Last time I was in New York, I scored seats to the last All-Star game played at the old Yankee Stadium. Can’t really top that, can ya?
(Lineup last night in Derek Jeter’s suite at Yankee Stadium)
Actually, I think I did on Thursday, watching the Yankees-Red Sox game in the new Yankee Stadium from Derek Jeter’s personal suite. (Yes, the one he dropped $850,000 on for a single season.)
(I want to thank the Good Lord for no hot-air hand dryer)
Early this week a friend invited me to the game, which gave a good excuse to get out of L.A. for a long weekend. That weekend has barely started, but I’ve already got the only thing I’ll remember from the trip.
My reaction to the new Yankee Stadium is the same reax I had when I stepped inside the new American Airlines terminal at JFK airport in NYC: “Gaaaaaagh.” It’s so big that it makes you think the Yankees overcompensated for their overly cramped previous digs. For once, cavernous is not an exaggeration.
(Yankees new ballpark or American Airlines terminal at JFK?)
The outer exterior resembles the facades of Europe’s massive cathedrals: St. Peters, Notre Dame, St. Paul, La Sagrada Familia. (And now the House That Hal (Steinbrenner) Built.)
Walking around inside, the place is part mall, part carnival, part theme park. You know when you’re traipsing around Disneyland being bombarded with too many sights and sounds, all while being sold a keychain at every step? That’s the new Yankee Stadium, It’s a little too much to take the first time you go. My advice for first-timers: Don’t even think about lingering - get to your seats … if you can find them, that is.
In the design of the areas outside the seats, the Yankees employed the same strategy as supermarkets, confusing you as much as possible in your quest for your destination - in order of course to force you to walk past every piece of available merch in the Tri-County area.
Eventually we did reach our suite, but if you were to ask me how I got there, I’d be about as prescient as Tommy Lasorda recommending the hottest new adult videos. (Oh, wait.) Though once inside, we discovered that behind the myriad carnival barkers, food courtiers and clueless ushers was an actual baseball game. Eureka!
Jeter’s suite, which seated 16 in two rows of eight chairs, wasn’t as enormous as you might think. But it was plenty of room for the group that gathered.
Among that group was Roger Goodell, Kirk Herbstreit, Jeter’s girlfriend Minka Kelly, Jeter’s agent Casey Close, and, sporting an enormous royal blue dinner jacket, Bill O’Reilly. The seats were rarely completely filled, as everybody ate and mingled throughout what turned out to be John Smoltz’s last start as a member of Red Sox.
Everyone was very friendly and outgoing. Got a chance to chat a little with each person, including talking some baseball with Kelly, who probably watched more of the game than anyone in the suite.
Amazingly, I didn’t see a Blackberry all night, and no cameras. ZERO. So as you might expect, I wasn’t exactly Annie Lebovitz throughout the evening. Best part of the night for me was listening to Goodell and Herbstreit talk football and O’Reilly good-naturedly ribbing Goodell about the off-field dalliances of NFL players. Happy group, lotsa laughs.
Goodell and Close also brought their wives and small children. Kids were awesome. Well-behaved (no crying!) and kept everyone entertained during what turned out to be a marathon game. Food was quality. Sushi, beef sliders and some sick desserts. Beer but no liquor, which was probably a good thing.
The place wasn’t out-of-control opulent, but very nice. Perfect really. Jeter decorated the place with some cool, unique photos of himself and friends. And for those of you hoping to hear about a drunken outburst or inadvised, overseen text message, sorry to disappoint you.
And the game? Magnificent night for the Yankees and their fans. Place was electric, every seat filled - which hasn’t happened much this season. Amazing when you consider the Yankees have not started discounting their woefully-overpriced tickets. Instead, I heard from a source last night that the club has been offering existing ticket holders extra seats rather than cutting the price. For example, if you have four season tickets, the Yankees, in some cases, would give you four more seats! The team is doing anything it can to not cut the price for new ticket buyers.
Might not be such a bad idea if the stock market, just down the subway line, keeps its rally going. At least from the team’s perspective.