The massive center field scoreboard area that dominates the visual attention at the new Yankee Stadium comes to life at night. While it can never be truly ignored, even during the afternoon, it is a living, breathing presence at night.
As Yankee fans gather at their new cathedral and take in the experience, walking along the wide concourses, cramming into the Stadium store–which has been packed each time I’ve gone through–there is some sense of carry-over from the old place. Roll call from the bleacher creatures. They are more a part of show than ever because the creatures’ roll call was originally a spontaneous act of their own imagination and collective spirit. It was not drawn up in a board room.
The tradition is alive and well in the new place. And the players seem to love it. When Johnny Damon was called he made an elaborate gesture, a comic, rock star pose, pointing to the bleachers. Nick Swisher, spun around and did a nifty move, designed to work the fans up, as well.
The creatures had gone through the outfielders when the A’s lead-off hitter reached first. They chanted Mark Teixeria’s name, and the first baseman, holding the runner on, interrupted his concentration to wave. All part of the show.
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Earlier, when I walked into the stadium, I saw a group of kids in their early twenties, decked in Yankee gear. “Who’s pitchin?” said one of them. “Yo, we’ve got to cheer for Giambi tonight, man,” said another, smoking a Newport. They nodded their heads. “Yeah, let’s root for Giambi.”
Giambi was accorded a gracious, though not overly effusive hand when he came to bat in the first inning (those are reserved for players who’ve won titles). He cracked a line drive to straight away center field. The sound of the ball hitting the bat rang out, that lovely sound that never grows old. Brett Gardner sprinted after the ball–and perhaps because it was right over him he took a funny-looking route–and after eleven steps, he jumped up and snagged it. I thought he had a bead on it, at the last moment I expected him to make the play. Still, it was an impressive catch, and soup to nuts, from Giambi to Gardner, it was one of those moments that bring you to the game, and reminds you that no matter how many bells and whistles, no matter how many distractions, the game is the real show.
Andy Pettitte allowed nine hits but just two runs over seven innings, good enough for his second win of the season. Final Score: Yanks 5, A’s 3. Johnny Damon homered, and Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and Hideki Matsui each added two hits (both teams had twelve apiece). Mariano Rivera, that brilliant combination of composure and electricity, earned the save and Yankee fans went home happy.
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Before the game, I saw Kat O’brein, the Yankee beat writer for Newsday. We had dinner last month and it was nice to get to know her some. She is soft-spoken, and my first thought was that she could be a sheep swimming with sharks, but the more she spoke, the more I realized that she was nothing of the sort. There is nothing soft about her. She’s an acheiver, driven, and determinded (I don’t know how you could work the beat and be a milktoast). She speaks Spanish and said that she once wanted to teach in Spain. An altogether impressive woman.
Kat was around before the game working on some stuff–she was off from her official duties–and she told me that she is leaving the beat, effective next month. She was recently accepted to the Wharton School of Business. Judging how the newspaper business is going, and the fact that she was accepted into such a prestigious school, her choice was clear. In her brief time in New York, Kat was a pleasure to read and she will be missed. But I have no doubt that she will find success in whatever she does. As I said, she’s impressive.
Here’s wishing her the best of luck.
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