Friday, April 3, 2009

A Day of Firsts: A Look into Attending the Yankees True “Opening Day”

The early morning fog and clouds cleared to reveal nothing but blue sky and sunshine.

The baseball gods would not allow anything to ruin the unveiling of the most remarkable structure its sport has to offer.

Crossing over the Macombs Dam Bridge as I have done hundreds of times before, my eyes grabbed hold of the place I once called my second home.

I could not help reflecting on all of the timeless moments that I had witnessed within the stadium’s high walls, and was forced to realize that there would be no further stories to tell.

Having to almost wrestle with the steering wheel in order to leave “The House that Ruth Built” in the rearview mirror, I quickly approached the new stadium.

At first it appeared much like a stepfather, forced into your life as a replacement for what you once loved.

Your mother would comfort you by saying, “Everything will be ok. It will just take time to adjust.”

You didn’t want to learn to like this new part of your life. You wanted back what you always had.

After parking the car in a newly built garage next to the stadium, I looked for a way to get back to ground level.

An elevator stood just twenty feet from my parking spot. Wow, the Steinbrenners had really ensured comfort to the finest of details.

Upon approaching the stadium’s Gates, I realized that I was standing within Babe Ruth Plaza.

What better way to attempt to appease the ghosts of Yankee past than to pay tribute to the man that began the franchise’s legacy?

Still somewhat uneasy about taking my first steps inside, I felt as though I was cheating on a long-term girlfriend.

As soon as I entered the stadium, however, I was welcomed by “The Great Hall.”

A miraculous passageway lined with huge banners of Yankee greats, it made me forget my trepidation and begin to drop my jaw closer and closer to the floor.

Everything around us was an impressive sight, from the record-breaking center field video board to the pinstriped hot dog boxes.

Even the team’s memorabilia stores are lines with countless HD televisions so that no game action is missed while you max out your credit card.

After working my way around the stadium, I began to catch my first glimpses of the players and field surface.

Equally as magnificent as its amenities and awe-inspiring façade, the field is as well-groomed as the front lawn of the White House.

The backdrop of the stadium is far superior to its older version, with the exception of no longer displaying the beloved black seats in center field.

As the stretching was completed and the workout began, I was able to witness a bevy of stadium “firsts.”

Ranging from C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett’s first stadium tosses to Mariano Rivera’s first bullpen appearance, everything I saw was being done for the first time.

Most notably, Rivera chose to jog out of the bullpen after his tour was completed.

Metallica’s Enter Sandman began to play louder and louder in my head. I could imagine the stadium beginning to shake as he makes his first real appearance on the mound.

Batting practice commenced shortly thereafter.

Derek Jeter continued the trend of firsts, as he fittingly took the stadium’s first swings. As if the Yankees would have had it any other way.

Johnny Damon then christened the new right field porch, making sure fans did not have to wait long to witness the cathedral’s first home run.

Just when I thought that this day could not possibly get any better, Robinson Cano casually fielded a deep drive into center field.

He turned and smiled into the bleachers, and tossed a ball high into the air. As soon as it was released, I knew that my 20 years of playing baseball was about to come in handy.

I jumped into the air with the aid of an obnoxiously long wingspan, and came down with a baseball in my hands. I did receive a right cross to the temple which knocked my hat to the ground, but it was well worth it.

Thrown balls into the stands quickly led to another Yankee Stadium first. This is of course referring to the breakout of the first fight.

A wrestling match over another Cano souvenir resulted in violent pushing, countless threats, and the utilization of five security guards to escort the men from the building.

That certainly did not take long…and between two Yankees fans no less?

Every day has its end, regardless of your wishes for its continuance. As it was time to leave, I was again forced to pass by the eerie view of the original stadium.

Its grass appearing as grotesque in color as Nick Swisher’s spit tobacco residue, Yankee Stadium looked nothing like I had always hoped to remember it.

Though somewhat against my will, I decided one last photo was needed to complete the stadium’s timeline.

As I lifted the camera to my eye, however, the screen turned black. At that exact moment, the camera had run out of power.

The timing was almost impeccable, as the spirits of “The House that Ruth Built” sent a clear message to one of its most passionate fans.

They wanted me to remember the greatness of their home the way I always had. They wanted the final photographs in my Yankees album to consist of the farewell ceremonies of September 21.

It is ok to feel saddened at the removal of the Bronx’s most famous sanctuary, but it is also ok to appreciate what lies in front of us.

Ruth, Mantle, DiMaggio, and Gehrig sent their message loud and clear. It is time for us all to attempt to follow their advice.

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