 for all others. Season ticket holders get in free. Tour hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Robert Lock, a member of the Mets security team, said people have told him that the tour is better than the one in the Bronx. No name needed.

The outing begins at the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, the main entrance to the stadium, and covers such locations as the suite level and the production area, featuring the Mets game announcer, the scoreboard, music technician and where other game features are operated. Then on to the press level, with walls filled with photos of former daily sports reporters and writing areas for the current crop.

Next is the field itself. Although visitors are only allowed on the warning track, it’s quite a view. From this angle, the scoreboard looks tremendous. Tour guide Woodward said the grass is mowed seven-eighths of an inch high to allow for faster play.

One of the highlights of the tour, according to Woodward and Lock, is a visit to the dugout, still strewn with spent sunflower seeds from the previous night’s game. “Everyone wants their picture taken there, especially where the players stand by the railing,” the security guard said. “One man said it would be his family’s Christmas card.”

Guests are even allowed to use the dugout phone, like the manager, to call the bullpen, which is next on the tour. The glass-enclosed bullpen then leads to a behind-the-scenes tunnel used by employees, pitchers and others.

For one thing, the tunnel features six huge vats used to store the equivalent of 50 kegs of beer per tank. Tubes connect them to beer dispensers throughout the ballpark.

The tunnel includes a police holding cell and an area where players are screened by airport security before they leave for an away game via an airplane.

“They are scanned like any airport passenger,” Woodward said. “They are then escorted onto a bus that takes them directly to the plane.”

The ultimate highlight for most Mets fans is the visit to the clubhouse. It’s a large area, pampering to every need of the players. Unfortunately, no pictures are allowed to be taken here.

There are a doctor’s and chiropractor’s offices, x-ray gear, a massage room and a giant workout room with every piece of exercise equipment known to man. “Players work out there either before or after a game,” Woodward said, “whichever they prefer to do.”

Before games, players congregate at the lounge. There’s a relaxation area with leather sofas to watch big screen TV or play the drums on Wii, plus a pool table left over from a Rolling Stones concert at Shea Stadium.

The specialty carpeting features the Mets logo and replicas of the neon figures used to decorate the outside of Shea Stadium. There are tables for dining, a salad bar, snack bar and candy and power bar section.

Players can get any food of their choice prepared by a personal chef at the kitchen there. “If they don’t have the ingredients, they send out for them or get them from one of the stadium restaurants,” Woodward said.

Down the hall are two full-size batter’s cages and a short sprint track. Nearby are large mailboxes for the players. Popular third baseman Wright, not unexpectedly has the largest cubby. It looks like some of the other players haven’t checked their mail for months, with fan mail and packages overflowing.

Then on to the piece de resistance, the locker room. That term does not begin to describe the luxurious country-club-like setting of the carpeted and wood-paneled changing room for the players.

Depending on his status and years with the team, a player has one to two cubbies. Jose Reyes and Wright have two each, which are located near the door. A family photo peeks out of Reyes’ locker. Wright’s sports a Giants football helmet given to him by his friend, the former defensive end, Michael Strahan, according to Woodward.

Each area features a closet for hanging clothes, freshly laundered uniforms, shoes and an upper area with a safe for valuables. Forget benches. Here, every player has his own expensive Herman Miller Aeron chair, ergodynamically designed, to sit on.

There is a shower room, sauna and steam room and a nearby laundry room, where staff wash 20 pounds of clothing after every game.

How do they get out those tough dirt and red clay stains? Without promoting the product directly, it’s the one advertised on TV, that “tackles household dirt inside and out.”

By the way, each player has four uniforms, three for home games and one for away outings.

The tour then travels to the press briefing room, where Manager Terry Collins is on the “hot seat” for reporters’ questions after a game. “People love posing for pictures there too,” the tour guide said.

The final destination is the Mets Hall of Fame and Museum, which is open to everyone on game days. There you can see both the 1969 and 1986 World Series trophies. Woodward said the Mets is the only Major League team to display the trophies, not replicas to their fans.

There are World Series rings, almost as big as a fist, historic bats and even the original Mr. Met, circa 1964. It looks like he’s gotten dermabrasion on his face since then.

Fans can wander around as long as they want at the museum.

Woodward said the tours are sold out every weekend so call to reserve early at (718) 507-TIXX (8499). There’s free parking in Lot G off 126th Street.

About those bricks. It took 1.2 million to complete the stadium.

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