Friday Links: Safety Protocols, LED Lights, Flynn, Dock

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Winter Meetings are over and soon the dog days of the offseason will be upon us. After the holidays it’s just day after day after day of no baseball. Lame. Anyway, I’ve got some miscellaneous links to pass along as you count down the hours until the weekend.

MLB recommends new fan safety protocols

During the Winter Meetings this week, MLB officially recommended new safety protocols designed to protect fans from foul balls and broken bats. The press release is right here. In a nutshell, MLB recommends extending the netting behind home plate from dugout to dugout, and far enough to protect every seat within 70 feet of home plate.

These are recommendations, not mandates, though many teams have already confirmed they will comply. The Yankees have not but that doesn’t mean they won’t before the start of the season. Right now the netting at Yankee Stadium does not extend to the dugouts. There is one unprotected section adjacent to each dugout. I’m not sure how far the netting would have to extend to satisfy the 70-foot recommendation.

This past season there were several incidents where fans were hit by line drives and broken bats, including one scary incident in Fenway Park, in which a woman seated next to the dugout was hit in the head by the barrel of a broken bat. I’m all for making parks safer. The guys who get paid millions to play the game for a living can barely react to line drives in time. It’s only a matter of time until a fan gets killed if the nets aren’t extended. Not everyone is as lucky as this guy.

New lights at Yankee Stadium

According to Sonia Rincon, new LED lights have been installed at Yankee Stadium. They’re brighter and more energy efficient, stuff like that. I accidentally bought an LED light bulb for my bathroom over the summer and when I turned the damn thing on I thought I was standing on the sun. It was insanely bright. The field will be very well lit going forward. Things should be much easier to see.

Flynn, Dock leave the Yankees

Two behind the scenes employees have left the Yankees. Video coordinator Anthony Flynn has left the team for a job in the private sector, reports George King. He spent the last eight years as video coordinator and the seven before that in the baseball operations department. The New Jersey native is taking over as the director of baseball marketing and sales with XOS Digital, a video editing and technology company.

In other news, Ron Dock, who served as the team’s intervention coordinator for the last 17 years, has left the club. “It was my choice, time to move on. I went to Brian Cashman and thanked him and he gave me a hug. There are no regrets, I left on a high note,” said Dock to King. Dock was instrumental in helping Slade Heathcott get over his alcohol addiction a few years ago, among other things.

Dock, 65, was based in Tampa and responsible for helping players and employees dealing with addiction problems, depression, and family or legal issues. The Bronx native battled addiction after serving in the Vietnam War, and he later met Darryl Strawberry at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. Strawberry introduced him to then farm system head Mark Newman, who asked Dock to help a minor leaguer with a drug problem. The team hired him shortly thereafter.

The Big Ballpark in the Bronx [2015 Season Review]

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The 2015 season was the Yankees’ seventh in the new Yankee Stadium. The new park has already been home to one World Series champ, and it has seen its fair share of historic moments too. Just this summer Alex Rodriguez recorded his 3,000th hit in the Bronx. He also took over sole possession of fourth place on the all-time home run list with a Yankee Stadium blast.

The new Stadium is unequal parts beautiful and excess. The new place doesn’t have the charm of the old Yankee Stadium and it never will, partly because the old ballpark has been romanticized into something it never truly was. I enjoy the nice wide concourses and adequately sized bathrooms of the new place. I also miss the upper deck overhang and a Monument Park I can actually see. Oh well. Anyway, let’s review the 2015 season at Yankee Stadium.

