NEW YORK -- Some five hours before the first pitch of Game 3 of the American League Championship Series on Monday, Rocco Lucciola arrived at the River Avenue parking garage and started waiting.

Monday night featured the first postseason game at the new Yankee Stadium that the long-time fan Lucciola had witnessed in person. And he made sure he got there early enough to prepare.

"I was here at 3 o'clock sitting here all by myself," Lucciola said, when he was halfway through his wait around 5:30 Monday afternoon.

He knew it sounded a little weird, a little obsessive. But this is the playoffs, and you can't blame Lucciola for being excited. The most intense atmosphere he was ever a part of? That came in another playoff game at the old Stadium -- Game 2 of the 2000 World Series.

You might not remember much about the result that night -- the Yankees won 6-5 -- because the most memorable event occurred in the top of the first, between Roger Clemens and Mike Piazza.

"We were behind home plate," Lucciola said, shaking his head after all these years about the moment when Clemens flipped a broken bat in Piazza's direction. "It was unbelievable. People were going nuts."

"Going nuts" is a pretty good way to describe Lucciola's own reaction when he learned he won tickets to Monday's game from Yankees Universe.

"At first, I thought it was a joke," he said of learning that he had won the contest his wife, Ida, entered for him. "I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe we had won."

The 53-year-old Lucciola has been attending Yankees' games since the early 1970s, enduring what he admitted were "some bad years" at the start, at least by the Bombers' standards. That means he hasn't taken the Yankees' success over the last 15 years for granted.

The last two seasons, with the Yankees back in the playoffs and with a World Series title, have been, in Lucciola's phrasing, "perfect."

"You can't explain it," the Jersey City resident said while taking in the atmosphere just outside Gate 8, with fans arriving and leaves falling. "It's the best feeling to be a Yankees fan."

Even with Cliff Lee on the mound for Game 3, Lucciola was confident his team would win not just on Monday, but on Tuesday and Wednesday as well to clinch the AL pennant at home for the second straight season.

"We're going to end it right here. The next three games, we'll take it," he said, before expanding his prediction to the next round as well, picking the Yanks to win a World Series rematch with the Phillies in five.

Sounds, well, perfect.