Results tagged ‘ Yankee Stadium ’

September 11, 2001 From My Eyes

It was only my fourth day as a freshman at Our Lady of Lourdes High School in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. – and I was hating it with a true passion. I was struggling to fit in and although I hadn’t been there very long, I somehow got the feeling I was an outcast; barely anyone knew who I was and if I wasn’t there, 90% of the people in the school would not have known the difference. I only had a handful of friends from middle school and I wasn’t in a lot of the classes they were in.

I was a minnow in the Atlantic Ocean – and I could not stand it.  

Some of the teachers weren’t making it any easier for me. Every freshman was placed in a biology class entitled, “The Living Environment,” as their first science credit. In eighth grade I had heard horror stories about an unbelievably stringent biology teacher by the name of Mrs. Cuesta. From the day I heard about her, I prayed every night that I would not get her as my biology teacher.

What do you think happened? Yes. Of course I got her (this is, after all, my life we’re talking about here). I was not very good in science as it was, so she and I were a very, very bad combination. I was terrified just to step foot in her classroom every single morning.

She would not allow her students to utter the words, “Yeah,” “What,” or “Huh” in class. If you were answering a question affirmatively, you were to use the word “Yes,” because “the word ‘Yeah’ is not in the dictionary.” If you could not hear a word someone said, you were not permitted to say, “What?” or “Huh?” You were to say, “Pardon me?” or “Excuse me?”

If you did use any of those words in her presence, you were required to give $1 to her – which she would then donate to some type of fund or mission charity. Luckily for me, I avoided ever giving her any money for saying “Yeah” “What” or “Huh.”

I made sure to choose my words carefully in her class – and most of the time I just tried not to talk at all, unless I was called upon to answer a question. Not for nothing it was for a good cause, but if you ask me, it is overkill.

I sat there in Mrs. Cuesta’s biology class on that fateful Tuesday morning, in the worst mood a 14-year old ninth grader could possibly be in. I would have wanted to be anywhere in the world but there in that classroom with a teacher who was more strict than most of the professors I had at Mercy College.

Looking back, however, I am grateful I was safe in school and not in New York City, like many other unfortunate people.

Around 10:15 the principal came over the PA system and addressed the student body. He only claimed there “was a fire at the World Trade Center” and he asked us to pray for those involved: the rescue workers and those inside the twin towers.

It’s funny how I can remember the exact thought that first ran through my mind the second after he made that announcement.

“The New York City Fire Department is the best of the best,” I thought.

“I’m sure they are going to do all they can to make sure everyone is safe and it probably won’t be a big deal; it’ll probably just be something I see when I pass by Dad watching the news on the couch later tonight and mom might briefly mention it over dinner, or something.”

It may have been ignorance or maybe me just being aloof. Then again it may have been the fact that I was a freshman and I was young, but I didn’t notice anyone’s franticness that day. There must have been kids in the school who were scared because their parents worked in New York City, but I never picked up on it.

Although the thought never even occurred to me, I didn’t have to worry about my parents. They weren’t divorced yet (as they are now) and neither one of them was in New York City at the time of the terrorist attacks. My dad was working for a software company in Connecticut and my mom worked at a radio station in nearby Fishkill, N.Y.

When I got on the bus to go home that day – that was when I was told real story; that it wasn’t just a fire at the World Trade Center. The principal only told us there was a fire so panic would not ensue within the walls of his school. The principal’s version of the story wasn’t altogether false – but it wasn’t altogether true, either.

I suppose I understand why he offered that explanation, though. He didn’t want his students to freak out. In hindsight, it was probably wise to go with that explanation rather than cause chaos among the students.

The bus driver, on the other hand, explained that not only did planes fly into the twins towers, but one smashed into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. What’s more, a plane supposedly headed for the White House came down in a Pennsylvania field.   

It was a little overwhelming. I just wanted to get home, turn on the TV and see this for myself – and getting home took forever; it was just another reason I disliked school. I was living in Beacon, N.Y., some 16 miles away from my school in Poughkeepsie. I got out of school at 2:30, but it practically took all afternoon to get home because there were a number of stops on the way back.

When I finally made it home a little before 4:00, I turned on the TV and bore witness to the carnage; thousands of people dead. Innocent people lost their lives at the hands of a sadistic and soulless man named Osama bin Laden and his band of terrorists.

The image of those two buildings imploding has not left my brain since that day.  

My mom came home from work a few hours later in tears; her car had an American flag waving proudly from the antenna. She was devastated, and the gravity of the situation didn’t strike me until I saw her face. I had never seen my mother in such disarray; she’s always been the strongest woman I have ever known, and to see her that heart-broken was scary.

I obviously knew what was troubling her, but I couldn’t understand why she was crying. So I asked her.

“Do you realize how many people, just like you, won’t ever see their moms or dads again?” she said to me.

“A.J., I’m sad more than anything else; sad for everyone who lost their lives today and their families and friends. And I’m a little scared. What happened today – you can see that on the news any day of the week. But it happens in places that are on the other side of the world. This happened an hour and a half away from my house.”

After she said that, I understood her tears.

Even my dad, a strong-willed man himself, was visibly shaken.

“This may be worse than Pearl Harbor,” he pointed out. “This is tragic; so sad.”

My neighborhood friends couldn’t believe it, either. A lot of them were just as young as I was, some of them even younger. We tried to wrap our heads around the whole thing and played a game of kickball that evening to take our minds off what had happened. We had some fun in the wake of such tragedy; we kicked the ball, caught the ball, ran the bases, and played until dusk fell and the porch lights came on.

I think it may have been our way of showing that the American spirit, although dented on 9/11, was not dead. We may have even dedicated our kickball game to those who lost their lives that day – it’s something we would have done. It’s just the type of kids we were – always thinking of other people before ourselves.

Just as we turned to kickball to take our minds off the terrorist attacks, a lot of people in New York turned to baseball – and New York’s favorite team – the Yankees. The Bombers were looking like another championship-caliber squad. It seemed as though nothing was going to stop them on their quest for their 27th title, and their fifth in six years.

MLB halted play for a week following September 11 and when the Yankees (and to be fair, the Mets too) returned to the diamond, they were cheered by every baseball fan. I remember one sign a fan held up that read, “We are all New Yorkers today.”

Longtime Yankee favorite Bernie Williams once said that whoever he could get his hands on during that time, whether it was a police officer or a firefighter, he would hug them. The players were just as shaken as the citizens and it was clear they did all they could do help those affected on 9/11.

The Yankees had some incredible moments the following October. One of the more famous plays happened in the American League Championship Series vs. Oakland, when Derek Jeter made the famous flip play.

Jeter raced out of position and flipped the ball to Jorge Posada, nailing Jeremy Giambi at home plate to preserve a 1-0 Yankee lead in the bottom of the seventh. The play might have saved the Yankees’ chances at going to the World Series.

One word: spectacular.

When the Yankees reached the fall classic, the four -year old Arizona Diamondbacks awaited them. New York dropped the first two games, but the Yanks took Game Three, winning a tight one, 2-1.

Before Game Three, then-President George W. Bush was on hand to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. He wore an FDNY fleece, complete with a bulletproof vest underneath. In the clubhouse before he took the field, the President ran into Jeter, and asked him if he should throw off the mound or the grass in front of the mound.

Jeter advised Bush to throw from the mound – but not to bounce the ball, because if he had, the fans would boo him.

The President walked out to the mound and gave a thumbs-up, symbolizing that America was going to be OK. He then tossed a perfect strike, a perfect way to begin the night. Nobody booed; everyone in attendance at Yankee Stadium chanted “U-S-A!” in unison. It also marked the first time a President threw out an honorary World Series first pitch since Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956.

Game Three was historic. But Game Four, however, was the game to be at.

Jeter came up in the bottom of the 10th, the game tied 3-3. The clock had just struck midnight and for the first time ever, there was baseball being played in the month of November.

With Arizona closer Byung-Hyun Kim (who had been lights-out automatic throughout the ’01 season) in to pitch, the Yankee shortstop pounded a pitch that landed in the short porch of the old stadium. As Jeter rounded the bases, he held his arm in the air; his fist clenched. World Series knotted, 2-2.

The next day at school my Global History teacher Mr. Umlauft lectured us about many things; the Byzantine Empire, the Code of Hammurabi, and the four noble truths. But at the end of class he had one last thing to teach us.

“There is some footage I want to show you that is very significant to the world,” he explained. “Let me show you.”

He rolled out his TV and proceeded to show us the clip of Jeter’s walk-off home run the night before, and the shot of the person in the crowd who held up a sign that read, “Mr. November.” According to Mr. Umlauft, he knew the person holding the sign quite well.

“You see that guy?” he asked us, pointing to the sign. “That’s my nephew. He was the one who held up the sign.”

Fascinating. Of all the people in New York who could have held up the famous “Mr. November” sign, it was my Global History teacher’s nephew.

The Yanks did it again in Game Five, coming back from a 2-0 deficit in the ninth inning (on the strength of a two-run homer hit by Scott Brosius). The Yanks went on to win the game in the 12th on an RBI single off the bat of Alfonso Soriano.