Big Attendance Drop

According to the attendance numbers at Baseball Reference, attendance dropped big time in 2015. In fact, the Yankees had their worst attendance since moving into the new Stadium. Here’s the numbers:

Year W L Finish Playoffs Attendance Attend/G Rank
2015 87 75 2 Lost ALWC (1-0) 3,193,795 39,430 1st of 15
2014 84 78 2 3,401,624 41,995 1st of 15
2013 85 77 3 3,279,589 40,489 1st of 15
2012 95 67 1 Lost ALCS (4-0) 3,542,406 43,733 1st of 14
2011 97 65 1 Lost LDS (3-2) 3,653,680 45,107 1st of 14
2010 95 67 2 Lost ALCS (4-2) 3,765,807 46,491 1st of 14
2009 103 59 1 Won WS (4-2) 3,719,358 45,918 1st of 14

Attendance dropped roughly 2,500 fans per game this summer. Of course, the Yankees still led the league in attendance, so it’s not like they fell back to middle of the pack or something. They just didn’t draw as many fans as they did in previous years. The new Stadium honeymoon period is coming to an end.

The Yankees did not have a farewell tour this year, which hurt attendance. Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter helped put some butts in the seats down the stretch the last two years, even without serious postseason drives. Attendance was always going to decline somewhat for that reason. And after back-to-back postseason-less years, of course fewer fans were going to come to the park. That’s how this pro sports thing works.

I have zero answers for the attendance situation. I have no idea how the Yankees can fill the Legends Seats — lower the prices? fine, but everyone still goes inside to hang out — or get more fans to the ballpark on weeknights. All I know is attendance declined this summer, and, frankly, it wouldn’t be a surprise if it went down again next year.

Metal Detectors & Long Lines

This season MLB required all 30 clubs to have metal detectors at their entrances, and man, it was a pain. The lines got to be pretty long at times — the wildcard game was a total nightmare — and folks coming from the city after work would often miss the first inning or two because it took so long to get into the damn building.

The metal detectors are here to stay. There’s nothing the Yankees can do about that. The team can do something about the process of going through the metal detectors though. The lines themselves were often run poorly with unclear directions and no actual lines, just a blob of people standing together. The process can be streamlined, no doubt. Hopefully this is something the Yankees improve next season. No one goes to the ballpark looking for the airport experience.

Three New Retired Numbers

The Yankees held four special ceremonies his summer to honor former players. Willie Randolph was given a plaque in Monument Park while Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and Bernie Williams had their numbers retired. The Yankees also dedicated a plaque in Mel Stottlemyre’s honor as part of a very touching surprise ceremony.

That was really sweet and well done. Mel’s been battling cancer and it wasn’t clear he would even be able to travel from his home in Washington to the Bronx for Old Timers’ Day. He made it though, and the Yankees surprised him. That was a season highlight for sure.

Anyway, the three new numbers were retired, and they all look great. I think. The lack of space means the new numbers had to be hung at the front of Monument Park, on the opposite side of the outfield wall. So they’re all facing the other numbers, not included with them.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

That’s … weird. I mean, I get it, they ran out of space, but leaving those three numbers by themselves on the other side of Monument Park would be pretty lame. Hopefully the Yankees can squeeze some space alongside the other numbers this offseason. It’s bad enough Monument Park is hiding under the restaurant. Can they at least put all the retired numbers together? Pretty please?

NYCFC

The Yankees had a roommate this year. The New York City Football Club, a Major League Soccer expansion franchise, called Yankee Stadium home in 2015 as they worked to land a facility of their own.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

As far as I know, the field itself was kept in good shape. I was worried it would get torn up but that wasn’t the case. Later in the season we could see lines in the outfield, though it wasn’t that noticeable. The soccer pitch spanned left field to right field and covered only part of the infield, so the mound was fine — it wasn’t torn down and rebuilt every time NYCFC played a game — and the infield grass was nearly untouched.

Nothing has been made official yet, but NYCFC is expected to call Yankee Stadium their home again next season. And maybe the season after that too. The grounds crew did a great job this year. The field was really no issue whatsoever. Based on this season, there’s no reason to think sharing the park will be an issue going forward.

Saturday Links: A-Rod, Best Tools, 810 River Ave., CLEAR

(Tom Pennington/Getty)
(Tom Pennington/Getty)

The Yankees and Blue Jays resume their three-game series early this afternoon. Until then, check out these stray links and news items to help you pass the time.

