My Greatest Baseball Experience
With the close of Yankee Stadium, it’s time to reflect:
September 11, 2001 hit the United States hard, but it was harder in the NY area. I can remember being consumed by depression.
Baseball began the healing process when the Yankees started playing again, but there was a long way to go. There’s a high spot on Route 17 in NJ where the New York City skyline is clearly visible. As I drove home every day that month, the spot where those two beautiful towers once stood was replaced by smoke. The smoke that reminded me every day of the senseless deaths. The missing towers represented the void felt by all those who lost family and friends that morning.
I was lucky enough to attend the pennant clinching game that year against the Mariners. I often hear fans say that they want to see a good game, but I enjoy watching the Yankees blow people out. That game was great to watch, but my celebrating was still tempered by what had happened a month earlier. As I watched the team and the other fans celebrate another pennant, I didn’t feel like I was part of the celebration. I was purely a spectator.
On October 31st I was given an opportunity to go to the World Series. My daughter means the world to me, and there is normally nothing that would keep me from taking her trick-or-treating, but this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportuntity and I felt like I needed to be at Yankee Stadium that night. So I left work early, took my daughter out for a short while, and headed towards The Stadium.
The Yankees were completely stifled for the entire game. They couldn’t seem to get a hit. Down 2-0 with two outs in the bottom of the 9th there was a feeling of helpless desperation that New Yorkers (and those from nothern NJ) had come to know all too well during that time.
With one swing of the bat, Tino Martinez changed all that. As the ball was in the air, time stood still. There was a defeaning silence as the entire stadium held its collective breath. As the ball landed, The Stadium exploded. I was in the upper deck, and it was actually shaking. The Stadium literally rocked. Tino Martinez rose out of the ashes of ground zero like a phoenix and pulled an entire city with him. I had never heard it so loud…until Derek Jeter came up around midnight.
The scoreboard welcomed the fans to November baseball for the first time ever. I expected Derek would get a hit to start a rally, but I never exected what came next. As the ball landed over the fence there was a celebration that I could finally feel like I was a part of. I celebrated that moment with my best friend who was next to me as the Yankees celebrated on the field. I looked around The Stadium and saw complete strangers hugging each other. Somebody on the other side of The Stadium held up a sign that said: “Mr November.” Yankee fans never disappoint.
The celebration continued all the way out of The Stadium and in the car ride home. Though the pain of that horrible morning in September will never be forgotten, that one game helped me move on. Tino, Derek, thank you.