Monday, July 13, 2009

Weekend at Yankee Stadium - July 3,4 & 6, 2009

After a hellish week in which the car broke down and two minor-league games were rained out, I arrived in New York City for a 10-day vacation. I parked the car at my Manhattan hotel and prayed that it would be operational when I checked out (it was). I met Sharpy who had flown down from Ottawa and it was time to see the city and the new stadiums. The Jays were in town for the Independence Day weekend, so the first stop was the new Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.

Yankee Stadium

Located next door to the House That Ruth Built (now known as Heritage Field to prevent confusion with the new ballpark), Yankee Stadium cost $1.5 billion to build and it shows. This stadium is huge and no expense has been spared. But unfortunately, much of it is not accessible to the average fan. From the ridiculous ticket prices to several exclusive club sections, the Yankees have really made it a monument to class distinction. It's not all bad, but after 3 games there, I really didn't feel like I wanted to return.

History Everywhere

The Yankees organization is known for two things: history and money. Both of these are highly visible in the stadium. First, the history aspect. Monument Park is now located in center field, and you have to walk down a small hallway to access it. Get there early, it does get crowded and is a fairly small area. All the plaques and retired numbers that were in old Monument Park are here, and there's a small path that leads you around the area. It takes time to read the details on each player - interesting that they thought that Lou Gehrig's consecutive games record would "stand for all time". It's all very nice and a visit there makes you realize just how many legends the Yankees have had play for them.

Next up is the Yankees Museum, located on the Main Level, at the top of a ramp near Gate 6. Follow the signs, and you will likely notice a long line snaking down the ramp, these are people waiting to get in the museum. It's free, and worth a look as it contains memorabilia from all 26 championship teams, Thurmon Munson's actual locker, a model of the new ballpark and several hundred autographed baseballs that join statues of a pitcher (shown below) and catcher. The top of the baseball display case tracks the pitch, which is rather cool. (Ed: Turns out the pitch is the last pitch thrown in Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series; Yogi Berra is the catcher - thanks to John in Houston for the note.) Try to get there early too - obviously both can't be done at the same time, but with gates opening 3 hours before game time, you should be able to get both done with a minimum of waiting.

You might think that that would be enough history, but you would be wrong. There is also the Babe Ruth Plaza outside the stadium, which contains the Babe's life story on light posts around the plaza and is worth a quick look before or after the game. There's also lots of historic photos around the stadium (humbly known as the Glory of the Yankees Photo Collection). And before the game, there's a nice little documentary played on the big screen detailing the exploits of a historic Yankee, such as Lou Gehrig or Yogi Berra. The Yankees have a storied history, and they don't let you forget it in this new ballpark.

The Great Hall, just inside Gate 6, a nice open air addition to the stadium.


The next thing you notice is how much Yankee Stadium costs. Game day price for field level seats between the bases is $400. That's Four Hundred Dollars! Insane! Are people walking up to the ticket windows with the intention of spending $400 on a 9-inning game with Andy Pettitte starting? As you move around the stadium, prices decrease, to $95 for field level seats in the outfield. Given that the Bleacher seats are only $14 and just behind, these $95 seats are the worst value in all of sports. I don't want to run down the entire price structure, but you can get decent upper deck seats for $30 (the view from there is shown), but otherwise there aren't any other seats I would choose. I did stand for one game, and that might be the best option - close to the action and the people in front of you paid $400. Unfortunately, Yankee games often run over 3 hours, so you will need to be strong to stand for that length of time, but then again you can always return to your seat.

Food prices are stupid as well. Beers were $9, and I don't recall the prices of much else, as I was in a state of disbelief. The only thing I ate there was a box of noodles, which were OK, but overpriced at $8.50. You can try the Hard Rock Cafe or NYY Steak restaurants if you wish to have a sit down meal, but as usual, it's crowded, so get there early. One interesting note is that New York requires all food items to have their calories listed - let me tell you when you see how many calories one hot dog has, it's not a problem to avoid it, or the other stuff they serve. Still there is good variety, so if you can stomach the prices, try something different.

Finally, there are clubs and suites on all levels. Prices are not disclosed, but it doesn't matter much - I'll never be sitting there. There is the Mohegan Sun Sports Bar out in centerfield where you can get a game ticket at a discount for some games, and it also offers membership options.

Overall Thoughts

The stadium is beautiful and spacious, and easy to get around. It's nice that they used the same layout as in the old stadium, and the seats are Yankee Blue. Game staff are far too friendly though - I'm used to ushers snarling, not smiling and holding "How May I Help You" signs. There are far too many homers to right field, which needs to be fixed somehow.

The scoreboard is the most impressive I have seen so far. It was HD quality, I only wish they could show highlights for both teams. The out-of-town scoreboard rotates on part of the scoreboard, so you have to pay attention if you are following other games.

Despite all the positives, the overwhelming impression I left with is that I am too poor to really enjoy this place. There's a new class of fan and it ain't me. I don't think the Yankees missed any revenue streams in this new stadium, but I wonder how long they can bleed New Yorkers with the team they are sending out there.

Three games here was enough, I doubt I'll be back in the near future, unless I win the lottery.

The Games

Adam Lind swings

It was a long weekend and the Jays had a 4-game set against the Yankees, all of them 1:05 starts. I decided to skip one game as there are other things to do in New York, and looking at the pitching matchups, thought the Sunday game would be the one to miss, with Scott Richmond taking on Joba Chamberlain.

Friday saw ex-Jay A.J. Burnett taking on Brian Tallett. Both starters pitched well, but Burnett was slightly better, and the Yankees won 4-2 behind homers from Robinson Cano and Alex Rodriguez. Our seats were in the wheelchair section in left field(they sell unsold companion seats on the day of the game) which were too far away to really feel part of the game. But it was great that people standing up to get food didn't really bother us that much as we were on a raised platform above the seats. Below is a picture of Johnny Damon with the red cap used for the Independence Day weekend series.

Saturday's game was a marquee matchup with Roy Halladay facing Chien-Ming Wang. Unfortunately Halladay was not on form, giving up solo homers to Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada to fall behind 3-2 after 4 innings. But Wang hurt himself and was removed (and placed on the DL) after a homer by Adam Lind. David Robertson gave up another run and the Jays had a 5-3 lead, but Johnny Damon hit a 2-run shot to right (easy fly ball elsewhere) off Halladay to tie the game. The Yankees bullpen then shut down the Jays until Posada hit a game-winning single in the 12th inning off Shawn Camp. The game was 4:04 and naturally, this was the game I decided to stand. Needless to say, my knees didn't enjoy this experience much.

Doc Halladay throws

After the Jays lost on Sunday while I enjoyed a day in the city, Monday's game featured rookie sensation Ricky Romero against veteran Andy Pettitte as the Jays tried to avoid the sweep. Joe Giradi was ejected in the first inning arguing a call (Jeter was called out stealing third), and the Yankees seemed a bit out of sorts after that. Romero was good as well, and Pettitte was not as the Jays built a 7-1 lead after 6 innings. Naturally the Jays bullpen couldn't make things easy, and the Yanks crawled within a run. Eric Hinske, making his Yankee debut, was up with 2 outs in the 9th and the tying run on first, but struck out against Jason Frasor to end the game. I breathed a sigh of relief as the Jays had salvaged a game and my trip.

Vernon Wells fouls one off

Next up was a trip to Citi Field to see the Mets in their new digs. I'll update you on that shortly.



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