Many fans visit Yankee stadium, including ones that are not New York Yankees fans. For today, we’ll go inside an account of one visiting fan making his first visit to the Bronx.
Childhood of Dreams
One of the perks of growing up with teachers for parents was the freedom which allowed us to take long road trips each summer. My childhood summers were defined by trips to national parks, historical landmarks, and….baseball stadiums.
I grew up about 100 miles south of the old Atlanta Fulton County Stadium in Columbus, GA. We had one television. With a fanatical Braves fan as a father, that meant we spent nearly every night of every summer watching the Braves.
My earliest recollection of attending a game in Atlanta was probably in 1989 (age 4). The original Homer the Brave was still the mascot, and I distinctly remember being at that game with my Dad, Uncle, my cousin Justin, and a sackful of action figure toys.
First Baseball Road Trip
There were many nights spent at that stadium after that, but my first experience traveling outside the state of Georgia to see a baseball game was in 1993. We took our first real family road trip that summer to blistering Houston, Texas, where we attended a series between the Braves and Astros at the old Astrodome. My only real memories of that trip were: how incredibly dark it was inside that domed stadium, and how unbearably hot it was at the Astroworld amusement park.
While my memories of that first trip are nothing more than vague recollections, it was the start of something special. My sister and I grew up traveling all over the country with Mom and Dad each and every summer after that initial trip in ’93.
By the time Dad passed away in 2014, we had visited a total of 23 MLB ballparks together as a family. Some, more than once. It’s amusing to sit here and think about the memories I have of each stadium. Some involved the action on the field, while others were completely irrelevant to the game itself.
Double Header in Philly
Our game in Philadelphia was announced as a rainout as we stood outside the gates waiting to be let in. After Mom yelled out in exasperation, all I remember is getting treated to a movie that night. We were lucky enough to do the Macarena several times the next day during a traditional doubleheader between the Braves and Phillies at old Veterans Stadium. True doubleheaders are rare these days, as organizations try to maximize their profits with the now-common day/night version of a twin billing.
Friendly Confines at Wrigley Field
We got to attend another Braves doubleheader at Wrigley Field in 1997. Again, I don’t remember much about the games, but I do remember that unbelievable stench that greeted us at our seats when we sat down during batting practice. It was pretty clear that the lady next to us had urinated on herself. So, with the help of the wonderful staff at the “Friendly Confines”, we begrudgingly enjoyed the doubleheader from the upper deck of Wrigley rather than the field level seats we had actually paid for.
First Visit to Fenway
I still remember stepping foot into Fenway Park for the first time (I’ve been there two more times since). Quite easily my favorite of all of the stadiums that I’ve visited, the history and unique design are things that every baseball fan should have the ability to experience before they leave this earth. It didn’t hurt matters that Mark McGwire hit three home runs over the Green Monster the day that I was there.
The only true regret that I had as a non-paying kid along for the ride each of those incredible summers was that we never got to experience the old (refurbished) Yankee Stadium. For whatever reason, it never made its way onto the summer itinerary. It seems a little silly to lament missing one stadium after having the unique opportunity to visit so many others, but there are certain places that have that aura and magnetism that draw you to it.
With a family of my own now and a son that will soon turn 3 years old, I’ve been looking forward to the opportunity of being able to create new baseball-filled memories. When I saw that the Braves were scheduled to play at the new Yankee Stadium this summer and that it happened to fall on a week when we were looking to take some time off, I figured…why wait?
My son, Evan, was quite the sport as we drove from Atlanta to New York City with a stop in Philly along the way. We couldn’t have picked a worse week to travel north, as the temperatures reached 100 degrees every day during our week-long excursion.
He happily rode the number 4 train from our hotel in Battery Park to the stop just outside of Yankee Stadium on 161st Street in the Bronx. It was awesome to see him take it all in, and I’m sure my wife could say the same about me.
The atmosphere hits you right in the face the moment you step foot off of that train, and the energy can only be replicated at a few venues in Major League Baseball.
With our kid in tow, we were mostly ignored. There were a handful of catcalls and insults thrown our way. Most memorable was the New Yorker who advised us that we had “traveled a long way to lose.” As we headed back to the hotel that night, I silently wondered whether that gentleman stuck around to see Ronald Acuña hit the game-winning home run in the 12th inning or not. It would have been a shame for him to miss such a moment.
While it was easy for me to be caught up in the moment of finally being at Yankee Stadium (regardless of the iteration), I can honestly say that that game was the best of the entire season to date. From the raucous crowd to the early home runs by both teams, to the clutch pitching that steered the game into extra innings, this game had it all.
I quickly learned, however, that traveling with a toddler in tow required a few modifications to my own mental programming.
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Over the years, I’ve learned the hard way that leaving a game early, for whatever reason, will come back to bite you in the rear end. It nearly happened to me in 2004 when Dad and I almost left the Georgia Tech/Clemson football game before the miraculous comeback and game-winning touchdown catch by Calvin Johnson. Luckily, we snuck back into the stadium to see the final series of plays. If I can help it, I simply don’t leave games early.
Well, we left this game early. We stuck around to see the Braves shut down the Yankees in the bottom of the 9th, and had no choice but to leave. Evan hung in there for 9 grueling, excruciatingly hot innings, but extras just weren’t in the cards for us.
After standing on a packed, non-moving subway train for 20 minutes, we managed to make our way back to the hotel, hearing along the way that the Braves won the game in 12. What a pleasant and peaceful ride that turned out to be.
I know Evan won’t remember this game like I vaguely recalled my trip to Houston in 1993, but this was a trip that I’ll never forget. We didn’t get to explore Yankee Stadium as much as I would have liked, but we had a tremendous time nonetheless.
There’s nothing quite like baseball, and I couldn’t ask for a better crew to share these moments with. The memories that I made with Dad, Momma, and Sis can never be forgotten or replaced, but I look forward to adding on to those moments with my family for years, and seasons, to come.