Welcome to the party
By Jon Lane
It’s a bit past 12:30 p.m. and the Opening Ceremonies are under way as 50,000-plus have jam-packed this beautiful new facility, open for business and the first official game between the Yankees and Indians.
John Fogerty and Bernie Williams performed live, and Michael Kay and John Sterling are introducing Yankees alumni. As timing has it, the Milwaukee Brewers play the Mets tomorrow. Willie Randolph is the Brewers’ bench coach and that’s allowed him to participate this afternoon. Our own David Cone received a nice ovation, as did Randolph, Rich Gossage and Tino Martinez.
I’ll be back with much more, including more thoughts on today. A quick update on Xavier Nady: He was to see the team doctor this morning, but told me just before 11:30 he had not yet been examined. Nady was placed on the 15-day DL today and pitcher David Robertson was called up from Triple-A Scranton. Joe Girardi’s reasoning was to wait and see if Nady will in fact miss the season or if the news turns out better than expected.
Indians pitcher Carl Pavano was introduced to loud boos. The one-time Yankees’ colossal failure smirked at the ovation, a few writers up here snickered at the reaction.
The 2009 Yankees were just introduced. Here’s who received the loudest ovations:
Two minutes until first pitch. Here’s a shot of the military’s presenting of our colors.
First pitch: 1:09 p.m., a ball to Grady Sizemore. The game time temperature is 56 degrees.
First out: Sizemore grounds out to first base.
First strikeout: Victor Martinez whiffs to end a clean top of the first for CC Sabathia.
The Yankees were happy just to have come home, but especially happy to be in their new digs off a nine-game road trip, the team’s longest to begin a season since 1985. Think about it: You spend six weeks in Florida, come home and instantly fall in love with your new home and three days later have to go away for nearly two weeks. After an 0-2 start in which the worst of cynics declared the season over, the Yankees are home at 5-4 and look to build off two quality wins. Not too shabby.
Hours before the pregame ceremonies, Joe Girardi told the media he had this day circled on the calendar for awhile and that the anticipation was only going to grow as the day progressed. He still takes the same route to the new Stadium (Exit 6) off the Major Deegan Expressway, which takes him directly to River Avenue. He, like everyone else, can’t help notice the venerable “House That Ruth Built” slowly and painfully being dismantled. Normally upon the opening of a new building, the old one is parking lot, but like a stubborn old goat, the original Yankee Stadium still casts a shadow over its plush neighbor.
“It’s strange driving by the old Stadium and it’s still there,” Girardi said.
Babe Ruth built the place across the street. This facility was built by George M. Steinbrenner, regarded as the architect of the Stadium that combines elements of past, present and future. The Boss is in attendance today, but keeping a low profile.
“I don’t think Opening Day is the same without him here,” Girardi said. “This is George’s creation. He’s been part of it for so long. To say the Yankees, you say Mr. Steinbrenner.”
Right after Bob Sheppard’s pre-recorded voice introduced Derek Jeter was something pretty cool. The bat on home plate prior to Jeter’s first plate appearance was used by Babe Ruth to hit the first home run in the first game at the original Yankee Stadium on April 18, 1923. The Babe hit a three-run homer off Boston’s Howard Ehmke to spark the Yankees to a 4-1 win. The bat was taken directly to the Yankees Museum here at the new Stadium, where it will be on display until the All-Star break.
No such luck for Jeter. Facing last season’s Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee, Jeter filed out to center. Johnny Damon, however, is now forever down in history as the first player to record the first hit here: a single to right center field.
Lee, 0-2 with a 9.58 ERA coming in, got into immediate trouble. He plunked Mark Teixeira in the right triceps to put runners on first and second for the Yankees’ newest cult hero, Nick Swisher.
Someone asked Swisher before the game if there’s anybody he’s not best friends with, and I tend to wonder if there’s ever a moment when he doesn’t smile. Probably not. His grin was especially wide after he received a surprise gift in the mail, a shiny new pair of Nikes. If I were to guess, Swisher probably didn’t get a wink of sleep last night.
“If you can’t ready for today, man, you’ve got problems,” Swisher said. “I love what I do. I absolutely love what I do, and it shows. I add that because that’s my personality.”
Taking a break from batting practice, Swisher walked into the clubhouse bellowing like a little kid at the amusement park, “Opening Day! New York Yankees! 2009!”
Swisher’s first official at-bat in pinstripes: a fly out to center field. Jorge Posada came up with two out and Lee’s pitch out already over 20, but grounded to first.
First hit by a visiting player: Ben Francisco’s two-out double to left field. Sabathia worked out of trouble after walking the next batter.
Here in the bottom of the second, Robinson Cano led off with a base hit. Coming off a down 2008, Cano is 14 for 35 (.400) on the season. The Yankees were wise not to trade him, just like they were smart to hold on to Swisher when it was thought they had a glut of outfielders.
