On Yankee Stadium & The Bleachers

On Yankee Stadium & The Bleachers


Sunday had the makings of a great baseball game long before CC Sabathia threw a single pitch. The defending world champions of baseball were playing for a series win at Yankee Stadium against a stacked New York squad and it'd be my first time ever stepping foot in the Bronx to catch a game.

Being a huge baseball fan, I'm rather ashamed that I never stepped foot into the House That Ruth Built. Such is life, I guess. Taking the D train to the stadium on Sunday in a car full of Phillies fans had me about as excited as I've ever been to see a ball game in enemy territory.

The atmosphere and the game did not disappoint but the ball park did to a certain extent.

In my opinion, Fenway Park and Wrigley Field are living relics of baseball lore that make you feel like you're watching the best game in the world at one of the places where it was birthed. For some reason, despite knowing the billion dollar new Yankee Stadium was brand new, I was hoping to feel that way on Sunday. As a whole, the park left me underwhelmed.

As a disclaimer, I didn't see a ton of the park. It was my first time watching the Fightins in a while and I wanted to focus on the great game on the field. I certainly need to go back and explore the park to get a better feel for it as a whole. We sat in the first row of the bleachers which was a great spot to watch the game.

My stadium experience was highly focused on the bleachers section and the concession stands in centerfield. Not wanting to miss much of the action, we waited in line in the centerfield concessions for about 10 minutes for a hot dog and when we got to the front of the line they were OUT OF HOT DOGS. Unacceptable at a ball game unless it's the eighth inning of dollar dog night.

For the most part I was unimpressed with the design of the place. I didn't experience any quirky park designs like an Ashburn Alley or the standing room square in centerfield at CBP. The huge screen in center at Yankee Stadium is an amazing piece of technology with an insanely crisp picture. It makes you feel like you're watching a game at exactly what Yankee Stadium is, the future of ball parks. Call me old school, but I had mixed emotions about that.

Things I Loved About Yankee Stadium: The Baseball Atmosphere

We sat in the first row of section 235 and were surrounded by great fans of both teams. There were clearly more opposing fans than Yankees fans are used to. The friendly Yanks fan next to me chirped about mistakenly "buying tickets in the only Phillies section of Yankee Stadium." We were loud and plentiful.

The bleachers didn't have the negative vibe of a Mets game at Citizens Bank Park, perhaps due in part to the lack of any real history or bad blood between the teams (or the lack of jorted Mets fans), but there was plenty of fun back and forth banter. There was an old timer Phillies fan in our row wearing suspenders giving a 20-something Yankees fan the goods all game. When the Yanks got to Lidge *again* the New Yorker didn't hesitate to make his elder very clear on what just happened.

To me, it was the perfect level of respectable trash talking. Two smart fan bases talking smack about the game on the field without any real signs of personal attacks or thrown beer. It made the game fun.

I thoroughly enjoyed the right field bleacher tradition of chanting out all of the Yanks' names in the first inning. Johnny Damon recognized them the best while Jeter and A-Rod were too cool for school. The grounds crew performance of YMCA was also impressive.

I guess I loved the atmosphere but was unimpressed with the building while acknowledging the fact I didn't see a lot of it.

All of these amazing photos were taken by Brad Maule of PhillySkyline fame. He was also at the Sunday game and has a much more in-depth look at the ball park and some of the seats with actual backs, something the bleachers obviously lack. His photo gallery from the game and his run in with Montie on the subway are worth your clicks.

Finally, did you see Mark Teixera hit a home run way out in left on a broken bat swing? Crazy. Keep an eye out for a fan sporting an "ill" shirt in the video.

Thank goodness for Chooch's heroics for making Sunday a very memorable day.

Despite blowout loss, Sixers see potential in Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor playing together

Despite blowout loss, Sixers see potential in Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor playing together

BOX SCORE

Brett Brown was ready to do it Wednesday night. The matchup against the Kings presented an opportunity to experiment with playing Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor together. That pairing had to wait two days, though, after the Kings game was postponed

On Friday, Embiid and Okafor shared the court for just under 13 minutes in the Sixers' 105-88 loss to the Magic (see Instant Replay), who also rolled out a duo of bigs in Bismack Biyombo and Nikola Vucevic. 

“I thought we had our moments,” Embiid said. “We shared the ball, we made shots. Obviously we need to play more together and learn how to play with each other.”

Embiid and Okafor first played together for 5:29 in the second quarter. They scored all of the Sixers' 12 points during that time, including a pair of threes by Embiid. They also combined for five boards. The Sixers outscored the Magic, 12-9, with the bigs in together.

The benefits of the floor spacing was apparent. Oftentimes in the game, Okafor could be seen open at the basket with a hand up for the ball while Embiid was also getting looks from long range. 

“I liked our spacing, I liked the high-low stuff we were doing,” Brown said. “I think when you post Joel, that Jahlil is going to play sort of hide-and-seek on the other side of the floor, and work that low zone, and become — I hope — a potent offensive rebounder. When you post Jahlil, Joel has the ability to space to three.”

