O Captain, My Captain

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I don’t know that I am emotionally prepared for this.

It’s been about six months since Mariano Rivera threw his last pitch as a Major League Baseball player – something I was lucky enough to see in person – and I still bubble up every time I watch the footage of his final games. You’d really think that I’d be over it at this point, but it gets me every single time and probably will for the foreseeable future. After all, David Cone threw his perfect game in 1999 and I still get a little choked up over that. I am far too invested in the Yankees.

I was already trying to prime myself for the reality that when baseball resumes in April that the Yankees will do so without Mo and Andy Pettitte, when the news came down yesterday: Derek Jeter, the Yankees’ shortstop, team captain and last remaining player of the Core Four, announced that 2014 would be his last season. He was giving us one more year and then he, too, would be gone. It would be the end of an era.

I can’t say that I am all that surprised that he is ready to call it quits; he has struggled since his postseason injury in 2012 to come back and play at full strength. It takes time to fully recuperate from an injury at any age, but in your late thirties your body just doesn’t bounce back like it used to (believe me – I know). While there were still some spectacular moments from Jeter in 2013 – his first at bat in his first game back from a lengthy stay on the DL, he hit a glorious home run – he spent most of the season sidelined, a spectator to the game that he loved so much. So the idea that 2014 might be his swan song has certainly entered my mind. His contract was up after this year, so this seemed like a natural stopping point.

I was not, however, expecting him to announce his retirement this early; for some reason, in my mind I always assumed that Jeter would wait until the season was almost over to make the formal announcement, even if he and the team already knew he wouldn’t be returning. He never seemed to be one for hoopla or for distraction, so while I know he will appreciate the farewell tour that I’m sure will great him throughout this season, I could imagine him trying to avoid the spectacle altogether and only announcing his intentions at the season came to a close. I saw it playing out where Jeter would say his was retiring before the last few home stands at Yankee Stadium, to give the fans a chance to say goodbye, and that would be it. Probably an overly simplistic approach – especially given how much money there is to be milked out of this final year for baseball – but that’s always how I imagined it. Despite how much I hate being wrong, I’m glad that this unfolded in a way that will allow Jeter to get the recognition and praise that he deserves. He has been the heart and soul of the Yankees and a great ambassador for the game of baseball. Like Mo, even fans who hate the Yankees respect Jeter. As people like to say, he plays the game the way that it is supposed to be played. He is the epitome of class.

Derek Jeter has never been my favorite Yankee; I say this not to diminish the deep-seeded affection and respect that I have for him as a player and a person, but because it is actually true. I tend to be a sucker for pitchers (see Mo and Pettitte) or some of the more colorful personalities on the team (see Swisher and O’Neill). I also learned early on that when you are a female sports fan, saying Jeter is your favorite player can be a liability; people assume that you only like him because he’s cute or because he is the only player that you know on the team. It is no coincidence that most of the “pink hat” fans out there are wearing Jeter shirts. I am actually in the minority on Jeter’s attractiveness; I can recognize that he’s a good looking guy, but he honestly doesn’t do much for me (I’m sure this admission will keep him up nights). I always thought Jason Giambi was cute though, so I really have no credibility on this issue.

But though he may not be the player that I love the most, he is the player that I have loved the longest. I didn’t fully fall in love with baseball and the Yankees until I went off to college, which just so happens to coincide with the emergence of Jeter, Rivera, Posada and Pettitte as the future of the team. Barring injury, Derek Jeter has been the starting shortstop for the entire duration of my Yankee fandom. As Posada, Mo and Pettitte retired, the blow was somehow softened by knowing that we still had The Captain. And now the time has come where that will soon no longer be the case. It makes me sad to think that in 2015, they will all be gone and that I’ll never hear Bob Sheppard’s voice regularly resonating in the Stadium as he announces Jeter’s turn at bat. Jeter’s departure may hit me the hardest of all, just because of all that it signifies. It’s the end of the (baseball) world as I know it and I don’t feel fine. Not at all.

