Monday, August 04, 2008

Matt's Yankee Stadium Memories: Part II

In Part I, I told the story of my first memories in Yankee Stadium, at the tender age of six. It would be more than a decade before I returned to the Bronx. I was not devoid of baseball in the meantime; in 1994, the St. Louis Cardinals moved their short-season single-A minor league team to Augusta, NJ. Over the next several years I attended more and more games, until eventually our family had season tickets. They were in the section behind home plate, in the last row of the top section of reserved seats. Behind us was a railing, and I brought the tradition of hanging K's to Skylands Park. A number of the pitchers told me they looked up to see how many they had, and I was even interviewed for local TV once. Not many players made it to the majors from those teams- Adam Kennedy, Matt Morris, Chris Richard, and Coco Crisp (who went by "Covelli" then) are the few I remember. But since these games were considerably cheaper and closer, my live baseball fix moved away from Yankee Stadium.

I returned to the Bronx in my senior year of high school after quite an ordeal. The tickets were organized through our school's chapter of the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA). We had seats in the upper deck the previous season for a game against the Red Sox, but the game was rained out. The rescheduled game occured after 9/11/01, and our school forbid us from returning to NYC so soon afterwards. Instead the tickets were refunded and we used them the following year on a Yankees-Devil Rays game on May 14, 2002.

We sat in section 333, in fair territory over the right field fence. It was definitely the closest I've gotten to the field to watch a Yankees game, I could actually read the players' jerseys. During the first inning, we joined in the Bleacher Creatures during roll-call, from John Vander Wal to Bernie Williams all the way to Robin Ventura at third base. They then did their "Box Seats Suck" chant, which we found confusing. Still, Roger Clemens was on the mound and he started the game off in style, getting two strikeouts in the first inning and another two in the second. The Yankees were going down similarly in order, and we thought we were in for a pitchers duel, despite the fact that the Devil Rays had a pitcher I'd never heard of, Travis Harper.

Things started to fall apart for Harper in the third, as Vander Wal hit an 0-1 pitch deep to left, into the visiting bullpen. We all went crazy as the Yankees took a 2-0 lead. Though Clemens allowed a run in the top of the inning, Harper couldn't keep up the low scoring affair. In the fourth, Jason Giambi crushed a 2-0 pitch right at us! The ball didn't tail enough to make it to our section, but landed in our row in the next section over. I thought, well, that's the closest I'm going to come to catching a home run ball. It didn't take long to test that theory. Two pitches later, Jorge Posada ripped a ball that headed directly towards me! The only problem was, it was about sixty feet above my head, and landed in the mezzanine. As Yankees Radio man John Sterling must have said, "backa-to back, and belly-to belly!" Harper was quickly out of the game, and I'm not sure this actually happened, but in my mind I believe they played "Hats off to Harper" at the Stadium as he slowly walked for the showers.

The game calmed down for a bit after that, and Clemens was lifted in the sixth inning, but the Yankees' offense wasn't done. Up 4-1, they added another six runs in the eighth inning, all off of Jesus Colome. While exciting, I was a bit disappointed because I was looking forward to seeing Mariano Rivera pitch live for the first time. Instead, we got Ramiro Mendoza, who gave up a homer to seal the final score at 10-3.

Our group happily piled its way back onto the bus, where I believe a few friends and I recited the entire script of Monty Python and the Holy Grail from memory. Good times.

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