Last Saturday, April 3, I got a facetime call from Start Spreading The News Co-Host Kyle Milligan asking me if I wanted to go watch the Yankees and Orioles play on Tuesday night. My answer was a quick, “Hell yeah.”
Thus began the process of attending a baseball game in 2021. Yankee Stadium requires a negative PCR COVID-19 test within 72 hours of game day OR proof of full vaccination to be admitted. Already being only 3 days from game day and none of us being vaccinated yet, we began a mad dash to get a test taken and get our results on time for 6:35 first pitch Tuesday. Luckily we all received our results back on Monday morning, so we were good to go.
We settled on seats in section 227B, second deck seats on the third baseline. We decided it would be best to meet at Kyle’s house, make our way together to a train station in Terrytown, NY, and take the train into the stadium.
Tuesday morning rolled around, and I was on top of the world. I knew Gerrit Cole was pitching against my Orioles, I knew the massacre I was about to witness, but it didn’t matter. I was going to a baseball game again, and that was all that mattered.
Our MCLA teammate Diego and I began our journey to Kyle’s house in Cohoes, NY at 11:30, where we met him and our other teammate Brett. From there we piled in Kyle’s car and began our two and a half hour trek to Terrytown.
When we got to Terrytown, for the first time we realized what an incredible day we had picked to see a baseball game. The sun was shining, not a cloud in sight, and we were 30 minutes out from Yankee Stadium. The boys were buzzing.
We hopped off the train at East 153rd Street, and Kyle made a beeline for the street vendors for some hot dogs, or as I like to call them “Street Meat,” so we could avoid eating in the stadium. We arrived a half-hour before gates opened (90 minutes prior to game time,) and it was Diego’s first time at Yankee Stadium so we took a lap around the outside of the stadium before getting in line.
Getting into the stadium went way smoother than any of us could have anticipated. We were fully prepared for some type of issue to arise with our test results, tickets, or any number of other things, yet it was smooth sailing.
Once through the gates, we headed down to the right-field line and tried to snag a ball or two during Orioles batting practice. We were able to get right up to the fence on the right-field foul line where Orioles reliever Paul Fry and another Oriole (we scoured the internet and couldn’t find this man anywhere) were within earshot. After some playful banter with Fry about who had better hair, myself or the mystery O’s player, our attention turned towards our real goal: get a ball.
When our polite requests for a ball were ignored, Kyle quickly turned on our mystery Oriole and made sure he knew Kyle thought he belonged on the “taxi squad,” but I wasn’t ready to give up just yet. Just as we were getting ready to go find our seats a ball was smoked down the right-field line and rolled right past us and settled along the wall in foul territory. This was our shot. Being the only person in Orioles orange in the entire section I let our mystery Oriole know, “I’m the only guy in orange in the ballpark, you gotta give me this one.” Watch it go down for yourself below.
You can even see him tell the Yankees fans there that he has to give it to the guy in orange.
From there we headed up to the second deck to find our seats and settle in before the first pitch. It was eerily quiet walking up the ramps to the second deck, and for the first time, we were really noticing the differences of a limited capacity ballgame. We found our seats in section 227B, and wow what a view. We could see everything, and in 15 minutes we were going to have a clear view of the 2nd best pitcher in all of baseball going to work.
Before the first pitch, we had to make sure we had all the food and drink we would need for the first few innings, which for the other guys was a 1lb chicken strip bucket each, and for me was 2 kids hot dogs (they’re half the price of the regular Nathan’s dogs and honestly just as good, thank me later,) and a tall boy Bud Light. I was there to watch my beloved Orioles face Gerrit freakin’ Cole; this wouldn’t be my only Bud Light of the night.
Starting lineups were announced, Suzyn Waldman sang a beautiful version of the national anthem (I wasn’t the only O’s fan in the park to let out an “O!” during the anthem), and Gerrit Cole took the mound. Play Ball!
Immediately our college ballplayer instincts took over and we began hooting, hollering, chirping, and cheering. Limited capacity meant everyone from the stands to the field could hear everything everyone yelled, and it didn’t take long for someone to yell “Shut up!” but just like when an umpire gives us a warning in one of our MCLA games, we didn’t shut up. I like to think my “Hey now Kremer!” cheer helped Orioles starter Dean Kremer to escape a bases-loaded, no outs jam in the first. Along the same lines, I’m fairly positive that the sound waves from Diego’s cheers for Jay Bruce literally carried his pop fly out of the stadium for a home run.
