From his seat in the visitors' families section on the third-base side, Howard Kinsler has a better view than he used to in the original Yankee Stadium. "I used to sneak on the train tracks, before they closed it in," he said, adding that sometimes he can't believe what he is seeing.

He has trouble fathoming that his son, Ian, is playing second base at the Stadium in October, only steps away from where Howard began his own sports career. "I played Little League across the street," the 56-year-old Kinsler said.

Basketball ultimately was his game and it was what led him to leave home in the Bronx for Arizona, where he started a family that includes one of the Rangers' key players. But his baseball roots go back to the mid-1960s, when he and his buddies used to hang out around the Stadium parking lot and got to know what cars the players drove.

"My favorite times were watching Elston Howard, Bobby Richardson and then Horace Clarke," he said, accentuating the second baseman. Those times were good enough to have passed along to his son what a privilege it is to play in the Stadium. Ian said his father used to bring the family back to the Bronx for summer visits.

"When I was five or six, he brought me here," Ian said. "He'd tell me stories about when he'd come and watch the old Yankees players."

Howard's most vivid memory was the time Ian had one of his early asthma attacks at the Stadium and had to be rushed to a hospital in Manhattan.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Standing in one of the wide walkways of the new Stadium Monday night, Howard talked about how he got from here to there.

"I was the only Jewish white guy who tried out for the DeWitt Clinton basketball team. I was one of the last guys cut," he said.

He followed a friend to the University of Arizona, enrolled and then dropped all his classes to play pickup basketball with the guys on the freshman team.

"The coaches were watching and they offered me the chance to come back the next year for scholarship possibilities," he said. That was the early 1970s, right when the college dropped freshman basketball.

"I just stayed," he said. "I met a woman from Phoenix . . . "

Embarking with Kathy on a diplomatic Jewish-Catholic marriage, Howard worked his way up through the state correctional officers system and became a prison warden. He was a disciplinarian when he coached a PONY League baseball team, once reportedly benching Ian for rolling his eyes during an instruction.

Arizona turned out to be rich soil for a young baseball career. Ian was one of five players on the Canyon del Oro High School team to make the major leagues - along with his best friend, Brian Anderson, as well as Scott Hairston and Chris and Shelley Duncan.

Ian progressed enough to make the American League All-Star team in 2008, and his dad watched him play at Yankee Stadium. Howard recalled walking down an aisle and seeing his son playing catch, right where his own boyhood heroes did.

"I just froze, I couldn't move," said the proud father and former Bronx playground hoops junkie who has moved with his wife to Dallas to be near their son.

"He will never," the proud dad said, "beat me in basketball."