By BEN WALKER
New York (AP) – This rookie came swooping into Yankee Stadium out of nowhere.
Another slugger? A defensive whiz?
Naw, this newcomer is known for a great wing. Two of them, actually.
A red-tailed hawk has become a sensation in the Bronx, showing up in the last week or so and picking out perches all over the ballpark.
“I feel like every game we’re trying to figure out where he’s at. Which flagpole he’s on,” New York Yankees infielder DJ LeMahieu said before Wednesday’s game against Toronto.
On Tuesday night, this raptor had a bird’s-eye view of a high-flyin’ team from atop the right field foul pole. More like a fowl pole.
“I guess it just lives in the stadium. We’ll see if it’s there today. Four days in a row,” Yankees reliever Zack Britton said.
In fact, it was a no-show for the 8-7 win, New York’s last home game for almost three weeks.
But recently, this ballhawk was perched on two poles that extend above the lights and sport flags of the other big league teams, the Blue Jays and Cardinals, fittingly. Not the Orioles, so far.
The most common hawk in North America, red-tails are frequently spotted in New York. They’ve been seen flying over Central Park and Fifth Avenue, with nests on the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge and the NYU campus.
Umpire Cory Blaser was working at first base Tuesday night when he saw the hawk shown on the videoboard. He then spied the bird himself on the foul pole.
“I’m from Colorado, we see them there,” he said. “A little bizarre to see one at Yankee Stadium.”
Pigeons are much more common at the House That Ruth Built, especially when the field has been reseeded for New York City FC soccer games. A few years ago, flocks of 85 would land on the grass, looking for an easy meal.
Too bad for the pigeons, that’s also what the red-trailed hawk wants.
During a game last week, the predator stalked the prey, with the hawk attacking a pigeon in midair. They both crashed into the protective netting along the first base line and fell separately into the seats.
The hawk quickly recovered and took up residence atop the screen behind the plate. The pigeon wasn’t so lucky.
“I don’t think it’s watching the game. But probably just waiting for those food scraps,” Yankees reliever Adam Ottavino said.
Hawks were occasionally spotted at the old Yankee Stadium and have been seen at Fenway Park. A decade ago, a 13-year-old girl on a school tour at the home of the Boston Red Sox was left with a bloody scalp when a red-tail swooped down and scratched her with its talons.
The Yankees have had their brushes with hawks over the year.
Andy Hawkins won 15 games for them in 1989, and well-traveled reliever LaTroy Hawkins dropped by in 2008.
And in 1921, an outfielder named Chicken Hawks made his big league debut with the Yankees. Born as Nelson Louis Hawks, he was known throughout his brief career by his nickname.
This hawk now hovering over Yankee Stadium doesn’t have a name. Not yet.
But the bird’s got plenty of fans.
“It’s pretty cool to watch,” pitcher CC Sabathia said. “Just hanging out.”