My Trip to Yankee Stadium, or Everything Old Is New Again

I’d be remiss if I didn’t write about one of my most anticipated adventures of 2009: a trip to the new Yankee Stadium.

My aunt and uncle, both fellow fans, treated me and some other lucky sports fans on the family tree to an afternoon in the Bronx for the final game of this past weekend’s Subway Series.  This would be my first trip to the new Stadium, and we couldn’t have picked a better day: gorgeous weather, fun special events before the game, and a clobbering of the visiting team!

We got to the Stadium a full hour before the first pitch.  This gave us time to see the Army skydivers who were floating in to center field in celebration of the Army’s founding anniversary.  It also gave me plenty of time to explore the Stadium.  We were sitting in the upper deck, which is stunningly and refreshingly open to the elements, and also easily navigated.  You can walk from foul pole to foul pole without any trouble.  There are also many more concession stands and bathrooms than the old Stadium had.  I didn’t get to wander around any other levels, but I imagine they are equally well-, if not better-, equipped.

The biggest visual change between Stadiums is the imposing granite and limestone facade surrounds three-quarters of the structure.  It gives the Stadium an even grander, more regal character, and I’m sure that’s exactly what the organization wanted.  In evoking arenas of the past–the original 1923 Yankee Stadium, as well as the Roman Coliseum–this brand-spanking new ballpark manages to radiate history and permanence.

The least noticeable change is your view from your seat.  Obviously, all major league ballparks are slight variations of the same template, but I mean that the interior surroundings and landmarks of the former Stadium are almost perfectly preserved.  There’s even the same random hole in right field that allows you a glimpse of the 4-5-6 train as it rumbles by.  The only major changes are the Mohegan Sun resaturaunt in center field, a big blue box of a structure that was not nearly as distracting as I feared, and the utterly tremendous and flawless Mitsubishi television screen that dominates from its perch dead center.

After months of waiting to pass a verdict, I give the new Stadium my approval.  The designers did an excellent job of preserving the Stadium of old while reaching back even further into the past to fuse its history with modern, top-of-the-line necessities, amenities, and considerations.

As for the game itself, there are fewer things more exciting and more fun to be a part of than a Subway Series…particularly if your team is winning (by a lot)…and particularly if you’re sitting along the third base line.  Yes, as you may recall, Alex Rodriguez and I were in a bad place earlier this year; but I have to say that the first time I saw him take to the field, I couldn’t help but smile.  He had a good game, but was in the dugout for good once the Yanks started running away with the score.  My other favorite third baseman, David Wright, lasted a bit longer; but after he was almost ejected from the game for arguing with the home plate umpire, he disappeared, too.  As for the rest of my Yanks, Robinson Cano, catcher Francisco Cervelli, and good ol’ Melky had outstanding games.  The true star for me, however, was Nick Swisher, for having chosen perhaps the most unorthodox choice of at-bat music I have ever heard: “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins.  Honestly?

Here are some pics of the Stadium.  Get there if you can!

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~ T

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Play Ball!

Ain’t this the kind of weather
To get together and–
Bash his teeth in!–
This kind of weather makes a man hit like hell!

A fine, uplifting atmosphere.
Bring your children here!
Teach them baseball,
The game all true Americans do damn well!

It’s like the Constitution,
The institution
Of dear old baseball–
Where every man is treated the same!

What a… What a… What a… Game!

~ “What A Game”, from Ragtime

Today is a very exciting day, my friends.  Tonight, the 2009 baseball season officially begins with the reigning world champion Phillies hosting the Braves.  I don’t care for either team, but I will be watching.

In previous posts, I’ve explained the history of my newfound love of baseball, my born-again fervor as a Yankee fan, and my tortured relationship with Alex Rodriguez.  I thought I would take this time to talk about some of my other favorites from the majors.  Perhaps you, too, should keep an eye on them this season…

Melky Cabrera (NYY, CF)

melkyThe Melk Man is my second favorite Yankee.  This is mostly because I find his on-camera interviews to be simultaneously hilarious and adorable.  A Dominican native, Melky still isn’t comfortable speaking English on camera; so he employs one of the more confident Latino players as an impromptu translator.  Still, the reporters look at Melky when they ask him a question, and Melky never fails to politely nod and smile, even if he has no idea what they’re saying.  Kimberly Jones, the YES Network’s baseline bimbo, could be cursing him up and down, blaming Melky for a lost game, and he’d still just grin at her like a little kid.  Oh, Melky…

Last year was a little rough for him.  He spent some time back in AAA, and almost got traded away in the off-season, much to my horror.  But Melky’s not dumb.  By all accounts, he threw himself into a tight spring training competition for the starting CF spot against newcomer Brett Gardner.  Let’s hope it paid off.

