It’s a bit of an industry, making projections on who’s going to be a New York Yankee. Felix Hernandez was a future Yankee forever until the Mariners made sure that he wasn’t. Just this week, that infamous Royals graphic placed Mike Trout on the Yankees already. And the terrific New York Daily News-er and 80-grade Internet troll Andy Martino gave his Mets followers a little “FY” treatment regarding Matt Harvey.
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Ben reports from the ballpark on Saturday's Yankees-Angels game and explains how and why he stopped worrying about working for a team and learned to love writing about baseball.
Here’s a theory of mine that may or may not be true: you can get almost anywhere in a ballpark as long as you’re wearing a lanyard. If you want journalistic access to a team, you could work hard for years, turning in clean copy on time and impressing your superiors until somebody sponsors you for season credentials or the BBWAA. Or you could skip all that, put on a good-looking lanyard, and try to look like you know where you’re going. Most people assume that anyone wearing one inside a stadium is supposed to be there.
I have my credentials, so I don’t have to fly casual and fake my way in. But I’m on my way to do something I’ve never done before, so I’m displaying my lanyard prominently and willing guards to look at it and let me pass. It’s Saturday afternoon in the Bronx, I’m standing outside Yankee Stadium, and I’m about to attend my first game as a member of the BBWAA.
The legendary voice of Yankee Stadium passed away on Sunday at the age of 99.
Like anyone who set foot in any iteration of Yankee Stadium over the past 60 years - Yankees fan or tourist - I'm greatly saddened to learn of the passing of public address announcer Bob Sheppard. The New York Times obituary's first sentence says it all:
A rundown of the highs and lows of Game Two of the World Series, told by a man sitting in the bleacher seats.
My season came full circle on Thursday night. Back on April 3, I got my first look at the new Yankee Stadium via the park's unofficial opener, a Friday night exhibition against the Cubs for which I was in the right field bleachers. Having spent last fall detailing my mixedemotions regarding the old ballpark's passing, and the winter kvetching about the way me and my crew were being treated, it was with more ambivalence than excitement that I watched that game and beheld the billion-dollar boondoggle. "It feels as though the team put some idealized hybrid of Yankee Stadiums I and II on a steroid regimen, then stuck it in the middle of Times Square," I wrote, "Pure sensory overload-bright flashing lights with sound surrounding you from every angle, and a ginormous scoreboard video dominating the action on the field."
The new Yankeee Stadium has received a lot of press this spring for the large number of homeruns hit there so far. On April 21, 2009, Buster Olney wrote at ESPN http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=4080195 "The New York Yankees might have a serious problem on their hands: Beautiful new Yankee Stadium appears to be a veritable wind tunnel that is rocketing balls over the fences...including 17 in the first three games in the Yankees' first home series against the Indians. That's an average of five home runs per game and, at this pace, there would be about 400 homers hit in the park this year -- or an increase of about 250 percent. In the last year of old Yankee Stadium, in 2008, there were a total of 160 homers."
Checking out the new digs for the Bombers shows them to be impressive in some ways, but less so in others.
The new Yankee Stadium is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean... But I'm getting ahead of myself here.
The Yankees officially open their new $1.3 billion-or-so digs tonight, with the first of a two-game exhibition series against the Cubs (weather permitting), but yesterday 15,000 fans and curious onlookers got a peek inside the gates courtesy of the team, which handed out tickets to an open batting practice via the Bronx's community boards. (This was part of the team's "community benefits" strategy, launched to distract the locals from the fact that they were building their new home on top of a public park.) Since I work part-time in the Bronx and have friends there, I was able to tag along and see what we got for our $1.2 billion public subsidy.
However great the place over the broad sweep of its history, recent seasons have given cause for discontent.
Back on September 13, a week ago last Saturday, I attended my final game at Yankee Stadium, the last of over 130 contests I've witnessed there over the course of 13 seasons. Like the Yankees' doomed run of consecutive postseason berths, like the team's residence in the House That Ruth Built, like so much else this season, my stay at the ballpark ended not with a bang but a whimper, as a listless lineup appeared barely able to summon the energy to go through the motions of losing to the Tampa Bay Rays, 7-1. The Yanks didn't score until the ninth inning, or even draw a walk on the afternoon. Who were those pinstriped zombies?
The experience of showing up early and engraving a send-off into one man's memory.
Uncomfortable confession time: unlike just about all the big-time sports fans I know, I don't have any real recollection of the first professional game I attended. I've tried everything short of hypnosis to recapture the memory-I've done memory exercises, scanned old papers, scoured Retrosheet like a man panning for gold-but every time I think that I have a finger on that first memory, I'll find a contradiction that makes my recollection out to be a liar. I don't remember who started, who won, who the opponent was, and I've come to doubt anything I speculated about the lineup or the roster.
The one memory that I have, clear and true, is of my very first reaction to the ballpark. I remember walking out of Yankee Stadium's cavernous concourses, and out into the sunlight, and being absolutely shocked when I saw the playing field. All I could do was gawk at Yankee Stadium's perfectly manicured turf. I'd seen this very field hundreds of times on television, but nothing had prepared me. I simply did not know that grass could be so green.
The venues are getting smaller, but is this really what's best, and what else can the industry add to the live experience?
Trivia question: Yankee Stadium seats 57,545 fans, which is presently the largest capacity of any park in Major League Baseball. When it closes this year, and is replaced by a ballpark that seats roughly 6,000 fewer fans, which facility will take its place as the largest stadium in MLB?