"It felt just like the old place," said Derek Jeter, who knows a thing or two about success at that old place. "I don't think it makes a difference with the venue. It's all about our fans. We have the same fans whether we're here or across the street."
From the first pitch until the last, Yankee Stadium shook in the Yankees' 7-2 win over the Twins in the American League Division Series opener on Wednesday. Fans stood and cheered when starting pitcher CC Sabathia put two strikes on various Minnesota hitters in the early innings. They gave Sabathia a standing ovation when he left in the seventh. They roared when Jeter smacked a two-run home run over the left-field wall in the third inning, and they whooped and hollered when the bullpen gates swung open for closer Mariano Rivera in the ninth.
"The crowd was awesome," first baseman Mark Teixeira said. "It was a huge crowd. They were loud."
The $1.5 billion ballpark, situated just across 161st Street from the old one, may be six months old, but it is still being christened. The dimensions are almost exactly the same, and though the capacity is smaller -- only 49,464 fans squeezed through the gates on Wednesday, compared to the old crowds of more than 55,000 -- the new stadium has proven every bit as dynamic as the old one.
Worries over the new stadium all but disappeared on Opening Day back in April, when the Yankees proved just how loud and atmospheric their new home could be. But that old Yankees magic rarely surfaced in April.
October was what mattered.
Now, after one game, one win and countless ovations, the team and its fans have no reason to fret. The new Yankee Stadium seems just as well equipped for postseason baseball as the old one.
"You could definitely sense the difference from the regular season to now," setup man Phil Hughes said. "That's what it's all about. This is the postseason. This is what we've been playing for all year."
Perhaps the Yankees never should have worried. After all, the building is similar. The organization is the same. And most of all -- and here's the important part -- the fans are the same ones who were here in 1996. They're the same ones who cheered on Jeter's rookie season and howled at the first strands of "Enter Sandman" back in 1998.
And they are the same fans whom the Yankees hope will be able to watch baseball games deep into October.
"I thought the crowd was great," manager Joe Girardi said. "Our fans have been great for a long time, as long as I can remember since I came here in 1996. It did feel like Yankee Stadium playoff time."