Thursday, July 24, 2014

Bronx

On When Resting Is Not Restful
Thursday, July 24, 2014
Texas Rangers vs. New York Yankees
New Yankee Stadium
Major League Baseball, American League
Bronx, NY
1:05 PM

Outside the Game: This would be an unusual baseball trip, as it was starting with a game at "home," and then progressing further afield.

One of my cousin's kids in Florida wanted to see Derek Jeter during his last season. He was going to fly out this week, and we were going to go to a game. As Thursday afternoon games were the easier ticket, and I could take my comp day for working on Memorial Day (and the fact that Jeter didn't often rest at home this year), we got tickets for this Thursday.

The worry originally had been the weather, but the storm that was supposed to hit on Thursday came in Wednesday night. The Yankees played an extra-innings marathon on Tuesday night, so it looked like Jeter would sit out Wednesday. But he played in the rain-shortened Wednesday game, which made his inevitable sit-out on Thursday all the more mundane. There's only so much you can do with planning.

Although I had the day off, I got up at the same time as usual, as I wanted to make sure we could get into Monument Park, which involved getting there before the gates opened at 11 AM. My father showed up with guest in tow a little after 9 AM, and instead of taking my advice and going to the roomier parking lot by the hospital, my father insisted on going to the sardine can shops down by the river to save some walking. He again ignored my advice to go into an above-ground lot and instead went to an underground lot and was surprised that his suburban sled car did not fit into any of the available spaces. He had to get it valet-parked, but at least we were all off.

We got to the PATH trains, and I helped them get a Metrocard that both of them could use. Because they didn't heed my urging to hurry up, we missed the 33rd Street train and had to wait for the next one, which can be a sizeable wait after rush hour.

Once we got going, it was relatively easy going after the change to the D train at 34th Street. We piled out into the early afternoon, and I walked them to the gate by Monument Park. My father was tired of walking, so I told him to stay there and wait on line while I took our guest around the park. Halfway around, my father showed up, saying he wanted to walk. Amazingly and completely unexpectedly enough, by the time we got back to the gate by Monument Park, the lines were down the street. I told them to get on line and wait while I scouted ahead.

There was a second, much-shorter line on the other side of the gate, so I got on that one and called my father on his cell phone. He didn't pick up, so I called him again. And he didn't pick up, again. So I had to run down to them and drag them back to the other line, while 50 more people had gotten on line while I was collecting them.

Eventually, the gates opened, and we went in, but more on that in a second.

The way out was the "welcome to the big city" moment, as we had to pack into a D train going south, heading into rush hour. It was a wall-to-wall people sandwich until we got off at 34th. We eventually got seats on the PATH back to Hoboken, and we quietly cooled off on our way back to retrieve the car for one of several identical-looking commuter parking lots.

They dropped me back off at my apartment a little before 5, and I put in a load of laundry and took a major nap. I put the clothes in the drier when I woke up, took a shower, and then booked my hotel for the night, about halfway down the route to southern Maryland.

A little before nine, I finished packing up and started driving south. Outside of another ten-minute delay paying cash to one of two open lanes on the NJ Turnpike at the Delaware Memorial Bridge, I quickly got shaken down in Delaware and reached my hotel a little after 11:30 PM.

The Stadium & Fans: It had actually been a couple of years since I had been to New Yankee Stadium, and it was my first visit to the new Monument Park. On this return visit, I was really struck by how claustrophobic the interior walkways of the stadium are. This is done to make the ritzy areas behind home plate and center field hermetically sealed from riff-raff. But the experience waiting to get into Monument Park and the Yankees Museum are certainly diminished by waiting in line in a generic concrete hallway that would seem more at home in a Cold War-era military base. The only nod to adornment by the Monument Park entrance are giant representations of the retired numbers.

The stairway into Monument Park is particularly grim, akin to walking down a dimly lit stairwell into a middle school sub-basement. But once you get outside, it is a different story. The panoramic view to home plate from the center field and the carefully manicured and maintained park itself are clearly a place rivalled only by Cooperstown in baseball history and reverence. Plaques old and new are enshrined, along with a particularly egregious dedication to George Steinbrenner, easily twice the size of any other memorial in the park. (And since his passing, another "modest" monument to the Boss dominates the top of the bleachers.)

Besides a few new minor additions, such as memorials to the yearly "Pinstripe Bowl" on the outfield wall and new flip-pictures of the players in the area by the food court, not a lot has changed.

Even for a weekday, mid-season game, the crowd was still rather substantial, although almost to a person disappointed in Jeter's no-show on the roster that day. Several fan signs were specifically addressed to the issue. And the crowd seemed a little too excited when Jeter's replacement was plunked on the arm in the bottom of the third, perhaps hopeful that Jeter would be called in to replace him. Sadly for the masses, the injury was not severe.

