The first spring training game I ever attended was the Cleveland Indians versus the New York Yankees in 2003 at the Indians’ complex in Winter Haven, Florida. My husband and I (we didn’t actually marry until the next year), decided to take a break trip to Florida. I insisted upon seeing a baseball game while we were there; the compromise was Indians-Yankees. My husband had been a Yankees fan from way back (cough, 1996) when he was a college student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York.
There was something special about that first spring training game, especially at a complex like Winter Haven. While the new facility in Goodyear, Arizona, is beautiful, I still find myself nostalgic for their old digs. I remember walking in and looking at all of the minor league fields, watching players perform their warm-up drills. When we wandered into the main stadium (first pitch was still an hour or two away), we saw dozens of Indians and Yankees roaming around the field. We cozied up to the railing down the left field line, and stared in amazement as star players from both teams walked just a few feet in front of us. Derek Jeter signed autographs for a bunch of us; one man was disappointed that he didn’t seem more “warm and friendly,” but I thought it was nice of him to take time to sign for fans of the opposing team.
The big moment came after we’d been standing there for about 45 minutes, and proves that my husband is a “hard core Yankees fan.” (I say that in the most sarcastic tone possible) Yogi Berra walked about 2 feet in front of us; even though I don’t particularly care for the Yankees, I was in awe. I said, “oh my gosh…look – Yogi Berra!” My husband turns to me and goes “who is Yogi Berra?” Then, I wept.
Anyway, the Yankees/Indians series is always an adventure in our household. I guess it’s inevitable when you have a casual fan that casually still follows the team he watched in college, and the obsessive fan that honestly has to stop herself from repeatedly punching the Yankees fan that lives in her home. (Side story – one time I was at a restaurant with my husband and a large group of friends. I was wearing a Victor Martinez shirt, and my husband was sitting next to me in a Derek Jeter shirt. The waiter comes over and goes “eww, why are you sitting next to this guy?” and points to my husband. I said, “Unfortunately, I married that guy.” The waiter had this half disgusted/half pitying look on his face. It was priceless). The only time I’ve ever really had the upper hand as an Indians fan (during our relationship) was in the 2007 playoffs, unfortunately.
And so, we’re back for another round of Indians/Yankees in 2011. Something interesting that younger fans may not realize – while this may be a major rivalry in my household, it used to be a major rivalry in Major League Baseball. The Indians and Yankees both used to play in the AL East (and competed against each other before there was even an “East” and “West” in the AL). The Indians were one of the few teams to interrupt the Yankees’ stream of absolute dominance in the 1940s and 1950s. In fact, while going through my father’s old baseball cards years ago, I found an absolutely mutilated 1956 Mickey Mantle card (worth thousands in good condition). I kept asking what happened to the card, but the only answer I ever received was, “I hated the Yankees.”
Right now I’m watching Friday night’s game, and it’s currently 11-3 in the 8th inning. I can only take one positive away from this – thank goodness my husband works night turn tonight! (Seriously, that Carmona-Teixeira, Acta-Girardi fight probably would’ve turned into an actual fight on our end).