A Wednesday night game in June morphs into something magical–and ethereal–on a couple of big swings at Yankee Stadium.
During Gary Sanchez’s at-bat in the bottom of the 8th Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium, my buddy turned to me and promised a home run. I don’t think he had any knowledge of Sanchez’s history against Seattle reliever Alex Colome. I don’t think he had any information on Sanchez in that situation. He was just leaning on a feeling and exciting math. Sanchez was up with a runner on and the Yankees down two. My friend may have simply believed, as the faithful do. During most other at-bats, his faith would go unrewarded, and his prediction would be wrong.
Yankee Stadium was warm Wednesday night. Nice at the outset, but eventually muggy and stilted. The large lights crowning the ballpark seemed to sag under building humidity. The stadium felt slightly detached from the game played within it. The Yankees trailed for most of it on a night when Felix Hernandez kept them at bay and out of the bleachers. None of it seemed quite right. It was as if the whole game up to Sanchez’s at-bat was played on a distorted peripheral. It was hot, and the shadows at the corners of our eyes when Sanchez came up may well have been tricks of sweat and dehydration.
My back was wet when I shot out of my seat after Sanchez made clean contact. He knew it was gone, the reactors to any fly ball hoped it was gone, and my friend was barely surprised when it left the park. He called it. The large lights flashed, and some early clouds moved in. The future ghosts were arriving.
There is something special about these Yankees, something that morphs a mid-week June tilt against a distant opponent into magic. Something that makes cherished memories out of nights that begin with inconvenient commutes and include hours packed tight under a stifling Bronx night. There is something that makes the new Yankee Stadium a kind of proving-ground purgatory for future spirits who will come out to play between the faded chalk of late-inning batter’s boxes many years from now. Something makes this a place where you could watch future ghosts while they’re still in the pinstriped flesh.
Through the euphoria of Sanchez’s game-tying home run, my buddy wanted me to understand something: not everyone who plays here will become eternal. That’s what the future ghosts are chasing—immortality. But none will live forever in the heavy Bronx air merely because they wore the colors. For many, the pinstripes will just be a bedsheet with eye holes. One night in June does not wholly add anyone to the Yankee Stadium ether. But anyone’s journey towards becoming a part of the aura that lingers throughout the park can start on an unassuming night like this.
Giancarlo Stanton was brought to New York to one day become a part of the aura. Stanton came to the plate in the ninth inning with one on and two out in a tie game. My buddy turned to me and promised a home run. When Stanton fell behind 0-2, my buddy was steadfast in his belief. He didn’t have much context about the situation, just like an inning before. He didn’t know Stanton has hit under .150 on the year when behind 0-2. He could have just been hitching his faith on the hope of no extra innings; the day had been long for everyone.
But then Stanton connected on a hanging offspeed pitch, and this time, it seemed like the entire stadium knew the ballgame was over. The large lights flashed again. For a few seconds, Stanton’s walk-off trot felt like a séance.
At some point during Stanton’s trip around the bases, while the DH was smiling wide and the Yankee Stadium crowd was bouncing electric, drowning out the game-winning song that plays there on a lot of nights, things just shut down. My buddy said something that didn’t break my glaze. The ballpark sounded as if either it or my head was dipped underwater. I looked out at an ecstatic celebration at home plate without processing much of it. I got lost for a couple of minutes. The shadows crept in around a jubilant Stanton. He faded behind a fence of pinstripes.
Another buddy and his girlfriend were there as well. I was the only non-Yankee fan. She asked me a question that I mostly understood. It was something about if this was enough to join their club. That is, to become a Yankee fan like them. Her question allowed noise back to my ears, and my eyes started to refocus. I was sweating. Yankee Stadium was still warm.
It wasn’t enough, I replied. It was just a beautiful baseball moment and nothing beyond that. Baseball always offers magical moments to revel in; it’s a nightly feature. We just happened to be on the premises for one.
My sight sharpened as I responded. The shadows at the corners of my eyes disappeared.
Khurram Kalim is a Senior Writer for Bronx to Bushville.