Magic and aura were appearing nightly at the big ballpark in the Bronx. But their momentum disappeared in the desert, as the Yankees dropped Game Six in the worst way, losing 15-2.

Game Seven was the last night of the Yankee Dynasty. The Yankees held a 2-1 lead going into the ninth with the greatest of all-time, Mariano Rivera, on the mound. He allowed two runs in the inning and the D’Backs won the Series. Sitting in my room stunned watching that game, I could only let out four words:

“The other team won?”

I had been so used to the Yankees winning the World Series year in and year out that it left me all but speechless. It would have only made sense for the Yanks to win the 2001 World Series, and give the people of New York a ticker tape parade – it would have helped even more in terms of coping with September 11.

Truthfully baseball wasn’t the main issue that year. America regaining its composure and getting back to its feet was more important. Yet, baseball did exactly what it is there to do during that tragic time: make people happy. In that regard, it was important and helped people deal with the tragedy.

Over the years I have become a little bit more understanding about things that happened on 9/11; I have heard people’s stories and have seen how crushed and heart-broken they were (and still are). Each of them lost loved ones to a senseless and callous act of terrorism. I have watched documentaries and it pains me to see some of these people who no longer have friends and family members.

I have also come across still frames of the twin towers while they were under attack. A pair of them piqued my interest…

It looks as though a demon’s head appeared in the fire when the second plane hit the south tower.

As the tower collapsed, it almost resembled another demon.

Who is to say if these really mean anything at all, but the fact is there is evil in the world; 9/11 proved that. These pictures look as though they are demons, but then again I understand that demons were the ones who orchestrated these horrific attacks.                                  

Although there is evil that manifests itself in our lives, it’s important to know that divinity and goodness are also present. New York, Washington, Pennsylvania, and America in general banded together during 9/11. Citizens helped each other and showed that even in the wake of such disaster, good things can come of it, like people doing everything and anything they can to aid a stranger.

There were so many Good Samaritans as a result of 9/11.

A lot of things have happened in my life since September 11, 2001. But I don’t believe a day has gone by when I don’t at least once think about sitting in Mrs. Cuesta’s biology class and the principal telling us of a fire at the World Trade Center – and the footage of the planes slamming the twin towers when I got home that day.

My mom crying, my dad upset: it’s still very fresh in my mind. I remember it all.  

But when I think of that time, I also think about good things, like the kickball game my friends and I played that very night, and the ’01 World Series.

No, the Yankees did not win which isn’t good, but if you were to ask me one thing I remember about that fall classic, it’s Jeter’s arm outstretched triumphantly in the air, rounding the bases after crushing that walk-off home run. It’s the one picture in my head I took away from the entire World Series.

That home run lifted everyone in New York, including me.

The point is to never forget where you were, how it affected you, and consider everyone who was affected. September 11 has been dubbed “Patriot Day” and the best way to honor it is to always think about those people on the airplanes and in the buildings; how many kids went home from school that day to no one, and were left wondering if their mom or dad was going to come home at all.

Remember those people; never forget 9/11/01.

I promise, for as long as I live, I will never forget.

Exist to Inspire

Think back to the glorious 2009 season for a second. On May 15, Brett Gardner hit an inside-the-park home run, starting what would be a 5-4 come-from-behind win over the Minnesota Twins – a win which this author attended.

What most people didn’t know (until after the game) was that he had visited a hospital during the day and met with Alyssa Esposito, a young lady who was set to undergo a heart transplant. She had given Gardner a bracelet, telling him that if he held onto it he would hit a home run.

God must have been working his will that night. It was an incredible story.

I caught up with Esposito in June of last year, conducting an interview with her. Since then I have kept in touch, and so has she, as she is a fan of Yankee Yapping on Facebook.

Apparently she caught my last two video blog posts and sent me something that warmed my heart; something that convinced me that I really am as good as I said I was in the first video I posted.

Here is what she had to say to me:

“A.J.,

I watched both of your videos and I just want to say that you inspire me to be just as confident as you are.

I can finally write my book now that both brain tumors are gone. You inspire me to write and be more confident in myself that I can accomplish anything. You do what you need to do and do what makes you happy.

I love that you put your all into your work and make it your best. And I love how honest you are.

No one expects you to be perfect. You are original and stay that way. You have such passion for what you do, if only everyone was like that. I’ve grown to love baseball. It’s all I think about. It makes me calm and happy.

There is no other feeling like being in a stadium and soaking in every second. I want to learn everything there is to know about baseball.

I wish you nothing but the best.”

 

This really made me feel wonderful. In reality I am only writing and doing what I love to do, but for someone who has been through so much – a heart transplant and multiple surgeries – I can’t help but think about my problems (and yes, recently I have been going through some stuff, nothing as serious as a heart transplant, however).

My problems (and trying to overcome them) don’t even measure up to the challenges Alyssa has faced and triumphed over. It really made me think and put some of my feelings (lately) into perspective. For her to say such nice words and go as far as calling me an inspiration really touched my heart.

I never thought when I began this journey called “Yankee Yapping” in July of 2009 that it would make such an impact on so many people; that it would evolve into what it is today.

Since I have started this blog, it has been featured on MLB.com twice. Yeah, twice guys…twice! If you’re going to feature me why not hire me to work for you? Oh sorry. I forgot. You’re more interested in the Fan Cave and paying guys to do nothing…

But I digress.

I made my aunt smile when my uncle passed away, ESPN’s Buster Olney re-tweeted my little investigation from back in February, I was able to publish an interview with a major leaguer, and now I am an inspiration to a young lady who has gone head-to-head with unbelievable obstacles – obstacles that I could never even fathom.

At this time I would just like to thank Alyssa for her kind words.

Most people look at their parents, their heroes, and their friends for inspiration. I never would have guessed I could have inspired someone with my attitude and my work – much less a person who has been through as much as Alyssa.

And I think I learned something, too: you don’t have to be rich and famous to inspire someone. You just have to have an attitude that someone admires and looks up to.

 Me an inspiration? It’s the first time I have ever heard it. I just hope it won’t be the last.

Funny Story About Last Night…

I went to the Yankee game with my good friend Micheal Robinson last night. The Bombers nearly capped a huge comeback in the bottom of the ninth. Down 6-3 entering the last frame the Yanks pulled the Oakland Athletics to within one run, a 6-5 game.

With the bases loaded and two outs, Nick Swisher skied a long fly ball deep to center, nearly crushing what would have been a game-winning grand slam to win it.

Unfortunately the ball died on the warning track and the game ended. A loss for the Yanks.

Along with thanking Alyssa for her kind words, I want to thank Micheal for taking me to the game and getting such great seats behind the left field wall.

Thanks buddy. Now for the funny story…

I met Micheal at the stadium, as I took the train down. While I was waiting for him to get to 161st St., I sat on a bench outside the Metro North station. A group of kids, probably in their first years of college, congregated around the bench and began talking about the tremor (or earthquake) that occurred yesterday afternoon.

“Did you feel it,” one of them asked his friend.

“No, I was in Rockland and I didn’t feel anything,” his friend replied.

I subconsciously started nodding my head, because I had felt it. I had been napping in the afternoon when all of a sudden my bed started to shake. I had no idea what was happening, because I knew I wasn’t dreaming. I thought back to the scene in the movie “The Exorcist” when the girl’s bed started to violently joggle up and down.

Was the movie coming to life? That was my best guess.

One of the kids asked me where I was, so I told him.

“Westchester County – Yorktown Heights,” I said.

A young lady who was with them said, “Yorktown? Do you know the Scott sisters?”

Unbelievable. The Scott sisters are two young ladies from Yorktown High School that play lacrosse – I covered them several times over the course of the last few months working for the local newspaper. Both of them were seniors this past year and are playing lacrosse at UNC next year.

It turns out the young lady who asked me if I knew them played lacrosse with them.

I love how even at Yankee Stadium they find me; random people that know people I know.

Life is funny. That is my conjecture.

Send Yankee Yapping to the Media Game

The Yankees started and ended last night’s game the same way they did Tuesday night’s game: They let the Red Sox go ahead 3-0 in the first inning and Alex Rodriguez made the last out of the game. The Bronx Bombers once again lost to their hated rivals, the Boston Red Sox, 11-6.

I could go on all day about the mistakes the Yankees made and the bad luck they were handed. Francisco Cervelli’s throwing errors, Brett Gardner not running on the wild pitch, and Derek Jeter grounding into a 5-4-3 with the bases loaded and one out which did not just kill the rally, but beat it up it and then left it for dead.

Joba Chamberlain is going to the disabled list with a strained flexor in his right elbow and Russell Martin’s back locked up, forcing him out of the lineup…it was horrible. I, like any other self-respecting Yankee fan, would rather just forget yesterday’s game vs. Boston ever happened.

What I am writing about today is what happened before yesterday’s loss.

Apparently every year the Yankee beat reporters play the Red Sox beat reporters in a game of baseball. The writers play two games every year: one at Yankee Stadium and the other at Fenway. Before the ugly 11-6 loss, the Yankee reporters played the Boston reporters, and I believe they won.

I’m unsure of the official scoring; I’m not sure if they keep records of such games.

