NEW YORK – Sonia Sotomayor traded benches for a day, joining the New York Yankees' Bleacher Creatures.
The Supreme Court justice attended the Yankees' 12-3 win over Baltimore on Wednesday and sat in Section 203 of the right-field stands for the first-inning "Roll Call" of New York's starting lineup.
"Having sat in the old stadium bleachers, anonymously, there is quite a chord that gets touched when you come back on a day like today and people are screaming out 'Justice' or 'Sonia,' and it brings a little bit of a tear to your eye," she said during the seventh inning. "My life has changed so much, and you have a new Yankee Stadium, but the spirit of the Yankees is still in the house, and it was very moving for me and important to me that the comfort that they gave me most of my life in watching them most of the time win continues."
Usually seen on the Supreme Court bench in robes next to Stephen Breyer, she wore a black top and blue jeans and sat next to "Bald Vinny" Milano in a section where tickets cost $20 and $23. The Yankees said she moved to better seats after Roll Call.
"The first thing I said to her was, 'I'm probably going to be the loudest guy you meet today, but I'm absolutely speechless,'" Milano related. "I don't think she knew before she got here what she was in for."
Sworn in as an associate justice in August 2009, Sotomayor threw out the ceremonial first pitch for a game against Boston at new Yankee Stadium that Sept. 26. She attended the Yankees' game at the Washington Nationals on June 15 and was invited to sit with the Bleacher Creatures by director of communications and media relations Jason Zillo.
She gave the fans a positive judgment.
"You could tell I'm a shrill of a fan," she said. "I pay homage to the Bleacher Creatures. They are the greatest fans. To sit in sweltering heat when the sun is blazing, to sit out there in the rain, to sit out there on days when we're losing and not to take it out on our players takes heart, and they show it every game, every time they come out, and so I felt very proud to be with them."
In 1995 as a U.S. district judge, she issued an injunction that led to the end of a 7½-month strike by the baseball players' union. She doesn't consider herself to be the biggest baseball fan on the Supreme Court.
"Justice (Antonin) Scalia is fond of reminding me that he was the first Yankee fan on the court, and that he is still a very loyal Yankee fan," she said. "I keep telling him the only difference is I was born in the Bronx and he wasn't."
Asked about her greatest Yankee Stadium moment, she responded with a Yankees moment that occurred at Boston's Fenway Park while she was attending Yale Law School.
"The '78 Bucky Dent home run in that season-ending game against the Red Sox," she said. "I was in law school, made a bet with my dearest friends in law school, and Bucky hit that home run and all the guys in the room lost the bet."
Milano, who lives in Bellmore, N.Y., gave her a Creatures lapel pin membership badge, which she said she will pass along to a nephew who collects her mementos in a scrap book.
"You never know," Milano said with a laugh. "She's not a bad friend to have."
AP freelance writer Doug Gould contributed to this report.