January 2010

Grant Desme: A Man of God

Vocation. The word is defined as a summons or strong inclination to a particular state or course of action, especially a call into religious life. It’s also defined as work, or an occupation one is involved with.


Grant Desme, 23 year-old top prospect for the Oakland Athletics, has a gift. He won the Most Valuable Player of the Arizona Fall League, batting .315 with 11 homers and 27 RBIs in 27 games.


Grant Desme was ranked as the A's 8th top prospect 


He put up staggering numbers in the minor league regular season, batting .288 with 31 home runs, 89 RBIs, and 40 stolen bases in 2009. Desme was the only player in the minors to record at least 30 homers and 30 steals.


Talk about a young man with a ton of ability on the baseball diamond.


But Desme did not feel his true calling was baseball. Last Thursday the minor league’s best player retired from baseball. Yes, you heard right, he retired from baseball at 23 years old. Desme gave it all up for a higher power.


Seeking peace and aspiration for higher things in life, Desme decided to leave the game to become a Catholic priest. According to several news reports, his announcement startled A’s General Manager Billy Beane, but he was supportive and understanding of Desme’s choice.


But why exactly did Desme decide to become a priest? After all, it’s not a choice a person makes overnight; it has to be well-thought out.



Desme is going to study at a seminary to become a priest. 

The first two years of his minor league career, Desme was setback by shoulder and wrist injuries. He said that his days off the field gave him time to realize what’s important in his life and he got himself into Bible study during that time. News reports also confirm that he discussed the faith with his teammates.


Not one to distract the team during the season, Desme kept his decision to leave the game for the priesthood to himself.


I have to say, this is one of the nicer stories I’ve heard in the sporting world over the last week. Desme has so much God-given talent and I am proud that he recognizes that–that his talent comes from God and he is willing to thank Him for it. There are certain athletes that have no desire to truly appreciate what the good Lord has given them, much less devote a large portion of their life to the faith.


Desme possesses an extremely admirable quality. I know that if I were as extraordinary as him in terms of baseball, I’d never want to give that up. I would stay in the game and go on to have a lucrative career, as I’m sure that was Desme’s future.


But he opted not to do that; he remained in God and chose to enter the Seminary, which as I understand he will begin attending in August. The process of becoming a priest takes a lot of time; Desme said he will be a priest in 10 years.



Desme is giving his life to God 

Speaking as the nephew of a Catholic priest, I know (probably better than most people) that being a priest isn’t just about saying mass and giving out communion. There’s a lot more to it than that. Priests’ lives are a lot more difficult than baseball players’.


My uncle, Fr. Tom Kreiser, has been a Catholic priest for about 16 years now. In those 16 years he has had to travel the world to make pilgrimages, relocate from his assigned parish several times, and even study in Rome, Italy for four years with other priests of his order.


Priests lives are hard. they must travel, relocate, and spiritually advise those around them 


All of that on top of learning a number of different languages (including Latin and Italian), learning to hear confession, and learning how to guide and help other people when they’re in serious trouble. For example, if an elderly wife loses her husband of 50 years and is unbelievably heartbroken, it’s a priest’s job to make sure that woman is going to be safe in her faith, mind, and body.


I’m not exactly sure how I would handle that. I don’t think I ever could.


I have to tip my (Yankee) cap to Desme. I wish him the best of luck at the Seminary and maybe one day I’ll get to attend one of his masses. He will be in my prayers and I truly pray he succeeds. I am glad he found what he was looking for in his faith.


Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in Heaven. Then come, follow me.”–Matthew 19:21

Football or Baseball: Part II

Welcome to part two of my analysis of baseball and football. Let us continue! Here’s part one if you missed it.



Baseball or Football??? 

Why Football is Better than Baseball, Part II


13) The NFL draft is actually relevant.


Agreed. The MLB draft is not nearly as talked about as the NFL draft. Since 1936, the NFL draft has attracted people from all over the world; people come from everywhere to find out which pro teams the eligible college players are going to go to. As long as I can remember the NFL draft has been on TV and everyone I know talks about that last weekend in April.


Only up until recently has the MLB draft been televised and simply put, nobody cares about it. Analysts on ESPN have gone as far as saying that the baseball draft is just not interesting. Some of these baseball players who get drafted do not show up in the MLB for years, if they make it at all.


In football, there are a large majority of players who get drafted out of college and the next year they are either starting or at least standing on a pro football field.


This kind of leads into the next point, which is…


14) College Football matters.


Excellent point. My philosophy has always been, the more years you play organized before turning pro, the better and more disciplined you will be as an athlete.


There just are not a lot of baseball players who go to college, whereas basically all the NFL players go to school. In fact, before some of the football games (when the teams are going through their starting lineups) the players come on and give their name and alma mater. For example, Eli Manning will come on and say, “Eli Manning: Ole Miss.”


I tend to have a lot more respect for the baseball players that do educate themselves. Mike Mussina is a perfect example. He attended Stanford University and pitched there for four years before turning pro.