From what I read, last year the Yankee writers and Boston writers split the series, with each team winning on the road – meaning the Yankee reporters lost at Yankee Stadium and the Red Sox writers lost at Fenway.

I am sad I missed this.

What I would like to do is propose an All-Star voting for the Yankees-Red Sox media game, and personally add Yankee Yapping as a write-in vote. I am ready to begin a campaign.

Slogan: If your team is crapping, send Yankee Yapping!

I know, it’s a little cheesy, but it might win me the vote.

Technically, I am New York media – and I cover the Yankees with this blog. In fact, my blog was in the top 10 on MLBlogs for the month of May.

Although for work I only cover high school sports, I was issued a press pass, which is sanctioned by the New York Press Association. Yet, as I said, with this blog, I cover the Yankees, which (on a technicality) makes me New York Yankees media.

As far as my baseball skills go…well, I have blogged about that in the past. I played organized ball for five years, three of which were on the high school level, giving me experience when it comes to the game.

By trade I am a right fielder, but I can sure pick it at second base.

In order to send Yankee Yapping to the media game, re-tweet this blog post to the Yankee beat writers. Facebook it to the writers’ accounts and the YES Network.

Help send me to the Yankees-Red Sox media game. Vote for Yapping!

My campaign promise is this:

If the Yankees can’t beat the Red Sox, as a player on the Yankee media team, we will win by the mercy rule. My baseball skills can give us a huge win over the Boston press.

We will win, and we will win big. That I can promise.

Stadium Giveaways: Priceless Treasures

Last night was a brutal night to be a Yankee fan, as the Bronx Bombers let a middle-innings lead slip away. The Seattle Mariners eked a 4-3 win over the Yanks. With the win, the Mariners are now a .500 team.

The highlight of the game was perhaps Mark Teixeira’s first inning solo home run off rookie phenom Michael Pineda, his 14th round-tripper of the year. Seattle’s defense played a huge role, considering Franklin Gutierrez’s brilliant thievery in centerfield, robbing a scuffling Nick Swisher of a home run in the top of the fourth.

After the game I asked myself, “How would this game have played out if Swisher had hit that home run?”

Probably a lot different, because it was a one-run game.

Instead of focusing on that ugly loss last night, I figured I would lighten the mood with an interesting blog topic: Stadium Giveaways.

Whenever I purchase tickets to a Yankee game or have the chance to go to a game, the first thing I ask myself is, “Are they giving anything away at this game, and if so, what?”

There’s nothing like taking a free keepsake away from the game you attend, along with memories of a day at a ballgame. Some of those Stadium Giveaways can become extremely valuable, depending on what happens in the game.

I’m not exactly sure what the precise value is, but something tells me if you went to David Wells’s perfect game on May 17, 1998, and received the Beanie Baby giveaway, you have yourself a truly valuable item worth a good amount of money.

Every Stadium, not just Yankee Stadium, uses promotions as a means to bring fans out to the park and get butts in the seats. And in the spirit of Stadium Giveaways, I am going to share my favorite treasures, as well as share the action that specific game provided.

Get ready for some stories! Here goes…

Batting Glove Day, July 22, 1999

I will never forget this day, only because it was the first time I sat in the upper deck at Yankee Stadium. It was quite interesting, considering me and heights mix about as well as peanut butter and ketchup.

The Yankee batting glove was given to children 14 and younger and it was a nice prize to carry up to the last row of seats at the old Stadium.

The Yanks hosted the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and beat them by a count of 5-4.

Bernie Williams went deep for the Yanks that day and Andy Pettitte tossed six innings on his way to his sixth win of the year.

Andy Pettitte Bobble Head Day, May 24, 2001

To this day, I am bitter about this.

My eighth grade class took a field trip to Yankee Stadium toward the end of the year. We were treated to a classic Yankees-Red Sox game, in which the Yankees won 2-1.

Mike Mussina and Pedro Martinez dueled it out, each fanning 12 batters in the game. Bernie Williams supplied some Yankees offense with a home run and Paul O’Neill notched an RBI.

The giveaway story was not a happy one, however.

The Pettitte bobble head was given to fans 14 and younger. I was only 13, turning 14 the next month. Because I had hit my growth spurt and I was tall, the Yankee Stadium bobble head distributors did not believe I was actually 13; they thought I was older and thus I did not receive a bobble head.

That day each of my eighth grade classmates got a bobble head and I didn’t. Words cannot describe how much that hurt me; I felt so left out. I was looking forward to a bobble head and I did not get one.

At least I still have the memory of a Yankee win over the Red Sox and a day with my eighth grade class at the Stadium. When we got back from the trip we all took a picture together. I guess I can carry that around with me instead of a bobble head.

Bat Day, June 30, 2001

Bat Day has been a longstanding tradition at Yankee Stadium, going back decades. It was my friend Vito’s 14th birthday and we celebrated at Yankee Stadium.

The Yanks played the Devil Rays that day; Ted Lilly vs. Ryan Rupe. Down 4-0 in the sixth, the Bombers struck back with a three-run inning. They put up two runs in the eighth and went on to beat the Rays 5-4.

Williams crushed two homers (his 13th and 14th of the season) and Tino Martinez also went deep for his 13th long ball of ‘01.

I left the Stadium that day with a bat and a Yankee win. And looking back it was almost déjà vu from the batting glove game; the Yanks beat the Devil Rays by the same score and the same player (Williams) went yard.

Yankee Binder Day, August 7, 2003

  

Although it was only the beginning of August, the Yankees knew school was soon set to begin. And what better way to bring us back into the school spirit with a Yankee binder, featuring legends and present players?

The Bombers were hosting the Texas Rangers on that hot afternoon, and played them to a 7-5 win.

The ball was jumping off the bats that day, and a number of players had big-time home runs. For the Rangers, Rafael Palmeiro smacked his 28th homer of the year in the first inning, a three-run bomb which gave Texas a quick lead.

But the Yanks answered in the bottom half of the second with four runs, all coming from the same source. Enrique Wilson stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded and clubbed a grand slam, his second home run of the year, to give the Yankees a 4-3 lead.

Soon-to-be Yankee Alex Rodriguez also homered, his 30th of the season.

Starter Mike Mussina settled down and tossed 7 1/3 innings, allowing just four earned runs on eight hits. He walked none and struck out five en route to his 12th win of the year.

Not a bad way to end a day at the Stadium.

Old Timer’s Day: July 9, 2005 and July 7, 2007.

I was fortunate enough to be at Old Timer’s Day twice. If you are a Yankee fan, do yourself a favor and get out to an Old Timer’s Day at least once. You will not be disappointed.

Every Old Timer’s Day, the Yanks issue all fans a commemorative pin.

The first time I had the pleasure of attending Old Timer’s Day was July 9, 2005. The ceremonies were cut short because of rain, but the weather held up for the actual game.

The Yanks played the Cleveland Indians and lost 8-7, but nearly made miraculous comeback at the end.

Alex Rodriguez, Hideki Matsui, Gary Sheffield, and Ruben Sierra each homered for the Yankees, as the ball was once again exploding off the bats.

Darrell May started for New York and did not impress anyone, pitching 4 1/3 innings and giving up seven earned runs on eight hits. On the bright side he didn’t issue any walks and K’d three.

On July 7, 2007, it was a much better experience.

We arrived at the game early, and it was a beautiful day – a contrast to my previous Old Timer’s Day experience. Our seats were behind home plate and Jorge Posada’s wife Laura was sitting a few seats in front of us.

The ceremony was classic; Don Mattingly, Reggie Jackson, Paul O’Neill, Scott Brosius, Ken Griffey, Sr., and many, many more were on hand to play in the Old Timer’s game.

 

With the retired players divided, they split up into teams: the Bombers and the Clippers. The Bombers beat the Clippers, 4-0.

As for the modern-day Yankees, it was a slow game. They wound up losing 2-1 in 13 innings to the Angels.

What was so ironic about the whole day was that Roger Clemens started for the Yankees in their game vs. the Angels – and he was older than three players who participated in the Old Timer’s Game!

May 24, 2008, Yankee Baseball Card Day

It wound up being my third-to-last game at the old Stadium, and it was a good one. All fans received a pack of collectible Yankee baseball cards.

Let’s be honest, who didn’t love collecting baseball cards as a kid? It certainly brought me back to my youth in a good way.

The Yanks played the Seattle Mariners and (unlike last night) beat them 12-6.

Mike Mussina pitched rather well, capturing his seventh win of his eventual 20-win campaign. The Yanks did it with their bats too, receiving home runs from Jason Giambi and Bobby Abreu.

July 15, 2006, Collectible Stamp Day

This was one the best days I can remember from 2006. A day at the Stadium with my Uncle John and his two sons, my cousins Thomas and Gordon.

Each fan was issued an envelope with stamps of all-time great players: Mickey Mantle, Hank Greenberg, Mel Ott, and Roy Campanella.

Before the game the Yankees held a special ceremony behind home plate with relatives of each player represented on the stamps, including Mantle’s sons.

The Yankees played the White Sox that afternoon and crushed them, 14-3.

