I was introduced to baseball by my friend Robert Isabel when I reluctantly agreed to accompany him to a baseball game. He stopped my refusals by announcing it was his birthday and he wanted my company. We got there and to my surprise he has what I soon learn are Legends seats, second row from the field and a half row left of the dugout.
It is 1999, and the Yankees are on the start of a very exciting roll.
I am instantly a fan, and within the third consecutive game, reading the News and the Post each morning from the back of the papers. I am watching every sports show, and wanting desperately to switch jobs with Susan Coleman, the female Yankee sports announcer.
Robert and I saw every at-home Yankees game and then over the World Series, we traveled to the away games. I then traveled with other Yankees friends to away games during the season and realized how much I love Yankee stadium and how much I love that baseball is America.
My favorite Yankees are Jeter, Posada, Pettitte, Mariano, and Bernie Williams. I even go to the batting cages regularly to swing exactly like Tino Martinez, a fellow lefty.
I hang out at the local Japanese restaurant during away games where their huge screen plays baseball, showing every Yankee game played anywhere. I have a new group of assorted friends as well as neighborhood buddies all addicted to baseball, especially the Yankees.
I even fell in love with a Yankee fan I met at a World Series game. I ran for my life in platforms in Phoenix after the Yankees lost while shedding my Yankees tee shirt for safety, as did every other Yankee fan at the game. I made a presentation to the MLB to design a line of baseball-inspired clothes for the Yankees; it was turned down but saw almost versions appear soon after in the Yankee stores. I named all of my swimwear after baseball players' first names, and made a special bikini for Debbie Clemens from a Roger Clemens 22 tee shirt at Roger Clemen's request upon a visit he made to my store. And I swore I wanted my ashes thrown on the field of Yankees stadium because, quite frankly, what better place could there be?
My friend Robert died unexpectedly two years ago, and two years prior to that he read "Money Ball" and decided we weren't going to baseball games ever again. "Say what! We?" I couldn't believe it and no, I had no intention of reading "Money Ball."
He gave up his amazing seats and I was relegated to search for seats to games I couldn't miss on Stub Hub, and then started watching more and more from home. Then the Japanese restaurant closed and I didn't see my local Yankee buddies anymore. The new stadium felt too much like Las Vegas and not as gritty as the old, and well, the history of the old stadium was so special.
The team also changed after Tino and Bernie left. I felt a little less connected but still a committed fan, and I know I will never get used to Alex Rodriguez as a Yankee.
Then the steroids, the dramas, all so sad and maybe making baseball more like America today than the America as the baseball and apple pie concept.
In my friend Robert's will, which he had not changed after reading "Money Ball," were his tickets to Yankees baseball left for me. The estate kindly arranged to get me seats above Legends so that in some way I would still be acknowledged in his will. This year, the Yankees were somehow so different for me, besides the new stadium not being there with Robert, and need I say Legends is Legends, and my Yankee team is much smaller and maybe because of the World Series loss might disappear completely.
Jeter, Posada, Mariano and Pettitte are my Yankee memories as I guess Mantle and DiMaggio were to others from times before.
My heart and soul will always belong to the Yankees because of these guys and the wonderful years they have given Yankee baseball.
And yes, thank you Robert, for giving me this wonderful experience.