Mussina was never the most overpowering pitcher in the MLB, but he had wits; he was one of the smartest pitchers in the game. He could change speeds like no other pitcher during his playing days. He never threw a 100 mph fastball but it didn’t matter. He perfected his craft on the collegiate level before turning pro and he’ll probably be a hall of famer because of it.


15) Every football team has a specific philosophy on offense AND on defense.


I see where he is coming from, but I don’t know if I completely agree. In football, there are certain ways to execute different plays on offense and defense. For instance, if a quarterback is in the pocket looking to hook up with an open receiver, the defensive end must fight to flush him out, apply pressure on him, and force him to scramble.


On defense in baseball, you have to make plays. If the ball is hit to you, it’s your job to ensure an out by making a putout, catch, or assist. I guess you can say philosophies are quite different, but I’m not sure what he was getting at with this point.


In my view, in both baseball and football, teams have to play both sides of the field.


16) The American and National Football Conferences play by the same rules.


ABSOLUTELY YES. This is an advantage football has over baseball. The same rules apply to both conferences whereas the National and American Leagues in baseball have a different format, in terms of one position.


I never understood the designated hitter rule. Why does the AL have it and the NL doesn’t? It’s an unfair advantage the NL has over the AL in the World Series, not to mention the DH extends players’ careers. Mike Piazza, Frank Thomas, Jim Thome, and countless others have been able to keep their careers going because of the DH rule.


I suppose in that regard it’s helped players, but to me it’s ridiculous. I’ve even heard people say it should be done away with. Both leagues should go by one rule. Either have the DH in both leagues or don’t have it at all.


17) Coaches spend more time coaching in football. Baseball managers only manage.


I can’t really speak for this statement.


In baseball spring training and in batting practice and in football mini camp and practice, I really have no idea what goes on and neither does anyone. Unless you are standing on the sidelines or on the field with the team, you have no clue what the manager or coach is telling their players.


I agree that baseball managers are simply there to manage, with their coaches doing a lot of work (bench coach, bullpen coach, hitting coach, base coaches, etc.) but they are also most likely doing a good amount of instructing as well.


Yet in football, there are defensive and offensive coordinators, wide receivers coaches quarterback coaches…and so on and so forth.  


I do know that head football coaches manage games just as baseball managers manage games; collectively they are in charge and (in certain ways) dictate what’s happening on the field. Baseball managers decide who plays and who sits but football players can take themselves out of a game if they want.


18) Football plays can be diagramed and discussed. Baseball only uses sequences.

OK, it’s a point. Football players can literally sit down and map out with Xs and Os what to do in certain offensive and defensive situations. There can be numerous scenarios on what plays are being used and what to do when those plays are utilized by the opposition.


In baseball it’s different. When there is a runner on first base and the ball is hit on the ground to the second baseman, the shortstop must cover second base to get the lead runner out first, and then throw to first base to turn the 4-6-3 double play.


By that example, the point is valid. It’s just a sequence. The players do not have to diagram a double play and discuss it because the play is simplistic.


19) The climax of a football game always comes at the end. A baseball game can be over by the second inning.


This statement is false. The biggest play in any game can happen at any time. If anyone happened to catch the New Orleans Saints vs. the Arizona Cardinals this past Saturday, the game was over by the second quarter.


The Saints came out and absolutely dominated the Cardinals, and before halftime everyone knew which team was going to win. Just as a baseball game can be over by the second inning, a football game can be over by the second quarter.


Furthermore, a baseball game’s climax can also come at the end of a game. It’s called a walk-off home run.


20) A baseball game can theoretically go on FOREVER.


This is true. In football the game is designated to 60 minutes, but includes three timeouts for each team (in each half), a 15 minute halftime, injury timeouts, challenges, etc. But you know that unless the score is tied, by the end of the fourth quarter, someone wins and someone loses.


If there is a tie, 15 minutes of overtime is played. Whoever scores first wins. If no one scores, the game’s over in a draw. Those are the rules, I did not write them.


In baseball the game can, as stated, go one forever. Aug. 7 of last year comes to my mind. 15 innings of Yankees vs. Red Sox until Alex Rodriguez finally ended the game with a walk-off home run at 1:00 in the morning.


Fun game to watch, but absolutely brutal in terms of time. It was going on forever.


21) In football, team depth matters. The third-best wide receiver matters whereas the third-best shortstop does not.


A valid point. You could be the third, fourth, or even fifth best player at your position in football and still get a chance to prove yourself and play on the professional level.


I’m just going out in a limb, but Yankee farmhands who play shortstop and third base probably won’t be seeing the big leagues anytime in the near future. And…does Ramiro Pena really mean as much to the Yankees as Derek Jeter?


On the other side, Sinorice Moss can mean just as much to the Giants as Amani Toomer did; Toomer was a number one receiver, Moss is a second team player. And even though he’s a second team player, he’s made a touchdown catch in the NFL.


Not to single out Pena, because he has started at shortstop for the Yankees, but other Yankee farmhands have not even had the chance to hit a big league home run.


22) Football features team slogans and cheers: (eg.) J! E! T! S! JETS JETS JETS!!!”


