Saturday, March 28, 2009

Stadium Memories: My early experiences as a kid

I can recall my earliest memory at the old stadium. We had tickets to see the Yankees play the Mariners in the 1995 playoffs. I was only 8 years old then, but grew up around baseball. I remember looking around and seeing how excited everyone was, noticing the way the bright lights set atop the tier reserved seats were almost blinding. The atmosphere was special, much different than the little league fields I often frequented. Having the Yankees return to the playoffs that season was emotional for many fans.

The emotion I experienced just sitting among 56,000 passionate fans actually turned me into one of those passionate fans. It happened to me the way baseball has captured the hearts of millions over the last century.

As much as I love the sport, my most fond memories have little to do with baseball. I can recall arriving at the stadium hours early in search of tickets back in the 90's when far fewer people would attend games. My brother Ross, co-editor of this site, found someone who worked in one of those isolated ticket booths in front of gate 6. Every game, the man who worked in the booth would sell us two tier reserved tickets for the price of one, helping us out because we were kids. These acts of kindness made me fall in love with the fan experience, especially the one at the old stadium.

Through the 90's and into the next decade, I noticed things changing, as Yankee attendance increased. There was increased security, no more half price tickets, and less and less access to players on the field.

During this time, when Ross was in high school, he would always bring a glove to games. One day during batting practice, an opposing player was warming up down the left field line and had no catch-partner. When Ross asked the player for the ball in his hand, the player said "Only if you throw it back". The player, whose name I can't remember, then proceeded to have a catch with Ross from the stands. Of course, the player made his final throw and let us keep the ball. These types of memories are unique and special, and are exactly what make fans truly enjoy going to games.

If fans do not have access to areas close to the field for batting practice at the new stadium, the youngsters will lose out, more than anyone else. Seeing these pros up close, and sometimes even getting to talk to them, is what made so many of us love baseball when we were kids.

Either way the new stadium will be filled with new memories, ones made by fans and their family/friends. For me the stadium experience wasn't always about baseball. It was about being with my best friend, the person I TRULY idolized, my brother Ross. I only hope young people still have access to the type of experiences we had, so they too can form lifelong bonds through the beautiful game of baseball.
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