On Saturday, my brother-in-law dropped me off in front of Yankee Stadium at 10am. I was there for my Yankees Inside Experience, which was a gift to me from my family for my 40th birthday. We were told to arrive at Gate 6 at 10:15am. There was a short line when I strolled up. The sky was blue and the weather was perfect, if maybe a little warm in the direct sunlight. At 10:15, they began letting us in. We registered, had our picture taken, and received a badge, after which we were assembled into groups of 30 for a private tour of the stadium. I made sure to dress appropriately for the occasion:
I was not the only one. There was no mistaking the fans who got to roam around Yankee stadium on Saturday morning before almost anyone else was there.
The tour took us through four main attractions in the stadium. We started with a tour of the Yankees dugout, which was pretty amazing. Our group threaded our way through the aisles down toward the field and then out onto the field itself. We got to walk on the warning track (which, as we learned, is not made of dirt, but of a certain mixture of sand and clay) and then down into the dugout.
Everyone took a seat somewhere in the dugout. I sat on the far left end (if you are facing the field) where Yankees manager Joe Girardi sits (or more often than not, stands) during a game:
People had a blast getting to see the dugout, which is apparently not something they do often on the tour. They did it Saturday only because the game time was a later-than-usual start: 4:05pm as opposed to a usual 1pm Saturday start. At first, I was just overawed by it: I was sitting in the Yankees dugout! Later, I tried to act a little more casual:
Eventually, I got up and walked a bit on the warning track just outside of the dugout. I had my picture taken there by the Yankees photographer (these pictures are supposed to be sent to us in the next week or so) and just kind of tried to take it all in.
Home plate was right over there!
We left the dugout shortly after that and made our way up to one of the private luxury suites, where we did a quick walkthrough. I was impressed with how big the suite was. And it was certainly luxurious, with a bar and restrooms, and comfortable places to sit. But that is no way to watch a baseball game. You need to be sitting out among the fans, in the bleechers or the nosebleeds, listening to the screaming and howling, listening to the calls of the vendors, and the voice of the announcer calling off the next batter. I don’t see a point to the luxury boxes. You might as well watch the game from home.
After the suite, we headed down to monument park and got a private tour of that. It was almost like visiting a miniature version of the baseball Hall of Fame.
There are so many retired numbers on the New York Yankees that it won’t be long before you don’t see a player with a number lower than 20 on their jersey. These are just half of them:
Monument Park is right next to the Yankee’s bullpen. There is a door that attached the two. It is located in straightaway center field so that looking in from monument park, you get a unique view of the playing field:
In addition to all of the markers and memorials for famous Yankees ball players, managers, and owners, there is this monument, a memorial to the September 11 attacks on New York City:
After leaving Monument Park, we headed up to the Yankees Museum. We were pressed for time at this point. There was a great display for Mickey Mantel, and another one for Latino players. But the one that I thought was the coolest was Thurmon Munson’s locker. The locker had been preserved at the old Yankee stadium, and it was brought to the museum at the new stadium in tact:
When the tour was done, we went up to the conference center, where we got some goodies (a hat and some other items), and where we got to meet a player. The player who came to talk to us was Raul Ibanez and he was great. He did a 15 minute Q&A session, and then everyone got to take a picture with him. He was gracious and very good at answering the questions.
His best answer was when someone asked him something like, “With the pressure today to perform well, is the game fun anymore?” Ibanez said that he had a different view of pressure. Pressure, to him, was a single mom who had to work two jobs to put food on the table for her kids. Playing baseball was fun and the pressure comes from inside, not from outside.
In an effort to be efficient, he had signed baseballs for everyone earlier, and we each received one when we got our picture taken with him:
There was a buffet lunch which included an open bar, and when it was all over, around 1:30pm, we were led into the seats in the very first row just off the right field wall, where we all got to stand for half an hour and watch the Yankees take batting practice. I’d guess that 15-20 balls were hit into our section.
One very cool thing: Joba Chamberlin took his little boy out into right field and was letting him take some balls that were hit in his direction:
At 2pm, the general public was let into the stadium and we were free to head to our seats. I met my brother-in-law at the Hard Rock Cafe, attached to the stadium, where the two of us hung around until game time at 4pm. I had some great seats on the field level, looking up the third base line:
And, of course, the Yankees won, which was the perfect end to such a remarkable day. I’m so grateful that I got to have this experience. My family is the best!