Saturday, May 2, 2009

Reviewing An Exciting Trip To The New Yankee Stadium

On Friday night, we headed up to the new Yankee Stadium for only the second time during the regular season. Because of all the day games during the first home stand, and because we only have the 41 game plan, we haven't been to the stadium as much as we would have liked. Last night's thriller made up for any of the games we missed. Although we misjudged the potential rain impact (drank one beer too many at home thinking the start would be delayed), we eventually arrived during the bottom of the first inning, and were rewarded with an extremely exciting game. The good, the bad, the strange, and what we ate await if you

The Good

We had the pleasure of meeting our very helpful Yankee ticket account representative. The ticket office gets a pretty bad rap, but those people work hard, and work long hours. Before ripping them a new one regarding issues you are having, think about the fact that they are human beings and that being rational and friendly will likely get you a long way. For ages, we believed that the ticket office workers were a bunch of people who were mad at the world, but if you take the time to get to know them, they are just people doing a pretty tough job. An interesting item of note - the 1-800 ticket office number is controlled by an outside ticket agency, while the 718 ticket office number is the folks housed within the stadium. This is important to understand because the people at the outside agency are disconnected from the stadium and don't know the ins and outs of the new place like the people working in the stadium do. There should be better communication between the two offices, but there isn't. Often times tickets that are obviously obstructed, or have other issues are repeatedly sold by the outside agency, and then the people at the 718 number are forced to correct their error. Once again, this is an obvious breakdown involving systems and upper management - it is not the fault of the people who you are yelling at on the phone.

We also got to meet Stan and Mark Lobel, of Lobel's Steak. They were very appreciative of the review that we wrote about the prime rib sandwich. Even though they feature the review prominently on the press kit page of their website, they didn't offer a complimentary NY Strip Streak sandwich last night. No hard feelings, we purchased one anyway. More about that in the "what we ate" section. An interesting note from our conversation, with the Lobels is that they feel the Audi Yankees Club is actually one of the better values in the new Yankee Stadium. We're not sure how $140 for seats in left field could ever be a value, but they made sure to point out that the restaurant serves all Lobel's meat, and all you can eat. They also said the view is nice from out there, so perhaps big eaters can make it worth the price of admission. We hope to have a firsthand account of the Audi Yankees Club posted to the blog this week.

The seats in section 428, row 10 are completely covered by the frieze, so when the rain started pouring down in the middle innings, we were completely covered. It was awesome seeing all of the people in the expensive seats scramble for cover while we just watched the game completely dry.

The crowd, while sparse (weather?) was into the game from start to finish. From what we hear, it doesn't come across well on TV, but the Yankee fans in our section were loud and boisterious, even when the Yankees were down 9-4. The only downside was that when the Yankees won, there wasn't the "hugging strangers" emotion that typically accompanies an epic come from behind win. We'll chalk that up to the crowd being so spread out due to the formerly lopsided score and poor weather.

All of the concession lines were extremely manageable. Lobel's was the longest one we came across, but it was being run extremely efficiently. The bathrooms also were very easy to get into and out of. It seems that everyone is getting into the flow of things, and everything is running as we imagined it would in a brand new stadium.

The shrill-voiced Tina woman who went around interviewing fans between innings on the high-def video screen seems to be gone. We didn't notice her at all. Good riddance.

The Bad

The Mohegan Sun Sports Bar is a terrible place to watch a baseball game, contrary to an interesting review on River Ave Blues last week. A friend gave us a one day pass to the bar, and we spent one inning there. It would be great if it was just a sports bar that happened to have a peek into Yankee Stadium. Unfortunately, a peak is all you get, along with a total disconnect from the game and overpriced drinks. We were happy to head out of there to our seats in the nosebleeds.

Yankee fans are really starting to take booing their own to an extreme. They booed 3 or 4 relievers and had some special hate reserved for Mark Teixeira. All of the parties being booed have had their struggles this year and as paying fans it is their right to boo. We always wonder, however, what does it accomplish? Does anyone really think that Mark Teixeira wanted to strike out looking or that Mark Melancon wanted to allow 3 inherited runners to score with his first pitch thrown? They're probably more frustrated than anyone, since it is their livelyhood. Do Yankee fans think they don't try hard because they are getting paid a lot of money? We actually heard someone yelling at Teixeira, and calling him "Teixei-Rod" (clearly a jab at Tex's struggles in the clutch so far this year, even though his OBP with RISP is nearly .500). Further, after the unlikely comeback, Yankee fans on the exit ramps decided to display an inferiority complex and start "Boston Sucks" chants. Last time I checked, that was a thing that Red Sox fans did. As Yankee fans, we used to know that our franchise was better, and we didn't need to resort to chanting about the Red Sox sucking, especially when they don't, or when they aren't even playing the Red Sox. It was really an embarrassing time to be a Yankee fan.