This has got to be the worst reason on this list. I don’t even know if I should go into it or not. I’ve heard “Waltzing Matilda” chants from games at the World Cup in soccer.


“Let’s Go Yankees! (Clap, clap, clap-clap-clap!)”


I rest my case.


23) Football rivalries are bitter and plentiful.


There are rivalries in every sport.


The most significant rivalry in baseball and probably in sports in general is (gasp!) Yankees vs. Red Sox (it’s a shocker, right?) Other than that rivalry in baseball, I can really only think of Yankees/Mets, White Sox/Cubs, Giants/Dodgers, and Cubs/Cardinals.


I’ve noticed as a football fan that rivalries among division opponents are more prevalent. I am a Giants fan and I can see how badly the Giants hate both the Cowboys and Eagles. As a Yankee fan, we hate the Red Sox, but really don’t care as much about the Orioles or Blue Jays, who are also in our division.  


Plus, football rivalries extend beyond the division. I mean, the Ravens hate the Colts because the Colts moved out of Baltimore and into Indianapolis. Now whenever the Ravens play the Colts, the fans in Baltimore feel the Ravens should crush the Colts because in their eyes, the Colts ditched them for another city.


I guess in football things can get rather personal whereas in baseball, everything is basically dominated by the Yankees and Red Sox rivalry.


24) There is parity in football. You can stink today and win it all tomorrow.


I could not agree with this statement more. Equality is where it’s at.


When the Giants went on their incredible run in 2007-2008 to win Super Bowl XLII, they were coming off a miserable 8-8, 2006-2007 campaign. They were literally abysmal one year and won the whole thing the next year.


The Miami Dolphins are another example. They didn’t win anything from 2007-08, but in 2008-09 they came back to edge out the Jets, Bills, and Patriots to win the AFC East. They were horrible one year and won their division the next.


In baseball, all the same teams are expected to be there at the end–the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Angels, the Phillies…it’s almost like we already know who’s going to win the majority of the divisions and who’s not.


In baseball, do we really expect the Royals to be a playoff team at the end of the year? There are teams in baseball who haven’t been contenders in quite some time and are not getting any better anytime soon. Any given year, a football team can win.


Plus, many of the races are a lot more exciting in football; the Giants were in the race up until the second to last game of the year, and really it was any team’s title to win. The Cowboys and Eagles were also contending and there was no clear winner of the division up until the very end.


Eventually the Cowboys claimed it with the Eagles winning a Wild Card spot. Unfortunately, the Giants were left out, but that doesn’t mean they can’t come back next year and win it.


In 2009, the Yankees practically had the AL East won by the beginning of August. The baseball regular season almost got boring toward the end.


25) There is a salary cap in football.


Probably one of the biggest reasons many people feel football is fairer and more equal than baseball. It’s a great point and again, it goes back to fairness.


At the end of 2008, the Yankees spent almost a quarter of a $billion on CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira…added on to the $290 million they are paying Alex Rodriguez…and so on and so forth.


There is nobody telling the Yankees no. They can spend as much money as they want without anyone blinking an eye. With that, they dominated their division in 2009 and subsequently won the World Series. I will never feel in my heart that money can buy a championship; titles come from team chemistry and the will to win, coupled with everything going right for the team.


But I can’t help but notice how much money the Yankees spent. And if you don’t notice a problem in payroll disparity, you are blind. I love the Yankees very much, but they helped create the problem of unequal payroll (even Yankee writers have noted this)


In football, each team is given only a certain amount of money to spend and with that they can sign players, draft picks, etc. With each payroll, every team has a chance to win every year. It’s equal, something baseball hasn’t been for a long time.


When free agency in baseball arose, it changed the game. And there’s free agency in football too, but even the best football player will not make the type of salary Rodriguez, Sabathia, and Teixeira make.


Yet…some people may not know this, but George Steinbrenner learned his baseball methods as a football coach. Quite ironic, if you ask me.



It’s a really tough argument. I think there are many great points the author made in his column as to why football has an edge over baseball. I personally enjoy both sports and baseball will always be my first love. But football is a great sport too.


There are some other reasons I thought up on my own as to why football might be considered better than baseball. For starters, the Pro Bowl (the NFL equivalent of MLB’s All-Star Game) has no bearing as to where the Super Bowl is played. I think that’s a great point.


The team with the better record should have home field in the World Series; MLB just instituted that stipulation to entice the players to care for the game and actually play. MLB says, “Winner gets home-field in the World Series.” They might as well just say, “Act like you care about this game and play.” Football doesn’t have that.


Another reason (and it kind of goes back to territory) is the Super Bowl location: it’s always played on neutral ground. The World Series is not like that. One team has an advantage and the other doesn’t.


I’ve read some silly arguments, like football is better because of the cheerleaders. Well, not that it’s too disturbing watching pretty girls cheer on their team from the sidelines, but baseball doesn’t need them. That’s always been my take. And it’s not like every football team has cheerleaders. The Giants don’t.


Baseball can be looked at as better because there is a game every day, despite the slow-moving action it is fun to watch, and players can be extremely smart and still win.


