I’ve been waiting the past few years to see the new Yankee Stadium. And I’ve been waiting a lot longer—a lifetime—to catch a ball at a game.
Friday night I did both.
First time ever in the new Yankee Stadium, right after touring Monument Park, I ventured into the lower left field seats to check out the view and watch some batting practice. I wasn’t there 30 seconds when Derek Jeter lined a shot into the stands.
It crashed into a seat several rows behind where I was standing, bounced forward, hit off several leaping fans, and popped into my hands as I leaned over the seat in front of me for a two-hand grab.
So after more than 50 years and hundreds of games in 20 ballparks…and just minutes about the new Stadium—I finally got my first ball (hey, I know it’s only batting practice, but hey, who’s counting beside me).
Oh, I’d come close several times, no closer than a home run Bernie Williams hit into the right field seats on the day David Wells pitched his perfect game in 1998.
I had that ball lined up and ready to grab, but was shoved by a large fan and missed catching it on the bounce. If you watch replays of that famous game, you can still see me—the guy in the orange windbreaker getting turned around as the ball bounces right underneath his seat.
Close But No Ball
I came close at Candlestick as a kid, and later at Tropicana Field. A friend of mine got a foul ball at Camden Yards once, when we were sitting right behind the Yankee dugout. Once during the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, I caught a small yellow ball thrown into the stands and got two free tickets to see the Bare Naked Ladies in concert.
Heck, just a few weeks ago I grabbed a Mets’ tee-shirt thrown into the crowd in my first game at Citi Field.
But never caught a baseball at a major league ballpark—at least until Friday night.
What an introduction to the new Yankee Stadium. Just walked into the place, caught a Jeter BP homer. Feelin’ like I own the joint.
The new house is a magnificent baseball place palace with wider concourses than the old Stadium, flat screen TVs everywhere, and an incredibly huge, diamond vision screen in center field.
Restaurants and bars are located all over the park, a variety of food and drink available. And unlike the old Stadium with separate entrances, the bleachers are connected to the rest of the stadium.
But there are drawbacks. There are seats in the bleachers, for example, where you can’t see left field. I’m not talking about the left field corner, I mean left field. It’s blocked by the restaurant in center. There are some flat screens there, but you can’t see left field is left out.
Speaking of seats, with all that room it wouldn’t have hurt to put a few more tables around the park for fans to eat—especially in the upper deck.
The out-of-town scoreboard doesn’t really allow the fan to follow other ballgames. It quickly flashes scores with confusing team logos, as opposed to Citi Field where fans can follow each game, all the time.
Like any new house, the new Stadium needs some getting used to. Eventually the Yankees will figure out the economics of pricing the fancy seats behind the plate, and they’ll start filling the park if they’re winning.
The new Stadium is fast developing a reputation as a launching pad, and so far has given up with nearly four home runs a game on average. The night I went, Justin Morneau hit a pair and Joe Mauer one for the Twins.
Jeter hit a home run for the Yankees (not the one I caught), and Brett Gardner hit an inside-the-parker, the first for the Yankees in nearly 10 years and the first ever in the new Stadium.
The general impression is that the Yankees lost some of their intimidating home field advantage moving across 161st Street to the new grounds. Winning baseball, like the Yankees dramatic ninth-inning rally Friday night to beat Minnesota, will build that home field edge.
The crowd was certainly pretty loud when the Yankees were coming back, and the house went nuts when Melky Cabrera singled with outs to drive in the tying and winning runs.