For weeks, it was all my son Brady could talk about.
On July 18, we were taking him to Yankee Stadium to celebrate his second birthday.
At just 2 years old, or should I say, 23 months and two weeks, he probably had no idea what "going to Yankee Stadium to see the Yankees," meant, but still, whenever we told him that’s what we were going to do, his eyes lit up like he was about to eat a whole bag of candy sans punishment.
"Go see the Yankees?" he would ask on a daily basis. "Get in the car, go see the Yankees?" he repeated....and repeated...and repeated...for two straight weeks.
On the day of the last All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium, we loaded up the van and embarked on a 14-hour ride to New York.
Finally, we were able to answer him with a "yes." Yes, we were now going to get in the car and see the Yankees. And until he fell asleep somewhere in South Carolina, we were constantly reminded of that.
I never thought that taking him to visit the historic ball park in the Bronx would have that great of an impact, but I guess even a 2-year-old knows how special Yankee Stadium is.
What makes it even more special is that this would be the first and last time he would ever step foot on the hallowed grounds of The Stadium. Not because he won’t be around to see it, but because it won’t be around for him, or any of the other millions of Yankees/baseball fans to see.
Next year at this time, Yankee Stadium and all its glory, mystique and history will be gone. Moved across the street to a $1.6 billion facility that will have the same name and field dimensions but, I fear, will be all that will resemble the old park on the corner of East 161st Street and River Avenue in the Bronx.
That was the main reason for our trip to New York in the first place.
As a Yankee fan, I had only been to Yankee Stadium once before when I was in the third grade. Back then, Dave Winfield was still roaming right field, and Willie Randolph still had a job, as the second baseman of the Yanks.
I still remember the excitement I had upon arrival at The Stadium. We waited outside for hours to try and get autographs, we toured Monument Park and I stared in amazement at each and every monument of all the best players to ever wear the pinstripes. Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, DiMaggio, Rizzuto, Berra, they were all there. I was like a kid in the candy store, and that candy store was the greatest ballfield ever constructed.
And before that candy store became a $1.6 billion corporate-driven, shadow of itself, I had to take my son (and wife and 5-month-old daughter Madelyn, as well) for a visit.
On the morning of his birthday, and the day of the game, Brady woke up in his usual fashion: Throwing a fit because something didn’t go the way he wanted. But I had the solution to his outburst.
"Brady," I said. "You know what today is? Today is the day we’re going to see the Yankees."
The tantrum came to an ubrupt stop. An ear-to-ear smile was now in the same place that a frown was just seconds before.
After an hour-long train ride from Long Island to Manhattan, and another 35-minute subway ride, we arrived at Yankee Stadium.
Every where you looked there were fans in Yankees gear. The attitude of the people was not of a fanbase whose team was in third place and mired in a season of ups and downs, but of a group of like individuals there to take part in what most people don’t ever get to accomplish. We were all there to see the Yankees, at Yankee Stadium, in one of the final 32 regular season games ever to be played there.
Our seats were in Row Z of Section 51 in the left field bleachers, which turned out to be the last row of the entire stadium. To the left of us was the blacked out section of centerfield, where home runs off the bats of guys like Ruth, Mantle and Reggie Jackson once landed.
More than 500 feet in front of us was home plate. The same place where DiMaggio began his 56-game hitting streak in 1941, and where future Hall of Famers Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter take swings during every home game.
Just in front of us to the right was Monument Park, which had a few new additions since I last visited, specifically a monument honoring the tragedy of September 11.
To the left of Monument Park was the Yankees bullpen, where starter Mike Mussina was warming up, and where Mariano Rivera was sitting, no doubt thinking about the time his name would be among the legends that reside in the park to his right.
To my right, stood an excited 2-year-old boy preparing to witness his first live Yankee game. A game in which the Yankees would end up winning 7-1.
But the outcome of the game was simply icing on the proverbial birthday cake for Brady. While he probably won’t remember much from that day, he got to witness a game in Yankee Stadium and for some reason I think that will stay with him for the rest of his life.
Back on the train and on our way home, a tired boy sat next to me while I read him a story out of the Yankee program. He turned to my mother and asked a simple question, "Go see the Yankees again?"
One day he will, but I’m afraid it won’t be as special in the new stadium as it was in the old one.