Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Perfect Day, the Perfect Game, and 50 Years of Life’s Unexpected Moments

The unexpected almost always shows up if you are open to it. A long awaited private tour of the new Yankee Stadium had arrived July 18, just a few days shy of my husband A.J.’s 50th birthday. At a fund-raiser auction last year, I was the high bidder of this unforgettable day that was full of surprises. The tour began in the deep caverns below the field; we emerged to witness the Yankees BP at home plate. What a thrill to be so close to the players, the dugout, press, and all the preparation for the game. Suddenly, there was Reggie Jackson, and a few other old time Yankees before us. After Mr. October signed our baseball, Ray Negron, personal consultant to George Steinbrenner, he informed us that the next day was “Old Timers Day”, the first at the new stadium. Surprise #1.

Ray then escorted us off the field to our seats, we followed close behind, observing all his interaction with everyone that he came in contact with, and wondering who they were and quickly finding out those that were the highest ranked in the Yankee organization did not wear a badge. Expecting to be in the July sun during the game, we brought hats, sun block, and made mental notes of where to go for the traditional ballpark food. He led us to a private elevator that brought us to a Luxury Suite. Surprise #2.

Upon entering the suite that was already occupied by about 20 people, I scanned the large room filled with TV monitors, catered food, bartender, photos of great Yankee plays, and the most incredible view of the stadium just above home plate. Marble floors, leather couches and granite counters at the outdoor box seats were fully stocked with peanuts and Cracker Jacks. My prior ballpark experience consisted of the nosebleed section, heads blocking my view, long lines for the restroom and overpriced hotdogs. I felt like Yankee royalty! A.J. and I exchanged “what are we doing here!” glances. Oozing into the moment and small talk with the others, a tall man with a white handlebar mustache and I chatted over the buffet spread, later to discover he was Hall of Fame closer, Goose Gossage! Surprise #3.

It was now game time and I chose my seat next to an elderly gentleman, which introduced himself as Ed Cone, David Cone’s dad! Again, taken by surprise that it was the 10th anniversary of the last perfect game, pitched by David Cone in 1999. And in fact, he as just about the throw out the first pitch! He and I were then talking about his son’s career, when suddenly David Cone arrived in the suite that was his! Surprise #4

The present pitching duel on the field between the Yankees and the Tigers in a scoreless 5th inning were ignored, while former Met teammate Barry Lyons and more Cone heads showed up for a toast to David’s perfect game. I congratulated him and asked at what point during the game did he realize that he was pitching a perfect game, he responded “In the 6th inning, but the fans knew before I did by their cheers at each pitch.” Surprise #5

The Yankees went on the win the game with the help of a homerun by Arod. A perfect day, celebrating a perfect game, and a perfect way to spend your 50th birthday…one to cross off the bucket list.