But for now, I need to put my game face back on. Not only is there a season to be played (and hopefully a World Series championship to be in contention for), but there are tickets to be procured. I was tremendously lucky to be a part of some many seminal moments for Mariano’s retirement and I don’t want to miss out on Derek’s, so that means fighting it out to obtain the necessary tickets that are sure to be going for a premium. Tickets for what could be Jeter’s last regular season game at Fenway Park have already skyrocketed and individual game tickets haven’t even gone on sale yet. I’m going to have to save my pennies, find some presales and suck up to some Red Sox fans (oh – the humanity) to acquire the golden tickets that will get me in to be a part of history.

So before all the hoopla commences and the inevitable tears start to fall: thank you, Derek Jeter, for all the wonderful baseball memories. You have made the New York Yankees and the game of baseball better just by being a part of it. I hope you enjoy the ride as you take the field for one last season. See you in Cooperstown.

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One Mo for the Road

I have been a sports fan for as long as I remember, the result of having a dad that wasn’t quite sure what to do with a daughter. Having grown up with five brothers, helping raise a little girl was not exactly in his wheelhouse. So he talked to me about sports and taught me how to play baseball, hockey, football and soccer (the latter he actually learned so he could pinch hit when my team needed another coach).  I was the only five year old girl I knew that could throw a spiral. I was totally amenable to being a tomboy and it gave my dad and I something to bond over.

However, with all this sports talk going on in my household, I was pretty late in declaring an allegiance for any professional teams. Growing up, I don’t remember there being a lot of sports on the television, but that could have been because we had one TV at the time and a mini-pop culture guru who tended to monopolize what we watched. I actually had no idea what teams my mom and dad rooted for; I think I was in college when I discovered that my father was a Steelers and Dodgers fan. The fact that he didn’t like local teams may have also contributed to the lack of games on at home; these were the days before NFL ticket and the MLB package, so if your team wasn’t from the area you didn’t get to see them much. My parents were pretty hands off in the indoctrination department; much like politics and religion, my brother and I were free to make our own choices. They distilled in me a love of sports, but not an affinity for any one team. This is why no one in my immediate family roots for the same team in anything. We all found our own paths (ironically, it turns out that most of my family hates the Yankees. You can’t predict baseball.)

After dismissing baseball as boring when I was younger, I fell in love with the game completely when I was in college. Being a native New Yorker, I gravitated toward the Yankees. This was the mid-nineties, which turned out to be a pretty good time to be getting on the Yankee bandwagon, as they would win 4 World Series in five years. I fell in love with the team and all the players from that era and completely threw myself into the sport and my fandom.

The timing of my drinking of the Yankees’ Kool-Aid also meant that I have a deep connection to Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter. Dubbed “the Core Four,” these players have played almost their entire careers with the Yankees (we like to forget about Andy’s little diversion in Houston).  We came into baseball together and I’ve spent my entire adult life watching them play. In a weird way, even though I’ve never met any of them, I sort of feel like they are family. We’ve spent 162 games together for almost 20 years; that’s more time than I’ve spent with people that are actually related to me.

But all good things must eventually come to an end; there is a natural decline in athleticism as you get older and as great as these guys are they were not immune to the ravages of time. Posada retired last year, setting in motion the realization that sometime soon, I would be watching the Yankees without these guys. I had been spoiled by their long tenure with the team, but this was the beginning of the end. Mariano Rivera announced that he was retiring at the end of the season, which was not unexpected, but a day I was dreading. When Mo was injured last year, I lamented the fact that he might not get to do his farewell tour and be honored by all of baseball for the great player and man that he was. While his retirement will be a huge loss for the Yankees – and for me – I’m glad that he had the chance to receive all the adulation that he deserved. Every team in baseball honored Rivera when the Yankees came to town; even the arch rival Red Sox sang Mo’s praises and the Fenway Faithful gave him a rousing standing ovation. It was beautiful to watch.

I knew that the Yankees would do something special for Rivera to honor his retirement, so when it was announced that his ceremony was going to be September 22, I had to be there. The Yankees may not be able to do a bobblehead giveaway, but they can do pageantry with the best of them. They’ve had a lot of practice. Since this was the day after my birthday, some friends were even kind enough to get me a ticket as a gift (shout out to Jen and Duff for their thoughtfulness and generosity!). I didn’t know if I was emotionally prepared to start saying goodbye, but at least I was lucky enough to be a part of it. Considering I bawled Opening Day when he was announced, the likelihood of me holding it together was nil. The day became even MORE emotional when Andy Pettitte announced that he was also retiring, making Sunday his last ever start at the Stadium. The Core Four were suddenly almost gone, with Jeter being the last man standing and the only member returning for the 2014 season (hopefully).

Arriving at the Stadium on Sunday, we weren’t really sure what to expect. There were a lot of rumors floating around – would they retire Mo’s number? Would Metallica show up to play Mo’s entrance music? Would there be any special guests? – but there weren’t a lot of concrete details. The fact that Monument Park was closed prior to the game was a clue that something was going on, but what that actually would be was still a mystery.

When we arrived at our seats, we immediately noticed that a stage had been set up in center field, all but confirming the attendance of Metallica. As a Metallica fan, that was an exciting development; I hadn’t let myself get excited for the possibility, since I didn’t want to be disappointed. I do not handle disappointment well.

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It was really nice to look around the Stadium and see so many people wearing the #42. Mo is pretty beloved, so it wasn’t surprising, but to see thousands of people united in their adulation of one man was really something to behold. I actually felt a little guilty that I was wearing my Paul O’Neill jersey. Even the grounds crew sported t-shirts in honor of Mo.

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The ceremony began and the Yankees immediately brought out the big guns – Jackie Robinson’s widow Rachel and their daughter Sharon. The number #42 had been retired throughout baseball to honor Robinson; the players that currently wore #42 were grandfathered in, so they could continue to wear it. Rivera is the last player to ever wear the number, an honor that he takes quite seriously. The Robinson Family has always been very supportive of Mo and his part in carrying Jackie’s legacy, so it was nice to see them be a part of Mo’s big day. The Yankees unveiled a new tribute to Robinson, apart from the Yankee retired numbers, to give him a special recognition.

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They did this so that they could then retire #42 for Rivera as well; he was added to the list of Yankee greats like Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, DiMaggio and Berra. It’s unusual to retire a number while the player is technically still active, so I was skeptical that this was actually going to happen Sunday. If anything, I figured that the Yankees would do it at a later date just to milk this and have another special day at the Stadium. Once the number was unveiled, the Stadium burst into the longest and loudest chant that I have ever heard, playoff games included. The yells of “Mar-i-an-o (clap-clap-clap,clap,clap)” reverberated through a stadium that is not known for its acoustics. Every single person must have been yelling at the top of their lungs; I was clapping so hard that my hands actually started to ache. Rivera looked completely overwhelmed by this – the longer it went on, the more he just stood there beaming, but also slightly awed by the response. I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of some spectacular moments at Yankee Stadium (both old and new), but I’ve never seen something as special as this. I had tears streaming down my face, but I’m sure I was not the only person. It was simply amazing.

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The show wasn’t over, however. Everyone wanted to be a part of Mo’s special day, so many of his former teammates came back to be part of the celebration. It was kind of like a mini-Old Timers’ Day; out came Jeff Nelson, John Wettland, David Cone, Hideki Matsui, Tino Martinez, Paul O’Neill (!), Bernie Williams and Jorge Posada. They all returned to pay tribute to a great baseball player and a great man. Former manager Joe Torre also returned, which prompted my second crying jag of the day. Torre gets me every time – he doesn’t come back to the Stadium very often, so when he makes an appearance it is a big deal for me.

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I had barely composed myself from the Torre appearance when Metallica took the stage to play Enter Sandman as Mo walked from the bullpen to the dais. That kind of snapped me out of my melancholy for a bit, since there is no crying in heavy metal. I’m always happy to see Metallica, though the sound quality of their performance was obviously more concerned with how it would play on TV than how it would sound live. The music was kind of muted and wasn’t hooked into the PA; it was kind of weird to see Metallica rocking out without much sound.

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It turned out to be kind of a moot point, since as soon as Mariano stepped out on the field, no one cared about Metallica anymore. All eyes were on #42 as he strolled out; it was a bit odd to see him take such a leisurely pace after years of watching him run out. He earned the right to stroll out if he wanted to; he is, after all, almost a retiree.

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Rivera was then showered with gifts from the San Francisco Giants (that afternoon’s opponent), Metallica and the Yankees. Rivera then took the microphone to give a speech, thanking his family, his teammates and the fans for their support. I teared up a bit again when he said that he wished that George Steinbrenner was alive to be a part of the day; it was a nice tribute to the former owner.