Bubba Crosby and Andy Phillips were the only two Yanks to go yard, but they played plenty of small ball. Derek Jeter had three RBIs and two doubles.

July 22, 2009, Yankee Stadium Puzzle Day

One of my fondest memories of the magical 2009 season was going out to Yankee Stadium on July 22, when they faced off with the Baltimore Orioles. Every fan in attendance was given a Yankee Stadium puzzle.

Jorge Posada homered, backing a solid outing from A.J. Burnett. The Yanks won 6-4.

I never put the puzzle together. It’s still in the box.

Hopefully this year I can get out to a Yankee game on a day they give away something neat. It’s always fun to collect and reflect on each game and the memories attached to each giveaway.

Derek Jeter: Renaissance Man


Francisco Cervelli knocked in five of the Yanks' 14 runs 

The Yankees played a spirited game of long ball yesterday, smacking a total of five home runs en route to beating the Texas Rangers 12-5, taking the weekend series in Arlington.

The offensive explosion was capped with a six-run eighth inning. Four of those six runs came off the bat of Francisco Cervelli, who clobbered a grand slam home run to straight away centerfield. It was only Cervelli’s second career home run (his first came in June 2009 against Atlanta).

Mark Teixeira supplied the power for the other two runs in the eighth, clubbing a two-run homer following Cervelli’s slam. It marked Teixeira’s ninth home run on the year.

Curtis Granderson also went yard, his 11th home run of the year. Granderson now leads the American League in home runs, his swing reinvented. It’s safe to say Granderson, who clipped together a 30-homer year in 2009, has a legitimate chance to do it again this year.

 

He's BAAAAAACK!

But the real home run story of the day was Derek Jeter. The Captain, who had no home runs coming into yesterday’s game, went deep twice; two solo home runs, one in the fifth and the other in the seventh.

Jeter has now hit safely in eight of his last 10 games and has pushed his season average up to a somewhat respectable .276.  The Captain is also 40 hits away from joining the exclusive 3,000 hits club, sitting on 2,960 hits for his career.

Scott Stanford, a sports anchor for WNBC New York who covers the Yankees, tweeted, “Jeter! The guy dates numbers 2-7 on Maxim’s Hot 100 List, has more money than some countries, 5 Titles, and just when you think he’s done…”

Two members of the core four, Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, hold the World Series Trophy

I couldn’t agree more. He had a Renaissance or a rebirth; it was shades of old for the Captain, swinging the bat like he did when he was younger. Jeter was, what you could call, the Renaissance man yesterday. However, what most people sometimes fail to understand is that the term Renaissance man has a certain meaning and connotation.

“Renaissance man” is used to describe a person who is well-educated, and excels at a wide variety of subjects or fields. There’s no question, the Yankee Captain fits that description.

There is no need to explain Jeter’s numerous accomplishments on the baseball diamond. They speak for themselves. I could go on all day listing every title and every award he has ever won.

But his love life; as Stanford elegantly said, “The guy dates numbers 2-7 on the Maxim Top 100 list.” There is certainly a level of success when you consider every model and every beautiful woman Jeter has been romantically linked to.

That, to me, is what makes him a Renaissance man.

Like his titles and accolades, it’s like a broken needle (pointless) listing every woman the Captain has dated. From Mariah Carey to Vanessa Minnillo; from Jessica Biel to Jessica Alba, the man has been with the best of them.

But now, in the final years of his career, has he finally settled down with one?  

Minka Kelly has been Jeter’s girlfriend since May 2008. By my estimation, of all the Jeter girls, she has been with him for the longest amount of time. Rumors swirled in January of 2010 the two were going to wed in November after the season ended, but Kelly told GQ Magazine that “she wasn’t tying the knot anytime soon.”

The Editor-in-Chief of Hollywoodlife.com said of Kelly, “It’s clear she is devoted to him (Jeter). She goes to probably every game of his that her schedule allows. Being a celebrity herself, she’ll understand the pressures of fame. It’s helpful when you’re as under the spotlight as Derek Jeter is, to have a girlfriend who does understand what that’s like.”

Here is my interpretation:

They will get married, but not until he is done playing.

This month marks their fourth year together and after this year, Jeter only has two years (potentially three) left on his contract with the Yankees. I think they will remain together for those final two or three years and when he retires, they will go to the altar and say “I do” to one another.

Right now, Jeter just doesn’t have enough time to be a husband. The baseball season starts in April (in this year’s case late March) and ends in September. The Yankees are usually playing in the postseason in October, giving Jeter another month of work.

During the months of the off-season, Jeter probably has time for her; I’m sure they spend Christmas and Thanksgiving together and with their respective families.

But just because it’s the off-season, it doesn’t mean he isn’t working.

Jeter has his Turn 2 Foundation, a philanthropic endeavor he set up to help kids stay away from drugs and alcohol. He wanted to reward kids who turned away from drugs and alcohol and chose healthy lifestyles. The Turn 2 Foundation also features programs that reward kids for excelling in academic studies and extracurricular activities.

The Captain has to attend a number of events his foundation puts on. Most of those events, in all likelihood, go on during the off-season when Jeter has time.

Not only that, but he (and every player, for that matter) needs to go to the gym to prep for Spring Training, which starts in February. Jeter must keep his body in shape for the season; especially at his age of 36 (he will turn 37 on June 26 this year). Maintaining a good body is a huge part of an athlete’s life, and Jeter is no exception.

Even when he isn’t working, he’s working. And it goes both ways.

Kelly is an actress and a model. As the Editor of Hollywoodlife.com said, “She goes to as many of his games as her schedule allows.” Undoubtedly she is just as busy as he is. Photo shoots and time in front of the camera make up her schedule at this point in her life.

When Jeter retires there’s no telling what he will do. He has said he will never be a manager; he has no desire to lead a team in that way. As Captain of the Yankees he leads by example and a manager cannot go out and play the game for the team.

Broadcasting? Doubtful. Jeter has always been a soft-spoken individual; he has never been all that critical or analytical of anything he or the team does. I cannot picture him sitting in a broadcast booth looking out at the infield dirt of Yankee Stadium, knowing the fans in the seats once worshipped him while he stood there.

Perhaps he will continue with his Turn 2 Foundation and continue to pursue philanthropy. He can also serve as a special instructor or advisor to the Yankees – just as some other Yankee greats such as Reggie Jackson and Yogi Berra do.

Whatever he does, I get the feeling he will find work. And when he is finished with his daily grind, the Captain will be able to come home and utter that oh-so-familiar phrase, and that question all spouses ask, to Kelly:

“Honey, I’m home. So, how was your day?”


Jeter is entering the twilight of his career. 

Twitter: A Baseball Writer’s Friend or Foe?

 

A lot to feel good about tonight for the Yankees, as they routed the White Sox 12-3 to a series split.

Already leading 2-0 heading into the fifth, the Yankees’ bats came alive and they scored six runs in the frame. It began with a home run by Brett Gardner and it all snowballed from there.

Curtis Granderson tripled, Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano both singled, Alex Rodriguez doubled, Eric Chavez was intentionally walked, Russell Martin singled and Jorge Posada reached base on a walk. They sent 12 batters to plate in the fifth, which lasted 32 minutes.

The brightest sign for the Yanks was Swisher, who went 3-for-4 tonight with a home run (his first of the year), four RBIs, and three runs scored. The right fielder was 0 for his last 19 coming into the game, but came out of his slump with a solid night at the plate.

CC Sabathia gave the Yanks a nice outing: seven innings pitched, seven hits, three runs (none of them were earned), one walk, and six strikeouts. For his efforts, he picked up his second win of the year and the big man lowered his ERA to 2.25.

Sabathia was countered by Edwin Jackson, who no-hit the Yankees through the first four innings.

But don’t let the words “no-hit” fool you. He didn’t have it.

Jackson walked four straight batters in the third inning to give up a run, followed by allowing a sacrifice fly to Cano to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead, despite not giving up a hit.

Gardner’s homer to start the huge fifth inning was the Yanks’ first hit.

But enough about tonight’s squash of the ChiSox and onto the reason I am writing.

In the first inning of yesterday’s game, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was run by home plate umpire Todd Tichenor after arguing a questionable called strike three on Paul Konerko; the ball was low and inside but the ump rung Konerko up.

The Chicago skipper argued, was thrown out, then continued to scream at the ump as he walked off the field and into the tunnel on the way to the clubhouse.

What did he do next? Well, he tweeted. Twice. First:

This one is going to cost me a lot of money. This is patetic.

Then:

Today a tough guy show up at Yankee Stadium.

Major League Baseball is now reviewing his tweets, as they maintain a policy that prevents employees (including players and coaches) from making disparaging remarks about umpires.

And here is where social media and networking can get ugly.

When I first heard about Twitter, I had absolutely no desire to create an account. I was only interested in Facebook as a means to connect with my friends, family, and classmates. A friend of mine kept telling me about all of the celebrity activity on Twitter as well as all of the famous athletes who have verified accounts.

He kept nagging me and nagging me until I finally gave in and created a Twitter. At first I had no idea how to use it; I just started following all the celebrities and athletes I like, not knowing how to communicate using Twitter.

Finally I got the hang of it and figured out how to use the @mention function.

