Day Six & Seven 2019: Yankee Stadium

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Previous game: Citi Field in New York

Next game: Bethpage Ballpark in Long Island 

Miles traveled to get here: 20

Miles traveled total: 3,640

Final Score: Yankees 12, Mets 5

The first rainout I’ve experienced on my Ten Stadiums Ten Days travels was on Monday, June 10 at Yankee Stadium. It was about as New York a rainout as you could get. It rained in buckets for most of the day, but the Yankees kept insisting that the gates would be open at the regular time. There were some breaks in the weather along the way, so it looked as if they perhaps could have gotten the game in.

Casey and I left on the Long Island Railroad, connected to the subway heading uptown to the Bronx, transferred at another subway station and were getting close to the stadium. We were feeling pretty good about the fact that we had navigated the system so flawlessly, practically looking like veteran New York subway-goers.

And then, about five minutes from the stadium stop, word started leaking out on the train. I first overheard a guy about 20 feet away on his cell phone. “It is?” he said. Uh-oh, I thought. “Really? Cancelled?” Hmm. that didn’t sound good. “Well, thanks for telling me.” I don’t even know how he had service, since we had zero. But it took about 30 seconds for word to filter throughout the train, which at that point was almost entirely filled with Yankees’ fans.

What to do at that point? Well, we got off at the right stop, walked around the stadium in the mist for a while, and then got back on to head to Long Island. We did hear that the game had been rescheduled for the following afternoon, as part of a day-night doubleheader. That meant, at least, that I would still be able to go AND make it to the Long Island Ducks game I had planned for that evening. But Casey’s travel plans were tighter; if he could make it at all, it would only be for about the first three innings.

I asked a stadium worker who was moving barricades around what happened if my friend couldn’t make the game tomorrow. “I don’t know,” he said. “Maybe find a new friend?” He was as fun as the megaphone guy from the previous day.

The very best part of the travel saga was meeting Eva and Olga, two wonderfully chipper young women from Iceland who were attempting to go to their first-ever baseball game; they had at least made it into the stadium before the decision was made to cancel, and they had those weird giant plastic drink things that (I think?) hold chicken tenders or french fries or something very American in the top section. They were, by far, the happiest people I met while in New York, perhaps because they lived on an island 2,700 miles away. I asked if baseball was big in Iceland and they laughed. “So what are the popular sports?” I wondered. “Well, football for sure, what you call soccer,” Olga said. “And then probably handball.” This would not have been my guess for second-most-popular sport in Iceland. They were heading home the following day but still seemed hopeful that they might catch the game before leaving. And when I said that Iceland was on my list of places I really wanted to go, I got an immediate invitation. I really couldn’t believe how happy they were considering the circumstances, but I think they’re probably just always this happy.

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Eva and Olga from Iceland, attempting to enjoy their first Yankees game but finding it rained out. But they did get souvenir weird Yankee cups to bring back in their carry-ons! 

Casey decided that he would try to stick around to catch a few innings before heading to the airport, so with a sense of deja-vu, we got back on the LIRR the next morning and headed back to the stadium. Where the previous day was pretty nasty and cool, Today there was nothing but blue skies. It definitely was a better day for a game, no doubt about that.

Ultimately, Yankee Stadium is…OK. Really nothing special, and I’m not sure that even New Yorkers will tell you different. It’s cool because of the club’s history, and because of the sheer size of the building, a true stadium in every sense of the word. But there doesn’t seem to be much character to it; it’s as if they said “We’re the YANKEES, for God’s sake. What do we need with anything more than the team itself?” I know there are people who think it’s cool and authentic and REAL that New Yorkers are so grouchy and stand-offish and, in many cases, just plain mean. But as someone who loves to have fun at every ballpark and talk to as many people as I can, I just don’t find it all that cute that everyone’s so gruff, even if it’s a facade. This is a baseball game, people. Let’s lighten up a little.

While on the subway platform Casey and I chatted for a while with a high school senior from Florida and his Yankee-fan grandfather, who were headed to the game (but I don’t think I wrote down his name, so if you’re out there reading, let me know!). He was a walking encyclopedia of baseball knowledge and was headed to Florida State in the fall to start his freshman year.

Once we got to the game, Casey needed to store his bags at a nearby sporting goods shop, where we talked for a bit with a young couple from Dallas who were on their way to Copenhagen in the morning and were taking in the game on their layover. I was slowly taking note of the fact that literally every person willing to have a conversation was from somewhere far away.

The security lines for Yankee Stadium are long and winding, more like getting onto a ride at Disneyland than going into a game. We moved pretty quickly, though. I noted on the sign listing prohibited items that laptops were not allowed in the stadium, which I’m not sure I’ve seen at other ballparks. I was glad that this was not one of the stops where I had to carry all my stuff with me.

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We headed to the standing-room section in centerfield, having just missed the closing of Monument Park, which allows visitors until 45 minutes prior to the game. It was a beautiful, sun-drenched day, and Casey and I decided we’d hang out there instead of heading up to our 400-level seats, which were approximately seven miles away. We were pretty close to the bullpens, where fans get a nice view of the opposing pitchers warming up. There’s a cool grassy wall that runs between the bullpens and the bleachers, one of the nicer touches in an otherwise fairly straight-forward stadium.

