Last weekend, I took in a Phillies game. It was the first major league baseball game I’d seen in at least fifteen years. Yesterday I took in my second.
I got the call early in the week from my friend Steve. A friend of his, a Yankee season ticket hold, had an extra ticket. Would I like to go?
Later it came out, Steve knew I wasn’t a Yankee fan, but thought of this as a photo safari for me. Good thinking! Our seats were down low in right field, beyond the dugout.
I met Steve at 8:50 and we drove to our rendezvous point where Norm, the ticket holder, picked us up.
The drive to the Bronx was a breeze. We made one stop on the Hutch (see my previous entry) and then headed past Fordham University and the Bronx Zoo to a stop on the #4 train.
This was a great idea. I haven’t been to Yankee Stadium in nearly 50 years, but I’ve heard traffic is horrendous. Taking the train for the last few minutes eliminates the crush of traffic going into and out of the stadium. Anyway, I love the subway and can’t remember the last time I was on this classic elevated line.
Looking down the tracks from the Fordham Road station, all I could think of was a roller coaster. The tracks went downhill, not steadily, but with few little bumps along the way. Finally, they took a dip and disappeared.
Getting off the train put us right next to the stadium. We were too close to have any perspective of its physical size. There are majestic views of Yankee Stadium from the Major Deegan Expressway, but none from our vantage point.
Norm’s daughter joined us here and the four of us walked around the outer edge of the park and into the Stadium Club. The Stadium Club is a very nice restaurant. In a venue where a beer can cost $8.50, the Stadium Club’s prices keep pace! We sat down for brunch.
Norm had celebrated his birthday on Tuesday, like me. Part of what he wanted had to do with Yankees and he had made arrangements to get us down to the edge of the dugout before the game started.
Unfortunately, being that wasn’t quite enough. The players never showed and we retreated up the foul line to our seats.
Let’s talk a little about Yankee Stadium. I have been there before. It was some time in the late 50s or early 60s. My dad had somehow gotten tickets to a football Giants game.
It was a day as cold as I can remember. We sat under an overhang, in the end zone with an unobstructed view. The smell of cigar smoke was thick enough to cut with a knife.
I don’t remember anything about the football game. Nothing.
Sitting in our seats a few minutes before game time gave me a chance to look around. The stadium itself (as opposed to the field of play) was smaller than I expected. Though the paint and fixtures seemed to be in good repair, the stadium looked old and tired.
The field itself was spectacular. We had come early enough to watch the ritual as the lines were carefully painted up the base paths, along with the batter’s and coaches boxes. The infield dirt was gently raked and then lightly sprayed, turning it a beautiful brown.
I’m sorry I’m not a Yankee fan, because this was an amazing win for them. Trailing all game, and looking sad doing it, they rallied in the bottom of the ninth and won as Hideki Matsui lined a double into left field.
A few sections up, a group of Japanese fans celebrated in a way I haven’t seen since I saw my grandparents celebrate at my Bar Mitzvah!
All I could think about was the pitcher, Francisco Rodriguez – aka “K-Rod.” He’s on my fantasy league team. He had just given up two runs, four walks and picked up the loss! Ouch.
I must admit, the vast majority of the game was seen by me through the lens of my camera. I brought the Canon, both lenses and nearly 2 gb of memory. Nothing was wasted.
In fact, it wasn’t until after the game and a chance to thumb through my photos that I realized how awkward and stressful a pitcher’s motion is. This is the kind of thing you just don’t get to appreciate unless the motion is stopped.
Having seen the Phillies last week, I was ready to try some new and improved techniques. My timing on fly balls and swinging bats is better. I also decided to sacrifice ‘noise’ (the digital cameras equivalent of graininess in an old fashioned photo) in order to shoot with a very fast shutter and open aperture.
For most of the game I was capturing images at 1/3200 second. That was enough to freeze every bit of action I saw. Opening the lens a little less increased my depth of field, making it easier to get sharper pictures.
When men were on first, I turned the autofocus off, focused on 2nd base and hoped for a play there. A few times that move paid off. Mostly it didn’t.
My favorite shot came as Juan Rivera of the Angels chased down a home run to right. I caught him as he jumped, hoping to find he ball. He didn’t get it but I did… well, at least I got the shot.
As the game ended, we poured out of the stadium and headed back to the “el.” This strategy of Norm’s worked again. In ten minutes we were in the car and faced no traffic all the way home to Connecticut.
Isn’t this strange? After all these years I get to see baseball games on consecutive weekends. And, there’s the possibility of more. My friend Bob is coming up from Charlotte, North Carolina in a few weeks. We’re not totally set in our plans, but he’d like to see the Red Sox play the Angels at Fenway.