I love baseball. For as long as I can remember there has been something about this game that has drawn me in and taken hold of me. Maybe it was my father's same love that made it easy for me to latch on to a sport, which many in my generation don't care about anymore. The numbers say baseball doesn't connect to young viewers anymore, but they've never lost my vote.
Early on in my life, my father took my younger brother, Sean, and I to as many baseball games as he could. Often our vacations were built around where the New York Yankees were playing. My dad grew up on Long Island and loved the pinstripes, and I became a Yankee fan during the 1996 World Series — Derek Jeter's rookie year.
My earliest memory of going to a baseball game was a Yankees-White Sox game in Chicago at Comiskey Park, which is now known as U.S. Cellular Field. A young pitcher by the name of Mariano Rivera was the starting pitcher — yes, Rivera was a starter before he discovered his famous cut fastball.
I always hear people say professional football is much better on television than in person, but for baseball there truly is nothing like going to the ballpark. The moment when you move from the concourse to whatever section you are sitting in and you see the sun shining on the greenest grass you have ever seen always takes my breath away. We always sat in the upper deck behind home plate, which gave us a perfect view of the entire park. With the exception of two games, every baseball game I've been to in the first 27 years of my life have been with my father; so maybe it's the nostalgia of going to a baseball game with dad.
I've been to 16 current and former MLB parks, and the thing I remember most is the stories that came out of those games. In the summer of 1996, Sean, my dad and I went on a road trip up the East Coast, and at every stop the three of us would get ice cream in these miniature batting helmets. Without fail, every time Sean's ice cream would melt into liquid immediately, while the other two would last for a while. It's something the three of us still laugh about to this day.
There also has been some luck involved. On an October day in 1999, I came home from school and my mother informed me that my dad was on his way to pick Sean and I up so we could see Game 1 of the World Series in Atlanta between the Yankees and the Braves at Turner Field. Imagine that — I was all of 13 years old and I was going to a World Series game, and the Yankees won the game 4-1. The following summer, we happened to be visiting family in Atlanta and my father got tickets to the All-Star Game, and of course, Jeter won MVP honors for the game.
As you get older and you speak to your friends and other acquaintances you start to realize how rare it is to be able to see so many games in so many different locations. For my 21st birthday in 2007 my dad took me to a Yankees-Royals game in the Bronx — it turned out to be the final game I would see at the old, remodeled Yankee Stadium. Due to a 10-game home run drought I was able to see Alex Rodriguez hit his historic 500th home run. I look back differently at his accomplishment now, but it was a great moment, nonetheless.
In 2003, on a Sunday morning, dad and I drove to Detroit for a chance to see Roger Clemens earn the 300th victory of his career, but unfortunately he earned a no-decision in a 10-9 New York win in 17 innings. We had a five-hour drive back, but we stayed for all 17 innings, because we couldn't leave early.
New Yankee Stadium opened in 2009 and I had an opportunity to buy the tickets to take my dad to a game in only the second month of existence of the Steinbrenner's new palace. I was even able to get seats in the lower level down the third base line. Of course, Melky Cabrera beat Minnesota Twins closer Joe Nathan with a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth inning. I can only recall one Yankee loss in all the years of going to these games, which is extremely lucky on our part, even with all the success the Yankees have had over the past 20 years.
In August of 2011, I had the great fortune to see the Yankees at U.S. Cellular Field with my dad and then later in the week with my wife, Monika. It was Monika's first baseball game she had ever attended and I was terrified something would go wrong. Either the Yankees would get beat, or the weather wouldn't cooperate, or she wouldn't be able to fully understand everything that was happening from where we were sitting. Upon entering the park, Monika received a bobblehead doll, which given her child-like disposition started the night off perfectly. We broke through the concourse to our seats and I could see Monika's face light up at the amazement of her first experience at a baseball game, similar to how I felt as a boy with my father. We found our seats, in the upper deck behind home plate, of course, and we had a great time watching a Yankee victory.
I will be back at U.S. Cellular Field Monday night, this time with both Monika and my father in our customary seats. The Yankees aren't nearly as good as they used to be, so there is a real chance they might not win, but that's OK. The game of baseball has given me so many memories and so much happiness; it's not hard to understand why I don't join the rest of my generation in ditching this great game.
Dennis spends his time spoiling his three dogs and rooting unabashedly for the New York Yankees.