Mets to auction part of Citi Field fence

Florida left fielder Logan Morrison is unable to Florida left fielder Logan Morrison is unable to catch a double off the wall hit by Nick Evans in the eighth inning at Citi Field. (Aug. 29, 2011) Photo Credit: John Dunn

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The Mets are auctioning off parts of Citi Field, but a team spokesman said Thursday it has nothing to do with the franchise's financial woes.

"No, not at all," the spokesman said.

The Mets are offering pieces of the outfield fences from Citi Field, which opened in 2009. The Mets have moved in the fences for the upcoming season to increase scoring and give hitters a better chance to hit home runs.

In announcing the fence move in October, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said Citi Field's large dimensions had become a "distraction."

An average of 1.33 home runs per game were hit in the Mets' ballpark last season, with only the Giants' AT&T Park (1.00) and the Padres' PETCO Park (1.23) yielding fewer. Yankee Stadium almost doubled Citi Field's rate (2.58).

The new dimensions also will allow for an additional 140 seats.

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Collectors will have to dig deep if they want to score some of the old, unneeded wall panels at Mets.auc tion.MLB.com. As of Thursday afternoon, the bids for seven sections of the fence ranged from $800 to $1,100. The auction closes on Jan. 29.

Three of the panels include Mets' championship banners -- celebrating the 1988 and 2006 National League East titles and the 2000 National League title -- while the other four feature sponsor logos.

"What we're doing is what practically every team in baseball does," the team spokesman said. "It's something we've been doing for years."

All 30 Major League Baseball teams currently have memorabilia auctions on their websites. The Yankees are offering autographed baseballs and photos. The Boston Red Sox are the only other team offering pieces of their stadium -- a pair of seats from Fenway Park is available with a high bid as of Thursday afternoon of $795.

It's unlikely the sale of the Citi Field outfield fence panels, even at top dollar, will make much of a dent in the Mets' debt.

The franchise lost $70 million last season, according to Alderson. Co-owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz face a $386 million lawsuit brought by the trustee for victims of the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme that is scheduled to go to trial on March 19.

The Mets also have an annual bond payment on Citi Field that totals $43.8 million in 2012.

The team anticipates closing on a sale of at least four minority shares within a few weeks. The Mets hope to eventually sell 10 units for a total of $200 million to pay off a $40 million bridge loan, a $25 million loan from Major League Baseball and help with operating expenses.

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