NEW YORK (AP) — Yankee Stadium isn’t accustomed to digging out for anything. The ballpark in the Bronx is usually dormant this time of year, the sweet sounds of spring still months away.
The grounds crew is getting a crash course in snow removal this week.
About 400 people have been working around the clock since a brutal storm dumped about two feet of snow on the New York area over the weekend. The workers are trying feverishly to get the stadium ready for the inaugural Pinstripe Bowl between Kansas State and Syracuse on Thursday afternoon, clearing the field, plazas, concourses and enough seating for about 48,000 fans.
Ready, set, hike?
More like ready, set, shovel.
“We had the field covered up and we’re getting it plowed, and the field looks great,” Yankees president Randy Levine said Tuesday. “They’ve been working all night and really there’s no issues whatsoever. It’ll be ready for the game.”
In fact, Levine believes it will be ready by Wednesday, when the Wildcats (7-5) and Orange (7-5) are scheduled to hold their final practices at the ballpark.
The teams have been shuttled all over the New York City area this week, trying to squeeze in practice wherever they can. The Wildcats worked out in a hotel ballroom on Sunday, when the snow and wind was crippling the city. Both teams practiced at the New York Giants’ indoor facility in East Rutherford, N.J., on Monday and the New York Jets’ training facility in Florham Park, N.Y., on Tuesday.
Kansas State was fortunate just to arrive on Sunday. Its charter landed shortly before the storm swept through with a vengeance, one of the last flights into the city before the three major airports shut down. Syracuse also made it from its campus in upstate New York, only slightly behind schedule, despite conditions that made driving nearly unbearable.
“It was a blizzard when we were coming down, and I think we circled a couple times before we landed,” Kansas State quarterback Carson Coffman said. “It was a little scary looking out the window and seeing all white. I’m glad we made it down safely.”
Players for both teams spent Monday seeing the sights — including some resourceful cross-country skiers who were able to glide down the middle of snowy Fifth Avenue.
Kansas State players visited the Empire State Building and ground zero, and families of both teams had breakfast at Dylan’s Candy Bar. The teams also mingled over dinner inside the Legends Suite at Yankee Stadium on Monday night, and Kansas State coach Bill Snyder and Syracuse coach Doug Marrone helped to ring the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday.
No events have been canceled and only a couple rescheduled, despite the miserable weather.
That doesn’t mean everything has been smooth — or on time. And while the players have taken things in stride, the coaching staffs are another story.
“It’s driving him insane,” Kansas State lineman Zach Kendall said of Snyder, a stickler for efficiency and punctuality. “We were at the stock exchange this morning and we were trying to leave — obviously we’re behind schedule — and we’re trying to get to the hotel, which is not too far, but it takes 15 minutes to get six blocks here. You can just tell he’s getting antsy, trying to get someplace he knows he’s supposed to be.”
Both teams know exactly where they need to be Thursday afternoon.
Yankee Stadium, built just across the street from the original ballpark, will be hosting its first bowl game since the Gotham Bowl on Dec. 15, 1962, when Nebraska edged Miami 36-34.
The precursor to the Pinstripe Bowl was canceled its first year, then played at the Polo Grounds in 1961, before shifting to Yankee Stadium. That matchup between the Hurricanes and Huskers also was plagued by problems, including a newspaper strike that hampered coverage and damp, frigid weather that limited the official attendance to about 6,000 hardy souls.
Little wonder the bowl game was scrapped after that.
College football returned to Yankee Stadium this year at the behest of George Steinbrenner, the late Yankees owner and a former football coach. Notre Dame beat Army at the ballpark earlier this season, and the trophy awarded to the Pinstripe Bowl champion has been named in his honor.
The weather is supposed to clear by Thursday with temperatures approaching 40 degrees, which could turn the snow to slush and make for a tricky playing surface. The Yankees had already planned to lay new sod before the baseball season, so there’s no concern that it will get chewed up.
“We want this to be as pristine as it is for any July day,” said Yankees chief operating office Lonn Trost. “We want people to enjoy the experience of a bowl game at Yankee Stadium.”
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.