Editor’s note: This story is the first-person account of John Welch, as told to Newsday’s Jim Baumbach.
I’ll start by introducing myself. I’m John Welch, a 22-year-old Mets fan from upstate Mohegan Lake who usually spends my days working, spending time with my girlfriend Amanda or watching sports with friends.
But today [Tuesday], you probably know me better as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle who sat right behind home plate at the Yankees Opening Day.
Yes, that’s me.
My friend Joe Spillo and I won a contest from HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.” He did a bit criticizing the Yankees for the way they cater to the high-roller fans. You might have heard about it.
In short, Oliver’s crew bought two seats right behind home plate and offered to sell them for a quarter to someone who was willing to wear the most ridiculous outfit to the game. All we had to do was post of a picture of the outfit on Twitter with the hashtag #IHaveNeverSatInAPremiumLocation.
I found out I won at around 11:30 a.m Tuesday when I got a direct message on Twitter informing me I won. Next thing I knew we were on the train this morning in our Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle outfits en route to Yankee Stadium.
From the looks we were getting and the curious questions, I knew this was going to be anything but the normal day at the ballpark.
After getting off the train and facing many more questions from random people as we are walking in, we met a producer from “Last Week Tonight” at the McDonald’s near the Stadium. She checked my i.d., we each gave her a quarter — hey, a deal’s a deal — and then we were on our way.
Walking toward the Stadium we got the reactions I expected. People yelled our character’s names — Donatello and Michaelangelo — and then even more questions from people if we were from comedian John Oliver’s contest. I guess word got around.
When we got to the doors, the employees definitely seemed caught off guard seeing us in costume. Mostly they laughed. One guy said, “Good luck.” At that point I admit I became a little anxious about how people may react knowing we paid a quarter for seats worth, what, maybe a thousand dollars.
But once we got to our seats we got the same lighthearted reactions from people. Before long it felt like we were sitting anywhere else in the Stadium, which I didn’t expect at all. I’ll say this: I think the fans in those seats get a bad rap from the Lonn Trost comments in the HBO piece. They were in no way snobs. In many ways they were no different than the people I’m used to sitting next to.
Around the fifth inning we decided to check out the restaurant. Maybe you noticed our absence on television. That’s where the most glares came our way. But overall it was still a positive reaction. As we would walk by tables, people kept stopping us, asking questions and wanting pictures. Of all the pictures we took, the most definitely took place in that restaurant. We got stuck down there an extra 10 minutes taking pictures before we got back to our seat.
Funny, when we got back to our seats behind home plate, people in that section actually cheered and called out our Ninja Turtle names. The whole game was a fun, laid-back atmosphere, something I didn’t expect in those seats after the John Oliver bit.
Hopefully, this prank will show that all fans should be welcomed in those seats. Even those of us who come dressed as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.