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Casey lasted about three innings before having to navigate the subway back to the airport. We bid farewell, both happy that we had gotten to see at least a part of both New York games. After he headed off I decided to wander the concourse and check out the food selections.

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A bucket of this popcorn is only 2,473 calories. Maybe get two. 

There are quite a few good choices, including what I decided on: the King’s Hawaiian Lava Chicken Sandwich with tempura-battered pickles. Nobody was in line ahead of me, so I figured it’d be a quick process, but after taking my order, the cashier sauntered off to the far end of the counter to wait for the sandwich. It was a few minutes before she came back to tell me that they were still frying the pickles, so it might be a little while longer. “How long, do you think?” I asked. “Maybe five minutes,” she replied. I told her I didn’t really need the pickles and she went back to retrieve the sandwich. When she returned a second time, she told me the pickles were done more quickly than she thought, so she added them anyway. I smiled.

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One of my rituals is to take a photo from behind home plate at each game, so that was next on the agenda. But Yankee Stadium, god forbid, doesn’t allow patrons to go to any area that isn’t their actual seat, regardless of how empty the park is, and the park for today’s makeup game was maybe half-full. I typically like to chat with the ushers anyway, because it gives you a nice perspective on the stadium. I mean, it’s pleasant to do that at every other park except this one. I asked three different ushers, but all of them were no-nonsense and refused my request to get a quick photo. I tried to point out that I only wanted to stand in an area DIRECTLY NEXT TO THEM, not in front of a single fan, between innings, and get a photo that would take me about four seconds. I only needed about 10 feet to get clear of the second deck overhang being in the photo. But they were adamant that it couldn’t possibly be done. One told me that I’d be blocking people’s way, even though there were no people around us. One seemed to suggest that she was trapped into following the boss’s orders and couldn’t do anything about it. Finally, on my fourth section attempt, I just walked up, snapped the photo, and walked away before the usher could say anything. It took all of four seconds.

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The home-plate view photo of Yankee Stadium that you are required to take if you listen to the ushers. See the top of this story for the better, more illegal version. 

I get that it’s not the ushers themselves who are making these stadium policies, and I know that they just have a job to do and want to do it well. But as I noted, this really isn’t the way it works in ANY other ballpark I’ve been to. Yes, you should have a ticket to get down to the expensive seats. For sure. And I know that a few sneaky people probably ruin it for everyone else. But getting a photo and staying directly next to the usher the whole time? Come on. The weirdness was only exacerbated the next day at Camden Yards in Baltimore, where the ushers were unbelievably friendly and still managed to do their jobs.

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The view of Yankee Stadium from the very top. 

At any rate, I got my pic and finally decided to check out the view from my seat, in section 434. It required a walk up a ramp with maybe a dozen switchbacks. Maybe a hundred, I’m not sure. It took a while. The eventual view was very cool though.

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Only 78 more of these deserted ramps to go to reach my seat! I can do this! 

I had pretty much given up on talking to anyone at the game, but I gave it a half-hearted effort in a few different places with fans watching the game. After an initial hello with four of five different solo fans and pairs, it was clear that no one was interested in chit-chat. I settled in to watch the game, in which the Yankees were in the process of dismantling the Mets, 12-5, after falling behind 4-1 in the early innings. The Mets did get the best of the home team later in the nightcap, though, winning 10-3. This game followed a trend on my trip where basically none of the games has been remotely competitive (so far 8-3, 6-1, 4-2, 9-2, 6-1, 12-5, with only the Phillies/Reds contest providing anything resembling late-inning drama). Again the home teams have a bit of an advantage, 4-2, but nothing like last year’s eight wins out of 10.

This was the first game on the trip that I was going to have to hurry a bit at the end: because of the rainout I was hitting two games today, and needed to get back to Long Island to drive with my sister and two nephews to the Long Island Ducks game, which started at 6:40. So after the eighth inning, I started to make my way across to the stairs heading all the way back down. I saw one last fan, sitting in the absolute furthest possible seat from home plate; I’m always fascinated by people who do that. He turned out to be, without question, the nicest person I met at Yankee Stadium. And he had moved there from Huntington Beach, CA. about four years ago, so I’m not sure he counts as a New Yorker.

Gabe works as a bartender in Manhattan, a job that is probably another part of the reason he actually said hello as I walked by and invited me to, and I know this is weird, have an actual conversation. We babbled about my trip for a while; when I told him I was a journalism teacher he said “I KNEW you seemed like a reporter, or something! How cool is this, what you’re doing?” I asked him the question that was on my mind: why does everyone seem so…unfriendly here? He laughed told me a lot of it was surface cynicism intended to maintain a distance.

“New Yorkers have this reputation, but they’re actually really nice,” Gabe said. “You see those images of them on the subway or whatever, swearing at each other and yelling. But if you ask someone for directions, they’ll stop and tell you exactly where you need to go, with a ridiculous amount of detail. There are just so many people trying to con you and make a buck, that you gotta have that shield up.”

It made sense. We shot the breeze for a while longer, far from the game and every other fan in the stadium. And then, when I asked him for a photo, Gabe decided it would be best to take one in which he appeared to be not just in the very last row, but PASSED OUT in the very last row. It was a great idea.

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Thanks for the conversation, Gabe! 

 

 

 

One Comment Add yours

  1. olgahjaltalin says:

    We made it to the game 😄🎉 It was so nice to meet you, looking forward to your visit to Iceland 😄✈️

    Like

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