There were at least a half dozen guest post suggestions about what it’s like to follow the Yankees from a distance. All of them were terrific suggestions, but I decided to choose only one and went with today’s Pinch Hitter.
Ban Hofmann is a 23-year-old college senior in Germany. He’s studying business, and if nothing else, the Yankees have taught him the power of a brand: He knew the Yankees logo before he knew the game of baseball. For his guest post, Ban wrote about what it was like to discover the Yankees during a family trip to the United States, and what it’s been like to follow the team from a distance for more than a decade.
A man in pinstripes is holding a wooden stick in his hand. He looks awesome. His name is Chuck Knoblauch? That’s funny…. Knoblauch…. Knoblauch means garlic in German. Aaaaaaand, hey! That logo! You know you have seen that one before!
Who would have thought that this is the way my affection to the New York Yankees would begin?
It was October the 18th on the day after the first game of the 1998 World Series. Chuck Knoblauch was on the front cover of the USA Today. I had just turned 11 years old and was on my first trip to the States – visiting the beautiful state of California with my dad and my sister.
Needless to say, I had no chance understanding anything, but it instantly became obvious that I had to find out more about that Chuck Knoblauch guy. He certainly played a sport called “baseball” for some team that played under this well-known logo.
On that day I would beg my father to let me watch the game in our RV. He agreed, and I was able to do the same for the next games, always sitting alone in front of a very, very small TV trying to identify some kind of system or scheme in the whole slugging, throwing, running and spitting. Oh that spitting! I know I saw some guys spitting brown stuff, weird but whatever… probably licorice.
So I witnessed the World Series for the first time in my life and I was hooked on that sport, on that team and especially on the excitement. It was the start of my steady wish to visit New York City and to witness games in Yankee Stadium. I had to wait 10 more years until I had the chance to visit Old Yankee Stadium before it was deconstructed. My second visit came one year later, this time in NYS for two games against the Sawx for the latter half of the great four-game sweep in ’09.
In the meantime (’98 to ’08) it was kind of hard to get any information about how the Yankees were doing. The only thing I was able to do was check the video text of some German TV stations that displayed scores and tables on two hidden pages. It was tough being a Yankee fan far away from the Bronx, and it probably is partly responsible for my ongoing drive towards this great city.
The internet came and I finally had the chance to let my Yankee-fever take over. Since then I am possessed, getting any kind of Yankees action. I even try to adjust my sleep so I can watch the games. I know it’s hard to go to bed at 8 p.m., sleep five hours, watch the game and get back to sleep for two more hours until I have to get up again, but I know: It’s totally worth it.
In Germany though, I often get asked why I would do that to myself. I know it’s crazy to some degree, but I see so much beauty in the Game. I love numbers, and I love this sport because anything can happen, even if it’s the bottom of the ninth, two outs and two strikes. The action comes in a very quick peak and decreases in a second. It’s a roller coaster ride. And I like roller coasters, even if I have to ride them alone.
Granted, it would make my life easier if I were able to cut my ties to this great, great team. It’s just not possible. From the day in Santa Barbara, CA until today, it’s the time I’ve invested, the moments I’ve witnessed and probably the money I’ve spent, that have built these strong ties that connect me to the Yankees. I think I speak for a lot of Yankee fans in Europe when I say that it is a love, which is hard to maintain. But with every visit to NYC, I know why I keep up and don’t even think about stopping this insanity which is my life — every year from April to October.
So I will keep on cheering. And I will thank everyone wearing our logo in Germany (most of them not knowing what it stands for), as they have done the groundwork for my affection, because that is what the Yankees are: A global Brand. Whereas many people think it is a fashion label, there are a few of us outsiders – 6,000 or more miles away from Yankee Stadium — cheering as hard for the guys as you do, wishing to be in Yankee Stadium at least 81 times in a year.
Thank God it wasn’t Mr. Trevor Hoffman who was on the front page that day.
Associated Press photo