August 21, 2010

The Inaugural Season of Yankee Stadium

Can I get a Bronx Cheer?!?!?

I became a Yankees fan quite accidentally when I was very young. It was a beautiful summer night and I was sitting on the living room floor playing with my toys. My mother walked in the room and said that it was time for me to go to bed. I begged her to allow me to stay up later, claiming that there was something on TV that I really wanted to watch. When she asked me what was so important, I actually had no idea what was on so I walked over to the TV and turned it on to whatever channel happened to be tuned in. As it turned out, a Yankees game was just beginning. Those were the days of Ron Guidry, Greg Nettles, Reggie Jackson, Bucky Dent--the classic Yankees teams on the late 70s. My mom and I sat up for the rest of the night watching the game. We were hooked from then on.

In May of 2009, I got to experience the inaugural season of the new Yankee Stadium. At first I was very much opposed to the idea of a new stadium. How could the world’s most storied sports franchise abandon the “House That Ruth Built?” However, one step into this new palace of baseball made me quickly eat my words. The new Yankee Stadium is a marvel!

Stepping through the main gates, one arrives in the Great Hall, an expansive corridor featuring banners of Yankee greats, past and present. The Great Hall is so massive that I could not help but to feel both humbled and impressed.

I had gotten to the park early, so I first headed to the centerfield stands to tour Monument Park. I let history sweep over me as I strolled around the bronze plaques and retired uniform numbers of so many Yankee legends. Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, the list goes on and on.

Next, I paid a visit to the second floor to see the Yankee Museum. Here I discovered a wall of autographed baseballs. There is also a miniature model of the stadium set up on a rotating base, as well as Thurman Munson’s original locker, preserved and moved from the old Yankee Stadium.

The new Yankee Stadium on the whole is a grand piece of architecture. Its open design allows for the field to be seen from almost anywhere in the building. At every turn, my eyes rested on bits of memorabilia and candid photographs of Yankee players and classic moments in baseball history.

I took my seat along the third baseline. I always love night games. Something about the bright lights makes everything appear more vivid than real life. The scope of the stadium and its legion of fans that fill the stands is just a breathtaking thing to behold. It was exhilarating!

Little did I know it at that time, but the Yankees were going to end the 2009 baseball season as World Champions! To bring the trophy to New York in the inaugural season of the new stadium was very special and I knew that I wanted to go to the ticker-tape parade. I took off from work on that balmy November day and headed to the Canyon of Heroes. I was very excited to see the floats roll out of Battery Park and cruise up Broadway, streamers falling from the sky like rays of golden sunlight. Of course, I should have thought to leave my house much earlier. When over three million people converge on to a few city blocks for a parade, viewing is bound to be limited. Broadway was completely packed so I took a spot on one of the side streets, but I was much too far from the action. I could hear people in front of me cheering joyously and word would spread quickly throughout the crowd when Jorge Posada or Andy Pettitte would pass by, however the only thing I could see was the backs of heads and hands in the air clutching cameras, hoping to capture a glimpse of a baseball superstar. All was not lost though, the celebratory atmosphere more than made up for what I couldn’t see; this was a city-wide party.

When the parade had passed by, the streets started to empty a little bit and I was able to work my way up to Broadway, strolling through piles of paper that were often knee-deep. I stepped on to the Canyon of Heroes to find one of the most unusual and merry sights that I have ever seen. Broadway had turned into one huge, playful confetti fight between hundreds of thousands of delighted New Yorkers. As far as my eyes could see, paper was flying through the air like a literary blizzard: shredded newspapers, junk mail, marketing reports. All the while, the city was filled with the chant of “Let's go, Yankees!” I quickly charged into the crowd and joined in the fun! What an absolute blast!

The police allowed this great time to last for over an hour and through all of the mirth, it was reported that no one was injured or arrested. In fact, the only people not enjoying themselves were probably the NYC sanitation workers. LOL!

I consider myself lucky to have grown up a Yankees fan. For more than a decade now, I've gotten to watch players like Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera every season. Not only are they two of the best players of all time, but also the way that they conduct themselves with dignity and class off of the diamond is equally as inspiring to watch. And to think, if the TV had been set to a different channel when I was a tot, I might have been a Mets fan. :)

Thank you for everything, George M. Steinbrenner III! May you rest in peace…

"For physical training is of some value,

but godliness has value for all things,

holding promise for both the present life

and the life to come."

~1 Timothy 4:8