“The ball’s coming straight at us!”

It took four fill-ups at my local Hess gas stations, plus purchasing a 24-pack of Diet Pepsi, but I received my prize.

My “prize,” for sending in the receipts from those four fill-ups and for the 24-pack of Diet Pepsi, were two free New York Yankees tickets.  Not bad.  Friday, April 26, Yankees versus Toronto, at the Stadium.

I sent a text to my buddy Jeremy.  “You want to go see the Yankees?”

He replied back.  “Hell yeah.”

Okay.  Now for me to make all the necessary arrangements.

The last time I did a trip to Yankee Stadium, which was a few years ago, I rode with two other people, we parked in Castleton-on-Hudson and took a Metro North the rest of the way.   I didn’t feel like doing that this time, so I reserved a parking space at one of Yankee Stadium’s adjoining parking structures.

Then it’s Go Blackbird Go – first to pick up Jeremy McNamara, so he can ride shotgun in the Blackbird to New York City.

The tricky part about driving down to a Yankees game is that invariably there will be some sort of traffic delay.  Whether that delay is from construction along the Tappan Zee Bridge, or some accident on the New York State Thruway, delays can cost time.  Thankfully, with the GPS on J-Mac’s phone – which can provide traffic updates – we were able to re-route ourselves on the way down to the Bronx.  Instead of going straight down from the Thruway to the Major Deegan – which J-Mac’s phone said was a “red route,” as in traffic jams all the way – we quickly dove off Exit 15 and took New Jersey state route 17, avoiding two accidents and construction along the Tappan Zee.  Nice.  And we arrived at the Ruppert Parking Garage with an hour to spare before game time.

The seats we had were what you would expect from this kind of gas station promotion.  We were sitting in the grandstand, and if we were four rows higher, we could have fed the pigeons on the roof.  Not complaining, though – these seats WERE along the first base line, and we did have a great bird’s-eye view of the game.

Section 407B, Row 8, Seats 21 and 22.  Nikon Coolpix S30 camera.  Photo by Chuck Miller.
Section 407B, Row 8, Seats 21 and 22. Nikon Coolpix S30 camera. Photo by Chuck Miller.

In fact, after we had settled into our seats and let various people know we had arrived safely, two other Yankees fans sat in the row behind us.

“Did you guys get your tickets through the Hess promotion?” I asked.

“Yes we did,” said the Yankees jersey-wearing man, as he and his daughter asked if we would take their picture with their camera.  Of course I did.

“So where are you from?”  I asked.

“We came all the way from Schenectady, New York,” the man replied.

“No !”  J-Mac and I said, almost in sync.  “We’re from Albany.”

There you go.  Hess gas station baseball promotions.  Bringing more people from the Capital District to a Yankees game.

Now I should mention that the Yankees playing against the Toronto Blue Jays would be a decent matchup.  That is, if Derek Jeter wasn’t injured, and if Alex Rodriguez wasn’t injured, and Curtis Granderson wasn’t injured… heck, the only star in the lineup was Robinson Cano.  And Toronto was also a bit of a walking wounded corps, as Jose Reyes was on the shelf and their starting pitcher was scratched from the game with a sore elbow.  And five pitches into the contest, the Yankees catcher got plunked on the hand and had to leave the game.  And three innings into the game, Ivan Nova had to get pulled from the match.  Walking wounded.

But we still had a good time and the game was quite close.  Toronto would take the lead, the Yankees would tie it up.  Eventually a Brett Gardiner home run – which I imagine John Sterling said something stupid like “Gardy goes Yardy” in his home run call – helped the Yankees win the game 6-4.

By the fourth inning, however, we were looking for seats closer to the action.  The game may have been advertised as having 36,000 in attendance, but it looked like there must have been half-off tickets for the Invisible Man and his family.  Lots of empty chairs all around.

And by the fifth inning, we found some seats in the lower deck.

Mariano Rivera comes in to close out the 9th inning.  Note the better seating.  Nikon Coolpix S30.  Photo by Chuck Miller.
Mariano Rivera comes in to close out the 9th inning. Note the better seating. Nikon Coolpix S30. Photo by Chuck Miller.

And it’s a good thing we did.  Around the sixth inning, a Toronto batter hit a foul ball straight toward our section.  The ball dropped about four rows in front of us, bounced off a spectator’s hand, then landed between the seats as three people battled for the baseball.

No, I was not one of them.  I’m not getting in the middle of a scrum for a foul ball, not even if I had the Albany Bootleggers rugby team helping me out.  Eventually the guy who initially dropped the ball fought off the other baseball fans, and claimed the prize for himself.  Good for him.  It’s always a great moment when someone gets a foul ball as a souvenir.

And in the end, after Mariano Rivera loaded the bases and finally got the final out on a swinging third strike, the game was over.

And this is where judicious planning paid off.

J-Mac and I were able to get to the parking structure, climb into the Blackbird, pull out of the parking structure, and we were halfway up the Major Deegan Expressway before WCBS finished its post-game wrap-up show.

Then came the drive home.  Now here’s something you need to know about J-Mac.  He’s currently in training for a late July triathalon run.  Before I picked him up for the game, he had already “gone out for a run,” and I don’t mean a jog around the block.  So figure the exercise, plus the trip down to the game, plus the game itself, and the guy was asleep before we even made it past New Paltz.

And this is where friendship comes into play.  I continued driving, alternating the radio between ESPN and MLB Radio on XM, keeping the volume loud enough to keep me awake, while keeping it low enough so that J-Mac could sleep.

This is what friends do.  You always have a plan ahead of time for any sort of situation.

We got back at about 2:00 in the morning, I dropped J-Mac off at his place, then got back to the Town and Village.  A great day all around, a halfway decent Yankees game watched with my best bud, and a shout-out and thanks to Hess for their baseball promotion.

You know something?  I kinda wished I had caught that foul ball.

I guess I’ll just wait for the Derek Jeter home run ball that I’ll catch the next time I go to the Stadium.