OK, they lost to St. Louis in the seventh game of the National League championship series in October, but for the rest of the season it was a sweet ride for Mets fans in 2006.
Not only did the home team have a winning year with a 97 65 record, but construction also began on its new home, which that will be ready for the 2009 season.
With stronger bats and pitching, the Mets started out victorious and remained in first place in their division throughout the entire season. Strong relief pitching by Billy Wagner and the acquisition of pitcher Orlando Hernandez helped spark the team to earn a place in the championship series. Unfortunately, both Hernandez and pitcher Pedro Martinez missed post season play due to injuries.
Fans were given a lot to cheer about this year. Who can forget Endy Chavez’s heroic catch in Game 7 against the Cardinals and catcher Paul Lo Duca’s tagging out two Dodgers at home plate in the same play during Game 1 of the division championship.
In March, the Mets released drawings of what their new stadium will look like. With a tip of the hat to the old Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, the design will include a brick, limestone and concrete facade. The $600 million stadium will feature a seven level, open air facility with seats for 44,100 fans. There will be 10,000 fewer seats than at Shea, but they will be larger and provide better views.
A month later, in April, the Queens delegation to the City Council demanded perks from the Mets organization before approving the project. Eventually, the owners promised a certain percentage of construction jobs would be awarded to residents and area businesses and more youth outreach programs.
In addition, the Mets organization will pay for infrastructure improvements around the stadium including new lighting, street enhancements, repaving roads and improving bridges.
“This is about the Mets being good corporate neighbors,” said Councilman Hiram Monserrate of Corona, who led the pressure campaign on the team.
Although the team is paying for the new stadium, the city and state are contributing $90 million and $75 million, respectively, for other improvements. The new facility will be located next to Shea, closest to 126th Street. Shea will be demolished for parking when the new stadium is completed.
The official groudbreaking was held in November and brought out the mayor as well as Gov. George Pataki. Mets owner Fred Wilpon announced the stadium would be called Citi Field, after Citigroup won naming rights, providing the team $20 million a year for the honor.
Popular third baseman David Wright attended and said he was excited about playing in the new stadium. “There are a lot of memories at Shea, but to have a new field is a thrill,” he said.