This past weekend my family took a trip to New York City.
Being the family that we are, it is seemingly impossible for us to go to go to any city within the vicinity of a baseball stadium and not somehow wind up catching a game.
It spontaneously happened last summer in the Big Apple, when we made our first visit to Citi Field, the home of the New York Mets.
This time around we went to the other major league stadium located in the city that never sleeps.
Sunday afternoon my family and I took the opportunity to go to Yankee Stadium for the 70th annual Old Timers’ Game and the ensuing Tigers/Yankees game that followed.
And although going to any stadium should be about the game more so than the stadium itself, when going to a stadium for the first time it’s hard not to pay a lot of attention to the field and the ballpark as a whole.
Yankee Stadium is the sixth major league stadium I’ve seen a game in in my lifetime. For closure, I visited Rogers Center in Toronto when I was one-year-old in 1997, and caught a game at RFK Stadium in 2005, but don’t remember anything about either stadium other than it being glaringly obvious that RFK was old when I visited, and that was eleven years ago.
Regardless, that leaves three other currently in use stadiums that I have been to, and the “new” Yankee Stadium can now be added to that list.
Of the four that I have been to, the home of the Bronx Bombers ranks last.
That’s not to say Yankee Stadium is ugly, or a place that I would never return to. In fact, it wouldn’t even make the list of the Top 5 stadiums I least desire to go to.
However, after looking around and walking through the inside of the home of the Yankees, the best way to describe Yankee Stadium is incredibly average.
First off, good stadiums allow the spectators inside to peer out to the surrounding city landscape – seeing the bridges behind PNC Park; seeing hotels and the warehouse in the outfield of Camden Yards; even some of my favorite minor league and college ballparks let you gaze past the outfield stands. You can’t see any part of the city beyond the walls of “The House that Jeter Built”.
The lore behind the previous Yankee Stadium was the mystique of all the great teams from the past. The spirits of Murderer’s Row, the great teams of the 40’s and 50’s, as well as the championship teams from the late 90’s and all the winning teams in between were there watching the games along side you.
Despite New York winning it all in the inaugural year of its new ballpark, I didn’t feel that mystique when I entered at Gate 8 along the right side of the field.
Much in large part because, unlike “The House that Ruth Built,” there hasn’t been a lot of meaningful baseball played at the new ballpark since it opened in 2009.
In 2010, the Yanks were outscored in New York 20-10 by the Texas Rangers in the ALCS, and the following year the Detroit Tigers eliminated Jeter and company in Game 5 in the Big Apple, the first time since 2007 that the Yankees had been eliminated from the postseason in front of its home crowd.
Detroit swept the Bombers the following year in the ALCS, and haven’t made it past the Wild Card round in the playoffs since.
Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and other notable Yankees have retired, but their magic still remains at what is now a trio of youth sandlot fields, where the Yankees used to play their games instead of across the street where they currently play.
The funny thing about going to Yankee Stadium was that I almost expected it be average.
Television gives fans a good sense about where stadium is going to look like when they visit these ballparks. Nothing stands out on TV, and nothing stood out in person.
Yankee Stadium is plain. It’s all concrete and no character.
Considering building the stadium was reportedly around a $1.6 billion project, the money could’ve been better spent.
A few things from the stadium that I did like was the incredibly large jumbo-tron in center field (although it does hinder the ability to peer outside the stadium), and the façade that hangs from the banks of lights above the upper deck. The façade was a great touch.
My favorite part, though, was the collection of large banners hanging from the wall inside just inside the gate behind home plate. The nine banners had a great look to them and just simply are give spectators something good to come into the ballpark to see.
Something was missing, though, something that would’ve made it special.
I’m all for new ballparks incorporating ideas from its tenant’s previous venue, but copying it to a T and making it look almost identical is going overboard, in my opinion.
Citi Field did a great job of that. You can tell when you’re there that it is a retro ballpark mixed with classic elements, such as Shea Bridge right-center field behind the bullpens and the round brick exterior mixed with jagged outfield walls and ability to see the field from anywhere in the ballpark.
The latter is extremely complicated at Yankee Stadium. Unless you are in your seat or at the top of your section, it is hard to see the action.
With our visit Sunday, my father has now been to both the past and present Yankee stadiums.
Although he said that the Yankees current home is better than their previous stadium, which stood from 1923 through the 2008 season, when asked if he would take either Camden Yards, PNC Park, and Citi Field (the other fields we’ve been to) over Yankee Stadium, he responded, “Oh yeah!”
Mom concurred, saying, “I thought their Spring Training field (in Tampa Bay, Florida) was better than their actual field.”
Am I glad I visited Yankee Stadium? Absolutely. If for nothing else other than it’s another stadium I can cross off the bucket list.
But, as we all talked about as we left the stadium, it would have to be an important and/or personally meaningful game in order for us to return.