Monday, July 6, 2009

Tour 2009: New Yankee Stadium

All photos of Yankee Stadium available on Flickr.

Sunday and Monday were spent baking under the sun at two matinee contests between the Blue Jays and Yankees at their new stadium. We left the hostel around 10 AM on Sunday after a somewhat restful evening. Our room is much less crowded and rowdy than the hostels we stayed in Toronto and San Francisco, but we still have the token snorers that keep Erik and I awake periodically. Overall, the place seems to have a lot going on and we look forward to meeting some foreigners and taking advantage of hostel tours like we have in the past.

It was a much shorter ride to the Bronx than to Brooklyn, only about 6 stops on the D-train, and we rose from the 161st St stop and were engulfed with fans, even at three hours before first pitch. The park is not very ornate or complicated, and is a very basic design meant to mimic the original pre-1970s renovation Yankee Stadium - except the $1.5 billion version of it. As one might expect for that much money, no stone is left unturned, yet at the same time nothing is overdone or tacky at all. The outside is all limestone, and "Yankee Stadium" is spelled in gold leaf. The Great Hall behind home plate is done beautifully, with tall banners of Yankees past and present, and is flanked by the main suites area, a Hard Rock Cafe, and the team store. Erik and I immediately headed for Monument Park after our arrival, since in 2007 and '08 we missed it at the old stadium. It is beyond the centerfield wall in the new stadium, and is much more spacious. All of the Yankees' retired numbers are featured with player plaques meandering around a flower garden, and Erik and I took many pictures here. From a design standpoint, my only complaint about this entire ballpark is that the tunnels behind Monument Park and on the 2nd deck are simply painted concrete block - it seems to me that for $1.5 billion that a little drywall might have gone a long way.

From Monument Park, we did a couple laps around the stadium, and took in some rare Sunday BP from the left field bleachers. We came close to catching a couple A-Rod bombs, and we watched AJ Burnett yuck it up with Doc Halladay and some of his other former Blue Jay teammates during Toronto BP. Afterwards, we ate at the food court for lunch. I had a pastrami sandwich from the deli, and Erik had a meatball parm sandwich from an Italian place. There is an insane amount of food selection at the park, probably my favorite part. You can get everything from simple garlic fries and nachos, to sushi, and steak sandwiches prepared by a butcher that day right at the park. Prices also seem to have come down a little from the old park, although it is still expensive compared to most parks. The cheapest price that came in handy on these two hot days were large souvenir sodas for only $6.

Many photos later, we walked up to the upper deck to our seats in the 2nd row of the upper deck, near the left field foul pole. The upper deck reminds me a lot of Great American Ballpark - very wide concourses with access to a slightly higher 400 level via individual staircases. From up there, you can really notice the Yankees' efforts to make the ballpark look like the old one. The dimensions are the same, the overall bowl design is the same, even the same W.B Mason and Nathan's signs were brought over from the old park. The main difference of course is the ridiculous jumbotron in centerfield, flanked by two smaller jumbotrons to either side that are pretty damn big themselves. From our seats we had a good view to the jumbotron (you could probably see it from Queens), as well as the championship banners in right, and the retired numbers in left. The game was a 4-hour marathon that the Yankees came back to win 10-8. It took over 2 hours to complete the first 4 innings, mainly because Joba Chamberlain struggled with his command and gave up 8 runs (3 earned). The Yankees came roaring back with homers by Matsui and Jeter in the 4th and 5th. All the right-field wind-tunnel stories you hear are true - the ball really does carry. Matsui's ball was hit a mile in the air, and Jeter's was an opposite field line drive that found the first row of seats. Jeter's homerun put the Yankees ahead for good, as the bullpen tossed 5 1/3 scoreless and got Alfredo Aceves his first big-league save. After the game, we walked around the team store and scouted some of the outside vendors in preparations for our purchases on Monday, and we ended our Sunday as we usually do, with dinner and a few beers at a local tap for some Sunday Night ball. Tonight's bar was the Pour House, near Columbia, and had a great beer selection.

Monday's game was also a day game in which the Yankees tried to go for the 4-game sweep. It pitted Andy Pettitte against Jays rookie Ricky Romero. We again got to the ballpark very early, but the teams did not take BP today, so we spent most of our time watching Roy Halladay trying to learn a screwball in the bullpen, and raiding the team store. Erik got an inaugural season t-shirt, patch, and bobblehead, and I got a shirt, ball, and some gifts for my mom and Lauren. Today's meal was outstanding - Erik got a steak sandwich, and I got a pulled pork sandwich, and both were decadent. After eating, we tried to get into the Yankees museum, but the line was too long, so we just waited for gametime. Romero gave up 3 over 6.1, and Pettitte gave up 5 over 6+, and Toronto won 7-6. Andy did not pitch all that poorly, but was just left in a couple hitters too long. The Yankees were down 7-1 in the 7th and came back on two 2-run hits by Matsui and Swisher, but it was not enough. Overall, I'd say we both like the park a lot, but the mystique of the old Yankee Stadium is definitely gone. I commend the designers - it's not at all kitschy like I thought it would be, but those goosebumps you get walking from the dark concourse onto the bright green field will just never be recreated. The Yankees do deserve this new park with all its modern amenities, and I think it was a noble effort on no easy task.

Tonight, Erik and I are taking it easy and probably will end up finding another watering hole to watch Monday Night ball at, and tomorrow we're off to Citi Field!

park stats and rankings:
aesthetics - 7
views from park - 2
view to field - 7 (obstructions in upper deck)
surrounding area - 4 (some bars, very lively on gameday, but the Bronx is pretty unsafe)
food variety - 9
nachos - 5 (more cheese and bigger chips needed, and there are only a couple stands)
beer - 6 (expensive, but bonus points for souvenir cups, decent variety)
vendor price - 3
ticket price - 4 (tickets easier to get than at old park)
atmosphere - 8
walk to park - 4
parking proximity - n/a (subway $2.25)
concourses - 9 (wide)
team shop - 10

best food - steak sandwich
most unique stadium feature - Monument Park
best jumbotron feature - Hideki Matsui homerun animation "Gone-zilla!"
best between-inning feature - B-D-4 subway race

field dimensions - 318/408/314
starters - Brett Cecil (TOR) v. Joba Chamberlain (NYY); Ricky Romero v. Andy Pettitte
opponent - Toronto Blue Jays
time of game - 3:44; 3;27
attendance - 46320; 46450
score - 10-8 W; 7-6 L
Brewers score that day - 8-2 L; off

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