I was in 2nd grade when my teacher brought in pictures, toys and other various memorabilia decked out in white and blue pinstripes. Her husband worked for the New York Yankees and she often came bearing gifts and stories. It was September 2000 and as a young seven year old girl who loved to watch football with her father, learning about this new sport caught my attention immediately. I started grabbing the sports section of the paper and reading bits about this team. I would watch highlights, since my dad who was a die-hard Mets fan, would never sit through a full game. My aunt, uncle and one of my grandfathers were Yankees fans so I would ask them questions and listen to them fill me on the team’s history. I was hooked.
It didn’t hurt that the Yankees were in the midst of yet another pennant run, their 26th, and that they were led by a very likable team captain named Derek Jeter. I watched every game from September on that year, and cheered them to victory, much to the despair of my poor father who was dying to see his Mets capture a title.
After that, I became an avid fan. I watched as many of their games as I could and my aunt and uncle would take me to at least one a year with them. We’d sit all the way up in the nosebleeds at the house that Ruth built, but I didn’t care because I was watching greatness.
Boy, I was spoiled. I watched Derek Jeter, captain clutch, deliver time and time again. I watched Mariano Rivera stare down batters and send them back to the dugout after a few pitches, with their eyes staring at the dirt. Sure, they didn’t win a title until nine years later, but they were always in contention. They gave me moments of joy, like Aaron Boone’s home run in 2003.
They also gave me many moments of heartbreak, like the 2004 epic collapse, that I try not to think of. They brought in free agent after free agent, trying to improve the team, from Alex Rodriguez to Mark Teixiera to C.C. Sabathia, to capture that next title.
That next title in 2009 was particularly special to me. My grandfather had been getting sicker and sicker, but we watched a good chunk of those playoff games together that year from the bed in the rehabilitation center or the hospital – wherever he was staying. If we couldn’t watch together, we would sit and talk the next day for hours, breaking down the game before. He saw them capture the title on Nov. 4, 2009. We celebrated with a cake the next day that we snuck in to his room and recapped the wonderful achievement our team completed. He died four days later on Nov. 8.
That was the peak of my Yankees fandom. Since then, it has slowly started slipping away.
Sure I would watch the games, but I wasn’t hanging on every pitch like I used to. When I went to college, even though it was physically just miles from Yankee Stadium, I barely watched since we didn’t get the YES network. I would go to a game or two, but that’s it.
I hung around for big moments, like Jeter’s 3000th hit or his final season. I shed a tear when Joe Girardi sent Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter to pull Rivera off the mound for the last time. I watched Jeter’s game-winning final hit and cheered as loudly as I could.
But after he retired, I felt a little hollow. I had nothing left connecting me to the team I spent so many hours watching. This team, made up of free agents – aging ones at that – did nothing for me.
In a time where baseball faces the challenge of keeping millennial viewers, I’m tempted to jump away. I know, I know. I’m a fan of the most storied franchise in baseball history, and now that they’ve hit a rough patch, I’m ready to jump.
Max is trying quite hard to convert me into being an O’s fan to prove to me that baseball is fun again. I guess I need my team to prove it to me, because right now the future seems bleak.