When I did get to know how to use Twitter, I tried to garner some attention. It worked, a little bit. I tweeted a Yankee Yapping investigation to ESPN baseball insider and former Yankee beat writer Buster Olney, and he re-tweeted it, in other words posting it for his followers to see.

Another former beat writer and current YES Network analyst Jack Curry is another person who has re-tweeted me; I asked him some questions and he responded to me.

During a tweet-driven Q & A session with Yankee catcher Russell Martin, I asked him what his walkup music is when he comes to bat. He answered me, saying he hadn’t yet chosen it and he would let the fans choose the song soon.

I even got a re-tweet from Comedy Central comedian and TV show host Daniel Tosh. In terms of reaching out to (and possibly hearing back from) celebrities and pro athletes, Twitter can be pretty cool.

Yet, like in Guillen’s case, it can hurt you. Anything negative you post on the internet or in an open forum, such as Twitter or Facebook, can be damaging to your reputation. There are people who have gotten fired from their jobs because of content posted on the internet. Kids have gotten in trouble in school for things they have posted on such sites.

The bottom line is, you have to be careful in terms of what you post. There are ways to protect your tweets and posts, but obviously Guillen didn’t and now it will cost him.

Another aspect about Twitter I find fascinating (and in a lot of ways scared of) is how often reporters tweet. Every Yankee beat writer tweets before the game, during the game, and after the game. They usually talk about what’s happening in the clubhouse, what’s going on with daily news, injury updates, and numbers.

All of this raises the question: is this hurting or helping the journalism industry? Is this what’s in store for the long future? Instead of game recaps and numbers from the box score, are we just going to be reading old tweets?

It’s pretty scary to think Twitter could impact the sports journalism industry in a huge way.

Even right now, in the high school sports reporting game (in which I’m currently playing), Twitter is a huge commodity. Sometimes I’m asked by former editors to tweet them the final scores of the games I’m covering, just to get them out there. I can only hope by the time I start covering professional sports I am not being asked to just tweet the game. I would rather show off my unique writing skills than my tweeting skills.

Also as a reader, I would rather read an educated game recap and be taken through the game than simply look up old posts on a writer’s Twitter account.

Not saying it will come to that, but you never know. In this ever-changing environment and the dominance of digital and social media, who knows what the future holds for sports writing.

If you want to follow me on Twitter, my username is @AJ_Martelli.

I oftentimes tweet about the Yankees; that should come as no shock. However, I tweet whimsical sayings, movie and TV quotes, and lots of phrases that have absolutely no context if you’re not with me when I tweet them. And in doing that, I garner the attention of random people.

So be forewarned.

Oh, What a Day!

 

Opening Day!!!!!!

Today, God let there be baseball. And life.

And with it all came a 6-3 Yankee win over the Tigers, as the Bombers have now won 13 of their last 14 home openers. Today’s win also snapped a two-game Opening Day losing streak, as the Yanks dropped their road openers in 2010 and 2009 – to the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles, respectively.

Where to start?

Curtis Granderson


Curtis Stole the show! 

How nice was he? He made three outstanding catches in center, highlighting the day on defense. Along with notching a few web gems, he was a force at the plate. In the bottom of the seventh Granderson broke a 3-3 tie with a solo home run to deep right field, a shot that landed in the second deck.

It was Granderson’s first home run of the year and it marked the third consecutive time he homered on Opening Day. Last year he took Josh Beckett deep on Opening Night at Fenway Park vs. the Red Sox and as a member of the Tigers in 2009, he homered in a 12-5 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.

Ironically enough, Granderson went deep off the same pitcher he was traded for – Phil Coke. Coke took the loss and Granderson was pretty much the player of the game.


Granderson has now homered in three straight Opening DaysKnowing that, it must be tough to be the Tigers.

Granderson homered off Coke, a left-handed pitcher. Last year he scuffled against lefties (.234 batting average), so the fact that he took a southpaw deep today is hopefully a good sign of things to come.

Not to mention he hurt his oblique during Spring Training and showed no lingering signs of an injury.

Overall, Granderson stole the Opening Day show. And if nothing else, he ushered in the Yankees’ first win of 2011 – hopefully the first of many.

 

Solid Pitching

CC gave the Yanks quality today

CC Sabathia ended the day with a good line: six innings pitched, six hits, three runs (two earned), two walks, and seven strikeouts. Overall it was respectable, considering it was the first game of the year and Sabathia hasn’t had a fair amount of success to open up the season.

The big man provided the Yanks with a quality start, but the real story was the perfect bullpen.

Joba Chamberlain relieved Sabathia and pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning, recording one strikeout. He was very effective, although he was only hitting the low-90s on the speed gun.

After Chamberlain was Rafael Soriano, who tossed a scoreless, hitless eighth. The new setup man got the chance to strut his stuff, and I’m sure I can speak for every Yankee fan when say I loved what I saw.

Following him was who else but the great Mariano Rivera. With a new regular season look, sporting his socks high – the same look we saw in Spring Training – Rivera came on to shut down the Tigers in the ninth, 1-2-3 for his 560th career save and first of 2011.


Mo rocking his high socks.Chamberlain picked up the win while Soriano recorded a hold.

The game has been shortened when it comes to Yankee pitching. If each starter gives the Yankees what Sabathia gave them today, the Bronx Bombers are going to win a heck of a lot of ballgames.

 

Impact Players


Mark Teixeira homered today, too!Down 1-0 in the bottom of the third, Mark Teixeira blasted a three-run homer to right field, his first of the year, to put the Yanks ahead, 3-1. Like Granderson’s homer, it landed in the second porch in right field.

Teixeira was 1-for-3, as his homer was the only hit he had. But if he swings the bat the way he did today, he might possibly be able to exorcise his “slow start demons.”

Derek Jeter is still 74 hits away from 3,000 for his career, not reaching base by way of a hit today. He did however draw a walk and he drove in Russell Martin with a sacrifice fly.

Speaking of Martin, he scored two runs today and stole a base. That’s right, a catcher stole a base.

Nick Swisher knocked in the Yankees’ sixth run of the afternoon with an RBI single to score Alex Rodriguez. Swisher hit a blooper into right field and tried to stretch it into a double. He was put out 9-3-6-3, but not before Rodriguez crossed the plate.


ooooof.Rodriguez had a monster double in the sixth that, on any other day, would have gone out for a home run. It caromed off the wall in right-center field, as A-Rod just missed it. The slugging third baseman quite possibly could have had a triple, but he was in his home run trot when he left the box.

Jogging to first, he turned on the jets and was only able to motor into second. He ended the day 1-for-2 with two walks and a run scored.

 

Overall, the Yankees played a great game. It was a hard-fought win, because the Tigers kept chipping away at their lead. Finally Granderson was able to put the Tigers away with one swing of the bat and from there it snowballed.

Tomorrow the Yanks will have their traditional off-day following Opening Day. They will be back at it on Saturday afternoon against Detroit.

A.J. Burnett, who is battling a cold, will make his first start of 2011. The number two man is hoping to erase his 10-15 record last year, and what better way to do that than by beginning this season with a win?

He will face Brad Penny of the Tigers.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

 

Opening Day!!!!!!

“It is our right seven months out of the year to sit on the couch with a bowl of pretzels and a frosty cold one and watch baseball…baseball is America’s game. It belongs to the people and the people is…us.  So I say, let there be baseball. Let there be life.”

-Al Bundy

It’s your ace vs. their ace. It’s new life. It’s hope of a winning season. It’s the best day of the year:

Opening Day.

In less than 24 hours, the Yankees will embark on their quest for World Series Number 28, opening their 2011 regular season at home against the Detroit Tigers. It will mark the first time the Yankees have started a season in their two year-old Stadium, being that in 2009 and ’10 they opened their season on the road.

In a rather strange coincidence, the Yankees ended their Spring Training in the Grapefruit League on Tuesday with a 2-1 win over their Opening Day opponents, the Tigers. Now that camp has broken and baseball is officially back, there are a few storylines to discuss.

Jesus Montero is a top-ranked prospect we'll see this spring

First off, Jesus Montero. The Yankees opted to send him and Austin Romine to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and they gave the backup catcher job to Gustavo Molina, who has hit .122 for his career (23 games) with no homers, seven RBIs. It’s apparent he hasn’t had much experience at the Major League level.

If you ask me, the Yankees should have let Montero join the big club. They keep stressing how they want to mold him and shape him to be the catcher of the future – and that is perfectly fine. In the coming years he will be the everyday catcher.

As for the present time however, he had an opportunity to at least see some big league action and the Yanks threw it away. I’d like to see Montero go through his trial time now.

There’s no doubt he is going to take his lumps when he first gets called up, and I would have liked to see it happen now – at the beginning of the season when there’s at least some room for error – rather than the end of the season when everyone needs to be producing.

What the Yankees should have done, in my opinion, is allow Montero to backup Russell Martin until Francisco Cervelli’s foot injury heals. When Cervelli gets healthy, they could have optioned Montero back to the minors – either way the Yankees win in that scenario.