Brown turned to Embiid and Okafor again in the fourth. At that point, the Magic had a 23-point lead. Their next 7:25 together was a chance to give them a long run in live game action. They combined for another 12 points and four rebounds. All of their buckets were layups, dunks or free throws. Both teams scored 19 points with Embiid and Okafor in that segment.

Both Embiid and Okafor finished the game with double-doubles: 25 points, 10 rebounds and four assists for Embiid; 16 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks for Okafor. 

“I thought they played well together,” Vucevic said. “I thought it was tough to guard them because they’re both really good offensively.”

Okafor credited his friendship with Embiid, which dates back to high school, as a key to coexisting well on the court. Both emphasized their off-the-court relationship would help them in a game situation. 

“I think the communication piece went really well,” Okafor said. “He was talking to me, I was talking to him.”

Scoring and communication always seemed to be the easier parts of the pairing to tackle. Defense, though, was the challenge given that one of the centers would have to guard the four spot. Okafor noted their transition D as an area that needs improvement.

“We’re both used to going right to the rim,” Okafor said. “I think I had a couple easy buckets. That’s something we’ll be able to fix.” 

Brown had based his decision of when to play Embiid and Okafor together on the matchups. While the two could boast their own edge on the offensive end, Brown didn’t want to play them in a scenario in which they’d be at a huge defensive disadvantage. 

“It’s not offense to me, it’s defense. That’s the thing that is most challenging,” Brown said. “We want to play fast. We want to put points on the board. You don’t want to play in the 80s. You don’t want to do that, that’s not our sport anymore. So you want to make sure that you're capable of guarding the opposition.”

Vucevic noticed the challenge from an opposing perspective. He understands the necessary changes since playing alongside Biyombo.  

“It takes time for them to get adjusted, especially for the guy that will be playing the four defensively,” Vucevic said. “They’re not used to that because they always back down to the paint guarding the fives. It’s a different look. They have to work on it, communicate, and I think they’ll be fine.” 

On a night with few highlights in a 17-point blowout loss, Brown was able to take away a positive from this anticipated duo.

"I thought Jahlil and Joel did a really good job," he said. 

Sixers Notes: Joel Embiid unhappy with effort; Robert Covington hurt

Sixers Notes: Joel Embiid unhappy with effort; Robert Covington hurt

Joel Embiid didn’t see four quarters of basketball from the Sixers in their 105-88 loss to the Magic Friday night (see Instant Replay). Their efforts were inconsistent as they fell flat in long stretches and allowed the Magic to build up double-digit leads as high as 29 points.

The Sixers gave up a 16-0 run in the first and shot just 6 for 26 (23.1 percent) in the quarter. The Magic, who had lost a one-point game to the Grizzlies in Memphis the night before, rallied together to seize this opportunity.

“They just made a lot of shots that we didn’t,” Embiid said. “That’s the game, but we didn’t play hard all 48 minutes and we need to do a better job next time.”

The Sixers didn’t break 30 points until 4:33 to go in the second and attempted just two free throws in the first half. By the end of the third, the Magic had a 21-point lead which they held on to with in ease in the fourth. 

The Magic outshot the Sixers on all areas of the floor: 47.4 percent to 37.9 from the field and 50.0 to 28.1 from three. While the teams had nearly equal percentages from the line, the Magic shot 18 for 26 compared to only 7 for 10 from the Sixers. 

“They missed a lot of shots,” Magic forward Jeff Green said. “We got stops, were aggressive, guys just played hard and created for one another and played as a team.”

Covington injured
The Sixers are waiting to learn more news on the extent of Robert Covington’s injury. In the fourth quarter, Covington exited and did not return after suffering a left knee sprain when he collided with T.J. McConnell chasing a loose ball in front of the Sixers’ bench. If the starting small forward has to miss time, Sixers head coach Brett Brown is thinking ahead to possible lineup changes. 

“We'll try to figure out what his next week represents,” Brown said. “If we aren't with him, maybe there's a chance we can look at Dario [Saric] a little bit at the three.”

Covington is averaging 8.5 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.9 steals in 27.5 minutes per game. Saric has been coming off the bench at power forward behind Ersan Ilyasova. He started 10 games earlier this season at the four spot. 

Embiid honored
The Sixers honored Embiid during a timeout for being named NBA Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month (October and November). Embiid was appreciative of the award and has his sights set on the bigger picture this season.

“All the hard work I’ve put in, it feels great,” Embiid said earlier in the day at shootaround. “Obviously, maybe the bigger picture is Rookie of the Year, that’s what matters. … I don’t have my mind set on that. But if I can get it, that would be nice.”

Brown sees this recent showing as just a glimpse into what Embiid will be able to do over his career. Embiid leads the Sixers with 18.7 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.2 blocks. 

“This in infant stages, early days for him,” Brown said. “His body of work, given his lack of playing basketball, really is jaw-dropping for what I think he can be. To jump in and get rookie of the month I think is a real, sort of, quick snapshot view of him now. I think what he’s going to be is going to be extremely special.”

Embiid also is shooting 51.4 percent from three, including 3 for 5 against the Magic. When asked if he would like to participate in the three-point contest All-Star weekend, he said "it would be nice" and noted he would have to work on the speed of his release.