An aborted trip to Steinbrenner Field

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As I’ve mentioned a couple of times, the Yankees denied my request for press credentials. I don’t have any problem with this. There are a metric crap-ton of writers who cover the Yankees, space, even in a big new park like Steinbrenner Field is limited, and if anyone in YankeeLand reads my stuff, they know that I don’t exactly write things that make clubhouse and pressbox access an absolute necessity. It is what it is. And to be honest, since the Braves were in town for last night’s game, I looked forward to enjoying it like a fan.  Unfortunately . . .

Steinbrenner Field rain.jpgUgh. I decided to hang around for a bit, however, and pretend I was a reporter.  Down in the Yankee gift shop I overheard a couple of fans opining that, despite the terrible weather forecast making the game a near impossibility, the team didn’t cancel it earlier because if they had they wouldn’t be able to collect $10 a car for parking and thousands upon thousands of dollars in sales of overpriced Yankees merch.

I went up and talked to them. One of them, Gary, is a Braves fan from Atlanta. The other, Gary’s friend Steve, is a Yankees guy.  They wouldn’t let me use their last names, but they were free with their opinions. “They’re shrewd,” Gary said. “They know what they’re doing. We’re all in here, so why not sell us stuff.”

Steve noted that he came to a similarly rainy spring training game back when George Steinbrenner was in charge. “George was out on the concourse himself, handing out umbrellas.”  Gary added “the only thing we get offered is a chance to buy things.”  At that point he picked up a Yankees shot glass from a nearby shelf and checked the price. It was $8.  “And we have to take a loan to get even that,” he chuckled.

Not that they were complaining too harshly. Both Gary and Steve acknowledged that their ticket money could be refunded, even if the parking fees wouldn’t be. They also pointed out that the Braves only visit Tampa once each spring, and given that it’s a marquee game, the team has to try everything it can to get it in.  Everyone agreed that the there weren’t exactly any great options available and, at the end of the day you can’t really do much about the weather.

After leaving Gary and Steve I wandered out to the stands to get a look at the place. Granted I wasn’t there long, but my quick sense: Steinbrenner field might as well be a major league park. Between its size, the prices, the sheer number of rabid fans, the police out in the parking lot directing traffic and everything else, it’s a much more big time atmosphere and experience than many Reds and Pirates home games I’ve been to.

Not that this is necessarily a good thing.  There are a lot of people who come down to spring training for the intimate, casual atmosphere. To get close to the ballplayers and closer to the action than they can back home.  That’s all out the window at Steinbrenner Field.  I can’t blame the Yankees for this — so many people want to come see the team that having them in some place like McKechnie Field would be an impossibility — but it’s sorta sad on some level.  Nothing can be done about it though. The Yankees Universe is the Yankees Universe.

And if you want, you can get a shirt that says so for around $60:

Yankees Universe.jpgThe game was canceled at 8:30. I went back to my hotel and got some sleep.  No games today — and even if I was heading to one it would probably be postponed due to the rain — but I’m heading to Clearwater to catch the Phillies tomorrow.  I’ll probably hold the Scenes from Spring Training posts until Monday, though.  Until then, back to the blogging.

Kenny Lofton, Carlos Baerga to throw out first pitches in Games 1 and 2

CLEVELAND - OCTOBER 05:  Kenny Lofton #7 of the Cleveland Indians runs to first base against the New York Yankees during Game Two of the American League Divisional Series at Jacobs Field on October 5, 2007 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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Major League Baseball just announced the details for the ceremonial and off-field stuff in connection with Games 1 and 2 of the World Series. The one most people were wondering about was the ceremonial first pitch. Sorry, Charlie Sheen fans. Sorry fans of “Major League” in general. Two real baseball stars are handing first pitch duties: Kenny Lofton before Game 1, Carlos Baerga for Game 2.

Lofton needs no introduction. He should be a Hall of Famer but is criminally overlooked, perhaps because he bounced around to a lot of different clubs. He made his name in Cleveland, however, doing three separate tours with the Indians, leading the AL in stolen bases for five straight years early in his career and putting up a line of .300/.375/.426 in ten seasons on the shores of Lake Erie.

Baerga played for the Tribe between 1990 and 1996 and was, for a time, quite the superstar, even if people don’t talk about him much anymore. His career fell off pretty quickly in that way that often happens for second basemen and/or stars who end up on the Mets, but there was a time when he was perhaps the biggest star on some excellent Indians teams. People had “will Carlos Baerga be a Hall of Famer?” conversations and stuff. The mid-90s were a special time.

Beyond the first pitches, the National Anthem will be sung by Rachel Platten before Game 1 and by the group Locash before Game 2. As I am an old man out of touch with most things, I have no idea who they are, but I am sure their fans are passionate and their renditions of the Anthem will be fine and non-controversial. Fox, MLB and the folks at major record labels are pretty good about that sort of thing and everyone will be especially vigilant in light of what happened with that Canadian tenors group at the All-Star Game. If nothing else, I bet you pick up the check for the Anthem performance after the song, and not before these days.

I guess the White Sox don’t count

CHICAGO - APRIL 04: General Manager Ken Williams of the Chicago White Sox shows off his World Series Championship ring during ceremonies prior to the start of a game against the Cleveland Indians on April 4, 2006 at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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I realize everyone is super excited about the Cubs being in the World Series for the first time since 1945, with the chance to win it for the first time since 1908. But you’d think folks would remember that it’s just the Cubs — and not Chicago as a whole — who have been away from the Fall Classic for so long.

I know their recent struggles makes it seem like a long, long time ago, but the White Sox won the World Series in 2005. They were in the World Series in 1959 too. You wouldn’t know that, though, if you looked at some prominent media outlets:





I understand the impulse to tell the “a whole city is coming together!” story every time stuff like this happens, but there are a lot of White Sox fans in Chicago. A good number of them don’t give a crap about the Cubs. Many even resent them for being the glory franchise in the city in the eyes of many. They certainly don’t feel like there’s a championship drought afoot, and I imagine they’re somewhat cranky about having their team’s glory plastered over like this.