Here’s why:

If Montero struggles at the big league level, they send him down and he will know what to expect when he comes back up; he will be a little more mature. If he starts tearing the cover off the ball at the big league level, well…that’s self-explanatory.


Should have let him see the big leagues... 

One way or another, Montero could contribute this year. He is someone to keep in the back of your mind.

Another storyline is Derek Jeter. As it’s been documented, the Captain is 74 hits away from 3,000 for his illustrious career.

Derek Jeter hit his 19th career postseason home run on Saturday night 


 Undoubtedly he will reach the milestone this year and when he does, he will become the first Yankee to accomplish the feat. He will also be only the fourth shortstop to ever do it (Honus Wagner, Robin Yount, and Cal Ripken, Jr.).

Jeter has said that he will “enjoy the ride to 3,000.” And when the ride ends and he reaches destination 3,000, it will unquestionably be a wonderful moment for the Captain and the Yankee team.

The pitching is another storyline that is always examined throughout each season, and this year will be no different. The Yankees’ starting rotation has rightfully been nicknamed “CC and the Question Marks.”


CC Sabathia flirted with a no-hitter today 

Looking at it objectively, it’s a fitting name. CC Sabathia has already proven he is a front-line starter, a horse, and a Cy Young caliber pitcher. He has been in the Cy Young discussion both years he has been in pinstripes and captured the ALCS MVP in 2009.

It’s safe to say right now Sabathia has nothing to prove.

The other four guys, on the other hand, have a lot to prove. A.J. Burnett, who according to the beat writers is battling a cold, goes without saying. Everyone pretty much understands that in order for the Yankees to be successful, their number two man needs to turn things around and put up a big season.


Funny? 

Last year Burnett averaged over five earned runs a game and was 10-15. He needs to change that.

Phil Hughes may have recorded 18 wins last year, but he averaged over four earned runs per game. He lost two important games during last year’s ALCS, including the series-ending loss to the Texas Rangers.

Phil Hughes has to step it up.

Hughes flew under the radar for the most part because of his 18 wins. But what most fans don’t understand is that the Yankee offense gave him a good amount of run support; he won some games in which the Yankees scored a lot of runs.

This spring Hughes had a 4.09 ERA and gave up 10 runs on 24 hits in 22 innings. If this is what we are to expect of him from the number three spot in the rotation, he will need the run support he had last year.

 

Ivan Nova: Yay or Nay?

Ivan Nova won the fourth spot in the starting rotation with a good spring (2-0, 1.80 ERA in 20 innings pitched, four walks, nine strikeouts). Last year he was 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA and seemed to struggle when it came to the fifth inning.

It will be interesting to see how he holds up playing a full season.

Lastly there’s Freddy Garcia, who won the fifth spot in the rotation over Bartolo Colon. Garcia was the favorite to take the number five starter job because he was 12-6 last season for the Chicago White Sox and Colon had not pitched in an MLB game since 2009.

Freddy the fifth starter?

Garcia was 1-1 with a 4.91 ERA this spring – and yes, he too has a lot to prove.

Mark Prior did not make the team coming out Spring Training, much to my surprise. He had such a wonderful spring: 8 2/3 innings pitched, a 1.04 ERA, three runs (only one was earned), five walks, and 12 Ks.

Mark Prior should be on the team.

Prior will go through extended Spring Training and has said he hopes to help the Yankees this year; he is still striving to make the big team and wants to contribute.

Honestly, I am disappointed in the Yankees. Prior is interchangeable; he can be a long reliever or a middle reliever. With Pedro Feliciano on the disabled list, it opened up a spot in the bullpen. What did the Yankees do?

Well, they gave it to Luis Ayala, which doesn’t look like a bad right out of the gate. Ayala pitched to a 0.79 ERA this spring, tossed 11 1/3 innings, and gave up just one earned run on nine hits. He walked no one and fanned nine.

Bear in mind though, Ayala was pitching mostly to minor leaguers late in spring games. If he scuffles against the major leaguers in the regular season games, I say dump him and bring up Prior.

On the offensive side of things, Alex Rodriguez had a monster spring. He averaged .388 and hit six homers in 18 games. He knocked in 15 runs and registered 44 total bases. He drew five walks and only struck out seven times.


A-Rod tied the game in the ninth w/ a 2R HR 

There has been a lot of speculation that Rodriguez could be a potential MVP candidate. I think he has to get his feet wet and get going, but if this spring was any indication, A-Rod will have a spectacular year.

With all these storylines, new ones will emerge as the season rolls on. And so it begins.

Tomorrow afternoon at 1:05 (weather permitting) the Yankees and Tigers will square off on baseball’s Opening Day. Sabathia and Justin Verlander will start what will be a long, 162-game journey.

Ready or not, here we go. Let there be baseball. Let there be life.

What the 25 Man Roster Should Look Like

 

First game Saturday.

Today the Yankees beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-2 in Tampa, leaving only three more Grapefruit League games left on the schedule before they start playing for real on Thursday. The highlight of the afternoon was a towering, two-run homer off the bat of Alex Rodriguez that flew over the batter’s eye in centerfield, his sixth round-tripper of the spring.

A few decisions and moves were made recently, most notably the trade of Sergio Mitre, the signing of Kevin Millwood, and the naming of the fourth and fifth starting pitchers.


Bye Bye Sergio! 

Yesterday Mitre was dealt to the Milwaukee Brewers for outfielder Chris Dickerson. In this afternoon’s win over the Bucs, Dickerson made his Yankee debut and put on quite a hitting show.  The 28 year-old pounded out three hits (including a double) in three at-bats while knocking in a run.


Chris Dickerson was acquired in exchange for Mitre 

Unfortunately Dickerson was forced to leave the game with an apparent hamstring injury after notching his third hit. As of this point, the Yankee medical staff can only diagnose his injury as “spasms and cramping.”

Tough luck for the kid to go down – especially following such an impressive debut. What’s more, it hurts the Yankees, being that Curtis Granderson is not yet confirmed to be playing on Opening Day in light of his oblique injury. Yesterday Granderson did some running and agility drills, as he hopes to avoid beginning the 2011 season on the disabled list.

Millwood, 36, was signed just yesterday. He owned the worst record in baseball last year, going 4-16 for the Baltimore Orioles with a 5.10 ERA. However, he has been a dominant pitcher in the past, leading the league with the lowest ERA in 2005 (2.86), making the All-Star team in 1999, and finishing third in the N.L. Cy Young voting in 1999 as a member of the Atlanta Braves.

Kevin Millwood has been signed

Even though he has proven himself in the past, he hasn’t proven anything yet. He will probably have to go through extended Spring Training and wouldn’t make the team unless he flourishes, another pitcher struggles, or another pitcher gets hurt.

Along with the trade and the signing, it was announced that Ivan Nova will be the Yankees’ number four starter this year, and Freddy Garcia will pitch every fifth day. Bartolo Colon, who many people feel had a better spring than Garcia, will pitch out of the bullpen.


Freddy Garcia is now under the microscope 

Garcia owned a 5.93 ERA in four spring outings, throwing 13 2/3 innings. Colon held down a 2.40 ERA in 15 innings, giving most people the impression Colon should have won the number five job.

Yankee Manager Joe Girardi maintained that Garcia, 35, was the favorite to win the spot because Colon, 37, hasn’t pitched in a Major League game since 2009. Girardi added that, for his standards, Garcia had a good spring.

Now that we are only six days away from Opening Day, here is how Girardi should build his roster. Only 25 players can be at Yankee Stadium on Thursday and these men (I feel) have earned the honor of making the trek from Tampa to the Bronx.

Position Players

1) Derek Jeter – SS

2) Alex Rodriguez – 3B

3) Robinson Cano – 2B

4) Mark Teixeira – 1B

5) Jorge Posada – DH

6) Russell Martin – C

7) Brett Gardner – LF

8) Nick Swisher – RF

9) Curtis Granderson* -CF (*if he does not start the season on the DL)

10) Andruw Jones – Fourth Outfielder

11) Eric Chavez – Backup IF/Utility

12) Eduardo Nunez – Backup IF/Utility

13) Jesus Montero – Backup Catcher

Pitchers

14) CC Sabathia – No. 1 Starter

15) A.J. Burnett -No. 2 Starter

16) Phil Hughes – No. 3 Starter

17) Ivan Nova – No. 4 Starter

18) Freddy Garcia – No. 5 Starter

19) Bartolo Colon – Long Relief

20) Mark Prior – Middle/Long Relief (he is interchangeable; can be used for both)

21) Joba Chamberlain – Middle Relief

22) David Robertson – Middle Relief

23) Rafael Soriano – Setup Man

24) Boone Logan* (*Pedro Feliciano will most likely start the season on the DL) – Lefty specialist(s)

25) Mariano Rivera – Closer

Most of these players will be in the Bronx next week and all of them deserve to be. Girardi will probably make a few modifications to my Opening Day roster, but expect to see most of these names called during the pregame ceremony on Thursday.

Mark Prior deserves to be on the roster because of how well he pitched this spring (eight games, 7 2/3 innings pitched, three hits, three runs, one earned run, 1.17 ERA, 11 Ks, and five walks).

Mark Prior should be on the team.

