NEW YORK — Pregame festivities have begun here at the new Yankee Stadium, shortly before the $1.5-billion ballpark officially opens at 1:08 p.m. this afternoon when the Yankees face the Cleveland Indians. The overwhelming opinion of anyone taking their first glimpse of the new digs is this: It’s a lot like the old Yankee Stadium.
“I haven’t seen all of it,” said Indians manager Eric Wedge, “but it looks pretty similar. We’ll see how it plays once we get going, but obviously it’s a fantastic place. It has incredible amenities for the visiting team. It’s the best I’ve ever seen.”
Just like the visitors’ facility at Fenway (considered the worst in baseball)?
“Yeah, just like it,” joked Wedge.
The Yankees clubhouse is sprawling — it runs from the dugout all the way down the right field line. The inside of the clubhouse is very similar to the Phillies’ clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park. Each locker has a laptop. The team’s two leaders — Jorge Posada and Derek Jeter — have lockers on either side of an entry way to the players’ lounge. Alex Rodriguez’s locker is located adjacent to an empty locker, which will be used for A-Rod’s overflow stuff.
The batting cages and trainers’ rooms are enormous.
“It has a ton of amenities for players,” said Yankee manager Joe Girardi. “Simple things like areas where players can get loose to get ready to pinch hit. The old ballpark just wasn’t built for something like that. With the extensive rehab facilities we’re hoping that it helps in keeping our players on the field.” (Not so much for Xavier Nady, who might be gone for the season with an elbow injury.)
Several ex-Yankees were being honored in the pregame ceremony — everyone from Yogi Berra, who is throwing out the first pitch, to Rickey Henderson, who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in July. Willie Randolph, currently the Brewers’ bench coach, is expected to attend. The big mystery is whether team owner George Steinbrenner is on hand for the event.
“I hope he’s there,” said Girardi. “This place was built because of him.”
Former Yankee outfielder Bernie Williams, a classical guitarist, played a rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” from center field.