My overall opinion: it’s a tie. Baseball has been around a lot longer than football and it owns the label as America’s pastime. It always will. I think there are a lot of problems with the game today–payroll disparity, an unequal playing field on many levels, and greed among the players.


But I’ll always love baseball. I’ve developed unconditioned love for the sport.


I’ve been a football fan for about seven years now and I also have a great admiration for the sport. It’s a fast-paced, high-action, and fun sport to watch. I love the game and even though it wasn’t my first love, it still holds a great place in my heart.


But never mind my opinion. What really is better: football or baseball? After what I’ve written, it’s up to you to decide.  

Football or Baseball: Part I



Super Bowl XLIV is looming

With the National Football League playoffs in full force and the championship teams ready to play the final round before Super Bowl XLIV, I noticed some banter among some of my friends. There are some people who are bringing up the argument of which sport is better: baseball or football?


As a die-hard fan of both sports, it’s hard for me to say which sport is better. Baseball was the first sport I’ve ever loved, but in recent years football has captured my attention and interest.


I went to Google to find out what other people have to say about this argument and I found an interesting blog someone wrote for CBS. The author listed 25 reasons why football is better than baseball.


Although the blog brought up several excellent points, I’m just torn with this argument.


What I figured I would do was analyze each of his points objectively to determine which sport is better. I’ll list his points and give you my take on them. Since there are 25, I’ll break up the blog into two sections.



Baseball or Football??? 

Why Football is Better than Baseball, Part I:


1) Football is the ultimate team sport. All 11 players are involved in every play.


This one I have to agree with, to a certain extent. Yes, all players on the field need to be moving and participating, but there are still players off the field. If your team is on defense, the offense isn’t playing and vice versa. I do see where he’s coming from here; every player on the baseball diamond isn’t involved in every play.


A centerfielder can catch a high-fly ball for an out…and what was the first baseman doing? Whereas a quarterback takes a snap and his offensive line is blocking the defensive line, the wide receivers are sprinting out to catch the ball while the cornerbacks are guarding them to interrupt the pass…and there’s so much happening all at once!


2) Football can be played by anyone, anywhere. All it takes is at least two players, and a $15 dollar ball. Baseball requires two $40 gloves, a $7 ball, a $50 bat, and so much more.


I think this comes down to preference. Instead of baseball, there’s always whiffle ball and those bats and balls are about $5 altogether. Not to mention you can play whiffle ball with only two people.


When he was a young man in Panama, Mariano Rivera had to use makeshift bats and balls to practice. He even crafted a glove out of a milk carton. I can’t really agree with this point, because as I said, it comes down to what you want to do.


3) Football statistics are simple are require little mathematics to compute.  


I stink at math.


4)  The average fan can pick up and understand football. In baseball, the average fan cannot tell the difference between a two-seam, a four seam, or a cut fastball.


I think this point simply comes down to how fast you learn things. I myself am slow to pickup on things at times, other times I catch on relatively easy. It took me a few years to learn all the rules of both baseball and football, but I learned, didn’t I?


5) Baseball is hyper sensitive to the elements. Football players play through rain, snow, sleet and everything in between.


Excellent point. In football they do not care if it’s raining, snowing, freezing rain, below zero temperatures–they play in anything with the exception of thunderstorms because it’s too dangerous.


In baseball, a slight drizzle could cause a rain delay. The tarp comes on the field and the fans are waiting for the players to come back out, getting soaked in the rain. I can remember when I was a freshman in college four years ago, I was talking to this girl I had a crush on.


She asked me how the Yankees were doing, as she knew how big of a fan I am. I told her about how the night before they were in a rain delay and how the game was eventually called. Her response:


“A-Rod is getting paid how much money? I think he can play in the rain!”


Point taken.


6) Every baseball player is presumed a cheater until proven otherwise. Football has no such problem.


There are cheaters in every sport.


I guarantee that there are a number of players in football who have used steroids and illegal substances. The NFL’s policy is that the players are responsible for what they put into their bodies. If the players who use do get caught, they are suspended, which is also MLB’s policy.


As for baseball, we’re playing in the steroid era. There are literally hundreds of players who have (at some point) used steroids. I think (sadly) the point is applied to most sports. Everyone–not just in baseball–is a cheater until proven otherwise.


7) The individual baseball games are meaningless. Game 34 means just as much as game 134. What you’re watching has no bearing on the season.


Yes and no. This point really depends on who you are watching play. Sometimes it takes more than 162 games to get into the postseason; ask the Twins and Tigers of last year. They played game 163 to determine who would win the AL Central and it wound up being one of the greatest games of the season.


But if you are watching the Kansas City Royals, or the Pittsburgh Pirates, or the Baltimore Orioles, or any team with a low payroll in last place…or even the Yankees or Red Sox or any team with a high payroll in first place…then yes, I see the point.


8)  In baseball, a team can effectively remove the opposition’s best player from the game through the intentional walk. Football has no equivalent.


OK, good point. I’ve always seen intentional walking as a sort of loophole; many people use the term “bush league” to describe it. But if you’re a baseball fan, it works for your team and against your team in certain instances.