He earned the chance to prove himself and could provide the Yanks with some solid middle and/or long relief. I’m not sure if Girardi will send Prior to the Bronx, but if they don’t call him up, at least at some point in the season, they are making a mistake.

If Granderson does start the season on the DL, obviously a spot will be open and it’ll be a toss up. I would expect someone like Justin Maxwell (.206 in Spring Training, but he only had 34 at-bats, three RBIs, and four runs scored) or even Dickerson (if he is healthy, given his injury today) to backup Jones in centerfield. That spot would only be open until Granderson returns, anyway.

Another position in question is the backup catcher role. I feel it is time for Montero to at least gain some experience on the Major League level. Today it was reported that Gustavo Molina could back up Martin at catcher, until Francisco Cervelli returns from his foot injury.

Give Jesus a taste of the show!

If you ask me though, Montero needs a taste of the big leagues – even if he doesn’t spend the entire season in the show.

Whichever way it goes, in a matter of days, anticipate Girardi giving the official word on who is going to the Bronx and who will be heading to the minors.

My Journey Through Baseball

 

 

It snowed. On the first day of spring. Come on, man!

“I’m more entranced  than the average fan…I used to play, you see, and I know I still can.” – Robert DeNiro in The Fan (1996)

Although you wouldn’t know it here in New York, today is the first day of spring. The reason you wouldn’t know it: because it snowed this morning and it feels as though winter is giving us one last jolt of cold to remember it by.

I woke up this morning and the first thought that came to my mind was, “Wow. I cannot believe that less than 24 hours ago I was wearing shorts and playing baseball.”

It was hard to believe, even though it happened. Yesterday I went to the park with my friends and we played baseball. It was such a nice day that we couldn’t pass up the chance to play our favorite game.

 

Yesterday me and buddy Brian played baseball at the park.

As we were playing catch and batting the ball around, we found ourselves remembering all the times we played organized baseball for the towns we lived in. We recalled what jersey numbers we had, the games we excelled in, and what it was like to play baseball in a coordinated environment.

I figured I would share a little bit of my journey through baseball, and sports in general; the years I played, the triumphs I enjoyed, the tragedies I endured, and how to this day I still love to go outside when the spring comes and play baseball with my friends.

Before I even started my baseball career, I played soccer and basketball – two sports that in this day and I age I do not particularly care for. When I was young I played soccer in the Peewee League. I scored one goal the whole time I played – and it was in a scrimmage.

 

Why I played soccer, I'll never know.

To this day I’m not sure why I picked up soccer at such a young age. I suppose I needed to run around and drain away some of my pent-up energy, but other than that, I can’t think of a reason why I played it.

When I stopped playing soccer I started CYO Basketball. I played for four years and was on different intramural teams each season. The first year I played I was forced to sit out; I was on the bench the entire season with a broken wrist. It was the worst feeling in the world. I broke my wrist on the same day of my first ever basketball practice.

Ironically enough, my broken wrist had nothing to do with basketball. I fell off a bed.

The second year I played, my team was very good. We won every single game with the exception of one, nearly going undefeated for the season. The problem was, it was intramural CYO – there was no playoff system or trophy presentation at the end of the year. My team was the best, yet we had no concrete evidence to show for it.

I can remember the final year I played basketball, though I’d like to forget it. From being on the best team I went to the absolute worst team. The squad I was on was ridiculous; I have no problem admitting that. We lost every single game we played because most of the kids on the team were ball-hogs and had no clue how to play basketball. I think my ears still hurt from the amount of times the refs blew their whistles calling fouls on my team.

 

CYO for four years.

Come to think of it, my team lost a game that season by a score of 69-16. That’s how bad it was.

After that beating, I knew it was time to give up basketball and concentrate on the best sport in the world: baseball. In February of 1998 I signed up to play Rookie Ball – the level right below Little League.

A few days later my family got a call saying I was too old for Rookie League. I was already 10 years old and by the time the season began I would be 11, meaning if I wanted to play, I had to play Little League. They put me on a team and believe it or not, my team was the Yankees. In the town of Beacon where I played, each team was given the name of a Major League Team.

There were the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Giants, the Indians, the Dodgers…you get the idea. It was pretty cool. The uniforms were also great: we were given jerseys that boasted the logos of each team you were on. I was on the Yankees, and my uniform looked like this…

 

Little League days...

I was given number 19 to wear, which at the time was being worn by Luis Sojo. But looking back, some of the best Yankees have worn number 19. Dave Righetti, Robin Ventura, Al Leiter, and Aaron Boone (among others) have worn it; 19 is a pretty solid number in Yankee lore.

 

No. 19

My team was coming off a strong season; in fact, the year before they had won the town’s Little League Championship. It was an incredible feeling walking in the Opening Day Parade with them and being introduced as a defending champion – although I did realize I had nothing to do with winning the championship and I was new.


I walked with my team in the Opening Day parade. They were defending champions.Thankfully my teammates weren’t mean to me and didn’t try to make me feel as if I didn’t belong there. They welcomed me to the team with open arms, although I think they knew in their minds I wasn’t going to be very good, considering it was my first year playing.

Those thoughts were well-founded. I wasn’t good at the beginning.

In my first year, I drew a few walks here and there, but I couldn’t buy a hit. I played left field and didn’t see a lot of game action. Despite taking my first year bumps, we kept winning. My Yankee team was undefeated for quite some time, before the Orioles finally stopped our winning streak halfway through the year.

On one of the last days of the season I finally got my moment to shine. I stood in the batter’s box, saw the pitch coming, and swung the bat, cracking a line drive base hit to centerfield. My hit drove in a run for my first career RBI and we went on to beat the Indians that day. I stood on first base and looked over to the dugout. I smiled, looking at my whole team standing up and clapping for me.

After each game, the coach on the winning team awarded the game ball to the standout player on the team. It was almost like winning the “Chevy Player of the Game” award, if you will.

My coach tossed me the game ball and said, “Congratulations on your first hit and your first RBI.”

 

My first hit & my first RBI.

I was speechless. All season long I had watched the other players on my team receive the game ball and the honor went to me. It was an unbelievable feeling and one I’ll always remember.

The second year I played Little League I was a lot more comfortable. I knew what to expect and I had more than one hit all year. The first game of the season, we played the Mets. I struck out in my first at-bat and my coach had asked me if I was comfortable bunting before I stepped up to the plate. I told him I wanted to swing away, and he obliged.

My next at-bat however, he didn’t ask me if I wanted to bunt. He told me I had to.

I laid down a beauty and reached safely to drive in a run. That bunt almost set the pace for the rest of the season, and I went on to have a pretty good year. I remember laying down a lot more bunts after that game and my coach once called me “the best bunter on the team.”

That was evidenced when we played the Dodgers, and I once again laid down a perfect bunt. Pitching was a young man named Steve, who was in my class. During the day he and I talked a lot of smack about who was going to win, especially since he was pitching.

My bunt drove in a run and I reached second on an error. We won the game and for the second time I was awarded the game ball. Again, it was a great feeling to receive the honor and afterward there were no hard feelings between me and Steve. I think he actually congratulated me the next day.


My second game ball.Little League was quite an experience and I will not forget it. But it was just the beginning of my journey through baseball and the game afforded me even better memories as I continued to play at the next level.

I was in eighth grade when I started to play in the Babe Ruth League. The first day of practice was unreal. The field was so much bigger than the Little League field, most noticeably the outfield dimensions. Right and left field were 285 feet while dead-center was 315 feet – a foot longer than right field at Yankee Stadium.

Another change was the team names. No more MLB team names, but instead our teams were sponsored by the local clubs and organizations. My team was sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and our team name was K of C.

 

K of C

I was only in eighth grade but played against high school kids. I knew that I was going to have to start from scratch again and I probably wasn’t going to be very good, much like how I was in my first year of Little League. However, the town put all us Babe Ruth rookies on a travel team as well our regular teams, just so we could get some more at-bats and fine-tune our fielding.

Suffice it to say, I had a better first year playing on the travel team than I did on K of C, the Babe Ruth team. On my travel team, I had a few key hits and played against another friend from school. Once again my team won that game, 7-6. I even had a hit that went right over my friend’s head; a bloop single that landed in between the right fielder and my friend who was manning second base.

Sorry Vito.

The biggest change going from Little League to Babe Ruth was my position. The whole time I spent in Little League, I was an outfielder. I played mostly left field, but was tossed around quite a bit and saw time in right field and center field.

The first game I played at the Babe Ruth level, my coach announced my name and told me I was starting at second base. I had never been more confused – and scared – in my life. I had never played the infield before, and I was worried I was going to make a million mistakes.

 

I played second base my first year in Babe Ruth

I surprised myself by not performing poorly. I made a few defensive stops and before long I became comfortable at second, although I did see a lot of time in right field throughout the rest of the season. My travel team ended the year with a good record, but my K of C team had a rough year. We finished the season in fifth place out of sixth.

 The second year I played was a different story.

I knew from the first day of practice that there was something different about our team. We went into these practices and performed as if we were playing in actual games. We were steadier, a little bit younger because we had some Little Leaguers coming in, and we wanted to erase finishing fifth the year before.