Kyle had come up with a plan for us to get a better view, and move down to section 225 at the end of the first inning since the stadium was mostly empty. There are no ushers in the second deck, so there’s nothing keeping you from finding an open seat and taking it. Turns out, everyone else had the same idea, and with 2 outs in the inning people started moving. If you want to do this, 2 outs at the bottom of the 1st is go time. When we realized what was going on we got right up, found an open group of seats in 225, and made that our new home.
By the end of the second inning, my voice was already going, the O’s were already losing, and my first beer was already gone. Not a great start, but nothing that another $14 Bud Light couldn’t fix. So I got working on my second beer, and the Yankees got working on widening their lead.
Shortly after I got back from the beer line, Gerrit Cole put the finishing touches on a scoreless top of the third. Brett Gardner came to the plate after Aaron Judge led off the bottom of the third with a groundout to Freddy Galvis. Gardner took a first-pitch curveball from Kremer for ball one. The next pitch was a 93mph fastball that Gardner fouled into the right-field stands into section 225, right where we had moved to.
Right off the bat, someone had said “it looks like it’s coming towards us.” The higher and closer it got, the more I realized it really was coming our way, and that there was going to be nothing between me and this ball. I was sitting on the left end of our group of four, and our seats were in the middle of the row, with empty seats in the rest of the row. The ball was coming to my left and I had a clear path to it. I took my O’s cap off my head, ranged 4 steps to my left, and made the leaping catch in my hat. No lie, ask Kyle, Diego, or Brett, it’s a true story. We were three innings in and had two Major League baseballs as souvenirs.
In the 4th inning, the Yanks plated two more runners, and I finished my second Bud Light. I would’ve probably cut myself off there since I was already $30 deep on beer, but the Bombers had broken into the O’s pen, and I knew if I had to sit through 5 innings of the Orioles bullpen I was gonna need another one.
So I went back to the well for beer number three, and the Orioles and Yankees both went down 1-2-3 in the 5th. The 6th inning went the same way, with six straight outs from Adam Plutko and Gerrit Cole, and Cole would make it nine straight outs in the top of the 7th. Tyler Wells came in to replace Plutko, and the Yanks would add another run on a Giancarlo Stanton double in the bottom half of the inning.
At this point, my third tall boy was gone, and the beer lines were closed, so I was forced to turn to drown my sorrows in a $6 helmet cup of twist ice cream. Chad Green replaced Cole to start the 8th and continued Cole’s dominance by retiring the side in order.
The Yankees started a rally in the last of the 8th with one-out base hits from Gio Urshela and Kyle Higashioka against O’s reliever Wade LeBlanc. After Urshela was cut down at the plate trying to score on a ground ball to shortstop Freddy Galvis, Aaron Judge came to the plate with two outs and runners on the corners. After taking a first-pitch changeup for strike one, Judge turned on a cutter from LeBlanc and absolutely hammered it deep into the left-center field bleachers. Sometimes at Yankee games, the fans will flip out for a ball in the air to the outfield, and it will just be a routine flyout. This was not one of those. Off the bat, everyone in the park knew this ball was gone, and long gone, just like the O’s chances of staging a late comeback.
The O’s headed into the top of the 9th down 7-0, and three outs away from going home with their second loss of the young season. Two quick outs by Trey Mancini and Anthony Santander meant the Baby Birds were down to their last out. AL Rookie of the Year frontrunner Ryan Mountcastle managed to hustle out an infield single to keep the O’s alive and send Rio Ruiz to the dish. Ruiz managed to give me a little bit of life by getting ahold of an 88mph Lucas Luetge fastball and sending it over the right-field short porch.
The birds had some life, but it was still a 7-2 ballgame with one out left.
Maikel Franco scorched a double down the left-field line on the second pitch of his at-bat, and for the first time in the game, the O’s had something cooking. However, time would run out for the Orioles as Freddy Galvis foul-tipped strike three into the glove of Higashioka, and “New York, New York” began playing on the stadium loudspeakers.
It was a 7-2 win for the Yankees, and Kyle was grinning from ear to ear. You might think I would’ve been down in the dumps after witnessing that beating, but I had just seen a baseball game in person for the first time in 2 years; I was on top of the world and there was no bringing me down. Next time I’ll care more about the score, but for this game, I was happy just to be able to be there again.
Kyle and I plan to be back at Yankee Stadium in early May, for when the Astros return to New York in front of fans for the first time since their cheating scandal broke. That game is going to make for a hell of a blog, but in the meantime, you can hear more about this game on Episode 7 of Call To The Bullpen and Episode 2 of Start Spreading The News.