Fans take in history at Stadium's debut
Universal awe as Yankees faithful compare new with old
NEW YORK -- Fans attending the first Opening Day at the new Yankee Stadium on Thursday experienced love at first sight.
"We got engaged at the old Stadium," said Christie Sciaretta, who was with her husband, Chris. "So we have to break the new one in. We've waited a long time for this."
"I felt like crying, that's how happy I was," said Chris, looking up in the Great Hall before the Yankees took on the Cleveland Indians. "The attention to detail -- you know what I love? This year, already, the history -- they have all of the pictures of players and stuff all around."
As soon as the gates opened at 10 a.m. ET, a sea of fans poured through the entryways and quickly filled the ballpark's concourses.
"Just walking in, it takes your breath away, and then you go into the field, and it feels surreal," said Amy Tyszkiewicz. "It's just beautiful.
"I don't normally go to the opening game, but today is also my 29th birthday. So I figured, how many times am I going to get to open a new Yankee Stadium on my birthday?"
Anthony Beghin Jr., a professional mover from New Rochelle, N.Y., was with his 10-year-old son, Anthony III, behind the wall on the left-field side during Indians batting practice. Only one thing was missing, Anthony Beghin Sr., a longtime Yankees fan.
"We lost him two years ago," Anthony Jr. said. "He would have loved it here today. His father, Frank Beghin, actually played for Columbia and had a tryout with the Yankees and was told he would make the team. His parents wouldn't let him play. They would have disowned him if he had played, because he had to finish school.
"Now you look around here, and it's just beautiful. It's so nice and new, and clean and shiny. I didn't think I was going to like it at first. I'm just glad they kept it in the Bronx."
Some fans hurried to Monument Park, where those waiting to be admitted faced waits of at least 45 minutes.
"It brings back a lot of memories," Shalom Cimhi said near the monuments, which were once in play at the original Yankee Stadium. "My first game was 1960. I remember Mickey Mantle hit one past these monuments in left-center field."
"It's a nice flow, it's even," said Tom Richman, standing below the restaurant that doubles as a batter's eye in center field. "There's lot of room for a lot more plaques, hopefully, to come."
His only concern?
"I hope the restaurant doesn't distract the hitters.
"The old park, I used to walk in from any of the alcoves and first saw the grass -- I got a chill all 500,000 times I was there," Richman, who said he attended at least 500 games at the old ballpark. "That will happen here, as soon as they win a championship."
Others in search of history went to the Yankees Museum, which, among other things, has signed baseballs from as many players as curator Brian J. Richards could track down. It also includes Thurman Munson's locker, which sat empty in the old Yankee Stadium after the catcher's death in an airplane crash in 1979.
"It's good to be able to put these artifacts in a place like this, without having to go up to Cooperstown to go see them," said Jon Neczesny. "I'm happy that they put Munson's locker in here."
"I think it's really exciting to have a stadium that is a new caliber," said Jill Goodwin, who drove from outside Pittsburgh to attend Thursday's game. "We get all the perks. But this team has history like no other team, and it's just great that they have space devoted to that in the stadium."
"We came in through Gate 8," said Kevin Aitken, who was with Goodwin and at his ninth straight home opener. "It was nice -- it gives you that same feel. But this is new, it's shiny."
Richman thinks his seats in the grandstand behind home plate compare favorably with those he had in the upper deck across 161st Street.
"It doesn't feel farther," Richman said. "Until we see where foul balls land, we won't know. If a foul ball gets up to us, then we'll know we're closer. If not, we'll know it's the same."
Jay Connelly, attending the game with his 9-year-old daughter, Haley, said the Stadium's wide-open nature struck him.
"When you walk in, you can see the whole field as you're walking in -- it's really beautiful," Connelly said.
Connelly, whose daughter enjoyed the padding on the seats down the left-field line, had but one complaint about his vantage point.
"It seems like you get a better view, the way the stadium is laid out right now," Connelly said. "The upper deck is farther back. The only downside to this is, before, we were under the overhang a little bit. Now, if it rains, you're getting wet."
Even the seats in the grandstand -- the equivalent of the old Stadium's upper deck -- didn't bring thoughts of nosebleeds.
"Look for yourself -- it's wonderful," said Jim Honeycutt, who said he was a distant relative of former Yankees player and coach Rick Honeycutt, now the pitching coach for the Dodgers. "You can see the whole field. We're in about as bad a position as you can be, and you can see everything."
Honeycutt, perched in fair territory in left field, told a story of his unsuccessful bid to catch a batting-practice home run from Mickey Mantle in 1959. As he talked, he gestured to right field as if he were in the old Stadium.
"It really does look like the old one," Honeycutt said.
Thomas Boorstein is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.