It’s early February, the Super Bowl just ended and we’re riding out the seemingly endless winter months.
Even though at 52 degrees — it feels like springtime.
Still, with Opening Day just two full months away, the reality is that we all must play the waiting game for our pastime. Spring Training will soon fill the void and the Grapefruits and Cacti of Florida and Arizona will be ripe. But I like to prepare for baseball with some reflecting.
My favorite lyric of West Virginia’s unofficial state anthem, “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” is “all my memories gather ’round her.” I have many memories with baseball. So many summer nights spent watching the game I love. Here’s a tale of last summer’s adventure with my family to New York City where we crossed yet another stadium off our list. Yankee Stadium would be our 27th of out 30 big league ballparks, but our day in mid-July started in Hoboken, New Jersey. The world-famous Carlo’s Bakery was our breakfast stop. Made popular by the TLC show “Cake Boss” Carlo’s is a bustling bake shop in the heart of Hoboken. The line to get in wrapped around the corner of the shop and you needed a number just to get in. Us, along with hundreds of other fans, waited just for the chance to sample some desserts and rub it in our friend’s faces that we actually experienced it. After over an hour wait, we finally made it in. Part of the feeling of the bake shop was the crazy fans just there to catch a glimpse of it all — much like the Peaslee family. It was jam-packed in the tiny bakery. There was no sign of the infamous, Buddy, but there was plenty of merchandise with his face on it. We left with a nice haul of delicious cupcakes, cookies, pastries and a coffee mug. All for less than 30 bucks, not bad for a breakfast in one of the most famous reality TV show sets in one of America’s most bumping metropolitan areas. As we ate on the drive over, our next stop was Yankee Stadium. It’s more than a stadium, though. While new Yankee Stadium doesn’t, I’m sure, have the charm of the old — it’s a baseball mecca. There was an aura about it that I’ve never felt before entering a ballpark. I had the feeling that I was going to something special, that it was a limited invitation that only a select few receive. Maybe I just take for granted that I get to go see Pirates games whenever I want, but the Yankees aren’t the Pirates. Love them or hate them, there is no in between. And there really is something romantic about the Yankees. They’re the most successful sports franchise ever and, believe it or not, they’re fans have earned a sense of entitlement. Yes it might be easy to be a Yankee fan, but there’s a lot of history, tradition and a legendary aspect you have to uphold. It’s a title that bears great responsibility. The sights and sounds were enough to give you chills. Although if you actually got chills, there’s something wrong with your health. Temperatures reached the high 90 and I’m pretty sure they even cracked 100. Wrapping soaked paper towels around our neck came in handy and so did the many water stations like this one. Free, unlimited water was available throughout the whole game. It was the first time I’ve ever seen such a table at a game. Definitely thoughtful and, honestly, the staff was courteous and helpful around the large spacious concourses.
The Yanks hosted the Oakland A’s on that hot Saturday afternoon. Zach, my brother, was all set in his Athletics attire. It was also kid’s truck day. I thought it was a great promotion and judging by his reaction here, Zach didn’t.
Our seats were in the last row, nearly behind home plate. Leaning up agains the final chain fenced was comfortable and a timely breeze cooled us off every once in a while. The best part of our seats was the perfect head-on view of the jumbo, and I mean JUMBO, jumbo-tron.
He was only upstaged by Jorge Posada.
Recently retired here in the offseason, Posada played sparingly during the season and every time he was seen was special for the fans who cheered him throughout 17 years. He pinch hit for Gerald Laird in the eighth inning and got a base hit.
Some other special moments happened during inning breaks, too.
I was looking forward to this tradition from the start. During a sixth inning break, YMCA plays and the grounds crew dragging the infield dirt go insane. You won’t find personalities like this anywhere else in the MLB. It was pretty cool to see them, and the fans, get excited.
Sundays are always reserved for the playing of God Bless America during the seventh inning stretch. Not in New York. Every game is an opportunity to honor the country and, even on a Saturday, they still played it before Take Me Out to the Ballgame. It was the most moving part of the game, because I’m sure a lot of the people in attendance were in some way affected by 9-11. The only thing that would’ve made it better would be if Ronan Tynan was there to belt it out.
Just the week before our trip, Derek Jeter blasted a home run for his 3000th career hit. Jeter-fever was still in the air.
Like I said before, everything about this ballpark is amazing. It’s a pristine stadium big enough to house the masses of fans, but small enough to still let you know that the game on the field is the most important thing going on. I rank Yankee Stadium in the top five of my favorite ballparks, probably behind San Francisco’s AT&T Park and, of course, Pittsburgh’s PNC Park.
We still had plenty of Saturday evening ahead of us and some of Sunday morning to check out the rest of what NYC had to offer. For my family, it was their first time in the city. Me, well I spent an evening there back in 2007, my freshman year of college. Along with some other friends, I took a bus trip to Piscataway, NJ for a WVU football game against Rutgers. That night, we had a few hours to roam about the city. This weekend was a nice refresher on the city that never sleeps.
A New York City Subway ride jumpstarted the rest of the night. An experience in itself, we were small fish in a big pond. It’s crazy to figure it all out. Yet it was still a beginning gateway to the Big Apple.
While a mass —in Spanish — was going on, the back of St. Patrick’s Cathedral was a bustling tourist destination. It was a beautiful worship place and the fanciest church I’ve ever been in. In shorts and t-shirts, we were surely underdressed for mass and late, no less. Nonetheless, ushers encouraged any Catholic tourists to go receive Holy Communion. So, we did.
With our vagabond shoes still longing to stray, our final stop of the evening was at the MLB Fan Cave. I tweeted (follow me @pittpeaswv!) mercilessly to its account to see if somebody would let us come take a tour to no avail. From the outside looking it, it looked like a cool place that any baseball fan would love to spend a season in..
Until then, I’ll enjoy my travels and I’m already planning 2012 trips.
Only Seattle’s Safeco Field, Toronto’s Rogers Centre and the other New York team, the Mets’ Citi Field are left.