Yankee Stadium’s Special Dirt

by

05/30/2021

Neighborhood: Bronx

New York Yankees Dirt Pen with Authentic Field Dirt from Yankee Stadium (Amazon.com)

In 1992 our middle school band was chosen to perform at Yankee Stadium on Opening Day. Not the national anthem, just a few songs from our repertoire.

The performance was slotted for about two and a half hours before game time.

When we arrived there was hardly anyone in the stands.

We lined up in formation behind the left field wall, waiting for a cue. The longer we waited, the more our band director loosened up. Some kids took his slackened posture as a sign to wander about. My friends and I walked over to the bullpen cage where the visiting pitcher was getting his arm loose.

“Daddy!” I called out to the pitcher. “Daddy, for once please pay attention to me!”

My fellow trumpet players all laughed. It was great.

That’s when I learned about the incredible talent of Major League ball players.

The catcher caught a pitch and, without even looking, swiveled and gunned the ball in my direction, nailing the wire fence right in front of my eyes.

It shook me to my core.

My friends thought it was cool.

It was time to perform. Our band director suddenly looked overwhelmed. “No one is allowed to steal the grass from Yankee Stadium, do you all understand?” He was almost screaming this at us. “Do you understand?”

Yankee Stadium Freeze Dried Grass Sod (Heritage Auctions)

We all nodded

The outfield fence doors parted, and our band teacher backpedaled onto the field, guiding us through the opening. He spun around on his heels with flair. That spin might have been the high point of his career.

We were on the warning track. I couldn’t believe it. The Yankee Stadium warning track!

Then came the grass. My heel sunk in as if it was being caressed by Mother Earth. It was the most virtuous grass I had ever stepped on.

One by one the flute players up front bent over and, without losing a step, snatched up some earth.

The band teacher was not going to turn around. He was in his own little world, chin up in the air, marching as if he was being broadcast live on national TV. I looked around the cavernous stands. Hardly anyone was there.

The clarinets started scooping up some dirt.

When the trumpet section started going for theirs, I pocketed some myself.

Arriving at a satisfactory spot in the field, our clueless band director turned around and viewed us proudly. He conducted with all his might.

We performed our three hits. “Strawberries for Albert,” “Aztec Parade,” and “Jumpin’ Jambalaya.”

Returning back toward the outfield wall, I saw there were lots of potholes in the field. So many that even I was embarrassed. There was no way you couldn’t notice them. There’s no way left fielder Mel Hall wouldn’t notice!

When we exited the field and returned to the area just behind the left field wall, I saw our band director looking deflated. He didn’t say anything to us, but it was clear he’d seen the damage we’d done to the field.

I tried to sell my dirt to some fans just showing up for the game without any luck.

By the time I got home, I was exhausted and took an unusual afternoon nap.

I woke up disoriented and went to search my pockets for my treasure.

It wasn’t there.

I ran to my mom and, before I could ask, she told me that she had thrown away the dirt in my pants.

“That was very special dirt, mom!”

“Get some from the backyard,” she said. “Who’s gonna’ know the difference?”

***

Eric Nolan’s work has been published in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, The Hechinger Report, Passages North, and X-R-A-Y. He teaches English as a New Language in a public middle school in the Bronx and has recently finished a novel about an unprepared first-year teacher. Connect with him on twitter @normanuniform.

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