Latino Sports Feature: It's My First Baseball Game and I'm Almost 75 Years Old • Latino Sports

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Latino Sports Feature: It’s My First Baseball Game and I’m Almost 75 Years Old

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Bronx, NY — For the first time in a week the sun was exposed and the dreary rain clouds that hovered over New York City for days was nowhere in sight, the temperature peaked to 82 degrees late Saturday afternoon as the Yankees hosted game two of a three game series against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Yankees fans from all over gathered to Yankee Stadium on 161st Street and River Avenue. For many it was another baseball game added to their long list of Yankees games they’ve attended. For one person, at 74 years of age, Minerva Urrutia, was going to her first baseball game.

Minerva was born in Vega Baja, Puerto Rico on November 3, 1943 to Miguel Angel Roman Rodriguez and Mariana Adorno Oropeza. She is the sixth born of eight children, seven girls and one boy.

In hopes of providing a better life, her parents moved from the northern shores of Puerto Rico to a fifth-floor walk up at 110 East 116th Street in East Harlem, New York when Minerva was just a toddler.

It wasn’t until 1950 that her parents moved to the South Bronx, a ten minute drive from the old Yankee Stadium where Yankees legends Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford and Phil Rizzuto donned the pinstripes.

Minerva grew up in a predominantly Irish community in the South Bronx. “There was a lot of prejudice against Puerto Ricans at the time, there was a lot of friction on the blocks in my community. So my mother would let us play in the backyard.” Minerva explained, “I never went to baseball games. My father would say ‘girls are meant to be home, in the house.’ While my only brother was allowed to play stickball. So you can imagine my excitement when I was invited to my first ever baseball game.”

On September 15, 2018, at 74 years-10 months-and-12 days old, Minerva was ready to attend her first baseball game.

Traveling from her home in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, Minerva took the downtown 4 train to 161st Street — Yankee Stadium.

Minerva has traveled to many parts of the globe, visiting the wonders of the world that history has left behind for our eyes to see. One of those wonders being the Colosseum in Rome, Italy.

“When I got off the four train, it was monumental. I could feel the same chills I felt when I stepped foot into the Colosseum. It was like looking at a cathedral.”

Little did she know, the old Yankee Stadium was known as the “cathedral of baseball.” The architects of the new stadium hoped to resemble the design of the pre-renovated Yankee Stadium that stood on 161st Street and River Ave from 1923 to 1973.

Minerva so excitedly waited for me in front of Gate 6 at the corner of 161st Street and Rivera Avenue. Unable to contain herself and as the outgoing person she is, in the middle of a sea of Yankees fans, she started conversations with people by telling them, “I’m almost seventy five years old and this is my first baseball game!” Every person she encountered was struck by the thought and wished her the best experience.

30 minutes before the first pitch Minerva was handed her first baseball ticket, her excitement could not be matched by the 43,130 fans who attended the game that day. As her ticket was scanned she walked into the Great Hall, swarmed by Yankees fans eager to find their seats, she stopped and looked up. Minerva was in awe of the portraits of Yankees legends that stood tall amongst us. 

“I felt like a kid in a candy store.” Minerva said.

That was one of many moments that captivated her that day.

As we walked towards the field, Minerva let out a gasp.

“The field was beautiful” she said, “You could see how beautifully manicured the grass was with all the patterns.” 

Minerva did not own a single piece of Yankees attire, which made her eager to buy her first Yankee hat before the start of the game. With help from a Yankee shop associate, Minerva picked out a classic navy blue hat with the Yankees logo embroidered on the front, and made her way to the cashier.

“I’m almost seventy-five years old and this is my first game!” Minerva told the cashier.

“Say no more.” the cashier told her.

The cashier scanned the hat and pressed a couple of buttons on the register. Minerva noticed the price was not what she expected it to be.

“They discounted my hat!” Minerva told me after she checked out, “I told them it was my first game and they so graciously discounted my hat.”

We were told by another Yankee Stadium staff member that Minerva would be able to have her very own certificate stating that it was her first Yankee game experience. Without hesitation, we made our way to Section 127 and watched kids of all ages receive the same certificate Minerva sought. Here, Minerva was, honestly, more jubilated to receive a certificate than the five-year-olds that impatiently waited on line with their parents. Once receiving her certificate she proudly held it up, smiling from ear to ear.

Minerva couldn’t thank the Yankee Stadium staff enough for being so thoughtful and kind to her on that day. “I felt embraced by the Yankee Stadium staff. I felt welcomed.”

Once arriving at our seats in section 232B, Minerva sat at the edge of her seat and took in the view.

“I was so captivated,” she said, “At one point during the game, I looked up and I saw the moon and planes flying above the stadium, then it made all the sense in the world. It felt like I had taken this galactic trip to a foreign land. The experience was so magical.”

I tried my absolute best to explain the game of baseball to Minerva. She listened attentively as I explained balls and strikes, the positions on the field, the differences between a single, a double, a triple and a home run and much more.  

Yankee Stadium is known for having a variety of food options for fans, from a classic hot dog and burger to Cuban sandwiches, sushi, garlic fries, Philly cheesesteaks, and much more. I asked Minerva what she would like to eat, she looked me dead in the eyes and said, “I’m at a my first baseball game, I have to have a hot dog and a pepsi. I shouldn’t have it but I’m going to get it.”

The Yankees trailed 5-0 through five innings before Minerva witnessed her first Bronx bomb when Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius belted a solo home run into the second deck, finally putting the Yankees on the board. It wasn’t until the seventh inning that the Yankees offense was most effective when Giancarlo Stanton and Gregorius both hit solo home runs before the bases were loaded for Miguel Andujar.

The first pitch Andujar saw in his second at-bat of the game, sent the Yankees faithful into a frenzy, as the baseball just made it over the leftfield wall, allowing Minerva to witness her first grand slam.  

Minerva marveled at the sight of Yankees fans standing up and cheering, high-fiving each other and clapping their hands in unison as they bellowed out “Let’s go Yankees!”

She turned to me and pointed at her arm. Goosebumps.

“I always thought baseball was a quiet game.” she said reflecting on the grand slam, “But being there, I quickly changed my mind after seeing the fans passionately root for the Yankees.”

The Yankees went onto lose the game 8-7 that night. Out of all the games I’ve attended in my lifetime, I never thought I’d say, a game in which  the Yankees lost, I felt inspired and overwhelmed with bliss. Turning to Minerva, in her excitement and wonderment, I saw myself, when I was thirteen-years-old, falling in love with the game of baseball for the first time.

I simply asked Minerva, “Which Yankees player stood out to you?”

“That Didi guy! I paid a lot of attention to him,” she answered with a smile that lightened up the night sky as we exited the Colosseum of baseball.  

Once Minerva got ahold of her two daughters, April and Holly, she described her memorable experience.

“Mom, you genuinely enjoyed yourself,” they said.

She responded, “I won’t forget this day until the day I die.”  

About Nicole Perez

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