At roughly half past midnight last night, my wife, Becky, and I were standing next to our car in the darkened parking lot near the Harlem River, finishing off the soft-serve ice cream cones we had picked up on our way under the Major Deegan. As Yankee Stadium sat glowing behind us, the blue aura of the stadium lights reaching up toward the half moon set low in the sky over center field, Becky compared the emotions we were feeling to a junior high graduation. We will still see the same people and do the same things next year, she reasoned, it will just be in a different place. I resisted the comparison at first, rattling on about history and landmarks and what will be lost when the Stadium is razed, but upon reflection, and still flush with the emotion of the night as I write this in the wee-morning hours, I’ve found the truth in her comparison.
Becky and I were high school sweethearts, and though our school days have receded deep into our past, they remain with us both through our relationship with each other, through our closest friends, most of whom we can also trace back to high school, and through the many other ways in which those years shaped our lives and set us upon the course we are on today. Becky was sad to leave high school, for reasons I didn’t completely understand. I couldn’t wait to leave it behind. Perhaps that’s why it took me a moment to find the truth in her statement.
As I wrote earlier this week, the strongest of my many mixed emotions leading up to last night’s final game at Yankee Stadium was anger. That anger has expressed it self in criticism of the public expense, abuses, and design flaws of the new Stadium, but ultimately my anger stems from the private hurt of being evicted from a place that I consider home. I imagine that’s how Becky must have felt upon graduation, angry that forces beyond her control were robbing her of a place of comfort and familiarity, a place filled with elemental memories, and place in which she had grown from a timid 14-year-old girl into a confident young woman.
My feelings about Yankee Stadium are similar. Just 12 years old when I attended my first game there, I was a kid caught between childhood and maturity, still searching for my place after the dissolution of my parents’ marriage and amid their subsequent relationships, still searching for an identity of my own, but beginning to sense that baseball might play a part. Last night I left that Stadium for the last time a grown man of 32, a husband hoping to become a father, a man who has found true happiness in his own marriage and who has followed his muse through a variety of rewarding and creative endeavors, not the least of which is the blog you’re reading right now.
Other than my parents, the only constant in my life throughout that journey has been baseball, specifically Yankee baseball, and though I’ve been in locker rooms and press boxes in other ballparks, my relationship with baseball has been no more intimate than when I’ve been in the stands in Yankee Stadium. Now that’s gone, and I’m hurt, and angry, and sad, but I’m also hopeful and excited about what the next twenty years might bring, for both myself and the team, and about the people I’ll be able to share those experiences with. Perhaps most of all, I’m thankful. Thankful that I had the opportunity to see scores of games at the old ballpark. Thankful that I could share those experiences with Becky, both of my parents, and a variety of friends from across twenty years. Thankful that I have this forum to express myself and to share my thoughts and feelings with countless readers, who in turn share theirs with me and each other. Better yet, I’m thankful that I have lived a life privileged and pleasant enough that the closing of a sporting venue could have such a profound impact on me. While I’ll never get to set foot in Yankee Stadium again, this morning I’m going to be thankful for the many wonderful things I do have rather than be bitter about the one thing I just lost.