And with that, the festivities came to a close. Now it was time to actually play baseball, which seemed a little anticlimactic after all that. Had it not been the last time I would see Pettitte pitch, I don’t know that I would have cared about the game at all at that point. I was emotionally exhausted – as apparently were the Yankees as they weren’t exactly setting the world on fire with their offense.

The late start of the game – the ceremony ran almost an hour – and sitting in the sun kind of threw off my sense of time, so when manager Joe Girardi came out to remove Andy Pettitte from the game I was totally unprepared for it. The stadium once again erupted to honor Pettitte for all his years, prompting me once again to get misty eyed as I said goodbye to another one of my favorites. I’m still hoping that the Yankees do something small to honor Pettitte – he already retired once, so anything for him will be more subdued – since he is a big part of the Yankees’ success. It won’t be the same without him.

 

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Rivera came in the game in the 8th inning and reminded us why he is so celebrated. Sadly, the rest of the Yankees couldn’t do their part and the team lost. It was a depressing reminder that with Andy and Mo leaving, the Yankees are going to have some problems. When it is the bottom of the 9th and you need a run, seeing Reynolds, Ryan and Murphy coming up to bat doesn’t instill a lot of confidence.

Regardless, it was an epic day that I am so thankful I got to be a part of. I’m actually going down to the Stadium Thursday for the last home game, just on the off chance that it will be the last time that Rivera ever pitches at home. The Yankees are pretty much out of the playoffs at this point, but I’m just not ready to say goodbye yet. If I can squeeze out a little more time with Rivera, I’m going to take it. Thank you, Andrew Eugene Pettitte and Mariano Rivera for all the wonderful memories. You will be missed.

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You can watch the entire pregame ceremony here.

 

Take Me Out To The Ballgame

It is so good to have baseball back in my life.

Even though the Yankees are probably going to be pretty terrible this year, I’m still excited for the new baseball season. I like other sports just fine, but there is something about the crack of the bad and the calmness of baseball that just centers me. Watching a baseball game – ANY baseball game – tends to bring me an inner peace and tranquility that I just don’t get from anything else. There is just something so comforting about it.

While I was away on vacation a few weeks ago, I was able to pretty fully submerse myself in America’s pastime. In the span of 7 days I watched 4 Major League Baseball games – 3 spring training games and then the home opener at Yankee Stadium. Other people may assume my more relaxed and happy demeanor is because I just came back from sunshine and relatively warmer weather and was out of work for six days, but I know that while those were contributing factors it was my immersion in baseball again that has made me so darn pleasant to be around lately.

I actually was only able to see one Yankee game while I was in Florida, a concession to our location. The Yankees spring training home is in in Tampa, approximately 2 hours from our home base in Ft. Myers. We were also in Florida toward the end of spring training, when presumably the temperatures would be warmer and more actual starters would be playing. That logic turned out to be slightly flawed, as we rolled into Tampa to much frostier temps and wind than we anticipated. It was still warmer than back home, but I had not really planned to be sitting outside on a cool evening and didn’t really have the wardrobe for such a situation. Add to that my pigheaded stubbornness that I was on vacation and therefore was wearing my flip-flops and Capri pants, regardless of the forecast, and it was a very chilly evening indeed. Not how I had pictured my first trip to Yankee headquarters, but it couldn’t be avoided.

Not was this the Yankee squad that I envisioned seeing. The Yankees have been ravaged by injuries as of late, one of the unfortunate side effects when you have a team that collectively closer to retirement than in their prime. A lot of the Yankee players are close to my age, and while I still think of myself as pretty young (and apparently look young – I can still occasionally get away with being mistaken for under 30) even I have begun to notice a general slowdown in my physiology. So a baseball team on the wrong side of the big 3-0 is not exactly desirable. A-Rod, Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira and Phil Hughes were all on the disabled list for the game that we went to. That’s a lot of holes to fill on a ball club; in fact, the Yankees had acquired two new players earlier that day that would be making their debut that evening: Vernon Wells and Lyle Overbay. I had been put in charge of our seats for that game and my selection behind the first base line was definitely made pre-injury spree; had he been playing would have had an excellent view of Teixeira. Thank goodness for Robbie Cano, Ichiro Suzuki, Brett Gardner and C.C. Sabathia or there wouldn’t be many familiar faces out there.

