Ever spend ten hours at a ballpark? No, not to sell peanuts or sweep up the mens room or drink yourself silly enough that you pass out in the stairwell. I mean, have you ever showed up at the final game of a historic stadium six and a half hours before the game starts on the promise of walking the field? No? Well let me tell you just how exciting it can be!
My girl and I got to Yankee Stadium yesterday at approximately 1:45PM EDT so we could hop on line to see Monument Park one last time. The Yankee organization was kind enough to offer the fans the opportunity to walk around the warning track and the dirt behind home plate after leaving the monuments, so we were eager to check that out. The Stadium opened at 1 but when we got there, they closed the gates so they could process the fans who had already entered.
By the time we finally made it inside at 3PM, the line stretched from the entrance to the monuments behind the left field stands on the lower level all the way up the ramps past the main and loge levels to the upper deck. The line then circled the entire ballpark to right field where it went back down the ramps to the loge level, back towards home plate, down the ramps to the main level, and back towards right field once again. To sum up: that was the Bronx equivalent of a Soviet bread line. (TIMELY!) So instead of waiting on line, we grabbed some cheesesteaks and plopped down in our seats to watch batting practice. Joba was throwing baseballs into the seats! Swoon!
I don't blame the Yankee organization for miserably falling on their faces in planning this pre-game delight. After all, you can hardly imagine figuring out how to move 50,000 fans through a garden about the size of a typical Staten Island backyard. A family we sat next to arrived at 12:30PM and didn't make it out of Monument Park until 5PM, missing their opportunity to walk the field as well.
The rest of the day was quite impressive. Former stars were trotted out. Willie Randolph slid into second when introduced and seemed to pull a hamstring. Mickey Mantle's son David and Billy Martin's son Billy Jr. were there and looked so much like their fathers, the bat boys started wheeling out a bar cart. Famed Stadium announcer and nonagenarian Bob Sheppard couldn't make it but still announced the starting lineup via tape and bid farewell to his 'office' of 50+ years with a Jack Buck-esque poem after the eighth inning. My girl's favorite player Jose Molina hit the final tater tot in the Stadium's history. Players and grounds crew picked up enough dirt from the infield and pitchers mound to build a million Chinese pyramids.
And after Derek Jeter did a perfectly Jeterian sendoff to the fans (audio here) once the game was doneskis, the players and coaches did a lap around the field. From our seats in the loge in right field, we could absolutely see Alex Rodriguez and Jose Molina make eye contact with us while waving. I've never felt so connected with millionaires before in my life.
And yes, we got free car magnets.