The Yankees seem to have dumped Cotton Eye Joey. Call us crazy, but we always enjoyed that break in the 8th inning even more than the 7th inning stretch. In a stadium that kept the "tradition" of the YMCA grounds crew routine, and the played-out God Bless America, getting rid of the goofy scoreboard operator dancing around seems arbitrary. Hopefully it was a one night thing.

We still didn't see any foul balls hit into the upper deck (Terrace or Grandstand). It sucks going to a game and feeling so removed from the game that you know a ball won't come anywhere near you.

Empty seats, and we're not just talking about the now-famous ones in the Legends sections. As pictured below, there was a random section of empy seats in the main level. Our feeling at the time was that section was the last section before a price break, and according to the Yankee seating chart, our assumption was correct. It looks like section 215 was nearly empty, while the section right next door, section 214B was completely full. Gameday face value of 215 is $150, gameday face value of 214B is $95. Looks like anything over $100 is a tough sell for the Yankees. Front office, we have a problem.

(click to enlarge)

Perhaps this is nitpicky, but the ramps to exit the stadium on the third base side of the upper deck are poorly designed. The decline is so gradual that any time one would save exiting the stadium because of wider concourses is lost due to the seemingly endless ramps. They could have made the ramps a little steeper and it would make for a quicker exit. Once again, we are aware this is nitpicky, but it annoyed the hell out of us.

The Strange

At times between innings, if you closed your eyes and just listened to the voice reading the fan greetings on the scoreboard, or the organ music, you felt like you were in the old Yankee Stadium. Then, you opened your eyes and were bombarded with all that is the new Yankee Stadium. At one point during the Yankee rally in the 8th inning, they were trying to encourage the fans to "make noise" and all of the video screens were flashing the message. As we posted on Twitter, it was sensory overload, and it was pretty overwhelming. Maybe it was just us who noticed this.

Also between innings - the Yankees played a video tribute/montage to former Yankee Ruben Sierra, with "I Like The Way You Move" by Outkast playing in the background. For those not in the know, Ruben used to come up to bat to that song during his second stint with the team. It showed some of Ruben's "great" moments with the team, including a walkoff home run to dead center against the Blue Jays. It was pretty bizarre seeing that tribute. We're just waiting for the Miguel Cairo montage.

Jerry Springer Sighting. The only "celebrity" shown on the huge high-def screen in center field was Jerry Spring, and he was wearing one of those cheap Yankee rain ponchos. The Yankees are really scraping the bottom of the barrel with celebrities these days. We're just waiting for a Judge Judy sighting.

What we ate

As we mentioned previously, we tried the Lobel's NY Strip Steak sandwich during this trip. The roll was the same as last time, which was fine by us - whatever type of bread they use is perfect for sopping up the juices of the meat without it getting soggy. NY Strip steak is not as naturally tender as prime rib, so instead of carving the beef and plopping it down onto the roll, they were slicing it and placing it in some meat juices to tenderize it. It definitely worked, but it also took away some of the natural flavor of the steak, and gave it more of a generic au jus flavor. We also made the mistake of getting more au jus poured on top, so the meat was overwhelmed with the generic meat sauce flavor. Don't get us wrong, it was still a great ballpark meal, and the portion size was generous. That being said, if we get the NY Strip steak sandwich from Lobel's again. we will skip the au jus - that type of sauce just isn't meant for NY Strip steak!

Even after drinking a couple of beers at home, and one with the huge steak sandwich, we drowned our sorrows with more food when the Yankees went down 9-4 late in the game. A milkshake and onion rings from the Johnny Rockets in the upper deck seemed like the perfect comfort food at the time, even though we weren't especially hungry. Although the milkshake couldn't be drank through a straw, it was still tasty - probably a slight upgrade from the Carvel helmet cup soft ice cream, and obviously it didn't have the awesome rainbow sprinkles. We paid $7, and unless it is a 95 degree night and we are craving a black and white milkshake, we don't do it again. The onion rings ($6), like the frickles from our first trip, were over-fried in heavy batter. This was good for Bobby (formerly fake IPK) since he hates onions. It went well with the milkshake, that much is for sure. However, we couldn't help but feel bad for our slowly clogging arteries.
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