Being the privileged New Yorker that I am, I managed to experience the New Yankee Stadium for my first times this past weekend by going to Friday night’s game and Saturday’s afternoon game. Of course, I have an opinion about the new venue…
Unlike Citi Field, the New Yankee Stadium is not replacing a dump: it’s replacing a historical park with plenty of character. Replacing fields like Shea, RFK and the Vet make fans happy, but getting a new stadium in the Bronx is bittersweet.
But before I get too into the new stadium, I’d like to mention that I happened to get two of the best baseball games I’ve ever seen. And I’ve been to a good amount of games.
Spring weather perfection on Friday night was a terrific setting for Phil Hughes who avoided disaster to keep the game close while an inexcusable ejection because Johnny Damon forgot that you can’t scream at an umpire no matter how blind the man may be, caused Brett Gardner to replace Damon. Gardner came through with an inside the park home run, one of the most exciting plays you can see live. He almost had another one in the 9th inning, but tripped over first base, limiting him to a triple.
A-rod was welcomed by the fans with light applause, but booed when he struck out with the bases loaded and no one out. A Minnestota fan seemed confused about the change of emotion. “He can’t strike out in that situation,” I explained, “he’s on roids. We know he can do better than that.”
Down by one in 9th inning, the Yankees came back to win off a walk-off single by Melky Cabrera with two outs. Very nice.
A friend of mine has $5 per seat season tickets in the bleachers (so don’t start on how it’s expensive to go to Yankee games, because it’s not. You want a hard place to get cheap tickets? Try Fenway Park.) My buddy lets me know when he has spare tickets, which was the situation on Friday night.
My first glimpse at new Yankee Stadium and I was thrilled to find out that alcohol is now permitted in the bleachers, which are no longer a lone section lost in the outfield, but now an almost respectable area connected to the rest of the field.
The new stadium feels strangely familiar, but obviously new and different. A little like how the New York New York casino in Las Vegas genuinely replicates the city while upholding to the shiny commercialized mockery that is the required fakeness of the desert concept.
Having lost its 1970s feel, the New Stadium has a lot of, well, new stadium qualities: an influx of televisions, wide concourses, surround sound equipped bathrooms, granite, limestone, an open area from vending to the field, and, of course, that new ballpark smell (from the makers of the new car smell). The centerfield bar fills a vacant area from the old stadium, but feels wrong. If you wanted to go to a bar to watch the game, why bother be at the stadium at all? The centerfield bar also proves to be an obstruction for the bleacher seats that are close to the bar and farther back from the field.
Regarding food and beverage, why is there a Hard Rock Cafe there? Baseball and rock and roll have some common qualities (fame, dream job, travel, stars date models, “money for nothing”, clothing one would never usually wear, happiness, etc.) does not mean Hard Rock Cafe makes sense. Maybe a branch of Mickey Mantle’s would have been more appropriate. Just a thought.
By the way, the 2,000 sqaure foot HD television in centerfield is amazing. I felt completely in touch with my inner manhood as I wiped the drool off of my chin. Electronic have never looked so good. More screens surround the HD heaven screen. They provide in-depth out of town information and scores, along with everything you need to know about the game you are watching. It feels like there are too many televisions and other impatient flashing electronics, but the HD jumbo of all jumbotrons is phenomenal. Movie theaters don’t have as high quality equipment.
Three blocks makes a difference. The new stadium is only a few blocks away, but that can be a big difference in New York City. Now the farmilar bars, bag check, and souvenier stands are stashed by the original (old? first? what is the name here?) stadium, which is being dismantled at the same pace the Second Avenue subway line is being built. Once the old stadium is gone, the are can feel more connected. But it is a bit bizarre to walk between the past and the future.
Walking along the north side of the stadium, instead of being right by the highway, you’re in the neighborhood. It’s nice to have a little Bronx feeling close to the pride of said borough.
Saturday is when I noticed that there are now flags from both leagues around the top of the stadium. Why even acknowledge the National League? Unnecessary.
Saturday’s game required a decent bullpen effort, and more dramatic play. A-rod was well-received in the 11th inning as he hit his first home run at the new park into the section I sat in, out in Left Field.
The seats in left field were cushy and cozy with more space and the ever-so-useful cup holders. Most of the feelings from Friday were there Saturday. Time (and the right field wind tunnel) will provide the memories and history that made Yankee Stadium the incredible place it was. As the weekend concluded with another walk-off, I’m already feeling like this is a drama-prone field.
Originally published on May 20th in Citizen News (Sherman, New Fairfield Edition)