Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Met fan at new Yankee Stadium

Squawker Lisa and I made our first trip to Yankee Stadium tonight. The new Stadium is a much nicer version of the old one, which is both good and bad.

It's good if you're a fan of Yankee tradition and wanted to see the Stadium upgraded with wider concourses, wider seats, better food and a dazzling video screen. I also liked the manually-operated scoreboards on the outfield walls.

But by sticking so closely to the original design, the stadium did not seem as new and exciting as Citi Field did to me. The drab colors in the concourses and on the ramps created a bureaucratic feel. And I saw what the Mets meant when they insisted that they had built a ballpark, not a stadium. I still think the Mets should have had more seats, but they certainly do have a more intimate place to play.

The concourses did feature some photos of great Yankee teams. Imagine something like that in a team's ballpark! But Monument Park did seem to be following the Mets' approach to team history. From our seats in left field, we were able to look down and see what appeared to be a warehouse crowded with retired numbers and plaques. The numbers at least need to be back on the wall as they were at the old Stadium or at least someplace more visible.

Past the rightfield wall, there were painted pennants commemorated each of the Yankees' world championships. This display also seemed tucked away.

On the other hand, the cartons for carrying your concessions all said "26 and counting." But for all I know, that could refer to the number of Yankees implicated in performance-enhancing drug scandals.

Speaking of which, some people in our section chanted "steroids" when Jason Giambi came to bat in his return to New York. I'll bet they weren't doing that last year when he was on their team. Most people did seem to cheer Giambi, who was batting third, but there were no cheers for the next batter, Matt Holliday. So the former Yankee gets cheers, but nothing for the future Yankee.

Citi Field beats Yankee Stadium when it comes to food, at least based on what we sampled. The Lobel's steak sandwich was very good, though for $15 it had better be. You certainly got a lot of meat for your money, but maybe they should offer a version 2/3 the size for ten bucks, which is what those four sensational ribs cost at Blue Smoke in Citi Field.

Then again, Yankee Stadium is not about keeping the costs down. The other thing we wanted to try were the garlic fries, which I do not recommend. For $9, I got a larger order of average fries with a lot of garlic on them. I thought $7.50 was high for fries when I got the Belgian fries at Box Frites at Citi Field, but those fries were great.

We did not try any other food, but on future trips I want to check out a burger at Johnny Rockets and a sandwich at Mike's Deli. I almost did a double-take when I saw someone eating sushi, but then we came upon a nice-looking sushi storefront, so we might have to check that out as well.

One of the oddest sights we saw was a sign on the back of each seat that said "BE ALERT FOR BATS AND/OR BALLS." In fact, a bat did fly into the stands near home plate. But we were not sitting behind home plate. (Actually, not many people were sitting there, with those prices.) We were sitting in left field, in fair territory. So while a ball might come our way, it hardly seems likely that the outfield crowd should have to watch out for bats. But that sign was on the back of every seat in our section.

One tradition the Yankees retained but did not upgrade was the Kate Smith singing "God Bless America." For $1.3 billion, I expected a lot more than the same scratchy old recording. Something like a hologram of Kate floating over centerfield. Then she could glide over the infield and settle into one of those empty seats behind home plate.

I don't know if this is standard with the Yankees, but the team took the field to Don Henley's "The Boys of Summer." It's an odd choice to use a song about aging to introduce a team with such an old lineup.

Or maybe the Yankees are just trying to tweak Met ownership by using a song whose title is also that of a famous book about the Brooklyn Dodgers.


Uncle Mike said...

As I commented in Lisa's entry, I haven't been to Citi Field yet, so I can't compare. But there’s no doubt that the Mets wanted to build a “ballpark,” while the Yankee brass wanted to build “YANKEE STADIUM for the 21st Century!!!!”

George Steinbrenner never does anything, instead he overdoes everything. It’s his stadium, and it appears that he won’t even live all that long to enjoy it.

There’s no question that Shea had better food than Yankee Stadium, at least up until about three or four years ago. Around that time, the Yanks got more diversified with their food, while the quality of Shea food went downhill a bit. If the food at Citi Field is as good as that at Steinbrenner Memorial Coliseum, but cheaper, I can live with that. Forget what Justin Timberlake did to Janet Jackson at the Super Bowl: Ten bucks for a can of retro Ballantine beer, now that’s obscene!

You want fries, go for the Nathan’s crinkle-cut fries. If I got a year’s supply of those, they’d be gone in two months and I’d outweigh C.C. Sabathia. (Which would be very bad, since I’m only a little taller than Brian Gionta – speaking of which, the Devils also serve Nathan’s crinkle-cut fries at the Prudential Center. Sometimes I get those instead of a meal. Yum yum.) But do NOT order a Nathan’s hot dog at The House That George Built. That narrow, wrinkled tube was an insult to gastronomes everywhere. (Come to think of it, they don’t look to good at the Prudential or at KeySpan Park, either.) I don’t know how Nathan’s has stayed in business for nearly a century, because their hot dogs are a joke.

For my first game, I was in Section 431a, in the upper deck in what would have been Section 26 at the old Stadium. I saw those signs on the seatbacks, and even Roger Clemens couldn’t throw a bat up that high.

You’re right about needing a hologram of Kate Smith. After all, if they can play video of Robert Merrill singing the Banner, they can have a 3-D Kate… on second thought, that might not be such a good idea. You ever see the statue of Kate outside the Spectrum in Philly? It’s life-size, and it does her no favors.

Previously, the Yanks just took the field to whatever the song is called that begins, “Y’all ready for this?” But “The Boys of Summer”? I could see if Don Henley were a Yankee Fan, but he’s from Texas and probably roots for the Astros. And using that song with that title does nothing to tweak the Mets. And besides, seeing some of these millionaires in their seats – the ones who still have their millions and still show up, that is, reminds me of the song’s mention of “a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac.” That just ain’t right.

It’s a very weird experience, this new Stadium. It may never truly feel like home, the way the old one did. But I reserve the right to change my mind if the results turn out to be the same.

One more thing: I’d watch the talk about performance-enhancing drugs, especially since the centerpiece of the only Met team in the last 23 years to win a Pennant, Mike Piazza, is, at the least, as much a suspect as anyone else now.

Brent said...

About "The Boys of Summer": was Pettitte pitching?

If he was, then that's the song he comes out to.

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