We always remember the first time, because at the time we were in the moment, without distraction. The first day of school, first date, first kiss, first day of the new job. How it made us feel, the impact that it made at that moment in our lives, and the fact that it stays with us forever makes these moments stand the test of time.
I remember so many firsts, like the first time I was in New York City (not including being part of a field trip for school). It was so big people were everywhere, and they were all in a hurry: I was just a number. As for my first time on an airplane, I was already a young adult. So the awkwardness of it, you know? Not in control of your own safety, feeling like you are just a number in a huge cattle car for people. The funny thing is, I was not even trying to be inconspicuous, I was like a little kid, touching every button, checking out every person just being really curious, because I was living in the moment.
The thing about firsts, is that we remember so much of the experience. Perhaps this is because we allow ourselves to be fully engaged and mindful of where we are.
Being in the moment brings me back to my first trip to Yankee Stadium briefly mentioned in chapter one of EVERY DAY IS A FIELD TRIP I remember walking up to the stadium, with the vendors hawking their wares every five feet. Something from a bygone era were the shops under the elevated train track selling ballpark souvenirs, team yearbooks from every Major League team and snacks, and of course the taverns, where the people basically jumped out at you from inside. This was truly a field trip among the chaos. The staff checking your ticket at the turnstiles always seemed to be bothered that we were there in the first place. Walking into the concourse and navigating through the maze of people, all scrambling for our chance to see the big moment that everyone talks about. Popping out of the dark concourse and into the splendor of green displayed by the perfectly mowed grass on the baseball diamond, it almost felt like the shining of Emerald City, when Dorothy and friends first appeared at the land of Oz.
“Yankee Stadium is a natural venue for another lesson. You won’t succeed all the time. Even Ruth, Gehrig and DiMaggio failed most of the time when they stepped to the plate. Finding the right path in life, more often than not, involves some missteps.” Janet Yellen
Everyone talks about how green the grass is on your first trip to the stadium, but one can truly have sensory overload when trying to take in everything at the ballpark. The awesomeness of the field is truly magical. After all, a diamond is forever! For me, the magic of Yankee Stadium on my first trip to the Grand Ball Orchard in the South Bronx, was the Facade crowned around the upper deck of the entire stadium. The distinct frieze was awe inspiring to me. This kid from Stamford, Connecticut had never seen a ballpark draped in such grandness. Turns out, the distinct frieze was created by architects in Cleveland, and were not the distinction of some other idea, but created for the stadium. In some form, they were transferred over to the new Yankee Stadium.
“I’ve always been a daydreamer. When the other kids were playing, I was listening to the roar at Yankee Stadium- I was always attracted to the roar of the crowd.” Sean Combs
Baseball is a game where both the players and fans need to be in the moment. If they are not, they do not enjoy the experience at the same level as those who understand the finer details of the game.
At a baseball game, you can almost tell what is happening just by listening. The popping of the ball in mitt, the crack of the bat hitting a cowhide sphere with 108 red stitches on it, the roar of the fans in a cressending fashion tells you where the action is.
On my first trip to Yankee stadium, as soon as I was within sight of the field I searched only for one immortal superstar: the great Mickey Mantle himself. The Commerce Comet, The Mick, was in his last year of playing and there he was, a couple hundred feet from me: taking infield at first base.
Another memory that is inescapable is the smell and vision of cigars, cigar smoke, and cigar smokers. They were everywhere, it almost appeared that it was a prerequisite of attending a Major League ballgame at the time, also inescapable was the cries of vendors “beer here!”, “peanuts, get your peanuts!”
Fast forward 31 years to the first time we took our three children to a Major League game was at Fenway Park on Patriots’ Day. Patriots’ Day in Boston traditionally begins with an 11:00 AM ballgame, which supposedly gives the fans enough time to head over to Commonwealth Avenue for the Boston Marathon. For us, this first game was really about seeing our kids’ expressions to all of the encounters that we remembered in our first ballpark experiences when we were kids. Watching their faces, walking up to the park, seeing their distractions with every vendor – one thing was the same: the wide eyes upon entering the view of the field. Yes, the green grass, but at Fenway the distinction was the Green Monster, that 37 foot (and 2 inches) tall wall stretching from the left field foul pole towards center field, the other noticeable feature of the Green Monster is how close it appears, the distance from home plate to the Green Monster is only 310 feet, and it seems like the wall is right on top of you at any given point in the park.
