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Babylon seniors enjoy Yanks home opener

A group of Yankees fans cheer at the

A group of Yankees fans cheer at the Opening Day party at the Spangle Drive Senior Center in North Babylon. (March 31, 2011) Credit: Erin Geismar

Helen Tiedemann threw both arms into the air and pumped her fists in excitement for her favorite team as the Yankees took the lead over the Detroit Tigers in the third inning on Opening Day.

Behind her, Sarah Mantione, 84, wearing her blue Yankees jersey, clapped and a look of relief came across her face.

“Today’s game is getting me nervous,” she said. “But I still love it.”

The die-hard fans were two of the dozens of attentive spectators watching the game in a packed room Thursday at the Opening Day party at the Town of Babylon’s Spangle Drive Senior Center in North Babylon.

The experience wouldn’t have been complete without a hot dog stand, soft pretzels and peanuts, and the organizers did not disappoint.

Lauren Van Kirk, director of the senior center, said despite the cold weather on Thursday, the party was not only a celebration of baseball, but of spring.

“To me, baseball is spring,” she said. “I really wanted everyone to have a little bit of fun.”

The viewing room was a sea of dark blue, with a few exceptions including a woman in a Brooklyn Dodgers jersey and one in a green Jets T-shirt.

Barney Levine, 90, of Deer Park, was in full-on Yankees regalia - T-shirt, jersey, cap and a Joe Torre jacket he’s had since the years of the “Torre dynasty.”

Levine, who grew up in the same Brooklyn neighborhood as Torre, will always consider the former Yankees manager a hero of baseball. But Levine also remembers fondly watching Babe Ruth hit home runs from a subway platform above Yankee stadium.

“In those days, there was a space in the billboards and we would look down through there,” he said. “In fact, it looked like we were going to catch them.”

Levine, who hasn’t been to the new stadium yet but hopes to get there, called the senior center’s Opening Day party “stupendous.” He said that at his age, he doesn’t get to a lot of games, but that the party was a perfect substitute for a trip to the Bronx.

“Let’s face it, finance-wise it’s very difficult to go to the game these days,” he said. “This is a way of seeing Opening Day for nothing and seeing it with your friends and enjoying a wonderful day at the stadium.”

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