Thursday, January 31, 2008

Now Batting...

Today I have the honor of having one of my posts on The Journal News' Yankee Blog written by Peter Abraham. With January being a slow news month, PeteAbe had some of his readers, who also write blogs, do some guest blogging. It's always interesting to read other people's viewpoints, and it has given exposure to a bunch of great blogs. Some of the guest bloggers aspire to be future PeteAbe's while I aspire to have fun during my day job.

In my guest post, I talk about the old/current and new Yankee Stadiums. You can either read the entry HERE or below. Hope you enjoy. And yes, the photo is me in pre-renovated Yankee Stadium, circa 1973 (or possibly earlier).

And a big thank you to my biggest supporter, my wife, for doing a great editing job as always.

--- Pinch-hitting for Peter Abraham ---

2008 is a year of transition in the Bronx.

To begin with, someone new will be filling out the lineup card for the first time in 12 years. Then, there's been a shift in philosophy regarding the role of the organization’s up-and-coming prospects. Following the long reign of King George, there’s a different Steinbrenner at the reins. But most of all, the Bronx will be the site of not one, but two Yankee Stadiums. For this is the final season of the House that Ruth built and New York city remodeled. Except for two unmemorable seasons in Flushing, it has been the home of the Yankees since 1923.

It’s hard to imagine which will feel more odd- walking out of the current Stadium for the last time, or walking into the new one for the first time. And, the impact of both events will be overshadowed by the day the wrecking ball takes down most of the place we all grew up in.
To compare this with the last transition, in 1973 there was also much debate about renovating the original Yankee Stadium. Many fans wanted their beloved ballpark to forever remain as it was.

I remember the first time I walked inside the old Stadium in 1970. I looked on in wonderment at the monuments in centerfield, uniquely placed right smack in the field of play. The high black centerfield wall seemed a mile away, at 461 ft.. The white facade regally encircled the top of the place. The simple, but informative scoreboard stood out in centerfield, and the Yankees’ bullpen was nestled between the bleachers and the rightfield seats. And yes, there were those annoying structural posts that could completely block your view if you had the misfortune of sitting behind one. About half of the 65,000 seats were filled on that day.

After that game, we walked onto the field (yes, you read that correctly!), and exited out beyond left-centerfield. The atmosphere was of a different era and we all wanted it to stay that way.
Flash forward to today. There are many people who are just as angry about the new Stadium being built as they were about the renovation 35 years ago. The discussion has been going on for years: move to New Jersey (I always liked that idea as a kid), renovate again, or build a completely new place. I was indecisive for the longest time. Despite some of its’ obvious warts, I thought the Stadium should stay put and be improved. But over the last couple of years, I’ve come to realize that the fans deserve some serious upgrades to the facility.

While the players enjoy a state-of-the-art clubhouse like no other, the Stadium itself is no longer fan friendly. The average person sits in an uncomfortably cramped seat, traverses narrow aisles and stairs, waits in endless lines at the bathrooms and concessions, and has to decide which food tastes the least lousy. The video/message boards that line the 1st and 3rd base lines aren’t visible from much of the upper deck.

I realize the new place won’t come without its share of issues and problems. For the sake of high-priced luxury boxes, there will be 5,000 less seats. There’s a steep rise in parking prices on the horizon, and you can bet that ticket prices will increase dramatically as well. And NYC tax payers will be footing much of the $91 million bill for the new Metro-North station.

But, just as I remember attending my first Yankees game in 1970, I also remember going to the first Sunday home game in 1976 when the remodeled Stadium reopened. I recall a sea of shiny blue seats and a new gleaming white facade that paid homage to the old yard. There was a new Monument Park in left-centerfield where fans could pay tribute to their heroes, and a video display board in center. And though the park’s seating capacity had been decreased by over 10,000 seats, the once-upset fans were happy to see a better version of their Stadium.

I believe the fans reaction will be the same way this time around. We’ll take in all of the changes and new features and be in awe all over again. I now look forward to stepping into “Yankee Stadium 2.0” for the first time.

The greatest team in all of sports deserves the greatest place to call its’ home.

Check in from time to time to Sliding into Home to see updated pics of the new Stadium construction.

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