The only way to take out a football team’s best player is through physicality. If you hurt them on a play and injure them, then you have succeeded. But unlike baseball, there is no loophole to take a player out like the intentional walk.


9) In football, playoff games actually mean something. That one game decides who progresses and who stays home.


A good but sketchy point. Football has that no-nonsense mentality in terms of the playoffs. “You can’t win the game? Go home.” No matter what, one team will go “one and done,” so to speak.


In baseball there is a little more margin for error, considering it’s a series of games, not just one. But one game can mean something; for example, if the Yankees play the Twins in the ALDS, and they blow them out in game one, that can set the tone for the entire series.


In one game, a baseball team’s morale can go up or down, possibly determining a series.


10) Football rules make for dramatic comebacks. A team down by two scores can easily make up ground in the final period of play.


I can’t totally agree with this point, because there have been numerous baseball comebacks over the years. Game Seven of the 2003 ALCS, and I can think of at least three other comebacks the Yankees made this past October.


Football rules are designed for comebacks. If the Giants are down by two scores in the last 2:30 of the fourth quarter, they could potentially drive the ball down the field, score, recover an onside kickoff, drive the ball again, and tie the game (possibly even win it if they go for the two point conversion instead of the point-after-touchdown)


It’s extremely difficult to do that, but so is hitting a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth to tie a game. It’s hard to accomplish in both sports, honestly.


And…a walk-off home run is just as good as sinking a field goal as time expires..isn’t it?


11) Football games are lively, upbeat, and exciting. In today’s world of instant gratification and limited attention spans, many cannot appreciate the finer points of baseball.


Excellent point. Baseball is a slow-moving sport, let’s not kid ourselves here. A pitcher can take literally 45 seconds to a minute to throw a pitch. A batter can step out of the box whenever he pleases, and it can be a full 10 minutes before there is even a base hit.


With football, there has to be action within a certain period of time, no matter what. There’s constant action, every player is moving and it can be exciting. I’ve fallen asleep during some baseball games, simply because there was nothing happening.


My younger sister recently became a huge sports fan (I’m not sure how) but I was talking football with her the other day. Then she starts going on about college basketball and I finally looked at her and asked, “Why aren’t you a baseball fan?”


She replied, “It’s too slow. There is no action. At least with basketball and football they move around!”


My grandfather over heard our conversation and he looked at me, chimed in, and said, “She’s right. You have to be die-hard to watch baseball. With other sports like hockey and football and basketball there is consistent action. Baseball does not have that.”


12) Myron Cope. Anyone in baseball ever come close?


I had no clue who he was until I looked him up. Apparently Myron Cope was a journalist and sports broadcaster for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was a legend in steel town, holding the title as “Voice of the Steelers.”


I’ve never heard of him, let alone his voice, but from what I gathered he was very good at what he did. And I certainly admire and respect him for it.


But there are baseball announcers who have done extremely great work; baseball has had announcers with distinctive voices and easily recognizable catch phrases.


“Holy cow!”–Phil Rizzuto. Case in point.


That does it for Part I of this blog. I will be back with the final 13 points as well as a wrap up on this subject.




Yankee Yapping almost has five hundred fans

On my Yankee Yapping Facebook page, I noticed that I am closing in on 500 fans. The number 500 is pretty high and it takes a baseball player a long time to reach that number, especially in terms of home runs.


On August 4, 2007, Alex Rodriguez became the first Yankee player to reach 500 home runs since Mickey Mantle, who slammed his 500th long ball on May 14, 1967. The current Yankee third baseman became only the third player to hit his 500th career homer in a Yankee uniform, of course joining Mantle and the legendary Babe Ruth.


A-Rod, Mantle, and Ruth are now in the record books and are pretty much considered to be three of the greatest home run hitters in baseball history.


But Rodriguez’s 500th home run could not have come at a worse time. For me.



I went to the game the day after A-Rod hit number 500 

The day after A-Rod left the yard for the 500th time I went to the Yankees vs. Royals game. I’ve always said (and still say it to this day) that I wished he had waited one day. By about 24 hours, I missed a moment in Yankee history.


Two of my cousins had four tickets to the game and invited my sister and me to go with them to Yankee Stadium. We had excellent seats; we sat on the main level on the third baseline, practically right behind the Royals’ dugout. We had such a wonderful view of the field!


Then-manager Joe Torre (sort of) rested Rodriguez the day after he reached 500. Before he hit the big homer, A-Rod had been struggling immensely at the plate. He waited eight days and 28 at-bats to hit the elusive 500, but he eventually got a hold of one and accomplished the feat.


So on Aug. 5, A-Rod started at the designated hitter position while Wilson Betemit played third. As Torre used to say, A-Rod had “half a day off.”


The Yankees jumped on the Royals early, scoring four runs on the second inning. Melky Cabrera singled to score his buddy Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter drew a bases-loaded walk to drive in Betemit, and Bobby Abreu singled to score Andy Phillips and Cabrera to put to the Yanks ahead, 4-0.