At the Game with Oogie: As mentioned, my primary companions at this game were my father and my cousin's son. For the most part, I was showing him around the stadium, and we got there very early so as to see Monument Park. It was my first time in the new Monument Park, as well, so that was worthwhile all-around. While we were inside, I met one of the stupidest people who ever lived. This woman was complaining that Monument Park was a big letdown, because all it contained was "plaques."

Frankly, I don't know what she was expecting. Did she hope for holograms of each of the honored recipients? Perhaps she expected the shambling reanimated remains of those interred there to scare her as if in some haunted castle? I don't know what to make of it.

We eventually decided against going to the museum, as the wait in that line would take us to just before first pitch, so I took my relations around to the more noteworthy parts of the park, and then we settled on some lunch at the Johnny Rockets concession (as the lines at Nathan's had grown too long), and we hunkered down in our seats.

Straight out of central casting sitting next to us was a blowhard, everything-is-awful Yankees fan, who couldn't keep his trap shut the entire game, and mentioned how every action that wasn't an immediate out for the opposing team or run for the Yankees was evidence that Yankees manager Girardi didn't know what he was doing, and that the Yankees stunk. Presumably, the evidence from the outcome of the game was damned to be ignored.

The Game: Considering both pitchers sported ERAs north of 5, this match between the Rangers and the Yankees didn't look to be a pitcher's duel, but looks can be deceiving. To start, both sides went quickly in order for the first two innings.

In the top of the third, however, a leadoff walk for the Rangers changed things up, only to be quickly erased on a double-play. The next batter got an undeniable hit to center, as did the the next batter, and the next batter, plating a run. But a fly out to center ended the half at 1-0, Rangers. The Yankees only managed a two-out hit batsman in their half of the third, and the train kept rolling on as the Rangers went in order in the top of the fourth.

In the bottom of the fourth, however, the Yankees led off with a double, but two outs looked to leave him stranded before a two-out single to right brought in the tying run. A ground-out to first ended the inning at 1-1. In the top of the fifth, Texas had their own double (this one a two-out variety), and though the next batter walked, a strikeout ended the threat with nothing across. The Yankees started the bottom of the fifth with a walk, and a double brought him in to take the lead. The next batter bunted, and it was a bizarre play as the third baseman threw to the second baseman covering first, who did an awkward slide of his own near the base. The batter was called out, and the play was challenged, but upheld, as replay showed him barely touch the bag just as he caught the ball. After the challenge, a walk made it first and third with one out, and the runner at first stole second. A deep sacrifice fly to center brough the runner at third home, and another walk made it first and second with two outs, but a fly out to left ended the inning at 3-1, Yankees.

Texas went in order in the sixth, and the Yankees only had a two-out single to show for their effort. The Rangers started the seventh greeting the Yankees new relief pitcher with a no-doubt home run to left, but the subsequent three outs held the lead at 3-2, Yankees. The Yankees went in order, as did the Rangers in the eighth.

The Yankees started the bottom of the eighth with a single and double that brought the run home. The trailing runner made it to third on a fielder's choice, but was stranded there, with the score at 4-2, Yankees, after eight. Robertson came in to save the ninth, and gave up a one-out walk that stole second, but nailed down the 4-2 Yankees win.

The Scorecard: Not seeing a need to fork over $10 for a scorecard, I used the BBWAA scorebook. There were a couple of odd scoring moments in the game. For example, in the top of the third, the inning began with back-to-back singles that were uncontroversial. The third single to center field, however, was just out reach of the second baseman, who, having missed the ball, booted it further into center field. They originally scored it a single and an E4 that got the runner on first to third, but they changed the ruling to be two-bases on the single.

There was a challenge on a sacrifice bunt in the bottom of the fifth, where the covering second baseman made an incredibly awkward sweep slide in the vicinity of the base, but the replay clearly showed that he got lucky and was touching the edge of the bag with his foot when he just caught the ball before completely pulling off. The only other moment of note is the top of the fourth, where a 5-3 putout ended with a rather superfluous tag by the first baseman, just to be a jerk, I guess.

The Accommodations: Pretty much on a whim, I picked some place about two hours distant from my house that was along my route, and that turned out to be the La Quinta Inn & Suites in Elkton, MD, just over the border from the Delaware shakedown, as I didn't want to give those bastards another red cent.

My room turned out to be a humungous efficiency suite. The room entrance was at a living room/kitchen, with a fold out couch and easy chair on one side of the room, and in a smaller alcove, there was a full desk and kitchenette, with refrigerator, sink, a real coffee maker, microwave, and dishes and cutlery in the drawers. The next room in was the bedroom, with the king bed and end tables on one side, and the TV and dresser in the other. Around a corner was the bathroom, with the vanity and sink outside the bathroom, and the toilet and shower inside.

As I got settled in and was doing my various things, what eventually struck me was how completely quiet the room was. Located next to the elevator, I was worried about being disturbed by it all night, but instead, the clearly well-insulated room was eerily and completely quiet, except for the noises that I was putting out into it. And it was then that I went from being a little weirded out to considering the options of moving here permanently.

See the Flickr set for this trip.