Pre-game ceremony for A-Rod‘s 3,000th hit

This is rich. The Yankees will hold a special on-field pre-game ceremony for Alex Rodriguez‘s 3,000th career hit later this season, the team announced. It’ll be held Sunday, September 13th, before the team’s 1pm ET game against the Blue Jays. They ask you to be in your seats by 12:30pm ET. So just a few weeks after refusing to pay A-Rod his $6M home run milestone bonus because they claimed it was unmarketable, the Yankees are honoring Alex for his 3,000th hit. Guess they’re hoping for a late-season attendance bump.

MLB.com’s farm system rankings

Jim Callis posted his updated ranking of the top ten farm systems this week, and the Yankees placed tenth. I’m not sure where Callis had the Yankees coming into the season, but most other publications had them in the 18-25 range. “New York has position prospects at every spot on the diamond, including speedy shortstop Jorge Mateo (No. 99), sweet-swinging second baseman Robert Refsnyder and slugging catcher Gary Sanchez,” wrote Callis. I don’t know if the Yankees truly have a top ten system yet — this is just one person’s rankings, of course — but the system is clearly on the rise, even if Severino graduates to the big leagues before the end of the season.

Baseball America’s Best Tools

Baseball America published their annual Best Tools survey this week, in which they poll managers, coaches, scouts … basically everyone about the best players and best tools in their individual leagues. Several Yankees players and prospects appeared throughout the survey, so here’s a quick rundown:

All of the surveys are free, you don’t need a subscription, so click the links and you can read through each category and each league. Obviously this is all very subjective — I can’t imagine there are many Yankee fans who consider Gardner the best bunter in the AL — but I’ve always found it interesting and fun to see who coaches and scouts feel have the best skills.

(6sqft)
(6sqft)

New apartment tower being built next old Yankee Stadium site

According to Ondel Hylton, a new 17-story apartment building is being built on River Ave. between 157th and 158th Streets, on the old Ball Park Lanes site. (The bowling alley closed years ago.) The 134-unit building at 810 River Ave. is right across the street from the old Yankee Stadium site and is a few blocks away from the new Stadium. The neighborhood was re-zoned for buildings up to 30 stories back in 2009, and this is the first new high-rise going up in the area. Construction started in May.

CLEAR comes to Yankee Stadium

As you know, MLB mandated all 30 ballparks must have metal detectors at the entrances this season, which is a total pain. Couldn’t be any less convenient and, frankly, it doesn’t make me feel any safer. (Not that I’ve ever felt unsafe at a game, but that’s besides the point.) The Yankees recently partnered up with CLEAR to expedite the process, the team announced. It’s the same biometrics technology they use at airports for TSA pre-check. You can sign up at Gate 4, and, if approved, you’ll be able to simply scan your finger at a designated fast access lane and skip the whole metal detector process. Yankee Stadium is the third stadium with CLEAR technology, joining AT&T Park and Coors Field. So if you’ve ever wanted that airport experience at a ball park, this is your lucky day!

Soccer and metal detectors for the Stadium’s seventh season [2015 Season Preview]

Although Mike promised an end to the season preview series with his excellent haikus, I’m here to break that promise. Mike’s and Joe’s exhaustive previews touched on everything but the stadium, and while Yankee Stadium in its seventh season isn’t undergoing major changes, there are a few additions — not all welcome — to the House That George Built. So as fans start to line up in a few hours for another season of Yankee baseball in the Bronx, what changes can they expect to see this year?

Another summer at the Ballpark in the Bronx looms. (Via River Ave. Blues on Instagram)
Another summer at the Ballpark in the Bronx looms. (Via River Ave. Blues on Instagram)

All fans screened via metal detectors

It’s been a long time coming, but 2015 marks a turning point for security at Yankee Stadium. Under pressure from outside security consultants, every MLB fan will be screened as they enter the Stadium, and the screening won’t just involve a cursory glance through the contents of a bag. This year, the Stadium will feature metal detectors and wanding at every entrance.

