“In normal times, a company with its name on a baseball stadium would be flattered to have the chief executive take part in the opening-day festivities,” write the New York Times’ Ken Belson and Eric Dash.  In 2009, however, executives of Citigroup are well advised to watch Mets games from the comfort and safety of their own homes.

Do not expect Vikram S. Pandit, Citigroup™s chief executive, to throw out the first pitch at Citi Field when the Mets play their first regular-season game there April 13.

In fact, the company said Pandit and many of his top lieutenants would not be in the park. That is just one of many steps Citigroup is taking to shield itself ” and its $400 million stadium-naming deal with the Mets ” from criticism by politicians, who have called for the bank to break the 20-year deal because the bank has taken $45 billion in taxpayer money.

Instead, Citigroup plans to invite community groups, like Jackie Robinson Foundation college scholarship recipients, to sit in its two luxury suites on the Empire Level. Some bank executives will serve as hosts.

Like executives at many other banks, even healthy ones, Citigroup officials are increasingly sensitive to anything that smacks of profligate spending.

œI get the new reality, Pandit told lawmakers in February.