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.