I was exhausted as I looked out the window on the train ride home. As a die-hard baseball fan, I had just been through an absolute whirlwind. The day of my baseball-loving life.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009 was a very special day for me. I was privileged enough to make my first trip with my friends and family to the new Yankee Stadium.
Wearing my pinstriped Mariano Rivera jersey on my back and one of my many fitted Yankee caps on my head, I met up with my friends and my cousin for what would be a memorable day.
On the train ride to the Bronx, we really did not know what to expect, other than a great time. I, for one, was not sure if the new stadium would live up to the hype.
Sure, it looks incredible on television and in the newspapers, but how is it going look in person? Will it be the same feeling as enjoying a game at the old Stadium? I couldn’t help but think.
We walked off the number four subway in the Bronx to an overwhelming site: The new Yankee Stadium in all its glory.
As we approached the building, we did not know what we were in for.
“The Kingdom of Heaven,” I exclaimed while I was glaring at the building.
“This place looks absolutely amazing, and we are not even inside yet.”
The first thing we had to do was take pictures. I reached into my bag and pulled out my camera. I shot the façade of the stadium. I snapped pictures of the new Babe Ruth Plaza outside the stadium.
And I got a picture of the new electronic game day board that read “Oakland Athletics vs. New York Yankees Today 1:05.”
With seats in the bleachers, we were unsure of where to enter. If you had seats in the bleachers at the old stadium, you could only enter through the back of the building. But we wanted to see everything in the new stadium. We walked up to gate six, and asked where to go.
“As long as you have your ticket, you can enter at any gate,” the gentleman informed us. “It doesn’t matter if you’re in the bleachers. We treat everybody equally at this stadium!”
We happily entered the gate and into the Great Hall.
“Wow,” I said in amazement. “I…I just can’t believe this. This place is unreal.”
Of course we had to take more pictures. My cousin and I took a photo of the two of us in front of the humongous banners of the great Yankees inside the hall.
Reggie Jackson. Paul O’Neill. Thurman Munson. Me. My cousin. What a picture.
After walking around and taking a ridiculous amount of pictures, we finally settled into our seats. Left field bleachers, section 236, row five, seat 16. That was mine.
It was about 11:00 a.m. by the time we made it to the seats. The A’s were out on the field, stretching and taking batting practice.
I noticed so many baseballs fly out of the park. One flew right over our heads, no longer than 20 feet away. Not long after that, one came within ten feet of my cousin’s seat, landing directly in the glove of the kid next to him.
“Holy cow,” I said. “Pretty close!”
I then took a few minutes to take it all in. I looked at the frieze which now surrounds the top of the entire stadium. I looked out at the field. I looked at the flags around the top of the stadium, indicating the league standings.
“We are in second place right now,” I noted. “Right behind Toronto.”
And then I beheld the press box, which is located in the mezzanine behind home plate.
“I’ll be there someday,” I quietly said to myself.
“I just need my journalism degree, which I’ll be getting very soon, and a little bit of time to work my way up. I’ll be sitting up there with the rest of the writers, eventually.”
It had started to lightly rain during batting practice, and I began to feel very skeptical as to whether or not this game was going to be played. There was rain in the forecast, and I was not certain they were getting this game in.
But the grounds crew thought differently. They did not come out to put the tarp on the field. They chalked the lines and the batter’s box, raked the mound, and put the bases in, as if they were starting the game on time.
Then I noticed CC Sabathia chug out to the outfield to play long toss with the bullpen catcher. Pitching Coach Dave Eiland and Jorge Posada soon followed Sabathia out to centerfield.
I felt a little more confident now that the pitcher was warming up.
“If the game was not going to start on time, they would not have CC out there throwing,” I thought to myself. “We’ll see some baseball today.”
It got to be 1:00, and the P.A. announcer gave us the starting lineups. Oakland first. The visitors are always announced first. Then the home team.
“…And for the Yankees: led by their manager, number 27, Joe Girardi. Batting first, the shortstop, number two, Derek Jeter!”
I could not contain myself as each Yankee was announced. I am a passionate Yankee fan, and I marked out for every single Yankee in the lineup.
“YAY, Derek! YAY Johnny! YAY Big Tex!” (and so on)
Then came the National Anthem. And after the on-the-field warm-ups, the start of the game.
The first pitch was so exciting. Everybody was up and cheering. The roar of the crowd gets to you, even as a fan. I don’t know how the players handle it, but as a fan, it’s extremely intense.
After the first pitch, which was ball one from Sabathia, we heard it.
“Bald Vinny,” the main bleacher creature who always sits in right field, started the Yankee roll call. He did this for every game in the old stadium and apparently the tradition continues.
“Some things will never change,” I said with a smile on my face.
