April 18, 2008

An Homage to the Home Stadium

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Do you feel lucky? Maybe you will once classes have ended and you’re living the life on Slope Day, but when it comes to baseball, I’m getting chills from how much bad luck has made headlines recently.
Ranging from simple bad luck to tragedy — bad omens seem to keep popping up in some of the most legendary baseball stadi-

ums in America.
The series of unfortunate events began two weeks ago with (I’m not making this up) a freakish hawk attack at Fenway Park.
Yes, a real, live red-tailed hawk drew blood from the scalp of poor, unsuspecting 13-year-old Alexa Rodriguez on April 3 when she was touring the stadium along with classmates from Memorial Boulevard Middle School in Bristol, Conn. The bird of prey had a nest near the press booth (which, of course, houses a different type of predator … ironic much?).
Soon after, Red Sox Nation tried to pass on its misfortune, as one of its own infiltrated the crew working on the new Yankee Stadium (to replace the storied stadium of the Bronx Bombers in 2009 … more on that later).
The worker hatched an evil plot to curse the new park by burying a David Ortiz jersey in the concrete foundations back in August. The Yankees removed the shirt on Sunday after former fellow colleagues of the construction worker, Gino Castignoli, phoned in anonymous tips about the shirt’s location.
As time went on, it just got worse, with the saddest event coming most recently. After watching his hometown Mets beat the Nationals on Tuesday night, 6-0, a father of two lost his balance while he was leaving Shea Stadium. He fell to his death over the side of an escalator on the mezzanine level.
All of this madness seems to signal a very discouraging start to 2008. Not only are these events ridiculously random and depressing but it particularly scares every fan when the craziness invades their home park. I think that the morale of a team and its fans is closely related to their home stadium bond. Strong emotions about the park feeds the public’s emotions about strange events like these, and vice versa.
The baseball stadium is home for many a fan, and mine is affectionately called “The House that Ruth Built.”
As a Yankee fan in Southern exile, I have only been to the motherland once in my life. My dad and I took a little bonding trip to New York City when I was nine years old, and the night game at Yankee Stadium we went to was significantly more fun than seeing the Rockettes.
Ever since then, I have loved Derek Jeter, Tino Martinez, Paul O’Neill and Bernie Williams (the last two of which hit home runs at the game).
Other than those homers that blew my little elementary school mind, I remember no other statistics from that game. Not even the score. What I remember is the stadium itself — the experience of it.
Yankee Stadium first opened in 1923 with only one significant renovation coming in the 1970s. That tradition makes the park seem larger than life to me, and I assume it is the same for many other lifelong Yankee fans. I have the picture of Yankee Stadium at night etched in my mind; it is my dream home, a mecca many hours from my physical home but never far from my thoughts.
And now my version of the Barbie Dream House will be gone forever.
Less than a month from now, after I have (with some actual work and a lot of luck) survived the string of papers and finals that inevitably comes with the month of May, I will join my family for one last game at Yankee Stadium.
A Saturday afternoon at the best ballpark in the world is like coming home to a house that only has nothing but good memories (because even the experience of losing adds to your favorite team’s magic, at least to me).
Yankee Stadium, and loyal readers who have paid attention to what I have had to say over the past year, thank you for the memories. Let’s make 2008-09 even better! (That is, New York Yankees: 2008 World Series Champions.) And Red Sox Nation, let’s make a deal — maybe the baseball gods will keep your fans alive … if you stay away from my (new) stadium.