I was also intrigued to get my first look at Kevin Youkilis, a divisive signing for many Yankee fans as he was a long-time Red Sox player. I’m pretty pragmatic, so seeing Youkilis in pinstripes wasn’t really that big of a deal to me. I thought most Yankee fans were overreacting to his signing – we were a team that needed a lot of help and he was one of the best players available that could address some of our needs. He wasn’t my first choice, but that is more because of his age and the fact that he is prone to injury rather than his past. There are several Red Sox players over the years that I wouldn’t want the Yankees to ever sign – Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez top that list – but I really have no beef with Youkilis. He was one of the few players that provided the team any semblance of offense during spring training, so I think a lot of Yankee fans are just being short sighted babies on this count. Unsurprisingly, he received a mix of cheers and heckles when he took the field.

The game in and of itself was pretty uneventful other than all the new faces; Sabathia is a notoriously slow starter in cold weather so there were more walks than one would normally expect to see from him. The Yankees managed to rally in later innings to make the game more exciting (though it would end in a 4-4 tie after ten innings), but the real excitement came from the player that unexpectedly made an appearance in the sixth inning. C.C. was leaving the game and a lot of people were craning their necks to see who would be coming in from the bullpen. I had no sooner finished saying “Calm down people. Boone Logan isn’t worth all this hoopla.” when the opening chords to “Enter Sandman” blared over the speakers. After his unexpected injury last season, we were going to see Mariano Rivera back in action!

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Now, I have no idea why he was pitching so early in the game; I assume they wanted him to get some time in as Opening Day was fast approaching and perhaps he had plans for later in the evening. Regardless of reason, it was exciting to see him again and he looked just as lights out as always.

The next two games found us closer to home, but behind enemy lines as we went to check out the Boston Red Sox’s spring training facility in Ft. Myers. They were playing the Minnesota Twins both games, who train just around the corner, which meant that I wasn’t all that excited about either team. We did, however, manage to have fantastic seats for both outings. Jet Blue Park is a replica of Fenway Park in Boston, so our first night we sat in the front row of “the Green Monster” (the high wall in left field). Those tickets are hard to come by in Boston, so it was a very cool experience. I was a particular fan of the little ledge that we had in front of us, which made it easier to eat and drink and keep all our stuff together. However, the leg space should have been a little deeper; I whacked my knees on more than one occasion and I’m five foot nothing. I can’t imagine what it’s like for tall people.

We had even better seats for the second game that we attended – front row, right behind home plate. These are pretty much my dream seats, though I should have been clearer in my dream that I wanted them for teams that I was more interested in. In fact, I felt a little guilty sitting in the seats because as great as they were, I knew I didn’t fully appreciate them like a Sox or Twins fan would have. But I tried to get as much out of the opportunity as I could and the seats provided me the proximity that I needed to basically stalk Twins catcher Joe Mauer, who just so happens to be ridiculously good looking.

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Someday I will be able to afford those seats at a Yankee game, though it might involve having to sell a kidney. It would totally be worth it.

Things I learned at the Red Sox/ Twins games:

  • The Red Sox, as a team, are pretty short. Both the umpire and Joe Mauer towered over a lot of their players. That’s not a shot at them – I’m always pro-short people and that means a smaller strike zone. But they are generally pretty tiny.
  • Everyone was very nice at Jet Blue Park, except for the usher for our section who told me my ticket was for the wrong game (they were not). Not really funny in any situation, but especially not funny when I was clearly struggling to balance multiple beers and hand him a ticket at the same time. He kept me there for several minutes before he finally let me go to my seat and after I had already spilled most of a beer all over myself. I was not amused; maybe he could just sense I was a Yankee fan (I wasn’t wearing any identifying clothes one way or the other). Or he was just a mean old man. But that dude owes me a beer.
  • I am always very conflicted at Red Sox games when they play “Sweet Caroline” in the 8th inning. I have strong emotions attached to that song, as it was one of my sorority songs, but, you know, it’s the Red Sox. I usually sing along, but I don’t feel good about it. And please note that I knew what inning the song would be played when the Red Sox fan in our group did not.
  • Snot rockets by the outfielders seemed to be a pretty common thing. Maybe the players had a lot of allergies.
  • If you are going to be a parking lot attendant that helps people park their car, you need to have some personality. We are still talking about the guy who parked us the first night, as he yelled out catch phrases and was generally very entertaining.

