The last time I had gone to a New York Yankees game was in June, 2011. The commute from north-central Connecticut made going to a game a significant production that involved at least three hours of travel each way, whether I chose to use the train or drive. What I was missing, how much I missed it—these things I never considered until I had the chance to return.
I moved back to New York for a few reasons—some fairly obvious (it’s much closer to my family), some not—but I didn’t realize how much I missed it. It’s less about New York being perfect, but more about it being home, and I didn’t realize how much I missed home until I ended up at Yankee Stadium for three straight October nights.
Three games, three very different feelings when walking back to the D train after nine (or, err, 12 or 13) innings: first, there was sheer elation. The tagline is “legends are born in October”, and Raul Ibañez is doing his best to join them. It’s kind of fitting, the way fans chant “Rah-OOOOOOOOOOOOl” in the weeks leading up to Halloween; Yankee Stadium should feel like a haunted house to opposing teams. Or, at least, that’s what we hope.
After the second game, there is silence. We waited thirteen innings for that?! Bench A-Rod. Bench Granderson. Bench the whole damn team. Oh well, CC’s on the mound tomorrow, it’s not over. We can’t possibly lose a series to the Orioles…can we? The thoughts roll over each other, wave upon wave, while we ride the late night local train back to our homes. Some dispair, some hope, but none are celebrating.
Then, there is Game Five. On the subway I meet two Australians who aren’t quite sure how to get to Yankee Stadium; I ask them if they’ve ever been to a baseball game before and the answer is no. Their initiation into the world of baseball is a decisive elimination game, and it takes every effort of mine to stop blabbing about CC Sabathia and the upstart Orioles and Alex Rodriguez-is-out-of-the-lineup, because the worst thing I could possibly do is try to overwhelm someone; better to let the game unfold organically and pray there is no anti-climax.
We expect that CC Sabathia will do his best to shut the Orioles down, but what he gives us—nine innings, and only in one (the eighth) did he look ordinary. Of course, Sabathia, the ace, is anything but an ordinary pitcher; as such he could pull a David Robertson/Houdini special and work himself out of a bases-loaded, one-out situation, Yankees’ small lead still intact. He is, far and away, the story of the game; the Yankees’ offense did just enough, but Sabathia gave the bullpen a day of rest, which, after two consecutive games of at least 12 innings, can not be understated. Yes, you do not manage the postseason like you do the regular season, but a rested bullpen is never a bad thing.
There are other stories, of course—Curtis Granderson, who had looked awful, hitting a home run to give the Yankees a 3-0 lead; Alex Rodriguez’s benching; Raul Ibañez coming through again—but this night is Sabathia’s night. The nine strikeouts are a lot, but the number seems a bit pedestrian when you consider that the Orioles did not get their second hit of the night until the eighth inning. There is no MVP award for the ALDS, but if there was, Sabathia’s name would have to be at the top of that ballot.
On the way home, I find myself once again sharing the same subway car as the Australian couple. I ask them if what they’ve seen has turned them into (albeit frozen) baseball fans. The reply: “Yeah, I guess we’re Yankees fans now.”
It’s good to be home.