This is in response to Ashley’s post about Yankee Stadium ranking 21st out of 30 MLB ballparks
When the news broke that the Yankees were going to build a new Stadium I was very vocal in my disappointment. I couldn’t picture the Yankees playing in a new Stadium. I wondered, “What’s wrong with the old place?” I loved the old place. I especially loved my old seats. I was in the Upper Deck on the first base side: Section 11, Box 623, Row C, Seats 5-8 and I was lucky enough to have those seats from 1999-2008.
Yankee Stadium II was the first place I attended a professional baseball game. It was my favorite place on Earth – that’s what I told everyone. My friends would even say, “Will be at your happy place this weekend?”
I ended up attending hundreds of games there from 1983-2008. In fact, I was at the Stadium on the last night it was open for business – September 21, 2008.
I didn’t cry that last night – which was shocking because I’m a overly sentimental person. I was just so honored to be there. My season ticket plan was the Sunday plan and I lucked out, the last game would be on a Sunday night.
I could have made a killing that night as well. I know people who were able to sell Upper Deck seats for over $1000 a piece but I wanted to be there. I really wanted to witness that last game in person. I wanted to say goodbye to the old girl and to this day, I do not regret that decision.
Before the game, during the game and after the game, I looked around as much as I could. I took as many pictures as I could so I could remember the old place. I knew they’d be knocking it down eventually and wanted to have those pictures both in my mind and on my camera.
It was bittersweet. The Yankees were not making the playoffs that season but they did end up winning the last game at the old place which was nice. It made a sad occasion, somewhat positive and happy.
Fast forward to April 2009, I was able to get a ticket for Opening Day in the new place. I was very excited to see it – and because I was newly unemployed with a fat severance package, I was able to get a Legend’s Seat. Yes, the girl from the Upper Deck in the old place was going to be sitting with the rich folks in the new place.
That morning, I woke up early because I wanted to get to the Stadium ahead of the massive crowds. The Yankees announced they would be opening the gates at 10 a.m. – so people could walk around and explore their new billion dollar home.
I arrived at 10:15 and by then the crowd was already enormous – I guess everyone had the same idea as I did. After waiting in line, getting my bag checked and slipping my ticket under the fancy new turnstile bar code scanner, I walked into the Great Hall and my jaw dropped. I’m not exaggerating. I could not believe how nice the new place was. And within about two seconds I thought to myself, “What the hell was I thinking? This place is great!”
Yes, the old place had history. Yes, the old place was intimidating for visiting teams but it wasn’t a Stadium worthy of the richest team in baseball. It was a dump – and I say that with as much love in my heart as possible. Am I being harsh? Possibly but it’s the truth. Yankee Stadium II was a dump and though the “modern” renovated version of the Stadium was only 32 years old in 2008, it still needed to be replaced.
People around baseball – and Yankee fans – spoke of Wrigley Field and Fenway Park. They spoke about how those two old parks were still standing so why should Yankee Stadium be replaced?
People were worried about the ‘mystique’ and the ‘aura’. Would they join the team in the new place? After the way the 2009 season unfolded – with the numerous walk off wins and the playoff run culminating in a 27th World Series Championship – it’s safe to say, they did make the move across the street.
People were worried – and some still erroneously say – that the new place wouldn’t be as loud nor as intimidating as the old place. I attended over 20 games in 2009 – playoff games included – and I can say that it was just as loud.
In fact, one game in particular sticks out for me. On Sunday August 9, 2009, the Yankees defeated the Red Sox in a Sunday Night ESPN game, and completed a four game sweep. In the top of the eighth inning of a 1-0 game – up to that point, led by the Yankees – Boston’s Victor Martinez hit a two run home run to give the Sox a 2-1 lead.
When the bottom of the eighth rolled around, Johnny Damon hit a game tying home run which was quickly followed by a tie breaking home run by Mark Teixeira – as John Sterling probably said that night “Back to back! Belly to belly!”
By the time that game rolled around, I had been to about ten games. After Teixeira’s home run, there was no question about the loudness in that Stadium. It felt like a playoff game.
Now, I can see how the purists will complain that the new Stadium is too shiny, too grand, and that there are too many things to do – aside from actually watching the game.
Guys, you don’t have to do anything of those things. You are free to sit in your seats and watch the entire game if you want to.
People also complain about the food choices being too “hoity toity” for them. No offense, but I enjoy being able to eat a $15 steak sandwich and garlic fries if I choose to do so. And yes, I sometimes “slum” and have chicken fingers and fries. I also like getting fried pickles from Brother Jimmy’s and shakes from Johnny Rockets.
I like having more food options.
I like attending games in a clean stadium.
And I really enjoy being able to move around – if I choose – and being able to see the game from different places in the park.
Do you remember what it was like in the old place? How dark and dank it was in the bowels of the Stadium? How you couldn’t stand and watch the game? How you had to be squished into the tunnel openings?
Do you remember going to get food and having no idea what was going on? Yes, there were TV screens but at least in the new place you can hear the crowd noise when you are getting your food and in some spots you can turn around and see what’s happening.
I like being able to move down from the Upper Deck to the lower levels and being able to watch the game from the concourses. It gets cold upstairs early in the season. Being able to go down to the Main level and watch the game from that vantage point is pretty fantastic.
To the people complaining about all of the distractions at the new place: If you have a smartphone with you at the game, you’re more distracted by that then you are by anything else in the Stadium.
To the people complaining in that report about our New Yawk accents: I can think of at least three accents that are more annoying and distracting.
And to the Yankee fans whose reviews helped to rank New Yankee Stadium 21st out of 30 parks in MLB: The old Stadium is gone, get over it and enjoy the new place.
I promise you, if you allow yourself to enjoy, it can be great.