By Paul Muth
This is Part III of The Great Baseball Stadium Tour.
Part I can be found here.
Part II can be found here.
May 12, 2017
8am. Another early wake up. This time I was only startled awake for snoring once throughout the night; but it was by Erik, so I was less inclined to fight anyone.
Today was the most anticipated day of the entire trip. We were headed to New York to watch the Yankees take on our Houston Astros on a Friday night. The first two days were merely filler leading up to this.
My New York outfit had been planned out weeks in advance. I was going to be as blatantly, conspicuously Houston as possible. The natural choice in this case was my away Astros jersey with “HOUSTON” in big letters across the chest. My goal was to elicit that trademark New York vitriol for all things not New York. I had never been before and everyone I spoke to leading up to the trip told me that I would be crazy to wear my jersey outright, not only around the city, but especially in the ballpark. We would find out soon enough.
And by soon enough, I mean it was a four hour drive from D.C. to New York.
We arrived a little after noon and tossed our bags on our bunks which were located on the 6th floor of the hostel because of course they would be. There were no elevators.
Now the first thing anyone notices about New York is the people. There are so many damn people everywhere you go. The second thing you notice is the horns. New York drivers honk for zero reason.
Lots of people, lots of honking. That’s New York in a nutshell.
So, outside of the baseball game, I had a two-bullet New York bucket list. I figured as long as I could knock out these two items–aside from the game itself–I could consider myself a New Yorker by proxy. The list was as follows:
Pay my respects at the World Trade Center memorial
Eat a street hot dog
Since I was the only person on the trip that hadn’t been to New York before, I had dibs on where we went first. One World Trade Center it is.
That was the longest we spent at any stop all day, and rightfully so. Simply put, ground zero was a very sobering experience.
Our blitz tour kicked off from there, starting with the Charging Bull statue in the financial district. I channeled my inner New Yorker, cut in front of everyone, and had Other Paul take my photo before we bounced.
On the way to the subway, we walked by a gentleman whose focus was centered squarely on my jersey. He looked up.
“You bet,” I confirmed.
He shook his head with a smile and raised eyebrows.
“Good luck at the game, fellas,” he replied ominously.
Wait. Was that directed at the Astros, or us?
We continued on and took the subway to Times Square. We wandered our way through a few stores before meeting up with our buddy Matt, a Houston friend who coincidentally happened to be in New York for the weekend. Matt would be hanging out and also attending the game with us later on that evening.
As we meandered through Times Square, another native took notice of my jersey.
“Hey yo, Houston!” He shouted.
I had grown accustomed to responding to this by now.
“What’s up, brother?”
“Hey yo, I love Texas man!” He explained.
“Hold up. What do you know about Texas?”
“I know you guys have the best burgers at Whataburger, and that BBQ joint Rudy’s is incredible!”
That was all the evidence I needed, personally.
We carried on and quickly clipped the corner of Central Park, down 5th Avenue, through Rockefeller center and finally dipped into a subway to head to the stadium. My fitbit was put through its paces, suffice to say.
The game was at 7, so we figured that it would be wise to head over there around 5 to avoid any issues. So we piled into a subway. A subway in New York. A subway in New York at 5pm. A subway in New York at 5pm on a Friday. You get the picture.
We were getting the full on New York immersion experience. The only public transit system that rivalled that Subway ride to the Bronx in terms of congestion was when I lived in Seoul, South Korea for a year. Those guys can really pack it in.
An hour later, we were at the stadium stop. We squeezed our way out of the car and worked our way to the surface. We had made it. Yankee stadium.
We loitered across the street and caught a few moments of a little league practice going on on the same fields that were once home to some of the greatest spectacles in the entire history of the sport. For those unaware, the site of old Yankee Stadium was developed into a park with at least one little league field on it. Some would say the old Yankee Stadium grounds were “reduced” to little league fields. I consider it the most poetic form of preservation.
After an obligatory group photo outside the stadium, we ventured inside. We collected our requisite souvenirs and began heading towards our seats.
We would never reach them.