All in all, we were hungry.

There were so many defining moments that stand out to me in that season, but two come to mind. The first was painful, at least for me. We were playing the Lions, a team sponsored by (you guessed it) the local Lions Club. They had a very powerful left-handed hitter, who just so happened to also pitch and was one of the hardest throwing hurlers in the league that season.

He came up to bat with two outs in the fifth inning and we only held a small, 3-2 lead.

In right field, my coach told me to shade over toward the foul line. I knew that as a lefty, if he had gotten around on a pitch, it was coming to me. He had taken the first two pitches for balls one and two, but on the third pitch he saw, he swung and delivered a high fly ball…that was going over my head.

I turned around and immediately started to run. Frantically, I raced toward the right field wall as my hat flew off my head. I stuck out my glove and by some act of God, the ball landed in its webbing. Three outs with the lead intact. The parents and supporters of my team went nuts from the bleachers after I made the catch.

It was almost reminiscent of Willie Mays in the 1954 World Series. It was beautiful.

 

My catch was like Mays's catch.

As fate would have it, after my web gem, I was due up first in the next half-inning. Facing the guy whom I had just robbed of an extra base hit, I walked up to the plate. He threw a fastball that came in so fast, I didn’t have a fraction of a second to react – and the ball plastered me, right on the outside of my left thigh.

I fell to the ground in such pain that, for a moment, I didn’t know where I was.

The coaches ran out and helped me get to my feet. I walked around behind home plate for a couple of minutes before my coach asked me if I wanted to stay in the game. Even though my leg was aching in excruciating pain, I refused to let him beat me. I made up my mind that I wasn’t leaving the game and I chose to stay in, bad wheel and all.

We wound up winning the game 3-2 and it was one of the better games I remember playing, just because of my attitude. Not the fact that I got hit or the fact that I made an outstanding defensive play, but for the fact that I stayed in the game and didn’t allow myself to be bullied.

To this day, I am convinced he beaned me on purpose. He may have won that little battle, but I feel I won the war. Not only did my team win, but I stayed in the game.

The second moment that stood out came later in the season. We were playing BPBA (Beacon Police Benevolent Association) and at that point we were scuffling a bit. We were down early in the game and for some reason that day, my coach decided to plug me into the number three hole in the lineup. In the fourth hole we had a tall, powerful right-handed hitter named Brian; a kid capable of hitting the ball out of the cavernous ballpark.

In the fourth inning I led off with a single. I remember checking the defense and every single outfielder backed up – they knew what kind of power he possessed.

Brian swung and hammered the ball to the deepest part of the park: centerfield. I came off first base a little bit, took a few steps back in case the ball was going to be caught, and then checked the center fielder. He looked up and watched the ball sail out of the park for a two-run home run, right over the 315′ sign.

I rounded the bases with a smile on my face; with joy in my heart. I knew that I was never going to hit a home run at this field, and this was the next best thing: being on base when my teammate hit one. The whole team waited for us at home plate and high-fived us after we crossed the plate.

 

I was on base when a homer was hit.

Brian whacked the top of my helmet as we walked back to the dugout.

“Good job kid,” he said to me. “Thanks for that single. Because of that it was a two-run homer!”

I looked up at him, smiled, and simply replied, “No problem.”

We went on to win that game big, 14-3. From there we got hot and went on a winning streak. We finished the season with a record of 12-6 and were headed to the playoffs. No champagne celebration for us, but we were very happy and satisfied with getting there. We also knew that as well as we had played during the season, it meant nothing if we didn’t win the championship.

The playoffs were a four-team tournament: single elimination in the first round, and best two out of three in the championship series. We had a huge challenge in front of us, playing the Lions in the first round. We had faced them four times during the regular season and split the series, 2-2. This was the rubber game; the chance to show once and for all which team was better.

Not to mention the winner had a one-way ticket the championship series.

 

We made the playoffs the years after we finished 5th

My team was not fazed by pressure. We obviously didn’t feel it because we pounded out 16 hits and went on to win the game 10-0. We were going to the championship series and for the first time in my baseball career, I would know what it felt like to play in a series for all the marbles.

I couldn’t help but think of my Little League days when we won the first round game. I remembered how I was recognized as a champion, even though I hadn’t earned it. This was my chance to earn it.

Unfortunately for K of C, the magic vanished.

We played a team named Palisi in the finals, a squad named after one of the local auto body shops. They were the only team that we lost a series to during the regular season, as they edged us, three games to one.

In Game One, they pounded every mistake we made. They went up 6-0 in the first inning and never looked back. They let us know that, in no uncertain terms, they were not going to lay down for us. After the game we obviously felt discouraged but knew we needed to win the next game in order to stay alive and push the series to a deciding Game Three.

We lost Game Two. But it wasn’t nearly as lopsided as Game One, as we were only beaten by a score of 6-2. We faced another power pitcher; a flame-throwing righty named Mark who was tall and built like Phil Hughes. In my only at-bat in Game Two, I drew a walk to lead off the fifth inning. Mark struck out the next three batters and the score remained 6-1.

In the sixth inning Brian came up and led off with a solo home run to bring it within four, 6-2. We all went out to greet him as he came to the plate, but our spirits just weren’t there; our enthusiasm had worn off. We tried to stay as positive as we could, but there was nothing that could be done. We lost.

After it was over, I watched from the dugout as Palisi celebrated. Crushed, I saw them get their picture taken for the local newspapers. My coach sat us down on the bench and told us not to feel bad about anything; he told us that from day one he loved coaching us and that we made a huge stride, coming from a fifth place finish to a second place finish.

I felt a little better when I found out that, despite our loss, we were getting rewarded for finishing second. We were going to receive the runner-up trophy and we were going to be a part of the trophy presentation ceremony.


We won 2nd place. 
  

“Ladies and gentlemen, your 2001 runner-up, K of C!”

Standing at the edge of the dugout, my name was announced first.

“A.J. Martelli!”

I jogged out to the area behind home plate and I was given my trophy. I shook my coach’s hand as he looked at me. With a reluctant smile he said, “Hell of a season, pal.”    

The trophy presentation made me feel a lot better. It’s almost as if I forgot we had lost. It didn’t feel like a loss when I left the ballpark that day. I felt as though I had been a part of something special and I was honored to play with such a dedicated and hard-working group of players.

To this day I look back on that season and wish I could live through it again.

The final year I played organized baseball was bittersweet. I saw a good amount of game action, especially at second base, being that it was my final year and I was a team veteran. We had a decent year and again we made the playoffs.

But it was BPBA’s turn to feel what we felt; their opportunity to play in the championship series. They beat us in the single elimination first round game and I watched them celebrate as my Babe Ruth career came to a close.

But it wasn’t exactly over just yet.

After that loss I had one more game: an end-of-the-year battle between the departing veterans and the coaches. The league designed this so that all the players who were leaving could have one last game and go out in a good way.


Went out nicely. 

Against the coaches I had a single, a walk, a stolen base, and two runs scored. We wound up losing count of the score, because we were beating them by such a wide margin. All in all, it was a fun night but I also understood that I would be closing a chapter in my life.

While I was playing in the Babe Ruth League, I wanted to try out for my high school team. In my first year in high school, I wanted to make the freshman baseball team and eventually work my way up to the junior varsity team, and if I was lucky, make the varsity team in the ensuing years as an upperclassman.

I attended a few open gyms during the off-season and got to know a lot of the players. The open gyms were intense; a lot of running, suicides, long toss, and fast-pitch batting practice. But I knew that, if nothing else, the workouts would prepare me for the Babe Ruth season.

Lady Luck was not on my side as a high school freshman, though. I struggled both academically and personally throughout the year and as a result I was placed on academic probation, prohibiting me from trying out for the freshman baseball team. I knew that if I couldn’t play in my freshman year, I probably wouldn’t be able to play at all for my high school, at least not without enormous competition for a roster spot.

So in a nutshell, although I played in the Babe Ruth League for two years while I was in high school, I never did get to play for my high school’s team.

And yes, I regret it. Had I had an easier time in my freshman year, and maybe pushed myself a little harder academically, I have no doubt in my mind I could have played for my high school and kept my baseball career alive.

I am not saying I would have continued to play in college, but it could have happened for me. I would have loved to go through the experience of facing other schools and possibly winning a few more trophies.

These days it’s nice to just go to the park on a spring day and put on my baseball glove. And when I do, I think about that base hit on the Beacon Little League Field that drove in a run for my first RBI.

I think about all those bunts I laid down in my second year of Little League.

I think about how special I felt when I was awarded the game ball.

I think about how I felt looking at the Babe Ruth Field for the first time.

I think about that Willie Mays-like catch I made to rob the best player in the league of extra bases – and how he exacted his revenge on me, and how I refused to leave the game when I was hurt.

I think about that home run Brian hit, and how awesome it felt to round the bases with him.

I think about the championship series, and how good I felt, even though we lost.

I think about the trophy presentation and how it felt to have my name called.

I think about how fun the game against the coaches was.

I think about how I wish I had played for my high school, and even though I didn’t, how fun the open gyms were.

I think about all these things…and wish I can have them back.


I love this game. Always have, always will.

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