River Avenue Garage At Yankee Stadium Not Built For Autograph Seekers

The South Bronx intersection of 161 Street and River Avenue is home to the most hallowed grounds in all of American sports. From 1923-2008, the original Yankee Stadium stood to the south and west of this very distinct part of the world.  “The House That Ruth Built” witnessed 26 World Championships, the most significant NFL game in history (1958 NFL Championship Game) and a bevy of noteworthy boxing matches, college football games and even religious gatherings. The stadium's unparalleled history, combined with the Yankees incredible success, created an energy and fan experience unique to any sporting venue in the world. Quite simply, the old ballpark's atmosphere was just as powerful as any of the legends who have called the park home. 

At the start of the 2009 season, the Yankees moved north across 161Street to a brand new Yankee Stadium. From a fan's perspective, much has changed since the team's relocation. Some of these changes have been welcome, while others have taken away from the experience. It appears to be a matter of taking the good with the bad.

One of the most notable negative changes involves fans' accessibility to player autographs, both home and visitor. At the old stadium, fans had the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the Yankees as they walked across Ruppert Place, through the barricades that connected the players' parking lot with their stadium entrance. Some players would stop to say hello, while other team personnel moved right on through. Either way, fans of all ages had the opportunity to rub elbows with the men in pinstripes.

At the new park, this unique interaction has completely disappeared. Nowadays, the players drive directly into an in stadium parking garage, located on River Avenue, just south of 164 Street (pictured below). The only chance autograph seekers have involves the players electing to stop their car on the short driveway connecting the River Avenue  garage Yankee Stadium entrance and the street.  Most players, including pitcher Phil Hughes on August 16, choose to drive immediately into seclusion (pictured below).

The only other potential opportunity to meet a Yankee involves witnessing their vehicle on the approach from the Major Deegan Expressway or FDR Drive. Yankee players will generally drive down Jerome Avenue, making a right on 164 Street, followed by a right onto River Avenue, before entering the park. Some players have stopped for fans along this path, but most of the time they head right for the stadium.

The chances of encountering the visiting team are not any easier. Visiting club buses park in the secured loading dock located adjacent to the 164 Street Garage, between Jerome Avenue and River Avenue (pictured below).

Ironically, the Jerome Avenue entrance driveway to the loading dock represents the best opportunity to encounter baseball personnel, if a fan gets extremely lucky with their timing. This is the area where opposing team members get dropped off when arriving early to the stadium, ahead of the team bus. After exiting their shuttle vehicle, early visiting personnel enter through the Yankee offices, located right next to the loading dock entrance.

Prior to the Yankees game vs. the Detroit Tigers, I happened to be walking through this area as the Tigers' coaches arrived early to the ballpark. Below is a photo I took with manager Jim Leyland, as he made his way inside. A Yankee fan I spoke with noted that he had the same experience with Phillies star pitcher Roy Halladay, when he arrived early for his June 15 interleague start.

While players may enjoy their new found separation from the public, the paying customer is certainly at a disadvantage when trying to get up close and personal with baseball's best.

Tomorrow, iFolloSports.com will feature some of the notable mementos and anecdotes available to fans during their visit to the new ballpark in the Bronx.