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Night Game at “The Boss”

As we walked up to George M. Steinbrenner Field tonight, corwin remarked that it looked very Disney-ish. GMS Field is surrounded by lovely landscaping, fountains with man-made ponds inhabited by turtles and geese, palm trees with lights climbing their trunks, but with the bright lights bouncing off the clouds, the humid evening air blowing in our faces, and the happy anticipation… it certainly felt like Disney.

Ah, Florida, which has been an exotic fantasyland in the minds of Northerners since the days of Henry B. Plant, the railroad magnate who convinced the cream of New York society to ride his rail system south to his Tampa Bay Hotel starting in 1891. But as with Disney, the magic in the Yankees isn’t in the frills, it’s somewhere in the heart.

This isn’t to say that the details don’t matter. They do. There are so many little things that have defined the Yankees over the decades, and when you think about it, some things that Steinbrenner insisted on–like the rule against facial hair below the lip and the road trip dress code–fit perfectly with the attitude and image of the Yankees before him. The former “Legends Field” was the warm-up act for the building of the new stadium in the Bronx. This jewelbox in Florida was the predecessor of the palace up north.

And like Disney, the Yankees draw on their history and nostalgia, while continually looking forward. Like Disney, the Yankees are always looking for the next big star. Where they differ most drastically, though, is that in sports you can’t make the story happen. You can’t make winning happen.

And of course when the fans file into the stadium on any given day, there’s no guarantee that the team will win. Especially in the spring, when winning isn’t the top goal–getting ready so that you can win during the season is. Still, everyone’s happier when the team you root for wins.

The Yankees did win tonight, 4-2 over Pittsburgh, and so a good time was had by all. Well, except maybe the guy named Joe from Pittsburgh who was sitting behind us. Although now that I think about it, he enjoyed himself quite a bit. The Pirates made some sparkling defensive plays, for example, that had him exclaiming “Wow! We threw somebody out! You don’t understand! We don’t usually do that!”

Pittsburgh suffers from lowered expectations, wouldn’t you say? That, thankfully, is not one of New York’s problems.

Our main problem, of course, this year, is pitching. We didn’t get Cliff Lee, Andy Pettitte retired, and the pitching market hasn’t been much to write home about. So Cashman did two things to deal with this. One, he packed the bullpen with top arms instead, so that the starters won’t have to pitch as long, minimizing the exposure of possibly mediocre pitching, and two, he packed camp with retreads and scrap-heap acquisitions like Freddie Garcia and tonight’s starter, Bartolo Colon.

Colon struck out the side in the first. He gave up a home run in the second, but otherwise really was good through four innings. In fact, all the guys vying for the fourth and fifth starter jobs have been pitching their little patoots off. Success in the spring doesn’t guarantee success in the regular season, but for now, this is the story. Who will sink and who will swim?

The Yankees’ four runs came on a Russell Martin first inning homer, a two run rally in the second keyed by a very Jeterian leadoff triple (lined into right), and an Andruw Jones homer in the fifth. The crowd at spring games tends to be quiet and laid back, but at night they get a little more lively. The most lively they got, though, was in the eighth inning, when a Pirate named Josh Fields was at bat. He swung so hard that his bat flew out of his hands and about 12 rows back into the stands. An old fella caught it without getting injured or hurting anyone around him, drawing a huge cheer from the entire crowd. Then a security guard came for the bat… and got a huge boo. He then handed the bat back to the guy, and a second huge cheer went up. Meanwhile, Josh Fields got a different bat from the dugout. Sorry, kid, if you had to pay for that one out of your own pocket. That’s entertainment.

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