Instead, we became distracted in center field by a beer and hot dog stand. When we realized that this outpost was right behind a group of unreserved rows intended for stand-up viewing in the outfield, we immediately staked our claim to the front row and remained there for the entirety of the game. We were right next to the Astros bullpen, and 20 feet from beer. Aside from seats, what more could you want?
We could not have picked a better spot, as we were surrounded by drunk Yankee diehards. Because of this, however, our first order of business was to remind Matt that we weren’t in Houston. You see, Matt isn’t the biggest guy I know, and drunk Matt can occasionally turn into a handful.
Bottom of the first, George Springer trots out to take position in center field nearest our plaza full of Yankee gremlins. Now up until this point, they had been very respectful towards us. A few friendly jabs, but nothing over the top. As soon as Springer was within earshot, however, all bets were off.
Now instead of recapping a game that you can simply go read a box score summary of, I decided to take extensive notes of the heckling that the visiting Astros received that evening. Here now are a few of my favorite selections:
“Hey Springah! Ya got small calves!”
“Hey Georgie! You’ll nevah reach ya minah league numbahs. Let’s be real!”
“Marisnick, don’t get me stahted! You should still be in Triple A!”
“Hey Georgie, ya walk like an idiot!”
There was a lot of emphasis on Springer’s legs. It was weird.
The Astros broke the game open, and as they logged their 5th run Matt began “woo-ing,” Ric Flair style. Matt was getting drunk, and a drunk Matt is an audacious Matt. It wasn’t until the 9th inning that the Yankees finally brought in a run, and Matt was not ok with it.
“I REMEMBER MY FIRST RUN!” He yelled behind him towards the bleachers.
I calmly but firmly squeezed his shoulder.
“Not here, bro. Terrible idea.”
The game ended and we turned to head out of the stadium, when I noticed our bullpen catcher Carlos Munoz tossing baseballs into the stands. I figured this to be my best chance to ever actually get a baseball from a game, so I bolted over and simply pointed to my hat. Munoz immediately caught sight of the friendly colors and tossed a ball up to me.
I don’t remember the last time I was that giddy. I probably hyperventilated. It’s possible I passed out and no one has had the heart to tell me. Either way I was justifiably hassled by Erik and Other Paul for my excitement.
We emerged unscathed from enemy territory. It turns out Yankees fans were not in fact looking to deck all outsiders wearing the other team’s jersey like everyone had warned me. They were a blast to watch a game with, actually.
On our trip back to the hostel, we got off early and wandered through Grand Central Station. Pretty cool late at night.
Erik, being the driver once again for tomorrow’s journey, opted to call it an early night. Other Paul, Matt, and myself were not so inclined. The trip was starting to catch up to us, however, so the plan was to take is easy.
Paddy Reilly’s pub was not about to accomodate that on a Friday. Within seconds of entering the bar, we knew we were in a legit New York Irish pub. Our first sign of evidence?
Four of the seven taps were Guinness. That doesn’t even make sense. But hey, when in Rome.
The second? Well that would be the awesome Irish band that played until 2 in the morning. Many, many pints of Guinness and shots of Jameson later, we were well beyond a “take it easy” night. At this point I was satisfied with our condensed New York stop. Matt caught an Uber home around 3 and Other Paul and myself stumbled our way back to the hostel. Six drunken flights of stairs and a completely taxed set of lungs later, we were in our beds asleep.
Next up: Boston.
The TL;DR New York Wrap Up:
Huge. State of the art. Pretty awesome. If you don’t have field level seats, just do what we did and hang out in the outfield with the goons. You’ll have a blast.
Where to go:
I mean, it’s New York. Paddy Reilly’s is about as close to an Irish pub as you can get without leaving the damn country. Pizza 33 was pretty awesome with their slice of Buffalo Chicken pizza (or “Buff Chick,” as a drunk bro dude referred to it as). The hostel we stayed in was meh, so I won’t mention it.
For more, check out the final part here.
Paul Muth is an Army vet who tends to talk a lot, so when his friends tell him to stop, he either writes or talks to a microphone and calls it a podcast. He writes better with a beard and looks better with a beer. Or something like that. Follow him on twitter at @abumnamedpaul.