My trip to Yankee Stadium.
The New York City forecast called for an 80 percent chance of rain, but even Mario Mendoza hit four home runs in the big leagues, and so you can never bet against the 20 percent. My first and probably only visit to original Yankee Stadium was perfect: completely dry, a balmy 48 degrees, and the Yanks got absolutely pounded.
The trip got off to a frustrating start, as the captain of our flight begged off shortly before departure due to a case of “blocked ears.” We were delayed by about two hours, effectively costing us a chance to visit Monument Park and take in BP.
We arrived at about 30 minutes before the first pitch, time enough for me to stand in a 30-deep line to get a Carl’s Cheesesteak (provolone, grilled onions, sweet peppers). Best sandwich I’ve ever had. Ever.
Then the game began (stamping away my disappointment that Ronan Tynan doesn’t perform the Anthem every night). It was a stunning affair, featuring a Rays club that, with the exception of a 15-minute stretch in the third inning, dominated in every phase.
1. Took the D train to the game. I bet 60 percent of the folks on the subway were asleep, and not just the ones on the back end of their Friday commute.
[Hope you'll forgive the goofy photo formatting. Still trying to figure out the new MLBlogs setup.]
2. The stadium blew me away — because of how raw and stripped down everything is. It’s cold, colorless, dank. Not very clean. The concession areas look like the State Fair if it stayed open until 3 a.m. There’s very little music played as part of the game presentation. The video elements look like something you’d see if you tuned into a 1978 Yankees-Royals game on ESPN Classic, the scoreboard font a weak, sickly yellow that might have been created on a TRS-80. Dr Pepper Ballpark in Frisco is exponentially more well appointed.
3. Everywhere you turned: fathers and sons, granddads and fathers and sons, groups of four or six buddies from college or work or the bowling league. Very few women. I bet the female count was about five percent, and just about every woman there was wearing a Yankees jersey. I think I saw one who wasn’t sporting the pinstriped flannels — she had on a Yankees hoodie instead. Another was bragging about her fantasy league team.
4. Two balls, two strikes, two outs in the top of the first, and the crowd surged into a roar to spur on starter Ian Kennedy with the type of passion you’d expect to hear if your team had just gunned a runner out at the plate. Impressive.
And the crowd reaction after a big play? A really cool, unified, “Yarrrrr!!!” that you might hear from William Wallace’s men as they mount a charge.
5. However, it’s not only in Texas that a routine fly in the bottom of an inning elicits a collective scream and leap from the seats by the crowd. Yankee fans misjudge fly balls, too.
6. One beer vendor’s sales pitch: “Who’s ready fuh Cousin Brewksi?!?” It was perfect.
7. There were 49,000+ announced, but this is what the stands looked like after LaTroy Hawkins set the game on fire in the eighth:
8. Watch Out for Derek Holland. (Pardon the aside.)
(Oh yeah. Scott Feldman. Interesting.)
9. That girl who stars in “Life With Derek” on The Disney Channel is obviously a Rays fan. As the game ended, she appeared to be extremely happy while signing autographs.
That’s not a photo from the game itself (she was as bundled up as everyone else), but that’s pretty much the look she had on her face. Didn’t see too many beaming smiles otherwise after Scott Dohmann breezed through the ninth on 11 pitches, the last of which cut Jorge Posada down on strikes.
10. This unexpected reaction I had is not an exaggeration: Attending a Yankees game almost felt like going to a minor league game in a small town that really cares about its team. The ballpark features are modest, if not dilapidated. But it has a ton of character, a culture, a vibe. Everyone there was there for the baseball game.
And that’s the deal, of course. The game is the thing. I respect that a ton.
Tampa Bay 13, New York 4 finished up just around the time that the Rangers and Angels were starting their series opener on the other coast. When I got back to Times Square and headed over to ESPN Zone to find a televised feed of the game, the Rangers were already up, 5-0, on the strength of a Ben Broussard grand slam and some brilliant work out of Kason Gabbard, who finished with seven scoreless innings and a misprint-y ratio of 16 groundouts to one flyout (including double plays in three of the first four innings). Considering the spring those two had, it was a happily surprising effort by both, ending a pretty cool day full of surprises, from blocked pilot ears to a 20 percent chance of dry to a revered stadium that’s really not that impressive until you feel the energy generated by the fans to a tastefully embarrassing pasting of the Yankees by a team that hasn’t ever sniffed a meaningful game in the last third of a season.