As more and more pics filter in of Yankee Stadium nearing its completion, I came to the realization that I will, once again, have yet another “first time at Yankee Stadium” memory.
I couldn’t help the feelings of nostalgia as I thought back to the first time I went to the now “old” stadium. A day surely every Yankee fan remembers vividly. It was May 19, 1996, and I was on my way via Metro North train with the Cub Scouts to the famed “House that Ruth Built.”
I was armed with a backpack for the slew of souvenirs I was sure to buy, about a dozen friends, and of course, my dad. For a 12 year old kid on a Sunday afternoon, it doesn’t get much better than that.
The train stopped at Grand Central Station, another first for me. Everything and everybody was moving so quickly, and this was on a Sunday! Our group had a bit of a wait until the subway departed for the Bronx, so my dad brought me outside to quickly take in the sights surrounding Grand Central. I still remember gazing up at the Chrysler Building, thinking that it was the Empire State Building.
“No, that’s the Chrysler Building,” my dad noted. “The Empire State Building is much bigger.”
Before long, we boarded the subway and were headed for Yankee Stadium. I was ecstatic. The it happened. I saw it. The green of the grass. The subway passed quickly by the “window” in right field of the old stadium, where onlookers aboard the subway could get a quick glimpse of the field. I was awestruck.
When we exited the subway, it took our group a few minutes to gather ourselves and enter the stadium. As you can imagine, chaperoning a group of 12-year-old boys experiencing Yankee Stadium for the first time could be a bit of a challenge. We had to stop at every souvenir stand, every concession booth, and the spot where I begged my dad to buy me the team yearbook.
I still have it perched on my bookshelf, Mickey Mantle gracing the cover, where it reads,”Remembering the Mick.”
Next up were the memorable trip to our seats. Our seats were in main reserved, section 26. As we made our way through the tunnel toward the field, I’ll never forget the site. The greenest grass I’ve ever seen, the blue of the seats, ballplayers playing catch in the outfield, the rumble of the fans. Unforgettable. When we finally found our seats, I must’ve sat their in silence for about 15 minutes taking in the sights before I finally asked for a hotdog.
The Yankees lost that day, but it didn’t matter. My memory was not of the final score, but of the day overall. My first time at Yankee Stadium, with my dad tagging along (he’s a Red Sox fan, so talk about a loving father.)
And this year, in the year 2009, now 25, I will yet again be able to write myself a new memory. My first time at Yankee Stadium V.2. Sure time have changed, my age has changed, even the Yankees have most definitely changed. But the passion of the fans has not, and that’s what transforms a ballpark into “Yankee Stadium”; the fans.
So while I am sad to see the old park fade into the sunset, I realize that what made that stadium special was the fans, who are going nowhere. And we all get to experience a second “first time,” which is something not to be taken for granted.