Farewell 2008, Hello 2009
Well, the final moments of 2008 are upon us, and New Year’s Eve seems like the perfect time to reflect on the last 365 days.
It’s been another eventful journey through the months with the Yankees, and though the club said goodbye to their old home in the Bronx a little sooner than anyone in the organization had hoped, there is a sense of excitement to see what the next season will bring in the new home.
A lot of people have asked me for my thoughts on the new Yankee Stadium, and here’s the best possible thing I can say about it. During the summer, I went to the construction site for an event and sat in one of the seats directly behind home plate. Keep in mind, this was a structure I had never set foot in before, a patch of land that I had never seen except from a distance.
But sitting there, in that empty ballpark, I thought to myself, “This is Yankee Stadium.” It feels like what Yankee Stadium is supposed to feel like, and means that they really did capture the essence of the old facility across 161st Street. I am really looking forward to exploring the place in just four short months.
And the former place did go out with a bang. I’ll always remember walking out of the All-Star Game close to 4 a.m., looking around at how quiet everything had become after a truly exhausting day. My game story was probably re-written about 15 times that night with the late lead changes and extra innings — heck, my first version had the National League winning, which tells you everything you need to know.
I think about the changes of a Spring Training camp run under Joe Girardi; about the trips to the West Coast, endless stories about injuries, Jason Giambi’s mustache, late nights at Fenway Park, Moose’s 20th, saying hello to new faces and goodbye to old ones. When you play 162, the wins and losses blur to the point that it’s the people you really care about.
The final game, Sept. 21, was an experience I will never forget. If I close my eyes, I’m walking the warning track in the middle of the afternoon with the fans, standing by the 314 foot sign in right field and looking over at the new park. Mussina and Phil Coke hop out of the dugout to sign autographs and mingle, and grown men clamor for position to have their photos taken. Late that night, about 3 a.m., there were still people playing ball on the field, cops scooping dirt and firefighters toasting with beers — nobody wanted to say goodbye.
That day, like many others, I found myself wondering why Yankee Stadium couldn’t stand for another 20 years. But as in life, it becomes time to move on and experience something new. The future is right around the corner and it appears bright for the Yankees. Here’s to a happy, healthy 2009 for all of you — be safe and see you after midnight.