Fan Follow Friday puts the spotlight weekly on one of my readers, as they share their favorite ballparks and baseball memories. Hope you enjoy hearing their stories!! This week we check in with David Jones, a longtime New York Yankees fan:
Name: David Jones
Hometown: Rochester, NY
Favorite Team: New York Yankees
Blog/Website: Let’s Play Nine
How did you get into baseball?
I played organized baseball from age five into college. I grew up playing second base due to my admiration of Willie Randolph but when I started Junior High School, I transitioned to right field. I started to follow Darryl Strawberry and studied how he played the game defensively and he became my all-time favorite baseball player. I had the honor of meeting him a week ago and getting some items personalized by him. I come from a basketball family but I’ve always been intrigued by the strategy involved with baseball. I was picked on a lot because I chose it over basketball.
Rochester has always been a soccer town but our minor league team (Rochester Red Wings) was the Triple-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles for many years. Rochester has extremely deep baseball roots. The stadium was originally named Silver Stadium and was five blocks from my house. From the age of eight years old, I have many memories of my father and uncle walking my cousins and me to games. We’d attend about twenty games per season and I remember seeing all of the great players that started their careers right up the street from my house. Being able to see them made me want to become a professional ball player one day. I was blessed to see the likes of Eddie Murray, Cal Ripkin Jr, Billy Ripken and Curt Shilling. The best part about the minor league affiliating back then was that the major league affiliate team would come to town once every summer to play the Red Wings. All of the starters would play at least three innings and spend the rest of the time signing autographs. The Red Wings were involved in the longest baseball game in history on April 18th and 19th, 1981… it was 33 innings and lasted 8 hours and 25 minutes.
Yankee Stadium. I’ve been a life-long Yankee fan but didn’t visit Yankee stadium for the first time until Labor Day weekend in 2012. My wife (girlfriend at the time) bought me tickets for my birthday as a surprise and it was the equivalent of seeing my daughter be born. There is no place like Yankee Stadium. It’s not just the structure, the Frieze, the field or the Yankee logo on the grass… it’s the entire experience. The best thing about Yankee stadium is the fans… they make it what it is. Roll Call by the Bleacher Creatures is a tradition that can’t be duplicated. There isn’t a bad seat in the house at Yankee Stadium but the best section, in my opinion, is 127B on the 3rd base side.
Least Favorite Ballpark?
Tropicana Field. I have yet to visit it but whenever games are played there and I watch them on TV, I can’t imagine how the players must feel having to report to that facility for home games. As much as I dislike the Tampa Bay Rays, no baseball player deserves to play in an environment as lacking as Tropicana Field. It just looks really depressing to me.
Top Ballpark Memory?
Ironically, my top memory just took place a few days ago on April 29, 2014, at Yankee Stadium. It was Robinson Cano’s first game back in to the Bronx since he left for Seattle and we also finally got to see C.C. Sabathia pitch. My wife and I drove down from Rochester in 6 hours of steady rain and luckily the game wasn’t postponed. Even though the stadium was only a third full, there was so much energy because of Cano’s return. Even before the game started, his picture was displayed for the lineup and he was booed. He was booed no matter what he did… but that didn’t create the memory for me. This was the first rain-soaked game that I ever stayed in the stands for and only lightning could have made me leave. It rained from the beginning of the game and got to its worst point in the bottom of the 7th and the temperature dropped to under 40 degrees. My wife was freezing but she was a great sport and hung in there for me, which is one of the many reasons why I love her so much. I’ve been attending baseball games all my life and have never come as close to catching a foul ball as I did that night. 5 Balls were hit within 2 rows of our seats and when I left to go to the bathroom, my wife ran from a ball that landed on a seat on the row behind us. She yelled at me for not being there to protect her but she let the ball sit on the seat for two minutes and someone else picked it up. Even though the Yankees lost, this was the most fun I’ve ever had at a baseball game. As the rain continued to fall, we eventually had 6 rows of empty seats around us. I doubt that we will ever have that much Yankee Stadium real-estate to ourselves ever again. It was a great night and we created lots of memories.
Advice for fans visiting your home ballpark?
Frontier Field is now the home stadium for the Rochester Red Wings and it’s an exact replicate of Camden Yards. (On a minor league scale) Ironically, it was moved from Norton Street to its current location because of “the declining state of the neighborhood.” It was moved to a much worse neighborhood and a $30 million soccer stadium was built down the street from it. When parking, I suggest never using on street parking, always park in the lots that are behind or on the side of the Kodak tower. The field faces Southeast from home play to the outfield so the best seats would be on the 3rd base side. Afternoon and late evening games will see most of the sun on the third base side and will make for a much warmer experience. And lastly, we have these ridiculously good hot dogs in Western New York called “Zweigles”, they can’t be beat… look them up and make sure you grab a few when you visit Frontier Field.
****Would you like to be my next Fan Follow Friday?? Just email your responses to the bold questions and a couple of pictures to me at email@example.com. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a baseball blogger, just a baseball fan!!!
Past Fan #FF: