Raimond van der Gouw got an up close look at a big league ballclub in his first time at the ballpark.
The former Manchester United goalkeeper watched from the field as the Yankees took batting practice before they played the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday night.
''I'm a sportsman, so I like to see a game,'' van der Gouw said. ''I'm really looking forward to this.''
He was visiting New York with his family and landed tickets through an acquaintance. The Yankees brought the 49-year-old Dutchman and his family onto the field, then gave him a tour of the stadium, including the broadcast booth, press box and the requisite stop at Monument Park.
Van der Gouw played parts of six seasons with Manchester United, the English Premier League soccer team often compared to the Yankees for its success, and worldwide fan support. The Yankees have also embraced soccer recently. European champion Chelsea is set to play an exhibition against Paris Saint-Germain on July 22 in the first soccer game at the new Yankee Stadium. Spanish champion Real Madrid is going to play AC Milan on Aug. 8 in the Bronx as well.
While those could be the first big-time soccer games for some Americans, van der Gouw was on the other side of the cross-cultural sports exchange.
''I know a little bit how it works because I'm a PE teacher,'' van der Gouw said. ''I've done some teaching in baseball, in school.''
Van der Gouw played for United from 1996-2002, often as a substitute goalkeeper, then spent a year at West Ham before returning to the Netherlands. He made 100 appearances for Apeldoorn before retiring after the 2007 season. In the closing minutes of his last appearance for Apeldoorn, van der Gouw scored his first and only professional goal, on a penalty kick.
He is a goalkeeping coach for another of his former clubs, Vitesse.
This was the first trip to New York for the van der Gouw family. He said in his first major league game he was hoping to see ''some excitement, home runs, scores, of course.'' Before the game got going, he got to see the grounds crew at work, as a downpour caused the tarp to be laid out in a hurry.
Later, a major-league quality rainbow appeared over the Bronx, glowing beyond the scoreboard in center field, with a secondary rainbow to the left of it.
Not bad for a first trip to a major league stadium.
On the eve of the European soccer championships, van der Gouw also had a prediction.
''I think they're going to reach the final,'' he said of his nation. ''Holland against Germany, that's what I expect.''