I missed A-Rod's 500th, but saw Matsui's 100th 

In the bottom of the third, Hideki Matsui launched a solo home run into the right field porch, giving the Yanks a 5-0 lead. What some people may not know was that home run was Matsui’s 100th career home run as a member of the Yankees (and in Major League Baseball in general).


So even though I missed A-Rod’s 500th homer by one day, I saw Matsui’s 100th homer in-person, the day it happened.



I was there when it happened 

In the bottom of the fourth, Rodriguez stepped up to the plate. He received a thunderous ovation for what he had done the day before and almost every Yankee fan was on their feet cheering and chanting, “501! 501! 501!”


Although he wasn’t able to smash yet another homer, A-Rod drove in a run with a sacrifice fly to deep left-center field to score Jeter, giving the Yankees a 6-0 lead.


Kansas City finally broke out and scored in the top of the sixth when Ross Gload belted a long, two-run home run into the upper deck in right field off Mike Mussina. His home run went a long way, and I mean a long way. I’m not sure if that ball has landed yet. Just watching that ball fly out of the park and into the upper deck was pretty amazing, even though it was for the opposing team.


But the Yankees would get those runs back in the bottom of the frame.


Cabrera hit a solo home run to right field, a screaming line drive that just cleared the right field wall. Yankees were now on top, 7-2. I didn’t notice at the time (and I didn’t find out until I watched Sportscenter after I got home) but the same person who caught Matsui’s home run ball caught Cabrera’s.



Melky Cabrera homered 

That’s one lucky fan; he caught two home run balls by two Yankees in the same game. After I heard that, I wished my seats were behind the wall instead of behind the dugout!


Later in the sixth, Matsui drive in another run with a sacrifice fly to score Jeter, putting the Yankees ahead, 8-2. It seemed the Yankees were doing everything right, but the Royals did not go down without a fight.


Mark Teahen singled off side-winding reliever Mike Myers to score David DeJesus in the top of the seventh and on the same play Esteban German scored on a throwing error by Cabrera, cutting the lead to 8-4.


Myers gave up yet another run in the top of the eighth, surrendering an RBI single to Joey Gathright that scored John Buck. All of a sudden the Royals were down by only three runs. Uh oh…


Replacing Myers was the great one, Mariano Rivera. The Yankees’ ace closer was summoned to record a four-out save. As Enter Sandman blared through the Yankee Stadium speakers, I noticed a sign someone in front of me was holding up. It read:


“1977 The Bronx is Burning. 2007 The Yanks are on Fire!”



The Bronx may have been burning but the Yankees were on fire! 

Very clever sign.


It was the truth; right around that time the Yankees were on their run to the Wild Card title in a season that looked hopeless. The Yankees had no business even being considered for the playoffs toward the beginning of the year, but they picked up their game over the summer and earned the Wild Card spot, basically on the shoulders of Rodriguez.


I still believe that if A-Rod had not been as good as he was, the Yankees never would have made the playoffs. He undoubtedly carried them to into the postseason.



The Yankees won the Wild Card in 2007 

Three groundouts and a strikeout later, Rivera notched the save and procured an 8-5 Yankee win over the Royals. It was a good day to be at the ballpark and a good day to be a Yankee fan.


Win Mussina, loss Gil Meche, save Rivera. Win A.J. Martelli. My sister, my cousins and I smiled as we listened to Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York as we filed out of the turnstiles.


Any day the Yankees win, it’s a good day.  


I had a lot of fun that day, I only wish Rodriguez had not hit the big home run the day before. Although seeing Matsui hit his 100th career home run was exciting, it would have been nice to see A-Rod’s 500th. The whole team came out of the dugout to congratulate him and you could just tell it was a special and historic moment.


Some of the Yankees have said that Rodriguez’s milestone homer was their favorite memory in the old Stadium and to be there for it would have been amazing. Missing it by one day fills my heart with regret and I still wished he had gotten that one pitch to hit just 24 hours later.


The bottom line, however: 500 is a big number. And to have almost 500 fans on the page for this blog is pretty neat. Thank you all for reading and I hope it continues to grow!

How I Spent My 20th Birthday

The day was June 15, 2007. My 20th birthday. My teenage years were now behind me. I was going through some rough times back then, but it was my birthday and I was going to enjoy it.


Up late the night before, my dad (I suppose) felt obliged to come into my room and wake me up at 7:00 a.m. He said there were a couple of birthday gifts downstairs for me, so I managed to drag myself out of bed, still half asleep, and make my way down to open my gifts.



My personalized Yankee photo, one of my birthday gifts in 2007 

First I unwrapped a framed, personalized Yankee photo; a thoughtful gift that I loved. Today it hangs in my room directly under my framed Derek Jeter Prodigy poster.


Then my dad reached into his pocket to reveal an envelope–two tickets to the Yankees vs. Mets game at Yankee Stadium that night. It was really the only gift I had asked for that year and I was ecstatic that we were going.


“We’ll go watch old Roger pitch tonight, son. Happy birthday!” is what my dad told me.


Roger Clemens and Oliver Perez were the probable pitchers, and I was fully expecting the Yankees to dismantle their cross-town rivals. Perez had showed inconsistency entering that game, posting a (slim) winning record of 6-5.


