Fans Flood Yankee Stadium for 2012 Home Opener
THE BRONX — Under clear skies and ample sunlight, thousands of fans filled Yankee Stadium Friday to watch the Bronx Bombers face the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
The Yankees came home with a 3-3 record after three consecutive wins over the Baltimore Orioles, which followed a three-game sweep at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rays.
“It’s the true beginning of the season when the Yankees play at home,” said Frank Meshach, 39, from northwest New Jersey.
Along with other Yankee diehards, Meshach and his friends descended upon 161st Street and River Avenue early Friday — in Meshach’s case, at 9 a.m., four hours before the game’s 1:05 p.m. start time.
Many ticketholders said they were especially excited to watch Jorge Posada, the Yankee’s five-time All-Star former catcher, throw the ceremonial first pitch.
When Meshach’s friend Jamie Carpenter, 32, heard Posada would toss the first pitch, “I screamed,” she said.
“It’s going to be out of this world," added Meshach. "The ground is going to shake.”
The Yankees won 5-0 on the strength of home runs from Alex Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson.
Before the game, Ryan Czarnota, 7, said that he was worried about the batting power of the Angels’ first baseman Albert Pujols.
“I’m afraid if he hits two home runs,” Ryan said.
Ryan added that he'd know exactly what to do if he caught a homerun ball from the slugger.
“If I caught it, I’d throw it back,” said Ryan, who traveled with his mother, Alisa Czarnota, from Monroe, New Jersey.
“If the Yankees lose,” said Czarnota, 40, “it will be a long ride home.”
While the Czarnotas fretted -- needlessly, it turned out -- other fans were content just standing in the shadow of the Yankees’ $1 billion stadium.
“There’s no place I’d rather be,” Renny Razor typed into his cell phone to caption a picture of the stadium that he posted online.
A Manhattan native who now lives in Fort Myers, Florida, Razor said he made plans to attend the game with a friend as soon as he learned that he would be in New York on the day of the opener.
“I would rather watch a regular [season] Yankees game than the Super Bowl,” said Razor, 37.
The overall goodwill apparently extended even to visiting Los Angeles fans — to a degree.
“I’ve only been shown the bird a couple times, so they've been pretty nice,” said Angels supporter Steve Young, 52, from San Diego, referring to Yankees fans.
Some Yankees fans described pregame rituals that began well before Friday’s opening pitch.
At the stroke of five on Thursday, Steven Arriaga said he clocked out at the pharmaceutical company where he works in New Jersey, reminded his boss he would not be in on Friday and drove to the Bronx to pick up a new Mariano Rivera jersey and a Bombers jacket and cap for the game.
“Everyone knows tomorrow is a holiday for me,” Arriaga, 38, said inside Yankee Souvenirs on 161st Street. “It goes Christmas, Thanksgiving, then the Yankees’ home opener with the fellas.”
Meanwhile, local merchants steeled themselves for the pregame rush, which promised spikes in sales and exhaustion.
“Everybody is excited for the Yankees season,” said Tony Bastone, manager of the historic Yankee Tavern at 161st Street and Gerard Avenue. “But we can’t really wait for opening day to be over.”
Across the street at Crown Donuts Diner, waitress Nieves Vasquez agreed that game days require extra hustle — she calls it “putting my skates on.”
But, she added, “It’s a beautiful thing. We make a lot of money.”
Her favorite game day, not surprisingly, came in 2009 when the Yankees beat the Phillies to win the World Series.
“Everybody was so excited,” Vasquez said. “If their food wasn’t warm enough, nobody cared.”