Kurt Wilks (@KurtWilks) has recently returned from the Bronx, where he (A Cardinals fan) watched the New York Yankees tackle Yu Darvish and the Texas Rangers. Read all about him breaking his baseball virginity.
As a St Louis Cardinals fan of 15 years and an MLB.tv subscriber, I have watched a lot of baseball, but I had never had the pleasure of a trip to a stadium for a live ball game. That was to change on 23rd June 2017.
A rare trip away with the wife sans kids and with NYC as the destination (St Louis not as appealing to the other half for some reason!) a trip to the Bronx was added to our schedule. A Friday night game under the lights at Yankee Stadium and the chance to see Aaron Judge smashing balls to all fields promised to be my highlight of our trip. Although it wasn’t my Cards in town I shunned my wife’s suggestion of purchasing Yankees merch (never going to happen!) and donned my birds on the bat cap to rep The Lou at the ballpark.
Having arrived early to visit Monument Park we took the opportunity to watch the Texas Rangers take batting practice. Having just kept my composure after being subjected to the eye watering cost of two beers, we watched on with beer in hand from the centre field terrace. The crack of bat on ball and the shagging of fly balls in the outfield got me in the mood for some major league action and I was ready for the first pitch.
My worst fears were then to be realised. Sitting on the 3rd deck in line with the left field foul pole we felt a smattering of raindrops falling from the darkening Bronx skies. Before long the tarp was out and we were in a rain delay! With more rain in the local forecast and feeling more like a wet Tuesday night down at the City Ground it seemed my long wait to see live baseball in person would not come to an end.
After over an hour and with the sight of a rainbow appearing over “the Judge’s Chambers” in right field, the news of the first pitch being scheduled for 8.45pm was met with cheers and my excitement started to build again.
There was a nice story with an all Japanese pitching match up; the Yankee’s Masahiro Tanaka duelling Texas ace Yu Darvish for the first time in their professional careers. This would merely be a nice side story though, right? With Tanaka’s career in decline and the young and exciting sluggers in the Yankees line up, we were guaranteed an offensive explosion. Surely?
As the first pitch approached my decision to wear my St Louis cap started to appear ill advised. The Bronx native next to me welcomed me by brashly stating “You are in the wrong ballpark”. A polite British forced laugh and with the first pitch crossing home plate I hoped that was the end of the “Bronx banter”. Ed – Bronx Banter? I imagine this is hilarious. Hashtag eyeroll.
As Tanaka and Darvish racked up the strikeouts my left ear was ringing with “hey St Louis”. Apparently the drunken native was unable to differentiate between a Mid-West and an East Midlands accent. I should have left it there but on correcting him on my place of birth and residence I was to then be referred to as “Notting-Ham” for the remainder of the game. Imagine my delight when we headed into extras!
One of the great things about baseball for me is how unpredictable it can be. Almost to prove this point, against the odds, we witnessed a pitching duel of the highest order. Tanaka rolled back the years with 8 shutout innings and 9 K’s. Almost every pitch being preceded by the guy behind yawping “lets go Masahiiiirrooo!” with an odd Japanese intonation to his NY accent. Darvish continued to demonstrate his value to everyone watching with an eye on his impending free agency notching up 10 K’s during 7 shutout innings.
A Brett Gardner solo dinger to right field tied it up at 1-1 in the bottom of the 9th after a Sanchez passed ball had allowed the Rangers to take the lead in the top half of the inning. So we were treated to an inning of “free baseball”.
Again, the unpredictability of baseball came to the fore in extras. A feature of the 2017 Yankees has been the MVP type dominance of Aaron Judge. But on a quiet night for number 99 it was left to the diminutive figure of Ronald Torreyes to make himself the unlikely hero for the Bronx Bombers. Having made a couple of stellar plays at third base he capped his night off with a walk off single in the 10th. As the game had stretched past midnight all that was left was a late night subway ride back to the city.
Although the game hadn’t been the offensive spectacle expected and I didn’t get to witness a HR from Cards legend Matt Holliday as I had hoped, this trip will still live long in the memory.
The “goings on” in the ball park mixed with the intriguing nuances of America’s Pastime make live baseball more than just a matter of watching a game, it is a sporting experience like no other. A visit to Busch Stadium is a bucket list trip that will be realised, so long as I can convince my wife of the wonders of The Gateway City.