Yankees 2009 Personal Preview: New Memories for a Young Southerner

Eric TonnContributor IApril 6, 2009

NEW YORK - APRIL 04: A general view prior to the game between the New York Yankees and the Chicago Cubs during their game on April 4, 2009 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

It's 50 degrees in windy Athens, Georgia, but the cold outside can't match the warm inside.

One magical phrase makes it all better—Opening Day.

Yes, Opening Night, the 2009 Major League Baseball season was last night. And yes, all of my Georgia friends heaved a monstrous, nostalgic, sentimental sigh of relief that the Atlanta Braves can actually win baseball games again.

But the night was empty because my New York Yankees were stuck at home, waiting to be summoned to Camden Yards in Baltimore to face the Orioles the following day.

The day is already a little brighter, with the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays being rained out until tomorrow. With my boys looking up at those two teams last season, I'll take any happiness I can get now.

As they say, hope springs eternal, and it's certainly spring nowadays.

It's been a while since I've seen such striped and manicured lawns as are on baseball fields. And it's been a while since I've heard the crack of a bat; the ping of collegiate aluminum bats just isn't so romantic.

And it's been a while since my eyes have graced the sight of Yankee pinstripes.

A little history might be in order so you can understand my perspective.

My parents are New York and New Jersey-bred. I ended up in Alabama, almost as luck of the draw, when my dad was discharged from the U.S. Navy. I'm honored to say that I am now a Georgia Bulldog by personal choice and the grace of God.

Some of my earliest memories of my dad involve being glued to the living room television to watch the Yankees play.

I gloated when the '96 Yankees put the Braves out of their misery in the World Series. And I was speechless when the '01 Yankees were stunned by the Arizona Diamondbacks.

But I was still a Yankee through and through. A Southern gentleman with alliances to the Evil Empire.

Since I was born in 1987—and began caring about baseball around 1992 or so—I've only been baseball-less in October four years. One of those years was strike-shortened 1994.

Needless to say, Yankees baseball has been a staple of my life since the beginning.

And I finally identified with all my Braves fan friends last year, when my beloved Bombers missed the postseason for the first time since that '94 year.

This year comes with revived expectations, a revamped pitching rotation, a star-studded lineup, and a brand-new ballpark to boot.

And it's poetically fitting for me that my Yankees open against Baltimore.

The last series in the old Yankee Stadium—the only one that I have been able to attend, no less—was against these same Orioles.

The only personal, visual memories I have of the House that Ruth Built involve Robinson Cano beating the O's in the bottom of the ninth inning with a single up the middle.

And the first memories I'll make of this new era of Yankees baseball—home field or not—will pick up right where those memories left off.

I could say that I don't care how this season ends up, as long as I get to watch my Yankees play. That would be a lie.

I could say that I'm glad we have a new ballpark. That would be a partial lie.

And I could say that I'm fine with watching the Yankees on television. And that would also be a lie.

But I can say one thing with full faith and confidence today—it's been a long, difficult offseason, and now we can focus on playing ball.

So when Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira take the field for the first time as the past, present, and future of the franchise, I'll be sitting on my living room couch knowing that my infield is in good hands.

And when CC Sabathia's first pitch hits the mitt, I'll know that there's no other team that commands such loyalty and admiration.



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