Mark Teixeira (NYY, 1B)

In my opinion, Teixeira is the most interesting new addition to the Yankees roster.  He’s taking over for one of the most curiously beloved Yankees in recent memory, and is bringing some serious strength to the batting order (a .358 batting average in 2008, as well as a .632 slugging percentage).  My main reason to include him on this list is because he’s probably the goofiest-looking person the Yankees have hired since they got that weird-looking guy to turn hot dogs near Section 32 of the upper deck.  He also looks like one of my buddies from college.

Unnatural brothers?
Unnatural brothers?

Jose Molina (NYY, C)

This is the last Yankee I’ll mention.  I promise.  Molina deserves mention because he’s the heir apparent to Jorge Posada’s squat spot behind home plate.  Last year he showed the power and accuracy of his arm with a 43.2% caught stealing rate (the best in the majors), and with Jorge perpetually on the mend, this could be the year he makes the job truly his own.

Best fact about Molina: he is one of three brothers currently playing in the major leagues, all of them catchers.  Big bro Bengie is with the Giants and little brother Yadier is with the Cardinals.  Yeah, and my aunt thought she had it bad getting one of my cousins to Massapequa and another to Bethpage for games at the same time.

The Brothers Molina
The Brothers Molina

David Wright (NYM, 3B) and Jose Reyes (NYM, SS)

wrightI enjoy following Wright and Reyes because to me, they’re what Jeter and A-Rod would have been if they had played on the same team ten years ago.  The bromance between these two Amazins’ is well-documented.  They would do well to look north to the Bronx for a cautionary tale on how such relationships can sour.  With or without Reyes, Wright is poised to become Jeter 2.0, at least as far as New York celebrity is concerned.  His look, his attitude, and his skill make him endlessly marketable.  Give him a banner year and he could be on Page Six more often than the back cover of The New York Post.

reyesWright has the more powerful bat (a .302 average in 2008, with a .390 OBP and 124 RBIs), but Reyes has some serious speed on him (290 stolen bases in his 5 year major league career).  Will they do their faithful proud and consecrate the grounds of the new Citi Field with a run for the play-offs?

Tim Lincecum (SF, P)

Why Tim Lincecum?  Well, because I know him.

Okay, well I don’t know him, but I know someone who does.  It’s just easier to say that I know him.  Not much difference, really.

timmyTrue, most of my interest in Lincecum (whose last name I still struggle to pronounce) comes from the fact that my pal Tripp grew up playing ball with him all through high school.  I can barely wrap my head around the fact that someone my age, someone a friend of mine has known and played with, is pitching in the big leagues.  Never mind the fact that he’s doing it so freakin’ well.  Timmy (as Tripp has told me to call him) won the NL Cy Young Award last year.  He started 33 games and had a 2.62 ERA.  He was selected to the 2008 All-Star roster.  All in his first full season, and all while being only 5’10” and 170 pounds.  Also, little Scrappy Doo has quite a sense of humor.

Troy Tulowitzki (COL, SS)

tuloI’ve always watched for Tulowitzki in game highlights, ever since he pulled off an unassisted triple play in his 2007 rookie season.  I’ll say that again.  Unassisted triple play.  Until he did it, it had only been done twelve times before in the recorded history of Major League Baseball.  It bears repeating.  Unassisted triple play.

Plus, he has an amusing, alliterative name.  That always earns points.

Grady Sizemore (CLE, CF)

gradyI don’t know why, but if someone asked me to, without any hesitation, name five current non-Yankee baseball players, Grady Sizemore would be one of the first names to pop into my head.  I have absolutely no idea why.  I’m hoping he can justify this invasion of my subconscious with an interesting season.

Evan Longoria (TB, 3B)

Just because his name is one letter away from being the same as this gal’s.

eva

So, there you have it.  My brief summation of what to look for this baseball season.  Special thanks to Tripp who, aside from feeding my hunger for Timmy stories, has been teaching me (with endless patience) how to properly read baseball stats.  If any of the numeric analysis above doesn’t make sense, blame him.

By the time I finish proof-reading this bitch and loading in all the pictures, the first pitch of the Phillies-Braves game will be only minutes away.  Enjoy the season, kids!

~ T