"Wow, oh wow!" said Craig Little, a lifelong Yankees fan, as he walked onto the deck overlooking the expanse of blue seats and green grass. "This even smells like the Bronx. It's got that stale cigar aroma."
Little knows how Yankee Stadium looks and smells. He has made every opening day there for the last 30 years. And he was determined to see opening day of the Yankees' new spring training home in Tampa. He flew in from his home in Washington, D.C., Friday morning.
What he got on Friday was opening day, Yankees-style. A line of aging superstars - Whitey Ford, "Moose" Skowron, Phil Rizzuto, and Bobby Murcer - stood at home plate. Al Hirt blew a jazzy National Anthem. George Steinbrenner, the Yankees owner who persuaded county commissioners to build him a stadium here, signed autographs and chatted up Pinellas County Commissioner Charles Rainey in the owner's private box. Rainey and The Boss stood next to a sheet cake with a creamy replica of the new stadium on top.