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Nine Things About the Yankees 2018 Home Opener

I couldn’t think of one single thematic thread to tie up the story of the 2018 home opener, so I’m going to fall back on that baseball blog trope of a nine-element list.

Nine Things About the 2018 Home Opener:

1. SNOW & RAIN

This isn’t the first time we’ve had snow for the home opener at Yankee Stadium, and it isn’t the first time it’s been postponed to a second day. I was there for the Hideki Matsui grand slam in the snow–that was on a postponed day, if I recall correctly. I wasn’t there for the postponed home opener in 2005 because I thought I should go home to get more work done, and I ended up crying the whole four-hour drive home. So I vowed not to do that again. This year we planned for a possible postponement because the weather prediction for snow was well telegraphed. We stayed over with a friend in the city and packed extra clothes. I wish I could say that the second day was sunny and warm, but it wasn’t. In fact, it was in many ways a worse day for the game. The temperature remained cold (39 – 42 degrees), the wind chill made it even worse, and it rained through the entire game without ever really abating.

2. WHAT’S NEW

Some of the fun of attending opening day is to see what’s changed at the stadium from year to year (besides the players… we’ll get to that). Are there new scoreboard features? Ads? Restaurants? About a week ago, we’d received an email detailing over a dozen new menu items being offered around the stadium. One of the things mentioned was a half rotisserie chicken served on a bed of french fries. We found that stand by section 107 and they they had some standing room eating tables available, so we stopped there. We got the half chicken with chimichurri sauce and also a flank steak on fries. Both were excellent and much nicer than typical “stadium food.” We decided to wait until a warmer day to go looking for the new ice cream sundae shakes, though.

3. LACK OF CEREMONY

We arrived shortly after the gates opened at 2pm for a planned 4:05 pm start. At 3:30 when the traditional introductions of the team roster and staff were due to begin, the tarp was still on the field and the rain was still coming down. We were still at the rotisserie chicken stand at 3:45 and starting to wonder when the game was going to be delayed until when an official announcement finally came: the game will start at 4:15pm. In other words, no ceremony, just get the field in shape to play and get it on. A while later came the usual national anthem and then ceremonial first pitches by Bucky Dent and Mickey Rivers, who went out to the mound and threw the pitches so quickly, PA announcer Paul Olden hadn’t even finished reading their introduction before they were headed back into the dugout. (The Rays nearly did the same thing, making out so fast in the top of the first that they almost, but not quite, made out before the bleacher creature Roll Call was finished.)

4. NEW PERKS

We’ve been season ticket holders for so long now that this year we moved up into a higher tier of perks. The big one is admission to two exclusive clubs, the Pepsi Club inside the batters eye in center field, and the Audi Club on the suite level by the left field foul pole. This perk couldn’t have come at a better time! I’m not sure we would have made it through nine innings in the constant rain and cold. After four innings, I was getting desperate despite all my layers and my winter coat. We held out until after the Yankees batted in the fifth and then we hightailed it to the Pepsi club. We had to wait to get in, but we got in pretty quickly. There were no actual seats available inside, but there was plenty of standing room. The resulting experience was kind of like going to a great sports bar where everyone was acting like they were at Yankee Stadium. From behind the tinted windows, it’s a bit difficult to really see the game action, but there are big screen TVs everywhere. So there’s all the excitement of being at the game, but they serve the full bar right to the last pitch (they don’t quit serving beer in the 7th like out in the seats), and best of all it’s WARM AND DRY. Well, mostly dry–there was a drippy leak in the ceiling that wiped out several seats. Access to the club couldn’t have come at a better time.

5.WELCOME TO THE BRONX, GIANCARLO STANTON

As I mentioned on Twitter, the Stadium debut of Giancarlo Stanton reminded me of the debut of another All Star slugger who arrived after making his name with another team: Jason Giambi. I haven’t been able to find the Tyler Kepner article from the New York Times about the 2002 home opener, but he wrote something like “the man who looked forward to today most, enjoyed it least.” Giambi struck out a few times and got booed. Stanton actually performed a fairly rare feat: he struck out FIVE TIMES. What do you even call that, the platinum chapeau? In several of those at bats, Stanton had the chance to put the Yankees ahead, so it felt particularly failure-ish at the moment. I’m not worried. Giambi eventually had his pinstripe anointment when he hit a two-out, walk-off grand slam in the 13th inning in the pouring rain after the Yankees had coughed up 3 runs in the top of the inning. Giancarlo will have his moment. It just wasn’t today.

6.SIR DIDI

Today belonged to Sir Didi Gregorius. Batting right after Stanton in the lineup, each time Stanton struck out, it seemed like Didi did something great. Like a three-run homer. And then a second three-run homer. And then he came up again with the bases loaded. A grand slam would have been simply insane. Instead he hit a two-RBI single, for 8 RBIs on the day. Which turns out to be the most RBIs by any Yankees shortstop on any day in team history. Not only that, Sir Didi is so much on fire that the last lefthanded-hitting Yankee to have 6 extra base hit in the first 5 games of the a season was none other than Lou Gehrig.

7.DON’T LAUGH

The scoreboard department has a new between-innings bit that was pure delight. It’s relief pitchers David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle playing a game called “Don’t Laugh.” Each time you laugh, the other guy gets a point. They proceed to trade jokes of about the level you find inside Christmas crackers. Like: “I don’t trust stairs. Why? Because they’re always up to something.” What we learned is that Kahnle has no poker face and can’t stop laughing. I’m curious how many other players they have filmed for this segment–I hope lots. It’s truly hilarious.

8.DON’T LAUGH, Pt. 2

Robertson and Kahnle are going to be important pieces of the Yankees bullpen success this year. Kahnle had an interesting test in the game. After Jonathan Holder failed to live up to his name–starting the 6th inning with a strikeout but then leaving after giving up four straight hits and a run–Kahnle relieved him. Kahnle struck out Daniel Robertson and then took former Yankee Rob Refsnyder to a full count. If he’d got him out, the Yankees would have escaped with e 4-2 lead. Instead, Refsnyder doubled and brought in two more runs. Tie game. Kahnle was sent back out to pitch the seventh, as well, and struck out the side. So he struck out four of five batters faced, but the one he didn’t strike out resulted in a blown save. Kahnle got the win thanks to Didi’s second three-run home run of the day. Robertson pitched a scoreless inning, and then after three more Yankee runs came in the 8th, Chasen Shreve pitched the ninth.

9. LUBE

Maybe I shouldn’t talk about Kevin Kiermaier and the Vaseline.

P.S. As I’m prepping this post to go live, it’s the next day and the Rays and Yankees are playing again. The score is 2-1 Yankees. Guess who hit a two run shot? Giancarlo Stanton.

(Did you enjoy reading this blog entry? Please consider buying me a hot dog.)

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