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Yankees Stadium – New York Yankees

4 Jul

New York Yankees – 0

Cleaveland Indians – 1

MLB American League – 14th June 2011

Football clubs in the UK looking to become corporate behemoths can take a lot (both good and bad) from the New York Yankees, the most famous brand associated with baseball. Over the course of the last century, the Yankees have dominated baseball, winning a record 27 World Series, 40 American League Pennants and have more players than anybody else in the Baseball Hall of Fame. As such, the franchise has become a corporate behemoth, with two club shops in Times Square, massive presence in and around the Bronx, and worldwide coverage. As I’m impressionable, it was drilled into me when I first attended the States to not watch the Yankees, but instead watch the Mets. $20 later and a fun afternoon which saw me convert myself into a New York Mets fan. However with my recent trip to New York coincided with the Mets playing away for 19 days straight, so I plucked up $40 and attended Yankee’s Stadium.

"Catch me at the X with OG at a Yankee game" - Yeah, in your face Jay Z

I arrived a couple of hours before the first pitch at 161St – Yankee’s Stadium (as the station was helpfully called), and embarked onto an impressive sight. Yankee’s Stadium is huge, and the entire community is set up around this baseball team. I walked up to the stadium, was directed to where to go to pick up my tickets, and then ushered into the gate. Everybody was friendly, saying “enjoy the game!”, so maybe it wasn’t as commercialised as I thought it was.

Wrong.

I had a look around the gift shop and purhcased my usual pin badge (of which there was many), and it immediately became my most expensive at $15. Put it this way, when I bought the one for Debrecen, I had to pay to get it shipped from Debrecen, as well as help fund a new run for the badges. It cost me the equivalent of $10. That was a Hungarian league club, this is the New York Yankees. Also I can see they cater for their new fans by being the first stadium I’ve been to that sold fruit. Fruit! It was surprisingly empty though.

Bit of a comedown from pie & peas.

I took my seat in the Grandstand. To get there I had to take a lift to the 4th tier of the stadium, and the reason why this stadium was called Yankee Stadium II. The first one only had 3 tiers, with their increased success, they worked out it would be cheaper to build a new stadium next door with an extra tier. I took my seat one row from the back, the price? $40. Rampant commercialism definitely a goer here.

Above us only Row Z....

I was hungry, so went to get a chicken tenders (basically posh chicken nuggets, equivalent to the KFC Crispy Strips) and chips, with a beer. After getting ID’ed (to which I elicited a response of “Damn, that’s a nice name!”. Yeah, she got a tip), the total price (without the tip) came to $25. So if you’re keeping score, the total price without even seeing a pitch thrown is currently $82 (the tip was $2). Compare that to the White Sox whereby we were around about the $60 mark, by the time the first pitch was thrown. But there we were on our 4th beer and had eaten a LOT more food.

Also, at the White Sox, we were entrenched well in right field, between home and first base. At the Yankees, I could only be one row worse off. So apologies for a lot of these pictures, as I’ve had to use an epic level of zoom not seen on anything but sniper rifles.

Restricted viewing a go-go

Anyway, onto the game, maybe it can redeem itself. The story going into the game was all about Derek Jeter. The lead off hitter was only 6 hits off 3,000 (hits – where you hit the ball and not get out), if he had a good game then who knows. Yankees were the much stronger side, having already beaten Cleaveland in their past 3 games, one more and they complete the sweep against them.

6 More

It started out well for the Yankees, getting out Cleaveland’s first three hitters without letting them score a run. Derek Jeter edged closer with hit 2,995, and the Yankees loaded all three bases, but couldn’t convert. The Yankees did seem to play a pressure style of game, going for bases loaded before hitting a home run or a few hits to get a few runs. This patient approach usually seems to work, but they were choking whenever they got to a decent scoring opportunity.

Without much of a shout of the score changing (with Cleaveland swinging and missing multiple times), I headed to the concessions stand for a hot dog (actually quite reasonable for $8), and in the process I missed the only action of the game, Cleaveland bringing in a runner to score one run.

You're just a Yank Jimmy Bullard....

I didn’t see what happened, but apparently a fielding mistake by Nick Swisher (who seemed to be the Yankees’ Jimmy Bullard) lead to Michael Brantley scoring a treble, which was brought in by Asdrubal Cabrera. From there the game seemed to crumble, with the Yankees not getting any more hits that I can remember in my expensively sozzled haze.

Swing and a miss. Again.

So after last call was made after the 7th innings (of which I wasn’t happy, the beer salesmen would rarely venture to your seat for beer, I couldn’t buy more than one at a time, and generally they were pretty unhelpful), I did something that I rarely – if ever – do.

I left the game early. Nothing was happening, and with 45,000 people heading to the exits, I wanted to get out of there before they found a way of sucking any more money out of me. I dodged the “Bank of America Yankee Credit Card” salespeople heading out.

Zzzzzzzz.......

Overall it was an odd experience at the Yankees Stadium. To be honest, I hated it. I enjoy baseball, so it wasn’t the game (though it was a dull game, but I’ve enjoyed 0-0 draws in my time). Was it that I was a Mets fan? Maybe, but baseball you don’t have the level of segregation of football. To be honest, it was more the bland experience. Most people in the stadium were either corporate or tourists (worked out in my unbelievably unscientific way of hearing the accents, the price of the tickets and general lack of Yankees tops), and the franchise (it’s not a team, nor club, it’s a franchise) seemed to find a way to fleece them for every penny.