I returned from Florida on Easter Sunday, but my vacation wasn’t yet over. Monday morning I was Bronx bound to see the Yankees play the Red Sox for opening day of the regular season. This was the third time I was seeing the Red Sox in five days, so some fatigue was setting in. Plus, based on what I saw at Spring Training, I wasn’t too optimistic that the Yankees were going to prevail. The Red Sox just looked a little more cohesive in Florida, so I wasn’t super surprised that they jumped out to an early lead. Everything about opening day felt a little off – there was no parking at the train station, I spilled stuff all over my jeans before going into the stadium and my favorite hot dog stand must have brought in a lot of new people because it took me almost 15 minutes to get a dog. Opening day also coincided with spring break for a lot of schools, so there were more kids in the stands than one normally sees. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does have a definite impact of the mood of the crowd. People generally drink less and are less rowdy, but you also have a large segment of the population that gets bored and had to be entertained, which can be distracting. Case in point: I listened to the two kids behind me debate for THREE INNINGS whether they wanted to get ice cream or Chinese food. They opted for ice cream. They also spent two innings debating what the LL stood for in LL Cool J, which I thought was weird because a) 11 year old kids know who LL Cool J is? and b)this is still a mystery? At one point I just wanted to turn around and say “Ladies Love Cool James,” but they seemed to be having too much fun coming up with possibilities. Large Lasagna was my personal favorite.

The game even got off to something of a depressing start, as both teams paid tribute to the victims of the Newtown, CT shootings. There was a moment of silence and the names of the victims scrolled on the jumbotron. Newtown first responders were involved in the presentation of the flag before the game. All the players wore a special patch to honor the lives lost.

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Then the Yankees paid tribute to former player Bob Turley, who passed away over the weekend. I got a little misty during player introductions, as it dawned on me that this was Mariano Rivera’s last opening day. He’ll retire at the end of the season, so I shed a few tears thinking about it. Thankfully this was hidden behind my giant sunglasses, as I may have been on TV when this was happening. ESPN was in our section getting crowd reaction and more than one person has told me that they thought they saw me. I was also almost moved to tears during the national anthem, but that was mostly because it was so terrible. Constantine Maroulis, former American Idol contestant and Tony nominated Broadway star, was the singer and it was just dreadful. You could tell that people wanted to boo, but since it was the national anthem that didn’t seem appropriate. All I know is that was a loooooong three minutes.

However, I think the saddest moment came for me during roll call; I kept my usual seats in section 106 (right field) or as I have taken to referring to them, the Nick Swisher memorial seats. Now, I have absolutely no issue with Ichiro, who shifted over to cover right field, nor do I disagree that it was probably time for Swisher to go. However, I do have to admit that I absolutely missed the “Swisher salute” during roll call and Swisher’s generally jovial interaction with the fans. It just wasn’t the same; I’d gotten used to his silliness over the years and Ichiro’s businesslike demeanor kind of threw me off.

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Move along – nothing to see here

 

The game seemed to be a continuation of the problems the team had in the post season last year: not a lot of offense. If you could win games by hitting pop flies into the infield, I would feel better about the Yankees season but alas that is not how it usually works. Mother Nature apparently is also not particularly bullish on the 2013 Bronx Bombers, as somewhere in the 8th inning the temperature dropped at least ten degrees. I was comfortable most of the game in my jersey and jeans, but by the end of the game I was wrapped up in my hoodie and my teeth were chattering. The wind also picked up and then the rain began, which pretty much killed any chance of a late rally. It wasn’t the note I was hoping to end my vacation on, but it wasn’t wholly unexpected either. I’m guessing I’ll be saving some money this year as I don’t foresee playoff tickets in my future.

Even with the rocky start to the season, I am so happy to have baseball back. The MLB channel is back in rotation in my channel surfing and though I’m not playing fantasy baseball this year, I find that I’m still paying attention to baseball generally rather than the Yankees specifically. I’m already planning some baseball road trips that have nothing to do with the boys in pinstripes. My enthusiasm will naturally wane a bit – it is a long season after all – but right now I am a very happy girl.

Play ball!