Last and first

Fan familyMy infatuation with the New York Yankees, and by extension Yankee Stadium, dates to my first game in 1978. I was five. My parents brought me–I believe with friends who had a son near my age–and someone (I like to pretend it was Reggie Jackson) hit a foul ball within a row or two of our seats. This being 1978, the stadium wasn’t all that full, and my parents encouraged me to chase the ball. I was too shy to do it. But I was amazed that I could be that close to the action, and I came home with a WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS 1977 pennant that hung on my wall for the next 15 years.
I’ve been a Yankee fan ever since. And I’ve been to scores of Yankee games, many during the Yankee dynasty of the late 1990s. I’ve chanted Roll Call from the bleachers, sung “New York, New York” more times than I can count, and even gotten thrown out of a game once.
In recent years, I hadn’t been to Yankee Stadium all that much, maybe one or two games a season, as priorities shifted and life intervened. Still, I remained a Yankee fan in full, soaking up multiple articles daily in the New York Times and following every trade, promotion and signing.
I’m a sentimental guy, so the closing of the stadium saddens me. The intentional destruction of such a historic location is a shame. I’ve had a heavy heart in recent weeks as my beloved Yankees stumbled toward a third-place finish and a quiet end to Yankee Stadium.
But I was surprised by just how much I wanted to be there. To soak up the atmosphere. To look at the scenery. To see the 4 train in the gap in right field. To feel the weight and pride of the Stadium as I did when I was five, and 25, again as a 35-year-old. So I got tickets to a game, once with my family, then again with a friend. But still I needed more.
And so it was that Saturday found me on the 4 train, my son, Nathan, in a carrier on my shoulders, him in a batting-practice onesie, me in my away jersey. My wife, Amy, packed the diaper bag and wore my cap as we headed to Yankee Stadium for one last game. A day game, the last one, on the final weekend of games, for Nathan to see for himself.
Nate was all of 115 days old as of yesterday, and his memories of the day will be slight, at best. But I can tell him we were there, enjoying a Yankee victory on a glorious September afternoon. How we had great seats in the lower level, just to the third-base side of home plate–“I think the best I’ve ever sat in,” said Amy–for a fast-paced 1-0 game, won on a Robinson Cano single in the bottom of the ninth. How we took lots of photos, and strolled close to home plate, and rode the 4 train like true New York fans. And how my little boy enjoyed it all: happily taking in the sights and sounds the first four innings, making new friends everywhere we walked, gamely braving crowds, sleeping on the subway. He even ate lunch at the game, just like Mom and Dad. It was terrific.
And Amy, bless her heart, indulging me and Nathan both, gamely changing his diaper in a stadium ladies’ room, feeding him in the mayhem of the ninth inning, lingering long past the final pitch to take pictures and soak up the moment: a more accommodating, loving wife and mother would be hard to find. I’ve lost track of the number of times I have thanked her this weekend. Yet the joy in my eyes tells her more than I could say.
The outing has made for an extremely emotional weekend. I hadn’t fully grasped just how important my Yankee allegiance is to me, or how much I revered the ballpark. Sharing that with my son, however silly it may be at his age, was truly special.
“Someday,” I’ve been telling people, “Nathan is going to thank me for bringing him to the old Yankee Stadium.” But that’s only part of the story. I owe him my thanks, for being such a good, fun little kid, for making our trip a success, and for being here for me to share with him.
I became a father on May 28, but on Saturday, I became a dad.

3 thoughts on “Last and first

  1. http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/NYA/NYA198209110.shtml
    What the box score doesnt say is that I, age 8, was there that night, for the first time, with my dad, who drove us down from Auburn and straight back through the night when the game was over, simultaneously cementing my young love for the Yankees and instilling my love of the road trip.
    The Yanks won 14-2. Dave Righetti, my favorite player, threw a complete game. Roy Smalley, who I hated because it was his fault they traded Bucky Dent, hit a home run. Dad bought me a hat and when we got back to Auburn and stopped for breakfast, presented me with a faux team autogrpahed ball. A short time later I would add my own signature.

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