2009 was the first year of the new Yankee Stadium. Coincidentally, it was the first year I was able to afford a partial season ticket package. Along with my season tickets, I was able to go to one game per playoff series. As luck would have it, I chose to attend game 2 of the 2009 American League Division Series.
A.J. Burnett was the starting pitcher, and he really got us going. Burnett only allowed 1 run in six innings of work. Unfortunately, by the bottom of the 9th, we were down 3-1. I was sitting in section 201, the front row behind the Yankees’ bullpen. By the 9th inning, everyone in the bleachers was nervous, but not devastated. We were down two with the meat of our lineup coming up. However, we were also facing Joe Nathan, who had a strong all-star regular season with 47 saves and a 2.10 ERA. Mark Teixeira led off the inning and Alex Rodriguez stepped up to the plate.
The bleachers were electric. It didn’t feel like we were down by 2 against one of the best closers in the game. We were screaming like we had the Twins right where we wanted them. It had been an inning since I had last sat down and I wasn’t alone. The count reached 3-1 on Rodriguez and I could barely hear myself. I was at the game with my best friend. We bought the season tickets together and spent the entire season hanging on every pitch thrown. Now, on that 3-1 count, I turned to my friend and pointed to Monument Park, “next pitch, dead center.” Nathan delivered towards home and before I knew it, the ball looked like it was coming right at me. The crowd absolutely exploded. From one friend in the bleachers, I suddenly had dozens of people hugging me, cheering with me, crying. I had never felt as connected to 50,000 people as I did in that moment. It was one of the greatest playoff moments in Yankees history, and the game wasn’t even over yet.
I can barely remember the next two innings. When Teixeira came up in the bottom of the 11th and hit the walk-off game winning home run to left, it seemed like the ball hit the top of the wall and bounced into the crowd before his bat even cleared the zone. It was one of the oddest initial reactions to a home run I’d ever seen in person. No one knew what to do until we all saw and heard the fans in left field jumping and screaming. This wasn’t a towering fly ball like Aaron Boone’s in 2003. Teixeira’s home run looked like it didn’t get more than 15 feet off the ground. The city had a different atmosphere that night. Even after I left the stadium, everyone I walked by seemed like they had one of the best nights of their lives. I know I did.