NEW YORK — The Yankees, already eliminated from postseason contention, played their home finale in front of a sparse crowd on Monday, as a perfect storm of factors made for less-than-ideal circumstances as the team tried to pad its attendance numbers one last time.
Those factors included a literal storm — Tropical Storm Ophelia — which showered Yankee Stadium as the pinstripers beat the Diamondbacks, 6-4. Monday’s chilly game was also a 1 p.m. makeup game after rain postponed Saturday’s contest, so most fans presumably exchanged their tickets for a 2024 game instead of missing school or work.
The Yankees announced a crowd of 41,096 people, but the building was nearly empty on Monday. Still, a few fans braved the elements to watch some mediocre baseball.
Why would they do that?
“That is a wonderful, wonderful question,” Connor Menneto told the Daily News.
He explained that he, another father and their young sons were supposed to attend on Saturday and that one of the boys had never been to a Yankees game before. They didn’t want to wait until next year to make that special milestone happen.
Menneto added that he was trying to teach his 8-year-old a valuable lesson about the highs and lows of sports.
“It’s always a great opportunity to get the kids to come see a baseball game,” he said. “And you try to teach him just because you’re not going to make the playoffs, there’s still something to play for. You still want to see your team win and try to get through it.
“I don’t know. I guess this is how Mets fans feel every year.”
For some, Monday’s miserable conditions created an opportunity for romance.
Allie Vazquez and Joel Escobar were huddling for warmth while taking cover from the rain when they chatted with the News. “It’s our day off,” Escobar explained, adding that they were using new tickets, not exchanges from Saturday. “It’s the last game of the season here in the Bronx.”
Asked if they were on a date, Vazquez replied, “I mean, I guess.” That got a laugh out of both of them.
Others, like Jake Peterson, used the game to hang with friends. He and three other students from Pace University had the day off thanks to Yom Kippur. They were originally supposed to go on Saturday, but Monday’s tiny crowd gave them free run of the place. They were hanging behind the Diamondbacks’ bullpen and in the left field bleachers when the News approached them.
There were about 20 other people in the section at the time.
“Of course!” Peterson said when asked if he was happy with his decision. “It’s always fun coming out to see the Yankees play.”
Danielle Restaino, Georgia Heinzmann and Nikie Uddin, three sophomores at Fordham, didn’t have the day off, but they got out of class early or missed some school to see the Yankees play. The university actually provided the young women with free tickets — originally meant for Saturday — and they got to know each other a year ago while attending a Yankees game.
Monday’s journey to the Bronx served as their friendiversary, and they agreed to make their way to right field to get a good look at Oswaldo Cabrera.
“Last season, our friendship kind of started with a Yankees game,” Restaino said. “So they’re kind of important for us.”
Then there was Katie Ringdahl, who wasn’t there for the Yankees at all.
She and her Arizona-born husband are Diamondbacks fans living on Long Island. A 2024 exchange ticket wouldn’t have done anything for them since the Dbacks don’t visit the Bronx next season.
Ringdahl is from Florida herself, so she was wandering around the stadium to stay warm as the rain turned to drizzle. Despite only sporting a light looking jacket, she said she was enjoying herself.
“I’m happy with the decision,” Ringdahl insisted. “Come on! It’s baseball. It’s fun. Just a great atmosphere. It’s a great time.”
Ringdahl’s Diamondbacks are still in the Wild Card race, so she had more incentive to watch than most in attendance on Monday. The spectating Yankees fans, however, made it clear that they want better from their team moving forward.
“It’s been a tough season,” Menneto said before taking issue with the Yankees’ perceived reliance on analytics. “Whatever benefit it seems to have for other teams, it’s not working for us. We need more dudes that are putting the ball in play, making adjustments mid-games, not swinging for the fences every time. The biggest struggle is we’re in all these long-term deals with players that I don’t think are part of our future. So I don’t know what the forecast looks like for next year.
While Monday’s weather only amplified the negative vibes that have followed the Yankees this season, some in the crowd tried to maintain a positive outlook as the club’s home slate came to an end.
“I’m hoping that next season we’ll come back,” Restaino said of the Bombers. “In 2008, we didn’t make it to the playoffs. But then in 2009, we won the World Series. So I’m hoping it’s gonna be a repeat of history.”