According to an email the Yankees sent out this weekend to their fans, the new screening procedures are part of an effort, in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security, to “elevate and standardize security practices across the game.” The Yankees are warning fans to arrive early and budget extra time for security, but for many trying to catch first pitch of a 7:05 game after a day in the office, this suggestion ranges from impractical to infeasible. I know plenty of fans who have a tough time arriving for first pitch without added security, and I fear this move will simply push fans to watch more games from one. I know one season ticket holder willing to give up her package if the security lines take too long.

The Yankees recognize the challenges, but the early indications are that this screening will lead to long lines. The Barclays Center has struggled to move fans through metal detectors, and even in the Bronx, NYCFC fans faced disorganized and slow screening procedures in March. The utility of this move — which sounds more akin to security theater than actual security — is up for debate as well.

“We will do everything we can to minimize the entry time to Yankee Stadium,” team COO Lonn Trost said in a statement. “However, proper screening as mandated by Major League Baseball requires a longer and more elaborate entry process than fans may be accustomed to. We urge fans to arrive as early as possible, and we appreciate their understanding as we try to ensure their security.”

Soccer in the Stadium

Speaking of NYCFC, 2015 marks a milestone in the Steinbrenner family initiative to bring more than just baseball to Yankee Stadium. We’ve seen a few soccer friendlies in the past and some off-season football games, but this year — and until their stadium scenario is clarified — New York City FC and the New York Yankees will be sharing the Stadium.

Throughout the baseball season, NYCFC will play 17 home games in the Bronx, and as Dan Barbarisi explored a few weeks ago, Yankee fielders are expecting the worst for their playing surface. “It’ll definitely cause an issue, but it’s nothing that we can control, so we can’t worry about it,” Mark Teixeira said to The Wall Street Journal reporter. “It’s terrible for a field.”

Barbarisi detailed the initiatives in place to guard against field damage. The grounds crew will have a few days to restore the grass following soccer games, and the pitcher’s mound isn’t in the field of play on the soccer pitch. Still, the players recognize that they need to watch the new grass; Brett Gardner speaks to The Journal knowingly about root systems and turf patches. The Front Office though maintains the grass will be fine, but they have much to lose.

Hopefully, sharing the field won’t put the Yankee defenders at risk of injury or error, but they know it’s going to be a concern this season. “I’m going to fall on the side of erring aggressively,” Brendan Ryan said, “much, much more so than staying back and trying to read some hop that’s unpredictable.”

A very slightly improved Stadium beer scene

As those who follow me on Twitter know, I’m a big fan of craft beer (Untappd!), but I’m not a big fan of the Yankee Stadium beer situation. While Stone has set up shop in Petco Stadium, Boulevard fills cups in Kauffman Stadiu, and the Mariners are known for their beer selections, due to the demands of the dollar, Yankee Stadium is exclusively the home of InBev-Anheuser Busch products. Thanks to recent acquisitions by InBev, Yankee fans can now find Blue Point beers, and a recent photo from an NYCFC game shows Long Trail available too (though the Vermont brewery is not connected to InBev). It’s a step in the right direction, albeit a small one, and I yearn for the day when we can find a Bronx Brewery beer at the Stadium or even a SingleCut, Finback or Other Half brew.

Reggie Jackson is selling the old Yankee Stadium letters

(AP)
Yes, those letters. (AP)

So, have you ever wanted to own the giant letters that spelled out “Yankee Stadium” on the facade of the old ballpark? Well now you can! Reggie Jackson, who purchased the letters after the old Stadium was torn down, is selling them through Sotheby’s and hopes to raise $300,000 to $600,000, according to David Li.

When I first came across this story this morning, I thought some old historic handwritten letters found in the bowels of the old Yankee Stadium were up for sale. But no, these are literally the giant letters that spelled out “Yankee Stadium.” Here’s more from Li:

“I see this auction as an opportunity for a new generation to own and enjoy this icon of the Yankees and of New York City,” Jackson said in a statement released by Sotheby’s.

