Sunday, May 24, 2009

Take Me Out To The Ball Game

I’ve always enjoyed baseball and it remains one of my favorite sports to watch in spite of the fact that it can be a bit slow moving at times. I recently attended the opening game of the season for the Chicago Cubs minor league team in Daytona Beach while Ro and I were visiting my cousin Warren and wife Joan in Port Orange. And while Ro and Joan agreed to go with us to the game, it was clear that they’d rather be somewhere else.

When one of the teams got a few hits in a row, Joan called out, “DELAY OF GAME!”

I said, “What do you mean, ‘delay of game’?”

She replied, “It’s supposed to be three up and three down. That’s my idea of a good game...
fast moving.”

Well, soccer and basketball move at a much faster pace but I find there’s just a lot of repetitious running back and forth in each of those sports. I also think there’s too much scoring in basketball and not enough scoring in soccer. If you eliminated the goalie in soccer and created one in basketball, you have two better games as far as I'm concerned.

Hockey is certainly a fast game with a reasonable amount of scoring. But, similar to soccer and basketball, each game kind of follows the same pattern of repetition. I think football and baseball are more unpredictable; I mean, you never know what’s going to happen next and there’s a bit more strategy involved as well.

Anyway, I like the game–the tradition–of baseball more than the business of baseball... which seems to be what all sports have become these days. Long ago, you rooted for a team and certain players that usually stayed with a team for a long time. These days, players change teams like underwear and vice-versa. And, considering the prices stadiums charge for seats nowadays, I’ve pretty much given up the desire to attend a game in person any more... except a minor-league game, anyway.

But my old friend, Joe, called recently to ask if I wanted to go to a Yankees game at their new stadium. It seems Joe’s wife, Esther, had to attend a funeral for one of her aunts who just passed away and couldn’t use her ticket.

I thought, “Sure, I’d love to go,” but I declined at first.

You see, Ro and I were scheduled to visit our daughter in Connecticut and take care of the grandkids who had a few days off from school. But, since the game was on a Sunday and we didn’t actually need to watch the kids until Monday morning, we decided that Ro would drive up early Sunday morning and spend the day with Joanne’s family; then after the game, I’d take Metro North to New Haven where Ro or Joanne could pick me up.

So, Joe and I caught the Long Island Rail Road train out of Hicksville to Penn Station in Manhattan. From there, Joe suggested we walk over to Sixth Avenue to catch the subway up to Yankee Stadium as it’s easier to get a seat on that line. We arrived at the stadium in plenty of time to walk around and check out the exterior before going inside. I also took the time to buy a Philly Cheese-Steak sandwich from one of the food vendors across the street from the stadium to save some money; you know what they charge for food in any sports stadium!

View of the new Yankee Stadium as seen from across the street
on what began as an overcast day.
(Click on any photo to enlarge it.)

Entering through Gate 6 enables you to see
the large tribute posters to Yankee players.

Once inside, we walked around and checked out the various views from different parts of the new ball park. One of the biggest differences between the old and new stadiums is that the new one is not as high as the old one. But I think, in an effort to keep people lower, and possibly closer to the field, they sacrificed sightlines.

There are a lot more seats in the outfield fair territory than there used to be. But, unless you’re in the first few rows, you see less of the field as your seats go further back. Joe and some co-workers chipped in and bought 20 games for the two seats we occupied in the second level, about twenty feet on the fair side of the right field foul post. While we had a pretty good view overall, we could not see the wall nor the warning track in right or center field. When a home run was hit into the stands in the level in front of us, we couldn’t see the play live and had to turn around sharply over our right shoulders to see the replay on the big screen high over center field.

From our $50 seats, the outfield wall in front of us
and the warning track were not viewable

Infield shot using about a 250 mm setting
on my zoom lens from our seats.

There is also a new restaurant forming a large part of the stadium in center field that juts out toward the field in such a way that anyone sitting close to the wall of this monstrosity has absolutely no view of the opposite field. If you’re on the right field side of this structure, you can’t see left field and–if you’re sitting far enough back in this section and close to the wall–you may not even see third base. The opposite holds true if you’re sitting on the other side of this thing.

In addition, the area on top of this structure has tables set up for people to bring their overpriced food to–and eat while standing and looking toward the field. Of course, a lot of people stand by the edge closest to the field so you’re not going to see much from the location of the tables anyway. The other problem is that surrounding this area is a waist-high wall with a flat top surface just begging you to put your food and drink on it since there aren’t many tables to begin with. And, since it’s very easy for your food and drink to get knocked off this surface, the folks in the seats below will receive more than their fair share of french fries and beer falling on them. I can’t believe someone actually got paid to design this thing; can you say, “
stupid engineering?

Seriously obstructed views from this area next to the new restaurant
jutting out into center field. Note the people at the top of the wall
where food and drink can easilly be spilled onto folks below.

Another thing that Joe and I noticed immediately was the lack of signage. We learned where our seats were from a stadium usher and, from where we were standing at the time, I could have thrown a baseball and hit them with it. But, because the signs on the stair landings are so small–and the text on them even smaller and a bit cryptic–it took us fifteen minutes of walking to the wrong levels to try and access them. We were told by one worker that one set of stairs we were using didn’t even go to the level we wanted...
very confusing!

At one point, I needed to use the men’s room. I found it easy enough and went inside. Before leaving, I pressed up on the soap dispenser with the palm of my hand and then pulled it away to wash. There was no soap on my hand. It seems there’s a delayed action on the soap dispenser so, after pressing up with your hand, you have to wait a couple of seconds before the soap comes out. I noticed a puddle of soap on the floor under each soap dispenser so it wasn’t just me. Then, after washing my hands and drying them with a paper towel, I looked for a place to toss the crumpled towel to no avail. There were no trash pails in sight. So, I took the towel and planned on throwing it away outside the men’s room except... there was no handle on the inside of the door I entered through.

“Okay,” I thought, “there’s a separate exit door.”

But I couldn’t see another door. Obviously, there must be one.

Sure enough, on the far side of the room, there was an attendant sitting on a chair by a wall and, the way the wall was designed, you couldn’t tell there was an exit door hidden behind it. Of course, there were no “exit” signs anywhere.

Now, I don’t mean to look a gift horse in the mouth and I’m very happy Joe invited me to the game. It enabled me to see a good game and experience what has become the talk of New York lately. Naturally, Joe didn’t design the park so I’m certainly not blaming him for its shortcomings. But, for over a BILLION AND A HALF DOLLARS, I think the new Yankee Stadium could have been a lot better than what I’ve seen.
It turned out to be a pretty good game with the lead going back and forth a couple of times but the Yankees finally won it. I wouldn't have been too upset if they had lost since I was always a Dodgers fan until they left Brooklyn and half-heartedly rooted for the Mets ever since.

28 mm wide angle shot of the entire field
from the vendors area on the second level behind the first base line.

I left at the end of the eighth inning so I might get a seat on the subway going back to Grand Central Station before boarding the Metro North train. An hour and fifty minutes later, I was in New Haven. Ro, Joanne, Mark and the grandkids all met me and... we went to Modern Apizza for dinner.