Really?

I think I was a victim of daylight robbery, and – as the bible says “Thou Shalt Not Steal” – you can see where you can get the phrase that’s popular amongst baseball fans outside of the Bronx.

“Even Jesus Hates The Yankees”.

U.S. Cellular Field – Chicago White Sox

21 Jun

Chicago White Sox – 6

Detroit Tigers – 4

MLB American League – 3rd June 2011

I like baseball. America’s pastime is a great way to spend an afternoon or an evening. My love grew after a curious glance at the game on my last visit to the States. Two years later I would be back and in a different part of the country but when there was a choice between watching a baseball match (the Chicago White Sox vs Detroit Tigers) or a football match (Chicago Fire vs Seattle Sounders) when I was in Chicago, I’d be watching a baseball match.

The reason? It’s really American, and you learn more about the nation’s culture than at any museum or overpriced tour. So even though I desperately wanted to experience it again, my mate (who I was staying with) surprised me by stating that despite living walking distance from Wrigley Field, he’s not seen a game, and preferred the MLS. I convinced him to give the MLB a try, and convinced him to get tickets to the Chicago White Sox, to watch them play Detroit Tigers.

I always admired Baseball logos, they appeal to the 13 year old rebel in me.

Both teams were playing in the American League Central Division, and were separated by one game win (Detroit in 2nd, White Sox in 3rd). Both were on small winning streaks, something had to give on the humid Friday night in Chicago. We arrived at the stadium half an hour early, and checked out the stadium. The US Cellular field was gorgeous, if a lot smaller than my team’s – The New York Mets – Shea Stadium*. We had seats between home and first (baseball tip – the cheapest tickets are on the left field, we were sat on right field, as most action happens between home and first), in the lower tier. After spending a princely sum of money at the concession stands, we took our seats.

The game began with video packages showing the history of the Chicago White Sox, their 3 World Series titles and 8 Pennants, as well as introductions to the players. The players ran out to music with fireworks and dancing. Yes it looks ridiculous in football, but in baseball it works well. We were then treated to the US National anthem, sung by Katie QuickI uploaded it to youtube and got thanks from the singer. It was amazing – the anthem sends tingles up my spine, and it was sung great!

Impeccably sung anthem there.

Onto the game itself, and after the first innings, where White Sox scored a run rather inexplicably (the fielder ran the guy out in first, rather than at home), the game was quiet. Luckily though, when you attend a baseball game, it’s less about the game, but more about the show. Sellers of beer and other bits and bobs would walk past the game with no regard of you watching it. Instead they are often a lot more entertaining than the game. One guy in particular, seller of Candy Floss, was screaming inexplicit nothingness every few seconds. Lord knows what he was saying – you can try and decipher it here – but he made my day. He’d make more money at Colwyn Bay FC selling his wares.

ARGHHHHHAAANNNNDIIIIEEEEE!!

Two things I had trouble with in the states – the first is the crazy alcohol laws. Everywhere I went I had to take my passport, as I foolishly passed my driving test the week before. You got ID’ed if you look under thirty. Furthermore, I never got a hang of the tipping. As notoriously tight arse, actually tipping 15-20% of the price of a beer seems, well, foolish. Particularly in the baseball, when you are not going to get the bar to buy you back. I think I insulted the seller by counting out exact change. Oh well, plenty more beer sellers in the stadium.

Don't tip enough, and beer sellers get in the way of your view.

The game was dull until the bottom of the 4th innings, where it picked up immensely, but the other notable point was some Chicago local found out I was Welsh & wanted to hear me say “That  long town name“. I was happy to oblige for a beer!

At the bottom of the 4th, business (as they say over here) picked up. Carlos Quentin hit a huge home run to the left field, bringing in two runners, putting The Sox 4-0 up. Tigers hit back with a three run home run at the top of the 5th. The Sox scored another homer at the bottom of the 5th, with Brent Lillibridge scoring with the bases empty. The score was 5-4 and remained that way until the 8th innings.

Alexei Ramirez at bat in the fifth.

The crowd were beginning to lose interest after dull 6th and 7th innings (particularly last call for alcohol is at the bottom of the 7th), so the on pitch entertainment was ramped up, with t-shirts throwing girls and mascots running around, with dancing competitions as well. Detroit put one run on the board to make it 5-4, but Juan Pierre, the MVP of the game, caught an amazing catch to end Detroit’s 8th innings, before stepping up and scoring a home run to make it 6-4. Detroit didn’t score in the 9th innings. The Chicago White Sox win the game.

A furry thing handed out t-shirts. And the White Sox mascots did too.

Comparing my last match to this one (the Colwyn Bay vs FC United playoff), the excitement displayed by the White Sox faithful was disappointingly muted, but nevertheless after staying for a section of the post match firework display, we headed home (via the Bacardi Bar, which is the White Sox clubhouse). Although different from football in terms of levels of passion, it was still brilliant experiencing baseball again. God Bless America’s Pastime.

* No, not “The Shay Stadium”, FC Halifax fans, though it’s  a moot point – as in the last year The Mets moved to the Citibank Field.