“There were a few items I wanted to purchase before the old Yankee Stadium was torn down, including my old locker and a section of the black bleachers off of center field. But I kept thinking about the stadium lettering, and if there was any way for me to own it. I ended up making an offer, and was thrilled when it was accepted – it’s been a privilege to own such a recognizable piece of baseball history.”

The 13 letters each stand ten feet high and are constructed out of an aluminum casing and blue plexiglass. I have no idea how wide or deep the letters are, but chances are they weigh a few hundred pounds each. The letters were added to the facade following the 1976 renovation and remained there until the place was torn down after 2008.

Owning a piece of the old Yankee Stadium like this would be really awesome. Practical? Hell no. But awesome? Hell yes. If I was a) rich, and b) had some place to display these giant letters, I’d be all about it. But I’m not, so forget it.

No concerns about Yankee Stadium field after NYCFC announces schedule

(REUTERS/Adam Hunger)
(REUTERS/Adam Hunger)

Early last year we learned Major League Soccer’s newest expansion franchise — New York City Football Club — will play its 2015 home games at Yankee Stadium. It’s believed NYCFC will also call the Bronx home in 2016 and 2017 as they look for their own stadium, but right now only the 2015 season has been confirmed. The Yankees own one-quarter of NYCFC.

NYCFC announced its 17-game home schedule earlier this week, which you can see right here. The MLS schedule runs from March through October, so it overlaps with the MLB season entirely. NYCFC will play their first home game on March 15th, while the Yankees are still in Tampa for Spring Training, and their final game on October 25th, right smack in the middle of the postseason.

Needless to say, having two teams playing two different sports share the same ballpark all season is less than ideal, but the Yankees have no concerns about the field itself. They said so when the entered into the agreement with NYCFC and reiterated it again earlier this week. From Dan Barbarisi:

“We have the greatest grounds crew and stadium operations people in the world,” (team president Randy) Levine said. “We feel very confident. We wouldn’t have done this unless we feel very confident that the field will be perfect for both soccer and baseball.”

Yankee Stadium has hosted soccer games before, including an exhibition game between Manchester City and Chelsea in May 2013, during which temporary grass was laid over the outfield. Perhaps that’s what they’ll do this year, though I’m sure doing that once is much different than doing it every other week. Here’s more from Barbarisi:

Yankee Chief Operating Officer Lonn Trost has estimated that it will take three days (2½ in a pinch) to turn over the field from soccer to baseball. The schedule allows for three full days after every NYCFC home game before the Yankees take the field on the fourth day—save one, when NYCFC hosts the Montreal Impact on Aug. 1, before the Yankees host the rival Boston Red Sox just three days later.

Then there is the matter of Oct. 25, when NYCFC is scheduled to host the New England Revolution, a date that also figures to be right around the start of the World Series. If the Yankees make it that far, a person with knowledge of the situation said, several contingencies exist for handling the soccer game, including the use of other sites, ensuring that baseball’s postseason would not be affected.

Barbarisi hears the pitcher’s mound will not interfere with the soccer pitch and won’t have to be torn down and rebuilt every time NYCFC plays a game. That’s … reassuring? I am worried about the condition of the field next season, especially in the second half after it’s had a few months to get chewed up by the two sports and all the transitions back and forth.

I’m also certain the Yankees wouldn’t have committed to letting NYCFC play in Yankee Stadium if they weren’t confident the field would be in good shape. They have one expensive baseball team and those players are investments they’re trying to protect. I guess we’ll just have to see how this goes as the season progresses.

Metal detectors coming to Yankee Stadium on August 19th

Metal detectors will be in place and operation at the various Yankee Stadium entrances starting August 19th, the Yankees announced. There will be MLB-mandated metal detectors at every ballpark starting next season. Fans who opt not to go through the walk-through metal detector can be checked manually with a wand. Here is the full press release. We’re all going to have to start getting to the ballpark a little earlier than usual. Not a fan of this, but it is what it is.