I watched as the fans standing in the bleachers cried out for every Yankee until they were acknowledged. I could only laugh as I watched right fielder Nick Swisher turn around, face the bleacher creatures, and salute them, as if he was an army soldier.
In the top of the second inning, Oakland catcher Kurt Suzuki slaughtered Sabathia’s offering to left field. My friends, my cousin and I all stood up as we gazed at the ball flying out (almost directly to our right) to left field.
It carried far enough for a fan sitting in the front row to snatch the ball. I looked on as I watched him close his glove and catch the ball for a three-run Oakland home run.
As the boos reverberated throughout the stadium, Girardi came out to argue that the fan interfered.
“Here we go again,” I said. “Just like Sunday against Cleveland—bring on instant replay!”
The umps went into the tunnel for what seemed like only five minutes to decide whether or not the ball was a home run.
“Here come the umps,” my friend said to me as they walked from the third base tunnel out onto the field. “I hope it gets overturned!”
Third base umpire Brian Gorman twirled his index finger, signaling that the ball was indeed a goner. The Yankees were now down, 3-0.
A little depressed, we knew the Yankees needed a spark. Being down 3-0 early on in the game never puts any fan in a good mood.
But the bottom of the second inning lifted our spirits in a great way.
Hideki Matsui stepped up to the plate, and cracked a long, solo homer into the right field seats, putting us back within two runs.
“YES! I joyfully cried out. “We’re back in it!”
After Matsui’s blast, I high fived my friends, my cousin, and the two Yankee fans sitting next to me.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t know the other fans when a Yankee hits a home run. We’re all Yankee fans, which makes us family at the game.
“That’s what I’m talking about,” one of the fans said to me as I slapped his hand.
The next batter was Melky Cabrera. We had just seen one Yankee home run, and Cabrera made it two.
Back-to-back jacks. Cabrera clobbered Oakland starter Brett Anderson’s offering into the area right below us.
Again, I yelled out, “YES! 3-2!”
While Cabrera rounded the bases, I borrowed Yankee announcer John Sterling’s cheesy catch-phrase and said, “The Melk-man always knocks twice!”
With the Yankees now trailing by only one run at the end of the second inning and the rain pouring down rather steadily, we had no choice but to leave our seats and take cover.
One of the best facets of the new stadium are the standing rooms. You can leave your seat, and still view the on-the-field-action.
Now protected from the rain and perched over the centerfield gate with Monument Park beneath us, we stood and watched Sabathia and the Yankees give up another run in the top of the third, making the score 4-2.
“Are you kidding me? This just is not right,” I told my cousin while shaking my head in confusion.
Down 4-2, the Yankees received a much-needed lift in the bottom half of the third.
With Posada on second and Teixeira on third, Robinson Cano was able to push Teixeira across the plate for a run, bringing the Yanks back within one.
Soon after Swisher came up and singled to drive in Posada, knotting the game at four runs apiece.
“Alright, we’re making some progress here,” I said as I peered out onto the field at the end of third inning.
“I have a gut feeling we’ll be on top when this game is all said and done.”
In the bottom of the fourth inning, we were treated to yet another Yankee home run. This time it was the captain.
Jeter came up and blasted a solo home run directly below us in centerfield, taking the ball into Monument Park. If you looked closely enough at the jumbo tron, for a split second, you could just see the group of us cheering on the home run before it landed from the standing room platform above centerfield.
“Way to go, Captain! He did it again,” I exclaimed.
“Jeter is the greatest to ever live, and that’s all there is to it.”
Oakland would get a run back off Sabathia in the top of the sixth, as Mark Ellis singled to score Jack Cust.
I could hear the other fans’ disgust at Sabathia’s pitching.
“Why does this guy suck? He’s terrible,” I heard one upset fan say.
“Go back to Milwaukee, you waste of money,” I heard another disgruntled fan cry out.
The bad feelings towards Sabathia temporarily evaporated in the bottom of the sixth, as the Yankees re-took the lead.
Tied at five, Jeter doubled to score Cody Ransom, and Teixeira singled to score Jeter, giving the Bronx Bombers a 7-5 edge.
“This is real Yankee baseball,” I thought to myself. “It doesn’t matter how bad CC is, as long as the offense does their job.”
With the Yanks up by two at the end of six, we decided to leave the standing area and see the rest of the palace.
The new stadium offers so much, and there’s a lot to see and do. We heard that there was museum inside the ballpark, open to the fans. We asked around, and found out that we had just enough time to visit the museum before it closed.
So we went.
We walked in the Yankee museum, and just as I had been blown away coming off the subway, I was taken aback by everything in the room. There was so much to see.
