NEW YORK — Derek Jeter stepped out of the dugout and gazed up at those massive grandstands, five booming decks of blue-and-white splendor reaching high into a clear Bronx sky.
Welcome home. This is the new Yankee Stadium.
“It’s a lot better than I think anyone even expected,” Jeter said. “You know, I tried to come here, not ask too many questions about it, just wanted to experience it for the first time. But this is — it’s pretty unbelievable.”
Jeter and his teammates moved into their fancy new digs Thursday, working out at the $1.5 billion ballpark before a dazzled crowd of 20,070.
The place is a baseball palace, with modern luxuries everywhere for players and fans alike. But it’s also a tribute to history, featuring familiar characteristics from the old Yankee Stadium that opened in 1923.
Monument Park is now directly behind the center-field fence, beneath the Mohegan Sun Sports Bar. The famous frieze rings the upper deck, a replica of the original ballpark roof that was removed during the mid-1970s renovation.
New York players can park in an underground garage and go directly into the ballpark, meaning they don’t even have to pass by autograph-seeking fans before or after games.
They have a huge training room, weight room, swimming pool, SwimEx spa and cozy lounge, giving them plenty of places to “hide” from reporters, as Jeter pointed out.
“I think everyone is going to be a little bit spoiled,” he said.
Still, it might take awhile for the Yankees to feel completely at home here after moving from their old digs across 161st Street.
“It definitely feels awkward. It definitely feels weird,” pitcher Andy Pettitte said. “Everything is different.”
Standing on the field, the ballpark looks similar to the remodeled Yankee Stadium. Plush green grass, a warning track of reddish clay, the padded blue fence. The outfield dimensions are the same, too.
But then, you look up at the 52,325 seats (down from more than 57,000 in the previous stadium) and the enormous video board in center field, 59 feet high and 101 feet wide, flanked by two smaller screens.
“It’s unbelievable,” Teixeira said.
Fans gawked as they soaked in the warm sun and festive atmosphere Thursday, many arriving with cameras and kids they pulled out of school. Season-ticket holders received ducats to the workout, and the Yankees gave thousands of tickets to Bronx community groups.
Former Yankees star Bernie Williams played guitar at opening ceremonies for the Hard Rock Cafe in right field.
The first games at the new park will be exhibitions against the Chicago Cubs on Friday night and Saturday. New York’s regular-season home opener is April 16 against Cleveland.