First impressions of Yankee Stadium
OK, the truth? I wanted to like this place anyway, since I’ll be spending a ton of my time here for the foreseeable future. And I’m pleased to report that I did not find any glaring thing that I did not like about the new Yankee Stadium this afternoon. I’m sure things will crop up over the next two days, and maybe people have sharper eyes than I do. But before I go nuts with an overwhelmingly glowing review, let me try to reconstruct my day as I go through my notebook …
The parking was a little bit of a hassle, yes. Coming in from New Jersey, I made the familiar left off the Major Deegan Expressway and tried to turn right on 161st Street, just as I’ve done every day covering the Yankees. Bad mistake, because the NYPD no longer allows left turns onto River Avenue. Long story short, I had to go a considerable way to get back on track and find the corner of 164th and River. It’s no secret that I’m not exactly Magellan anyway. When my TomTom was stolen out of my car in Tampa (don’t ask), it was a crushing blow to my Grapefruit League experience.
Anyway, I walked around centerfield outside the park all the way to home plate, Gate 4. Ace Frehley was jamming at the Hard Rock Cafe, belting out ‘Back in the New York Groove.’ I never actually saw Bernie Williams but MLB.com reported he was there, so I believe it. Everyone seemed in the same dreamy state I was, which was basically going back and forth between, ‘Wow, this is huge,’ and, ‘Where the heck am I?’
So I got upstairs and somehow found my way to the press box. I know this is not the place to brag, but the view is incredible – I can actually see fly balls to right field, something I couldn’t see at the old Stadium. There are cubby holes so people don’t kick over my bag six times a game, seats that don’t hurt my back and Dunkin’ Donuts coffee available for sale. Yes, yes, yes. But this caffeine junkie needs a late fix after the game to crank out the last 1,500 words of the night, so I hope a fresh pot will be on. And the wind gets cold late, just like the old press box. Huge plus – the official scorer now has a TiVo to make his own replays.
The clubhouses are amazing, and the players were fascinated by the touch-screen computers at each locker, trying to figure out what they do. Right now, not much, but they promise to tell players when to report to the stadium, what time batting practice is, and help them set up their complimentary ticket orders. They can also get internal e-mails from team personnel.
From: Cashman, Brian Subject: Trade, see me ASAP
Yeah, something like that. The interior decor looks like something out of a Las Vegas casino, with neon blue backlighting the replica frieze. Brian Bruney suggested that they should be pumping oxygen in, and noticed that there are no clocks in the clubhouse either. You want to know what time it is? Look at your laptop.
Oh, and they’ll have to do something to shut down Internet access. Bruney loaded up yankees.com at my behest and it worked, but Nick Swisher was busier finding desktop wallpaper of good-looking women. Phil Coke had Dustin Diamond of ‘Saved by the Bell’ fame plastered on his digital wall, and he insisted Dan Giese did it. Fine. I’ll take Megan Fox over Screech.
The view from the field is magnificent. You do feel a lot like you’re in the old ballpark, as long as you don’t look up. Then it’s like being in Yankee Stadium, circa 1956, if Walt Disney’s cronies had their way with it. The center-field scoreboard at one point showed a Ballantine beer ad and it made me wish the Yankees really had recreated this. I mean, why not?
But I’m not complaining. Between the foul pole and the plate, the stands remind me of U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago – a park that isn’t at my top of my list. But the frieze down the lines make it beautiful, and I can’t help but picture someone like Mickey Mantle switch-hitting ‘em into the seats.
Jorge Posada brought up an interesting point, saying that the blacked-out glass in centerfield makes for a decent backdrop for hitters. But for catchers, the ball comes out of the pitcher’s hand against the gigantic video screen. The images won’t be moving, so it’s not a huge concern, but Yankee Stadium had a terrific backdrop and that might not be the case anymore. Yes, the plate is 20 feet closer to the backstop, but I seem to think the extra foul ground behind first and third bases will make up for that. Some of the pitchers loved the sensation of feeling right on top of the plate, though it really is 60 feet and six inches, thank you.
I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts tomorrow. But so far, a very solid ‘A’ grade from me.