“As I grew up, I knew that as a building (Fenway Park) was on the level of Mount Olympus, the Pyramid at Giza, the nation’s capitol, the czar’s Winter Palace, and the Louvre–except of course, that it is better than all those inconsequential places.” Baseball Commissioner Bart Giamatti
Over time, our ballpark visits became a study of the game where my two daughters and later my son would take the opportunity to learn about the game, what pitch to throw in each situation, how to shift the fielders based on the hitter, send the runner, steal or not and so many other variables that come with this beautiful game. I invite you to join the Every Day is a Field Trip Facebook community page, where fun is the name of the game.
But the beauty of Major League Ballparks, is that they also have entertainment independent of the game. Our favorite was the peanut vendor, not just any peanut vendor, but the guy who threw the peanuts from 50 to 100 feet away with perfect precision. He was so good that we wondered why he was not out on the field throwing strikes for the home team. We would pass up all of the other peanut vendors until we saw him, and we would only call for peanuts if he was far away, so the kids could catch his perfect throws.
We were lucky our company seats, that I would score on occasion, were 13 rows behind home plate. These seats had three major perfections as it came to choosing seats at a major league game. The first was being able to see the pitches. My son was a youth league pitcher and still pitches at the college level. We loved watching the movement from every pitch. When a great pitcher such as Mariano Rivera would throw that cutter, you had the opportunity to see something really special up close, and of course seeing Pedro Martinez pitch was a real treat.
“As Commissioner, you’re supposed to be objective. It wasn’t much of a secret though, that I loved Fenway– especially how it made you a participant, not a spectator.” Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn
The second benefit to these seats behind home plate was the protective screen, this meant if we took our eyes off the action for a moment, we did not have to worry that a screaming line drive would take us out (Major League baseball finally fixed that problem extending the screen down past first and third bases and down the line). The third benefit was we were three rows behind the walkway that stretched around the park. This meant we not only had a ball game in front of us, but also had non-stop people watching in front of us. We got a kick out of the personalities at the ballpark. In between pitches there was a world of entertainment just three rows in front of us.
“Fenway Park is one of the most historic beloved and revered ballparks in the nation. In fact (tourism statistics) indicate that Fenway park attracts more visitors to Boston than any other single attraction.” C.H. Johnson
While Fenway Park was our home ballpark and a place my family loved to visit, you may remember there is nothing like a Hummer’s first visit to Yankee Stadium. We made this trip with the New York City Uncles, who regularly sent Yankee apparel to Massachusetts to help ensure the kids would stay Yankee fans while living in Red Sox Territory. Whenever someone in Massachusetts asked why they were Yankee fans, the simple answer was: “It’s a birthright”. On this first visit, we made sure to get there early so we could visit Monument Park where the all-time Yankee greats are enshrined with Monuments. It is something you can only see at Yankee Stadium.
When you are traveling on your next family vacation or business trip, pop in and see the worlds best players in action. https://www.mlb.com/
If you ask my daughters about their first ballpark field trips, they will tell you they were not allowed to have anything to drink at the park, because Dad could not take them into the ladies room, would not take them into the mens room (it’s bad enough guys have to go in there), and did not trust society enough to believe if they went into the ladies room alone that they might actually make it back.
Or they may talk about the time they went to the ballpark with friends, who said baseball is a boring game and they went on to explain why the only reason anyone could think that would be because they don’t understand the game, and then proceed to actually explain the game in detail as the game was evolving.
Now that is being engaged and in the moment!
The Green grass is in full display across the world, with more and more fans now being allowed to attend. Where will you visit for the first time?
On your next trip to the ballpark, the field, the court, or the arena of your choice, do yourself a favor: put the phone down, get rid of the distractions and live in the moment. You will be amazed at what you see. PLAY BALL!
Minor league games are great fun take in a game soon https://www.milb.com/
Collegiate summer leagues are in full swing. The NECBL is one of several leagues across the country. Go to a game and watch passion on display. http://www.necbl.com/view/necbl/