Oliver Perez started for the Mets on my 20th birthday. 


For Clemens, it was only his second start in his second stint with the Bombers, and in his homecoming game on June 9, he beat the Pittsburgh Pirates and looked on top of his game. In his first start back against the Bucs, the Rocket gave up three runs on just five hits over six innings of work. He walked two and struck out seven.



It was Roger Clemens's 2nd start back with New York 

Not bad, if you ask me. I was expecting more of that on my birthday.


We made it to the stadium early to catch batting practice. It was nice to see Jeter and Jorge Posada go over to Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez during batting practice, as the once-Yankee pitcher, who was a vital part of the Championship years in the late ’90s, was now a starter for the Mets.


I smiled as they embraced and shook hands; it reminded me of those old days when the three were teammates. I realized at that moment that baseball players really don’t forget where they came from; I know those three didn’t.


The game eventually got underway and Clemens quickly got into trouble; he put Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran on base to lead off the game. He soon settled down, however, getting Paul LoDuca to groundout and end the frame avoiding any damage.


The game was moving rather slowly up until the top of the third. Reyes was able to tap a single through the middle into centerfield to score Carlos Gomez, who would later play a pivotal role in the outcome of the game. It gave the Mets a 1-0 lead and I was none too happy about it.



Carlos Gomez races home to score the Mets first run 

In the fifth, Reyes struck again, belting a solo home run off Clemens. This is what I saw:


From my seat, I saw the ball hit off Reyes’s bat. I looked and saw right fielder Bobby Abreu drifting back. I saw the ball bank off the Modells sign on the facing of the upper deck. And then I looked back and saw Reyes rounding second base on his way home after it was officially ruled a goner.


I could hear the Mets fans in attendance overpower the Yankee fans’ jeers. They screamed in unison, “JOSE! Jose-Jose-Jose. Jose! Jose!” in place of “Ole! Ole-Ole-Ole” as the tune actually goes.


“Where am I?” I remember thinking. “Shea Stadium?!”


Reyes’s homer gave the Mets a 2-0 lead. His home run was hard to watch, but believe it or not it wasn’t the biggest play of the game.


The inning before Reyes left the yard, Miguel Cairo stood at the plate with Robinson Cano on first and Hideki Matsui on second and one out. He smacked a long fly ball to left, unquestionably destined for the seats.


But Gomez leapt for the ball at the wall, reached his glove over the fence and made a spectacular catch to rob Cairo of a big fly. Not only did Gomez snatch the ball, he had the wherewithal to gun it back to second base and double up Matsui to end the frame.


I was beside myself. I could not believe I saw that. I thought to myself, “Cairo needs to call the NYPD, because Gomez stole his homer!”



Gomez robbed Miguel Cairo of a homer that would have changed the game 

And that robbed homer proved to be the difference in the ballgame, because the Mets went on to win, 2-0. The Yankees couldn’t generate any offense the rest of the night. Even Alex Rodriguez, who was having the season of his life, could not save the Yankees on that night.


Rodriguez went on to hit 54 home runs that year, knock in 156 runs, and win the Most Valuable Player Award. I knew he was having an amazing season and the crowd was behind him when the eighth inning approached.


The 2007 MVP stepped into the box with two outs and Jeter on third. The capacity crowd went absolutely insane! It was almost like they expected him to hit a home run and tie the game. When I say the crowd was going nuts, believe me, they were going nuts.


Unfortunately A-Rod grounded weakly to his counterpart David Wright and ended the inning. And basically ended the Yankees’ hopes of coming back to win.


Win Perez, loss Clemens. Save Billy Wagner, loss A.J. Martelli.


Yes, I was upset but I cannot say I didn’t have fun. I did what I wanted to do on my birthday and got the opportunity to watch my favorite team play. It was a good night, despite the loss. For as bad as the Yanks struggled, Carlos Delgado struggled just as much.


The Mets’ first baseman recorded the golden sombrero: four strikeouts in one game, three of those four times he was fanned by Clemens. Even though the Yankees lost, it was a legitimate pitchers duel, which are usually the best games to go to. The Yankees just happened to be on the wrong end of it.


And for that I blame Gomez for his thievery; I can’t take anything away from his athleticism, but man did I wonder: if he hadn’t caught that ball, the complexion of the whole game might have been so much different.


I wasn’t only amused by the action on the field that night, either.


What I also recall from my 20th birthday was the yapping that I overheard between two fans. Believe it or not, a Phillies fan was seated next to me, rooting for the Yankees against the Mets. A Met fan was sitting next to him and the two began discussing the National League East.


“Who’s your best guy?” the Mets fan asked. “Chase Utley…I’d say Utley. Or Ryan Howard,” the Phillie fan replied.


The conversation continued.


“Who’s your closer?” the Met fan asked. “(Antonio) Alfonseca!” the Phillie fan answered.


“Yeah. We’ll see you in October,” said the Met fan mockingly. 


The irony was absurd.


The Mets blew it in 2007...   


If that Met fan had only known what was going to happen at the end of that year–the Mets blowing a seven game lead in the division with only 12 left to play–I’m sure he wouldn’t have opened his mouth at all that night.