Brett Gardner flies out to left to end the second. Off to check out the game atmospheres at the Hard Rock Cafe and NYY Steak
I’m back from checking out the Hard Rock and NYY Steak. While chatting with ESPN’s Hannah Storm, Jorge Posada belted the first home run at the new Yankee Stadium to Monument Park in dead center field to tie the game at 1-1. It was also a milestone homer. Posada’s jack was the 223th of his career, passing Don Mattingly for No. 8 on the all-time franchise list. Ironically, Jose Molina, another catcher, belted the final homer at the old place.
There’s lots of ground to cover about the activities here at Yankee Stadium. I’ll gradually catch up while tracking what’s a tight ballgame.
Interesting observation from an ESPN producer standing behind me. This wall behind the bleachers in right field has signs representing each year the Yankees became World Champions. “They didn’t leave room for a new one,” the producer said. Should the Yankees win No. 27, that will be an offseason project.
Meanwhile, Sabathia’s day is done after throwing 122 pitches (70 strikes) in 5 2/3 innings. Not efficient, but he leaves a game tied at 1-1.
Nice job by Phil Coke, who came in with a 9.82 ERA,
to get Sizemore to fly out to left and leave the bases loaded to end the top of sixth. The Yankees have to build off that and get something started here.
The love fest is over (for now). Jose Veras allowed a walk and a double to start the seventh before Jhonny Peralta doubled home two runs. When he’s off his game, Veras, booed off the mound, cannot find the plate and it cost him today.
Today’s attendance: 48,271. Two thousand standing room only tickets were not sold before the game.
Thanks to the bullpen, the natives are now restless. The Indians have exploded for eight runs in the seventh off Veras and Damaso Marte, the back-breaker Sizemore’s grand slam to right field. Since 1998 the Yankees have won 11 consecutive home openers, 16 of their last 17 and 22 of their last 25 since 1983.
It’s 10-1 Tribe after Victor Martinez’s solo shot. Fans hollered, “We want Swisher!”
With the game in the ridiculous stage, here are some highlights on the action at the Hard Rock and NYY Steak from earlier today.
Hard Rock opened at 10 a.m. and was packed to where by 2 p.m. there was a two-hour wait. A few people were getting restless, but the majority were having a blast.
Mike Mancini, hanging out with a group of Connecticut natives at the bar, made a three-hour trip, without a ticket, from Hartford. He was loving the appeal of watching a game within the Stadium confines and a fun atmosphere, certainly not a consolation prize.
“It’s been worth the trip,” Mancini said. “We drove three hours, in traffic, to hang out at the Hard Rock. We’re here drinking with our Pisans and have the beautiful Jillian behind the bar!”
Ron Lombardi of Mountain Lakes, N.J. is another ticket holder who
explored views from his seats for the first four innings and the Hard
Rock before he and his group settled into the laid-back atmosphere of
NYY Steak. Part of the decor is a wall affixed with signatures from Yankees greats of the past. And although Lombardi had not yet been served his main course, NYY Steak’s greens had him sold.
“This is a steakhouse,” Lombardi said. “The appetizers are good.”
Jacques Lamour, general manager of NYY Steak, told me you can have your initials carved within the bone of the rib eye, one of the many beef options dry-aged for 21-28 days.None of Steak’s dishes are frozen except the lobster tails and ice cream, everything else starts from scratch. If not for a light wallet and work obligations, I would have sampled a cut!
There’s been some confusion over the scheduled examination of Xavier Nady’s right elbow. One day after it appeared his season was over, suddenly there’s a tiny ray of light.
Nady had a second X-Ray late this morning and will visit orthopedic surgeon Dr. Lewis Yocum, known for performing Tommy John surgery and receive a CT scan tomorrow. After that, there will be a closer look of the MRI he received in Tampa to see what’s going on with the bone.
Nady’s was disabled this morning, so it’s not like the Yankees have to make an immediate decision. The medical team is exhausting all options to avoid another Tommy John surgery, which Nady first had done in 2002.
“If you can avoid surgery at all costs, that’s what you want to do,” Nady said. “If there’s a chance at rehab, obviously that’s the way to go. You want to be 100 percent sure of what’s going on in there, have every test done and look at everything. I went through that surgery before and would like to avoid it myself.”
Not much else to report from the clubhouse except the obvious fact that both Marte and Veras are disappointed with their respective failures. Marte blamed location; all of his pitches were right down the middle. Veras shouldered all the blame because his leadoff walk of Mark DeRosa led to the bottom falling out.
“I’m better than that,” he said.
Outside of Mariano Rivera and Brian Bruney, the bullpen has been either real good or real bad. Today was terrible, but better to figure this out heading into Game 11 than in September.