On the Best and Worst Parts of Yankee Fandom, and Coming Home

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Much to my anguish, the story of my Yankee fandom has been a difficult one to live through. If you visit my girlfriend’s Facebook profile, you will see a picture of me wearing a Phillies t-shirt with my arm around one of the biggest Yankee fans I know. I still cringe when I see it, and I don’t know why she keeps it up. I’m sure that there is at least one rabid Bleacher Creature who has started writing me a death threat.

I repent. Allow me to explain myself.

I was born in Tampa, Florida in 1990. My father, who grew up in Westchester, took me to Legend’s Field (now Steinbrenner Field) to watch the Tampa Yankees games as a kid. I was too young to remember any of the players who came up through the minors, but I know Derek Jeter was my hero, and when it came to baseball, I only ever knew or cared about the New York Yankees.

Growing up, my dad would tell me about the first time he saw Mickey Mantle play. There was a giant picture of Joe DiMaggio in his office, next to a picture of my great uncle shaking the Babe’s hand. I learned that Yankee Stadium was the house that Ruth built, Lou Gehrig was the Iron Horse, and that Yogi Berra was worth his weight in gold. Against this backdrop, cheering for the Yankees was like witnessing mythology. I was in love.

Then, in 1998, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays were born, and my family decided that we would do the noble thing and root for the home team. As it turns out, 1998 was also one of the greatest years to be a Yankee fan.

Little did I know that my descent into the life of a baseball foster child had officially begun.

I spent the next few years living with confused loyalties, compounded by my Florida residency, my grandfather’s appreciation for Ted Williams (no, I do not want to talk about it), my grandmother’s undying love for the Chicago Cubs (I cried a little last October), and my strange inclination towards rooting for the Yankees.

There were times when my denial was thick. In high school, I cut my hair into a mohawk when the Rays were in the World Series in 2008. In the spirit of rooting for the home team, I went against the grain of "growing up a Rays fan" by trying to root for the Phillies when I moved to the City of Brotherly Love in 2015.

There is only one explanation as to why switching my allegiance was so easy: I was a fraud.

Before moving to Philly, I spent a couple of years living abroad. With the time difference, I missed a lot of Baseball, including Jeter’s last at bat. Off the top of my head, I couldn’t tell you who won the World Series during those years — but I watched that walk-off single more than once. Bottom line: the worst part of being a Yankee fan for me, is that I took a little too long putting the puzzle together.

The greatest part of being a Yankee fan is everything I’ve experienced. I remember the 2001 World Series like it was yesterday. The Yankees were America’s team, Jeter became Mr. November, and I wanted to punch Craig Counsell in the face. It was already sad time in our nation’s history, and when the Yankees lost in Game 7, I remember just how devastating it all felt. I remember the excitement when we signed A-Rod and the incredible disappointment when we found out that he had been using steroids. I hate the Boston Red Sox and just about anyone who has ever had success with them. I cried when we lost to Miami. I hate Josh Beckett. I have shaken Mariano Rivera’s hand. My favorite movies growing up were 61*, The Sandlot, and Pride of the Yankees. I always rooted for the Yankees whenever "my team" is eliminated from playoff contention. I bawled like a baby when they retired number two.

I know that we have had our share of frustrating losses over the past few months. There have been several steps backward, but several steps forward. This year may not be our year, but there is no reason why it can’t be. After a long stretch of mediocrity, it seems like the Yankees are on the cusp of returning to the greatness we have come to expect. This season, even with a very new cast of characters, has felt like old times - it echoes with promise.

Every time I watch Aaron Judge, I imagine that he may very well put a baseball on the moon. I think Aroldis Chapman’s arm can set a ball on fire, and I expect to win at the start of every game. This is the pure, childlike wonder that this fandom requires.

I love this year because I am no longer a baseball foster child. I finally feel like a Yankee.

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