Evil Empire State of Mind

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It’s no secret the Yankees are the most successful franchise in baseball and have access to the most resources in baseball. I could make the argument that the Yankees are the most successful franchise in professional sports. I mean 27 World Series titles is a very resounding argument. So from the biggest, most self-important, winningest team in baseball, you would expect the biggest, most self-affected, mecca of a stadium. That is Yankee Stadium.

The result is a stadium that absolutely embodies the traits of the team. Yankee Stadium is larger than life, and very business-like with a coldness and austere feeling it emanates. Much like the team, the stadium makes it known that it’s the biggest and best, and it embraces that and uses it as motivation. A sense of regality applies to both the team and the stadium. The Yankees policy of players being well groomed pertains to the stadium as well. Clean lines and a very professional appearance are major part of the stadium. Simply put, the Yankees built the perfect stadium for their franchise.

Along with Citi Field, Yankee Stadium opened in 2009. Towered, Roman Colosseum-type, arched windows dominate the exterior façade as a nod to the original Yankee Stadium. A small urban plaza area sits between the elevated subway line and the main entrance, and there is also a city park across the street with several ball fields. The new stadium duplicates the arched frieze that flanks the top of the upper deck from the old stadium as well as bringing back the manual scoreboards in the left and right field walls.

The stadium is in the same location as the old Yankee Stadium in the Bronx neighborhood in New York. The urban stadium includes a “cut out” so the elevated subway can be viewed very briefly in right field, which is cool. The neighborhood has the urban feel similar to near Wrigley Field, with a stadium in the middle of a neighborhood. It just feels kind of strange to have this huge, brand-new $1.5 billion stadium in this location. The stadium is very nice, but not without its share of criticisms, some of which have validity. A Yankees blog says it is a “mall featuring a baseball game,” which is an apt description. I never got to see old Yankee Stadium, but the term most used to describe it was charm. That is something the new stadium doesn’t have yet.

The Yankees seem to embrace the role of evil empire that so many other teams and opposing fans have bestowed upon them. They even perpetuate that idea by playing John Williams’s “Imperial March” (better known as Darth Vader’s theme song!) when the batting order is introduced before the game. They are perhaps the most hated franchise in baseball, and the team and fans love it.

The whole game experience is unlike any other team. Instead of some used car salesman throwing out the first pitch at some small market team’s home game, it was the CEO of Papa John’s on the field literally throwing out the first pitch as the players were taking the field. That never happens! Most first pitches are 15-30 minutes before the actual start of the game. Papa John was just one of several celebrities that were at the game, and the Yankees surely wanted everyone to know how many famous people were there. They showed Julianna Moore, Paul Simon, and Shaq all on the big screen and even wrote their name on the big screen so fans knew who they were looking at. I would imagine this is a regular occurrence.

For the B4B team, this was one of the best stadium experiences in the way the Yankees worked with our organization. They provided tickets to us in the Delta Skybox360 Suite*. The seats were great, albeit we were a little out of our element watching the game with a bunch of powerful New York businessmen. The Yankees employee who we were working with followed-up with us several times to make sure we were enjoying our time at the stadium. They printed Biking for Baseball on the tickets we used. The Yankees definitely had the small details nailed down, and that kind of stuff really leaves an impression on fans. Fans aren’t just treated as dollar signs, they are treated as people. Nicely done, Yankees.

*Talk about corporate branding. I don’t even know what Delta Skybox360 means. Is it an airplane video game or something? Like Xbox360?

Besides having the PR responsibilities figured out, the video board graphics at Yankee Stadium was by far the best we’ve seen this season. All of the information fans want to know about the player at the plate is easily viewed and displayed in a way that uses common sense other teams lack when it comes to the video board. Clever graphics and great use of information is a typical theme on the Yankees video screen. This picture is a perfect example of the stats being displayed in a very original way, invoking the subway numbers and images all to common for New Yorkers.

Yankees fans have a great tradition at the start of each game. They cheer for each Yankees player by name during the top of the first inning, until that player acknowledges the fans. Who knows if the players appreciate it or think it’s annoying; it’s a pretty cool way for the fans to connect with the players. Another tradition that is my favorite is how Derek Jeter is still introduced to the plate by the late Bob Sheppard. Sheppard was the longtime voice of the Yankees who began his career the same day as Mickey Mantle in 1951, and the Yankees use a recorded clip to introduce Jeter.

The game itself featured the best pitching match-up we’ve seen this season. David Price of the Rays took the mound against C.C. Sabathia of the Yankees. The game wasn’t quite the pitchers duel we had expected, but it was exciting. Both teams are fighting for the postseason, and this time of year every game has a playoff atmosphere. The Yankees couldn’t capitalize on home runs by Curtis Granderson and A-Rod, and the Rays took advantage of a big 5th inning where they strung together some hits and walks. Russell Martin was definitely struggling behind the plate, and Sabathia was charged with some wild pitches that should have been blocked or could have been passed balls.

The highlight of the game was Jeter’s 3,284 hit to pass Willie Mays for sole possession of 10th place all-time. The hit came of Price, who also happens to be the pitcher his 3,000th hit came off of. Crazy. This was a great piece of history to be a part of. Other than that, the game wasn’t what the home team had hoped for. The Rays won 6-4 with Fernando Rodney closing out the game for his league-leading 43rd save.

We were lucky to have a lot of friends and family come to hang out with us at this game. The unfortunate part was that we couldn’t sit with them in the Delta Suite. Rex and Chase spent the last few innings hanging out with their great family and friends. Thanks for supporting us, Rex’s dad George and his family, and Deanna and Maria!

