23 July 2010
Almost exactly three years ago, Alex Rodriguez was stuck at 499 home runs, on the precipice of history. It was 10 grueling days before August 4, 2007, when he finally yanked a ball down the left field line at the old Yankee Stadium for his milestone 500th home run. During the home stand, beginning on Tuesday, July 31, 2007, Yankees fans had excitedly awaited their chance to see history. Four hyped-up games and 18 camera-flash filled at bats later, A-Rod finally delivered in the bottom of the first inning off of then Royals starter Kyle Davies. The best part? Every single person in the ballpark on that day had a chance to catch the historic blast.
During those games, the atmosphere was nothing less than electric at Yankee Stadium. Each time A-Rod stepped up to the plate, a "wall of sound" (sorry to steal your line, Michael Kay) built throughout the stadium and camera flashes were going off everywhere. On the field level walkway, fans from all parts of the stadium scurried to the right and left corners to position themselves for a chance at history. Here is a cell phone video we captured on July 31, 2007 that shows the sea of humanity awaiting A-Rod's magical fly ball (that wouldn't come for another four days):
In the bottom of the 8th inning on Thursday night, much of what we described above repeated itself. After hitting his 599th home run in the 7th inning, it seemed unlikely that Rodriguez would get to bat again. But then the Royals lowly bullpen worked their magic and A-Rod strode to the plate just one inning later, with a shot at hitting number 600. Many in attendance had already left, but those still there understood the significane of the moment and whipped themselves into a frenzy. There were A-Rod chants, there was yelling, there were thousands of photos taken.
Unfortunately, there was no scurrying to the left and right field corners for a chance at catching a piece of history. Sadly, the new Yankee Stadium doesn't have any publicly accessible areas in home run territory. A-Rod ended up doubling to right-center in this particular chance at number 600, but if he does end up hitting his 600th at the new Yankee Stadium, the person catching the ball will have forked over more than $100 for the chance to catch it. And the common folk (us) were stuck in the upper deck, reminiscing of a simpler time when Yankee Stadium was built in a way that allowed the average fan to get somewhat close to the field of play.
Now in its second year of existence, we've come to accept the shortcomings of the new Yankee Stadium experience. We enjoy our Lobel's Steak Sandwiches, wide concourses and elevators to the upper deck, but we lament the fact that we can't ever enjoy the thrill of catching a souvenir unless we pay top dollar for field level seats. We're not suggesting that Yankee Stadium security allows people to cram into the home run sections for A-Rod's chance at history. We're just nostalgic for the charm of the old Yankee Stadium. We miss the chance of being close to the action even though we only paid $15 for a tier reserved ticket. There isn't a solution to this problem for the common fan, we're just going to have to grin and bear it.