By EVAN GROSSMAN
June 25, 2001 -- The baseball last night was secondary on Staten Island.
With a breathtaking view of the lower Manhattan skyline and New York Harbor, the Richmond County Bank Ballpark at St. George, home of the Staten Island Yankees, opened its doors for the first time.
This may be minor- league baseball, but last night the Staten Island Yankees were treated like major-league All-Stars.
"We didn't see this place until we got off the bus Sunday, and it's awesome," said Todd Faulkner, an infielder for the Baby Bombers. The Class-A, New York-Penn League affiliate of the Yankees tore the gift wrap off their brand new, 6,500-seat ballpark last night with the help of Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Dwight Gooden prior to their home opener against the Hudson Valley Renegades.
Gooden, now involved with the Yankee front office, was on hand to help raise the New York-Penn League Championship banner from last year's championship team that used to call the College of Staten Island home.
Another Yankee team, another championship banner. Even on the lowest minor-league level in the organization, the players are trained to be winners.
"This place is beautiful," Gooden said, making his way into the Staten Island clubhouse before the game through a parade of handshakes. "It's nice to be back for something like this."
The grand opening of the Ballpark at St. George, less than 100 yards from the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, is a baseball cathedral built on the old railroad yards that used to litter this area.
The mayor took a 5 p.m. ferry from Manhattan that arrived at the St. George terminal roughly 30 minutes later and got a quick tour of the ballpark next door before the game.
"This is a great night for Staten Island," Giuliani said, with a Class-A Yankees cap on instead of his familiar major-league hat with the interlocking NY. "It's a nice stadium, just beautiful."
The Baby Bombers (2-2) will play their 38 home games at the Ballpark at St. George from this week until the season is over in September. Designed by HOK Architects, the Ballpark houses 18 luxury boxes and a soon-to-be-built restaurant.
"This is great," the mayor said. "It can't be any better than this ballpark. This is a great thing."
With the opening of this stadium and the gem in Coney Island, where the Mets' Class A Brooklyn Cyclones will call home, the Subway Series rivalry between the two major- league clubs has seeped into the minor-league ranks.
"There's another team in another borough," Staten Island president Guy Molinari joked. "I'm not sure what borough, though."
The S.I. Yanks play eight games against the Cyclones, and if last night's baseball party on Staten Island is any indication, the rest of this season will be a home run.