When the Mets missed the playoffs in 2007, I immediately remembered that conversation. “Yeah, I bet that Met fan is kicking himself right now!” I thought as I witnessed the epic collapse.


I’ll bet he was also crying the next two days. Following the Mets’ 2-0 win over the Yankees on my birthday, they lost to the Yankees the next two games and ultimately lost the weekend series.


I watched the third game with some of my family members who are Mets fans. Rodriguez homered in that game, Chien-Ming Wang struck out 10, and the Yankees won 8-2. It was refreshing to see the Yanks win and in a way it made up for the loss on my birthday two days before.


But I’ll never forget that birthday. Every time someone speaks of the Mets’ 2007 collapse, or I see Gomez, I think of that night.

He Was Never a Real Yankee, But…

Yesterday, one of the biggest pitchers of our generation stepped down and retired. And he was big not only in terms of his height, but what he accomplished on the baseball field.



Randy Johnson announced his retirement yesterday 

Pitcher Randy Johnson (all 6’10” of him) better known by his famous nickname “The Big Unit,” announced his retirement from baseball after 22 illustrious seasons. He stepped down at the young age of 46, proving that 40 is pretty much the new 30.


Over the course of his 22 seasons in the majors, Johnson pitched for six teams; The Montreal Expos, the Seattle Mariners, the Houston Astros, the Arizona Diamondbacks, the New York Yankees, and he finished his career in 2009 as a member of the San Francisco Giants.


Johnson accomplished so much over the course of his career and he is basically a dead lock for a first ballot Hall of Fame induction. He made 10 All Star Game appearances and tossed a perfect game against the Atlanta Braves on May 18, 2004.


He won Five Cy Young Awards, 303 Games, a World Series Championship and a World Series Most Valuable Player Award (he shared the honor in 2001 with teammate Curt Schilling as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks, who beat the Yankees in the ’01 fall classic).


With the type of career he had, he practically deserves his own room in Cooperstown.


Oftentimes people wonder how he got the nickname “Big Unit.” When Johnson was a member of the Expos back in 1988, his teammate Tim Raines accidentally collided with him in a batting practice session. Raines exclaimed, “You really are a big unit!”


The rest, as they say, is history.


I’ve only had the pleasure of seeing Johnson pitch one time, of course as a member of the New York Yankees. The night was June 21, 2005, Yankees vs. the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at Yankee Stadium. I was so psyched to see this future Hall of Famer pitch a game for my favorite team.



The night I saw Johnson pitch, he was off his game. 

Unfortunatley the Big Unit had a rough night.


Johnson scattered seven earned runs behind eight hits in just three innings, giving Tampa Bay a commanding 7-2 lead by the end of the third inning. He walked a batter, struck out three, and gave up three home runs.


It was frustrating to watch, but believe it or not, the Yankees came back and won the game, beating Tampa Bay by a score of 20-11. By the end of the game, Derek Jeter, Hideki Matsui, Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada, and Gary Sheffield all hit home runs (Sheffield even left the park twice!)


Yes, the final box score looked like something you might see at Giants Stadium across the river, but I was just thankful the Yankees won. It was an eventful game to say the least!


Although Johnson had a miserable outing, I can vividly remember the reception he got when he jogged out to the bullpen to warm up before the start of the game; the crowd roared for him and showed him a lot of respect; all the respect well-deserved for a pitcher of his caliber. He just didn’t fit in with the Yankees and that was evident from the moment he got to New York.


When he first arrived in the Big Apple, Johnson went to take a physical examination in Manhattan. A CBS camera crew caught him and tried to follow him around the City while asking him questions. Johnson got annoyed and shouted angrily at the cameraman, resulting in a confrontation.



Randy Johnson did not like media attention. 

Sure enough, all over the newspapers and media outlets the next day was the Big Unit, slapping away the camera. He apologized for the incident, but everyone I talked to said they didn’t think he could handle New York after what had happened. Those thoughts were well-founded, because after just two seasons in pinstripes, he was gone.


As a member of the Yankees, Johnson won 34 games, had some rough postseason starts, and was involved in a little scrap on the streets of Manhattan. But on the bright side, he never lost to the Red Sox when he faced them.


Following 2006, Johnson had one more year left on his contract with the Yankees. However, he asked for a trade back to Arizona, where he spent most of his career and a good portion of his life. His brother had died and he wanted to be closer to his family, so he asked for the trade and the Yanks granted him his wish.



After just two seasons with the Yankees, Johnson went back to Arizona 

I will always feel that his heart and soul was never in New York, but always with the Diamondbacks and in the National League in general. To me he was never an American League pitcher, even after all the years he spent with the Mariners.


When I think of Johnson, I think of the National League because almost everything that he really ever accomplished came when he pitched there. And that isn’t a bad thing; it’s good that he was able to find a niche in the NL and have such a successful career pitching in that league.


My congratulations to you, Mr. Johnson. You are truly one of a kind and one of the all-time greats. With such prodigious longevity you will undoubtedly be in the Hall of Fame some day. Nice work!