Yesterday while tutoring a student for his SATs, I overheard a conversation another tutor was having with her student. He had a writing assignment for school and ended up writing about going to a Yankee game for his birthday when he was in second grade. This got me thinking about the “old” stadium and the “new” stadium and how they make me feel. When the idea of the new stadium was being floated around at first, I was against it. I was young and sentimental. The House that Ruth Built was the first place I can remember seeing a game (apparently I went to a Mets game and a game in the Metrodome I don’t remember). It’s where I saw A-Rod’s 500th career home run. Aside from infrequent trips to Shea Stadium and a three game set at Fenway Park, it was the only professional stadium I knew for many years. Eventually, I resigned myself to the fact that the new stadium was coming whether I wanted it or not…
If I close my eyes, I can’t tell the difference. All the sounds and the smells are about the same. The whiff hot dogs kept warm in water, freshly poured or spilled beer, and recently freed peanuts settles around me and there’s nothing different. The vague hint of grass and dirt direct themselves upward to my nostrils and lodge themselves inside my mind, turning on my boyhood brain. I can feel myself back on the basepaths. I can feel myself back in the outfield.
The constant hum of the other 54,999 consumes me and makes me think there was no shot move down the street. Frequent organ bursts remind me that I’m right: the sounds haven’t changed much. The ball still slaps against the glove and the bat still cracks against the ball with the same dulcet tones. Then I open my eyes to a diamond more brilliant than any other I could imagine.
While the diamond is what matters most, I can’t help but notice the differences in most everything else. The structure. The placement of the monument. The flags. I see these things and take a deep breath. When exhaling, it comes out more as a sigh than anything else and it takes a part of my heart with it. This isn’t the stadium of my boyhood brain. That building is no more. The last time I saw that building, it was a hole in the ground with concrete surrounding it. I will never get the site of my first baseball memory back. Then the pitch draws my eye back to what matters: the game.
The game’s importance is paramount. That it’s being played is more important than WHERE it’s being played. My boyhood brain and its image of Yankee Stadium II have passed and now, I must embrace Yankee Stadium III and know that it will be the home of my future brain. I’ve already had more-than-fond memories there and will have many more in the years to come. The first place I saw a game is never coming back and I’ll never see the spot where I sat with my mother, sister, and father to see the Yankees play the Blue Jays. My boyhood brain has matured, though, and I have come to terms with all of that. Now, I can do nothing but look forward to all the memories I’ll make in the “new” stadium, like (many) more championships and taking my children to their first game. I’ll never forget what the old stadium meant to me, but I’ll also keep in mind that the new stadium has a chance to mean just as much to me and that it will mean so much more to millions of young fans out there who will grow up with The House that George Built.
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