We took pictures with the World Series trophies from the 1996, 1998, 1999, and 2000 championship years. The years I fell in love with the Yankees and with baseball.
I couldn’t help but think of the great teams of those years, and how much I loved watching them at the old stadium.
“I remember when Tino Martinez crushed that grand slam into the upper deck in right field in first game of the ’98 series,” I said to my friend.
“Tino was one of the greatest players to ever put on the pinstripes, and my favorite during the dynasty.”
Then we made our way to the “ball wall,” an incased shelf of baseballs autographed by practically every player ever to wear a Yankee uniform.
I was amazed, saying to my friends and cousin, “Hey, look here’s Yogi! Oh man, it’s Jeter’s ball. And here’s Tino’s! And the greatest player to ever live: Babe Ruth.”
After viewing the ball wall, we journeyed over to the replica clubhouse locker. You can type your name into the computer, and it will appear above the locker, as if you are in the Yankee clubhouse as a player.
I typed my name in, and it appeared.
“A.J. Martelli” appeared above the locker, much to my delight.
I thought to myself, “This is what it feels like to be a Yankee. It feels pretty good.”
Of course, I got a picture of me in the locker with my name posted over my head to remember it by.
As all this was going on, we noticed on the high definition television screen that Sabathia was blowing the lead.
Ex-Yankee and current Athletic Jason Giambi grounded out to short while Bobby Crosby scored, and Matt Holliday singled to score Ryan Sweeney, knotting the game again, this time at seven.
Sabathia exited to a mixed reaction from the Yankee faithful, and those bad feelings toward him from the sixth inning came back.
We made our way out of the museum, and back to a standing area, this time by first base.
We could only look on as the Yankees and A’s could not get anything offensive going. With the game still knotted at seven heading into the top half of the ninth, we watched Mariano Rivera come in to pitch.
As Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” blared through the new stadium speakers and Rivera dashed in from the bullpen, it all looked so different to me.
“It’s so weird to see him enter from right field,” I said. “I’m so used to seeing him come in through the left field gate.”
The new stadium features the Yankee bullpen in right field, in contrast to the old stadium, where it sat in left field.
Rivera mowed through the A’s in the top of the ninth, the Yankees could not generate a winning run in the bottom of the ninth, and the game went into extra innings.
Even though the Yankees failed to score in the ninth and tenth, we were treated to a special video tribute in between innings.
Highlights from the career of Paul O’Neill, another one of my favorite retired Yankees, were shown on the diamond vision screen.
While “The Warrior” by Patty Smyth played during the video, we found ourselves once again contemplating the dynasty years the Yankees put together in the late 1990s.
“He was the warrior,” I said. “I miss O’Neill. What an awesome right fielder.”
But after viewing the nice video tribute, we found ourselves completely wiped out.
With our legs tired and already harboring a six-hour day at the stadium, we contemplated whether or not to stay or hit the subway back to Grand Central.
“If they don’t win after the 11th, you want to head out?” I asked.
“We are all really tired, I don’t care what we do,” said my friend.
“I just hope they win, either way!”
With sore legs from walking, a horse voice from cheering, and a tired mind, my friends, my cousin, and I made our way back to the subway.
Many others had the same idea, as the subway was crammed with Yankee fans.
“Was this your first game at the new stadium?” a man wearing a Yankee hat sitting across from me asked.
“Yeah,” I replied.
“How’d you like it?” he followed up.
“It was amazing. I can’t believe how stunning the stadium really is. The television does not do it justice. You have to come down here and physically enter the building to really appreciate it,” I again replied.
He agreed with everything I said.
When we reached Grand Central, we found that the Yankees were still playing in the bottom of the 13th inning.
We finally boarded the train back home, exhausted and worn out. However, I was not going to rest until I found out if the Yankees had won or lost.
Strangely enough, I looked out the train window as we passed the stadium on the way home. Staring in awe at the ballpark from the train, I received a text message from another friend.
“Melky just hit a walk-off homer in the bottom of the fourteenth. Yankees win!”
As I was glaring at the stadium from the train, the Bronx Bombers were celebrating at home plate, mobbing Cabrera in a 9-7 Yankee victory. The first walk-off home run in the new Yankee Stadium. History.
I smiled, and knew that even though we didn’t exactly see the game-winner, it was like I did.
I was satisfied knowing that I’ll always remember my first trip to the new stadium. I was just an infant when my parents took me to my first game in the old stadium. I can’t exactly remember that first visit to the old ballpark vividly.
But now I’ll have memories that will last for the rest of my life. Memories from my first trip to the new stadium that I’ll remember forever.
Exhausted and staring out the window as we passed Dobbs Ferry, I finally shut my eyes.
The Yankees won. Now I could rest easily.
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