NEW YORK -- The first baseball game Jon Daniels ever saw was at the old Yankee Stadium, which is now just a hole in the ground across 161st Street. "It was a day game against the Twins," Daniels said. "I was 6 or 7 years old at the time. My friend's mother took us. Everybody talks about walking out of the tunnel for the first time and seeing that green grass. I have a very vivid memory of that." Daniels was born and raised in New York and his parents still live in Bayside, which is 20-25 minutes from the new Yankee Stadium. Bayside is a part of Queens and that is New York Mets territory.
Daniels grew up a Mets fan but now he has brought the Rangers into Yankee territory in his fifth season as general manager. On Monday night, the Rangers are playing Game 3 of the American League Championship Series and the hometown kid has made good. You can go home again, especially if Cliff Lee is your starting pitcher. "I'll tell you what ... for the first time for me in the playoffs and the club in the playoffs, it's pretty special on its own merits," Daniels said. "It's definitely unique here, a lot of family and friends, familiar surroundings to a degree. The LCS is the second biggest stage in baseball and this is arguably ... this is a storybook environment." He would likely be rooting for the Yankees to lose, even if they weren't playing the Rangers. His first game was at Yankee Stadium, but there were many more at Shea Stadium, which is also no more. But every young baseball fan has his own Valhalla and Shea was just that for Daniels. "I had a good group of friends and we were probably split 50-50," Daniels said. "Depending on the year, it got pretty loud between us and 2000 was fun." That was the last time they had a Subway Series in New York and the only time it has been between the Yankees and the Mets. The Yankees won in five and Daniels was at Games 1 and 5. The Mets lost both games and Daniels has fonder memories of Game 5 of the 1999 NLCS. That game will live forever in the minds and hearts of any true Mets fan. That one went 15 innings and ended when Robin Ventura hit one over the fence with the bases loaded, a game-winning hit that went down as a single because Todd Pratt, the baserunner at first, started celebrating before finishing running the bases. "We were disappointed when we got our seats because we were way back in the mezzanine and you couldn't see the lip of the outfield because of the overhang," Daniels said. "But it rained that night and we were one of the few who didn't get drenched. "Once I became a Mets fan, I probably went 80 percent to Shea Stadium, and 20 percent Yankee Stadium. Maybe 90-10. It was easier in the '80s. The Yankees hadn't begun their tremendous run of success and the Mets were the best team in town." But all of that changed when Daniels went off to Cornell. He was in upstate Ithaca when Joe Torre took over the Yankees as manager and directed the re-emergence of the greatest dynasty in sports. "You had to respect Don Mattingly and they had a lot of great players," Daniels said. "But when they were winning in the '90s and on that unbelievable run, I couldn't get myself to root for them." Now he has less reason to do so. But his wife Robyn is flying in for this one, and his parents will be at the game, and some old friends from the neighborhood. "I didn't invite any Yankees fans," Daniels said. "They can get their own tickets."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.