Well, my initial thought seeing the forecast this morning was that either the thunderstorms (complete with a tornado watch) were a really bad omen for the 2014 season or even nature itself didn’t want Derek Jeter to retire. Most people I chatted with in the breeze way waiting for the skies to clear (they never did) agreed to the latter. And today’s events seem to unfold in that direction.
Gates opened at 11:00 am, the skies desperately overcast, the nearby airport sending departing planes into apparent oblivion within the low-hanging thick clouds, and Yankee fans (and the occasional Marlins fan) streamed into Steinbrenner Field. Some were glimpsing at the Yankee stars on the practice fields for batting practice. About an hour later, the Marlins were shooed into the visiting clubhouse as the grounds crew rolled the tarp onto the field just as the rain started sprinkling.
News was circulating that pre-game ceremonies included honors for Tanaka and Jeter. Scheduled for 12:45 and 12:55, respectively, by 12:45, the sprinkles turned into downpour. But apparently, the show must go on. Both the Marlins and Yankees began their on-field warm-ups, despite the continued rain. Some people wandered from the breeze ways to their seats.
Perhaps in a moment of hope, the Japanese media flooded the field behind home plate, as the announcer proclaimed the 2014 recipient of the James P. Dawson Award for most outstanding Yankees rookie in Spring Training to be Masahiro Tanaka. The rain continued at a steady pace as Tanaka received his award and smiled for the media and cheering fans.
There was enough hope that the grounds crew then removed the infield tarp, and as if on cue, the rain turned from downpour to deluge. And still they kept rolling up the tarp; again, the show must go on. Tampa’s Attorney General threw out the first pitch to Dean Anna, though the home plate tarp remained.
People ran for cover, though some die-hard fans stayed planted in their seats donning ponchos and praying for the storm to pass quickly. About the time the game was delayed to start (10 minutes behind schedule), the Yankees announcer came back to announce a special tribute to a retiring Jeter. A brief video recapping the highlights of his career, from his high school days to the 3000th hit to all the famous plays that made him a house-hold name; no doubt a preview of many tributes to come. To present Jeter with a key to the city of Tampa were kids from the Tampa branches of the Boys and Girls Club and the Turn 2 Foundation. As the rain continued, Jeter and the kids smiled, shook hands, and posed for a few pictures. Just as they jogged off the field, the next thing anyone heard was the announcer saying that the game is now cancelled due to inclement weather.
And cue Sinatra: “Start spreading the news…”
Most fans didn’t believe the news at first, and nobody wanted to trudge out to their cars in that weather. Full refunds are available for ticket holders (through your ticket broker), but I’m guessing since most people had paper tickets with Mariano Rivera’s picture on them, refunds will probably only be processed for those who got e-tickets or day-of.
Two hours later, it’s still raining, though it’s tapered off quite a bit. Much of the area is having some flooding issues. And the Yankees, who are scheduled to fly out to Houston tonight, might be delayed a bit as the front continues to move on through the area.
Yeah, everyone didn’t want to leave the stadium, nature didn’t want to see Jeter’s last Spring game, and it’s still raining in Tampa. It’s a sad day all over the place here. And there’s a bunch of final roster news, but you’ll have to wait until tomorrow. I’m going to do a full run-down of the new roster (and there are quite a few surprises) and discuss where all my “ones to watch” ended up for 2014. And if you know me at all, you might catch me when I feel a little nostalgic or philosophical, so stay tuned.
But isn’t that we’re always doing during the year? Staying tuned until something dynamic happens? And with the Yankees, something dynamic is always just around the corner.