Yankee Stadium was exactly the regal shrine to the most successful team in baseball that it should be, and we were glad to see it firsthand!

Gm 1– 4/13 Safeco Field – Oakland A’s @ Seattle Mariners

    Oakland wins 4-0 (WP – Colon, LP – Hernandez)

Gm 2 – 4/24 O.Co Stadium – Chicago White Sox @ Oakland A’s
    Oakland wins 2-0 (WP – Milone, LP – Floyd, SV – Balfour)

Gm 3 – 4/27 AT&T Park – San Diego Padres @ San Francisco Giants
    San Diego wins 5-3 (WP – Luebke, LP – Hacker, SV – Street)

Gm 4 – 5/3 Angels Stadium – Toronto Blue Jays @ LA Angels of Anaheim
    Toronto wins 5-0 (WP – Morrow, LP – Haren)

Gm 5 – 5/7 Dodger Stadium – SF Giants @ Los Angeles Dodgers
    Dodgers win 9-1 (WP – Lilly, LP – Zito)

Gm 6 – 5/8 Petco Park – Colorado Rockies @ San Diego Padres
    Padres win 3-1 (WP – Suppan, LP – White, SV – Thayer)

Gm 7 – 5/12 Chase Field – San Francisco Giants @ Arizona Diamondbacks
    Giants win 5-2 (WP – Cain, LP – Cahill, SV – Casilla)

Gm 8 – 5/20 Coors Field -Seattle Mariners @ Colorado Rockies
    Mariners win 6-4 (WP – Beavan, LP – Guthrie)

Gm 9 – 5/30 The Ballpark in Arlington – Seattle Mariners @ Texas Rangers
    Mariners win 21-8 (WP – Beavan, LP – Holland)

Gm 10 – 6/3 Minute Maid Park – Cincinnati Reds @ Houston Astros
    Astros win 5-3 (WP Lyles, LP – Arroyo, SV – Myers)

Gm 11 – 6/15 Tropicana Field – Miami Marlins @ Tampa Bay Rays
    Rays win 11-0 (WP – Moore, LP – Zambrano)

Gm 12 – 6/22 @ Marlins Park – Toronto Blue Jays @ Miami Marlins
    Blue Jays win 12-5 (WP – Romero, LP – Sanchez)

Gm 13 – 6/30 @ Turner Field – Washington Nationals @ Atlanta Braves
    Braves win 7-5 (WP – Minor, LP – Strasburg, SV – Kimbrel)

Gm 14 – 7/6 @ Busch Stadium – Miami Marlins @ St. Louis Cardinals
    Marlins win 3-2 (WP – Nolasco, LP – Westbrook, SV – Bell)

Gm 15 – 7/1@ Kauffman Stadium – Chicago White Sox @ Kansas City Royals
    White Sox win 9-8 (WP – Alexrod, LP – Teaford)

Gm 16 – 7/19 @ Target Field – Baltimore Orioles @ Minnesota Twins
    Orioles win 4-3 (WP – Chen, LP – Burnett, SV – J. Johnson)

Gm 17 – 7/24 @ U.S. Cellular Field – Minnesota Twins @ Chicago White Sox
    White Sox win 11-4 (WP – Jones, LP – Fien)

Gm 18 – 7/26 @ Miller Park – Washington Nationals @ Milwaukee Brewers
    Nationals win 8-2 (WP – Jackson, LP – Gallardo)

Gm 19 – 7/30 @ Wrigley Field – Pittsburgh Pirates @ Chicago Cubs
    Cubs win 14-4 (WP – Germano, LP – Bedard)

Gm 20 – 8/5 @ Comerica Park – Cleveland Indians @ Detroit Tigers
    Tigers win 10-8 (WP – Downs, LP – Perez)

Gm 21 – 8/7 @ Progressive Field – Minnesota Twins @ Cleveland Indians
    Twins win 7-5 (WP – Robertson, LP – Perez, SV – Perkins)

Gm 22 – 8/10 @ PNC Park – San Diego Padres @ Pittsburgh Pirates
     Padres win 9-8 (WP – Brach, LP – Watson, SV – Street)

Gm 23 – 8/15 @ Great American Ball Park – New York Mets @ Cincinnati Reds
     Reds win 6-1 (WP – Leake, LP – Dickey)

Gm 24 – 8/22 @ Nationals Park – Atlanta Braves @ Washington Nationals
     Braves win 5-1 (WP – Medlen, LP – Detwiler)

Gm 25 – 8/25 @ Oriole Park at Camden Yards – Toronto Blue Jays @ Baltimore Orioles
      Orioles win 8-2 (WP – Johnson, LP – Morrow)

Gm 26 – 8/29 @ Citizens Bank Park – New York Mets @ Philadelphia Phillies
      Mets win 3-2 (WP – Harvey, LP – Cloyd, SV – Francisco)

Gm 27 – 9/5 @ Rogers Centre – Baltimore Orioles @ Toronto Blue Jays
      Blue Jays win 6-4 (WP – Delabar, LP – Gonzalez)

Gm 28 – 9/11 @ Citi Field – Washington Nationals @ New York Mets
      Nationals win 5-3 (WP – Gorzelanny, LP – Dickey, SV – Clippard)

Gm 29 – 9/14 @ Yankee Stadium – Tampa Bay Rays @ New York Yankees
      Rays win 6-4 (WP – Price, LP – Sabathia, SV – Rodney)

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