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Sunday, Aug. Softball, really, because that’s what you play with 18 people of varying skills and sexes and ages. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is introducing yourselves to your teammates and discovering one is a former dormmate you haven’t seen in five years. What matters is running hard from second to third on a field behind the elementary school and falling flat on your face three feet from the base because the field seems to have a slight rise between the two. What matters is not hitting Tim’s beer that he’s placed so carefully next to him on the pitcher’s mound.

Because Casey and I could offer a bed and Nate and Nicole had only their hardwood floor, Matt decided to stay with us. Casey had plans to be in the city this afternoon, so I suggested some things for Matt and me to do.

“The Orioles are playing the Yankees,” I said.

“You know I’ve never been to Yankee Stadium?” he replied.

“Then let’s go.”

So we did. But the treat was simply today. We slept with the windows open last night and ate pancakes at the dining room table with a cool breeze coming in through the windows. On the way out of the house, I grabbed an extra shirt in case our seats happened to be in the shade. The breeze was that chilling.

Instead, we sat in the upper deck down the left field line, out in the sunshine, the emerald field as inviting as a pool. I considered the game an anniversary for me, recognition of my first major league baseball game on August 21, 1983. It was Yankees Angels and I sat in the upper deck down the right field line. The Yankees won 2 1 that day on a two run single in the ninth. They won 7 0 today on a three run homer in the first and two more runs each in the second and third.

But I noticed something different today from my other trips to the Bronx: Ushers, or the lack thereof. Not a one to be seen out in section 20 of the upper tier. I seem to remember many more back in the day. As I gazed out across the stands to other sections, I didn’t seem to see any there, either. Down on the field level, red shirts manned every tunnel, but the backs of them said “SECURITY” and it’s apparently clear that customer service has been sacrificed for safety.

Matt and I watched as about a dozen fans struggled with figuring out their tickets trying to find their seats. Those looking for box 640 stood in the aisle looking up past us in section 20 when box 640 was right behind them, below the aisle. At least three people came looking for section 17 or 15 or some other odd region when all the odd numbers are on the first base/right field side. Yet like one woman who paced back and forth on her cell phone saying, “What part of section 17? I’m looking up but I don’t see you?” they scanned the stands hoping to find the odd section in between the two even ones like platform 9 3/4 in the Harry Potter books. I couldn’t decide what annoyed me more: The Yankees and their lack of foresight into this problem (not to mention the expected convenience of an usher at each section), or the fans and their laziness and inability to navigate a ballpark in which all the numbers are posted somewhere, if not the first place most people look.

As it turned out, Matt and I were in the wrong section ourselves. We’d walked in from the direction of home plate, turning down a tunnel and emerging into the sunshine after we’d spotted an 18 above the tunnel entrance. We were to be in row B, seats 18 and 19 on the aisle. On the concourse, we’d passed section 16, walked through the tunnel marked 18 and, because it was the first 18 we’d seen, turned left up the stairs and right down row B. When Matt went for ice cream, he walked out the tunnel nearest our seats (not the one we’d walked out through) to see 20 and 22 hanging above it. When we left, I realized that the section numbers displayed above each tunnel are on a triangle jutting out from the wall with one number on one side and another on the other. So when we’d seen 18, it meant the section to the right when we walked out the tunnel;
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there was a 20 on the other side of the triangle for the tunnel we’d just come through.

But if anyone had tickets for seats 18 and 19 in row B, section 20, they couldn’t find them either, and we remained throughout the game.

I have other problems with Yankee Stadium that don’t involve my fondness for the Mets and hatred for the Yankees. People talk about it as an historic, revered ballpark where Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio once roamed. I’ve walked through the tunnels and stood in the clubhouse, and while it may be the same concrete beneath my feet, it’s new paint and a new carpet. I’ve walked on the warning track and the field, but it’s not the same dirt and the same grass though with those, it’s close enough. But the millions of fans who come to games each summer don’t have those opportunities. What they see is the field, the stadium, and even that’s changed. When the ballpark closed down for two years in the mid 70s (the Yankees played home games at Shea Stadium), it was overhauled, completely renovated. It’s now a royal blue nearly everywhere except the field and the whole park overall looks and feels more like a 70s stadium than a classic 1920s ballpark like Wrigley Field and Fenway Park.

Yet I love how the classic nuances of the old ballparks are still there, if you look closely enough. They’re hidden in the way a noteworthy old building like the Alamo is nestled among the modern steel and glass buildings of downtown San Antonio. The aisle separating our section 18 from box 640 was narrow, leading to bottlenecks and people turning sideways when they passed each other. No cup holders jutted out from the seats, which was good because otherwise we’d never have shuffled our way down the row between the flip up seat bottoms and the backs of those in the row below. Beneath the stands in the concourse, the walls are close and the ceilings low. It’s hard to see far ahead, let alone out to the field as many ballparks are now making common.

Argh. I’d meant to make this entry more lyrical and flowing, but it’s been an active weekend and I can barely read my Sunday New York Times, let alone write anything for myself. But that’s the gist of it.

Oh, and tonight’s rerun of Inside The Actors Studio featuring the six main voice actors from The Simpsons? Brilliant. Simply brilliant. And funny. I worry about Julie Kavner though. She refuses to be seen doing the voice of Marge or her sisters Patty and Selma, so she was sparingly asked questions directly and when James Lipton spent 20 minutes asking questions of the characters Homer, Lisa, Bart, Moe, Burns, Flanders, Krusty, Marge, Patty, Selma she was offstage leaving an empty chair for the audience and clips from the show for the rest of us. She also did not participate in the question and answer segment and her actions make me worry that she’ll soon grow tired of the show and leave.

But as the other actors said, they’ve got one of the best jobs in television: four hours a day when they do work and record their lines,
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and it leaves a lot of time for other projects.