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An Angelic Weekend at the Big Ballpark in the Bronx

Thank you, Yankees, for another lovely weekend at the ballpark. Now that I’m not actively covering the Yankees or MLB as a member of the media, I get to be “just a fan.” This means I get to do fun stuff like enjoy the perks of being a season ticket holder at Yankee Stadium for over 10 years.

Today was Photo Day, at which a couple thousand season ticket holders got to line up on the warning track (so as not to tread on the sacred grass) and wait for the Yankees to come say hello. The event was slated to start at 10:15 and end at 11:15 sharp. We arrived to get in line outside the stadium at around 9:45 in the morning and were amused that at that hour we could see many of the Yankees driving down 164th street and into the player parking lot. Michael Pineda, Didi Gregorious, and Alex Rodriguez were among those who waved from their vehicles. Looked to me like Didi still has Arizona plates on his car.

A little after 10am they started letting us in and by 10:15 (the official start time for the event) we were all lined up. I picked a spot in the right field corner where we were in the shade. People began to get nervous as time went by and the only Yankee in sight was Jacoby Ellsbury, who was on the field doing a rehab workout with a trainer. As 10:45 approached, and still no Yankees, Ellsbury was enticed by some girls by the foul pole to come take a photo with them. From where we were standing we couldn’t hear what was said, but it was pretty clear he was saying he was too sweaty. They sandwiched him anyway and he really tried comically hard not to soak them (i.e. trying to put an arm around each of their shoulders without actually touching them) and then he ran away.

Andrew Miller also came out and did a little pregame workout (wearing black shoes that flashed gold in the sun), then disappeared into the dugout. The video crew did their best to keep everyone amused while waiting, conducting interviews with a lot of kids and their parents. Question asked most of the kids? “Who’s your favorite Yankee?” The unanimous answer from about a dozen different respondents? “Brett Gardner.”

My guess is that Joe Girardi had the team in a meeting or something like that. At 10:45 he led a group of pinstriped Yankees out of the dugout, though, and they split, half up the right field line, half up the left field line. The first group to come by were led by Mark Teixeira but they didn’t get too close, just smiling and waving and saying hello but not actually stopping to take photos with people.

Justin Wilson has a chat with a young fan.

Justin Wilson has a chat with a young fan.

Pitcher Justin Wilson, I think, was the first to stop at a little boy about four years old next to us who was holding a Jorge Posada action figure. Wilson got down on the grass (he’s quite tall, the little boy was not) and starting asking him who the action figure was. Conversation soon progressed to what the boy had for breakfast (waffles). From then on, about half the players who came by, as well as the broadcasters, stopped to ask about the Jorge doll. (Adult relative: “He wasn’t supposed to have this, but he took it out of his father’s memorabilia cabinet. Then he broke the mask off and his father said, oop, that’s it, it’s his now.”)

Another young boy, about eight, was a little shy and at first I think felt bad that the much younger boy had gotten all the attention, and he hid partly behind his parents for a bit. But then along came A-Rod, who was the first to shake hands with people. On A-Rod you can see when he gets up close that his beard is going gray. It’s OK, A-Rod, you earned those gray whiskers. I’m heartened by the stories we’re hearing this year about him mentoring Didi Gregorious both in the field and at the plate. Alex was certainly what brought the shy boy out of his shell, pausing to shake his hand. You could have lit the scoreboard for nine innings on the kid’s smile.

Tanaka, unfortunately, was in one of the shy groups. Gardner, fortunately, was not. Gardner, reflecting his popularity among the fans, was the Yankee who took the longest to work his way across from foul line to foul line. We also caught photos with Joe Girardi, Carlos Beltran, and Brian McCann and got to exchange greetings and handshakes with Dellin Betances, Didi Gregorious, and Andrew Miller.

Some of the photos we got to take on Photo Day! Not shown: Kate with Gardner bc it's on someone else's phone...

Some of the photos we got to take on Photo Day! Not shown: Kate with Gardner bc it’s on someone else’s phone…

All in all it was a lovely way to spend a morning at the ballpark. While exiting the field and then re-entering the stadium for the game, I was surrounded by people remarking on how much they enjoyed the event.

We also enjoyed the second sweep of a series in a row. They’d just swept the Mariners, then beat the Angels on Friday night–though just barely. They’d gone into the ninth inning with the score 8-1, and corwin had remarked to me, on our drive to the city, that the game was probably going to be over before we even made it to Rein’s Deli. But Esmil Rogers didn’t have it and gave up three runs, and then Dellin Betances, who came in to bail him out, gave up another three. We were in the bar at Rein’s when they finally nailed it down, 8-7.

Yesterday saw them with another big lead, with an offensive explosion of six runs in the first off Garrett Richardson who didn’t make it out of the inning. That made for a relaxing night at the ballpark for us. Ultimately the Yankees prevailed, 8-2, though Mike Trout homered.

Today, Trout homered again, off Sabathia in the first, and Pujols followed with a homer two pitches later, but that would again be the extent of the Angels’ offense. The Yankees, on the other hand, got homers from Chris Young (snapping a slump, perhaps?), Jose Pirela (first of his major league career), and Brett Gardner (a three-run shot), and won, 6-2.

And the weather was nice, too, dry and breezy, not too hot. Oh! And before Saturday night’s game they showed the Belmont Stakes live on the giant video board. I’m definitely turning into a sentimental softie in my old age (48, if you must know). I got goosebumps and teary-eyed as American Pharoah pulled away from the pack in the final turn while thousands of people around me cheered and clapped and rooted for that horse. You can see why horse racing was one of the grand old American spectator sports.

Today, Victor Espinoza, the jockey who rode American Pharoah to Triple Crown victory in the Belmont, threw out the first pitch. He threw from the rubber, perhaps only a touch wide but a strike for first pitch purposes, and then accepted the congratulations of his catcher (McCann, I think) who outmassed him by a factor of two. (Sabathia was easily 3 times his weight.)

All in all, a diverting weekend of sport, and a welcome respite from my hectic work schedule.

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