It was a scorching hot day in July of 2005. I was a 12-year-old walking through a tunnel in right field at the old Yankee Stadium. Earlier that summer, my Little League team had won a sweepstakes to attend a Yankee game, along with the opportunity to take groundballs in right field before the game.
The dark entrance slowly began to fill with light as our team slowly approached the hallowed grounds. I remember feeling anxious with excitement about the opportunity to walk on the grass that many greats had called home. Even at 12, I understood that this opportunity would likely never happen again, and I wanted to be present for it. Consciously or subconsciously, I must have taken in every aspect of that day because it is one of the more clear baseball memories from my childhood.
As the gate in right field opened the vastness of an empty Yankee stadium was startling. The smallness you felt internally looking up into the grandstand, a sea of light blue seats, each step felt like the stadium grew higher. Like a growing ocean wave, begging to turn over and crash down, I found myself enthralled by the magnitude of what I was experiencing. A new appreciation for players being able to thrive in that type of setting was slowly forming in my naïve brain.
The sun was all-encompassing that day: high blue skies, accompanied by intense, beaming heat. It felt like we were the lead actors in a Broadway play, with all the spotlights on us. We each took turns taking groundballs in right field. I can remember how soft the grass felt, a pillow-like feel where the ball lay flat with each hit from a member of the Yankees staff. The slow build of entering the stadium was juxtaposed with how short our time felt on it.
Before I could process what I had just experienced we were being ushered back into the depths of Yankee Stadium. I took a small piece of grass and put it in my pocket, hoping to hold onto any feeling from that brief time on the field.
Since it was 2005, after spending time running around in 90-degree heat, each member of my team was offered a soda and a hot dog. Slowly, like the worst parade you’ve ever seen, each one of us became sick, hurling the remnants of our day into trash bins throughout the seating area. I like to think that we all left a piece of ourselves at the stadium that day, but unfortunately, it was in the garbage cans. It was an epic moment followed by a sudden, grotesque ending. It was potential foreshadowing for what sports fandom could look like: unforgettable experiences, but a couple of wrong decisions and your team will make you want to throw up.
That bizarre day gets rehashed in conversation from time to time and certainly keeps portions of that memory alive. It makes me think about how I viewed the Yankees back then versus how I view them now. Amid a long season, the propensity for my fandom to be marred by frustration and anger is often. We view the Yankees differently as adults, more as a service to our ego, to provide joy in the form of winning, allowing us to feed our competitive needs. Sports tend to feel more substantial as you grow older, where fandom has many negative undertones, particularly during down seasons. Maybe being a fan as a child leans towards being blissfully unaware, which can protect you from the heartbreak of sports. This season has been disappointing and I’ve gotten to the point where my expectations are so low that it almost feels like I care less. Maybe the best way to approach the remainder of the season is to see it through the eyes of your younger self. Root for your favorite player to do well. Cheer for Judge to hit bombs. Hope that Cole can win the Cy Young.
It may be the only way to stomach this season.