Check out the new Yankee Stadium. It’s coming along. Not quite as fast as Citi Field, but construction is definitely in full swing…
Anyway, I attended this game for ONE reason: to try to catch A-Rod’s 500th career home run.
I knew there’d be a huge crowd, but I had no idea what seats–if any–would be available 90 minutes before the stadium opened, so when I walked up to the ticket window I said, “This may be a dumb question, but do you have anything available in left field?”
“We’ve been getting that question a lot,” said the woman with a smile. “How many do you need?”
I told her I just needed one, but that I wanted to be right behind the main aisle and that I needed to be on the end of a row. She typed a bunch of stuff into her computer and came up with a ticket for me in the perfect spot. First row behind the aisle in the middle of left field, and she assured me it was an end seat. I was stunned.
“How much is it?” I asked.
“Sixty-three,” she said.
I was afraid that stadium security would lock down the entire section for A-Rod’s at-bats, so I bought the ticket and quickly found myself hoping that security would be extremely strict.
I started out in right field for batting practice, and within the first 10 minutes, I caught a ground-rule double off the bat of Hideki Matsui. The seats and aisle were already so crowded by that point that I considered myself lucky. A few minutes later, I used my glove trick to snag another, and it had a weird green marking on it. I’ve seen this type of marking before, but I’ve never been able to figure out what causes it. Any theories?
By 5:30pm, the right field seats had become impossibly crowded, and all the Yankees were batting right-handed, so I headed to the dugout. Of course I couldn’t get anywhere near it (that’s how it always is at Yankee Stadium, even during BP), so I tried shouting at the players and coaches from 15 rows back. This lame strategy worked at AT&T Park on All-Star Sunday, but it didn’t get me anything in the Bronx.
The White Sox started hitting, and I decided to give left field a rare try. It seemed like a good idea to familiarize myself with judging fly balls out there, but as soon as I reached the foul pole, I remembered what a disaster that side of the stadium is. Monument Park. It’s a huge tourist attraction. It stays open until 45 minutes before game time and ruins BP because there are hundreds of people who line up for it in the otherwise glorious aisle that cuts through the left field seats. To make matters worse, security had blocked off the line with an tight row of folding metal chairs. AND…the other half of the aisle was blocked by wannabe ball-snaggers standing behind the railings and other fans walking to their seats. And speaking of seats, they were full. There was literally no place to go. It was a nightmare, and I didn’t get another ball for the rest of BP.
Two nice things happened between BP and the game:
1) The Yankees unfurled a white cloth hanging high atop the white facade in left center field, revealing the logo for the 2008 All-Star Game.
2) I was able to sneak past security and enter the heavily-guarded seats along the left field foul line. (Yes, the guards now check tickets all the way out to the foul pole.) Then I was able to walk through the seats and work my way toward shallow left field, where Jerry Owens was playing catch with Josh Fields. When they finished, a dozen little kids shrieked for their autographs. Owens tucked the ball in his glove and came over. I didn’t bother asking him to sign. Instead I asked him if there was any chance he could spare the ball. He nodded and kept signing for the kids, and when he was done, he placed the ball in my open glove.
It turned out that my sixty-three-dollar seat was NOT on the end of the row. There were two fat guys (without gloves) on my left and a Spanish-speaking family of four (no gloves, but several hand-held video games) on my right. I was trapped, so I brazenly asked the family if I could have the end seat. They shrugged and looked at each other, then moved over and let me have it. Just like that. It was too good to be true. The view was amazing. The aisle was empty. I was so happy and thankful that I bought them a $5.50 bag of Cracker Jacks. All I needed was security to do its job and keep everyone in their seats and out of my way.
So much for that.
As soon as A-Rod stepped into the batters box, hundreds of people flooded the section. The staircases were packed. The aisle evaporated. Everyone was standing and taking photos and talking about what they were gonna do with the ball. The place was buzzing like I’d never seen, which I suppose would’ve been fun had I not been trying to make the snag of my life, but as things were, I was thoroughly miserable. If the ball had been hit to my section, I wouldn’t have been able to move more than five feet for it, and if it even came within five feet of me, I would’ve drowned in the sea of humanity. A-Rod ended up flying to right on a 3-2 pitch, and I promptly filed a complaint with security. Security shrugged.
Then a bunch of people showed up and said I was sitting in their seats.
“There must be some mistake,” I said and asked to see their tickets.
No mistake. The family of four was in the wrong spot, and they weren’t even close. They were supposed to be in the Loge (second deck) on the first base side. Off they went with the Cracker Jacks, and I had a choice: slide in to the middle of the row or start roaming.
I chose the latter and hated every minute of the rest of the night. I went to right field for A-Rod’s next at-bat. I knew he wasn’t likely to homer in that direction, so I figured there wouldn’t be many people going for the ball there. WRONG. The tunnel had been nice and empty for Bobby Abreu’s at-bat, but as soon as A-Rod came up, dozens of fans came out of nowhere and clogged up every inch of real estate. Then, to make matters worse, security locked a chain in place that prevented the people in the tunnel from spilling out into the (cramped) aisle behind the outfield wall. I was at the front of the tunnel with my view of the outfield half-blocked, so when A-Rod connected and sent a deep fly ball to center, I gently stepped over the chain to see where it was going to land. Owens made the catch, and the security guard got up in my face and yelled, “DO THAT AGAIN AND YOU’LL BE OUT OF THE STADIUM!!!”
It was at that moment that I made a very important decision: if I caught A-Rod’s 500th home run, one of my demands in giving the ball back to him would be that the security guard be fired.
I went back to left field for A-Rod’s third at-bat and tried the tunnel down the left field line. The good news was that the back of the tunnel was empty, so if A-Rod hooked a deep fly ball JUST inside the foul pole, I’d be able to back up and make a relatively easy catch. The bad news (other than the fact that this was highly unlikely) was that I couldn’t see A-Rod.
The Yankees beat the White Sox, 16-3, and tied a franchise record by hitting eight home runs. A-Rod, hitless in 17 at-bats since his 499th home run, finished 0-for-5 and was replaced at 3rd base by Chris Basak in the top of the eighth inning.
I can’t wait to go back to Yankee Stadium later today…
• 157 balls in 23 games this season = 6.8 balls per game.
• 478 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 53,958 fans at this game
• 3,118 total balls