May 2010

Frasier!

May 31, 2010 – Even before my son’s presence at Yankee
Stadium made this the most memorable Memorial Day of my life, I was already
having a great day.

Prior to today’s game, I escorted Kelsey Grammer to Monument
Park, the Yankee Stadium museum and a few other places in the Stadium, before
interviewing him in a suite. Grammer, who is best known for playing Frasier in Cheers and then in the spinoff show Frasier, is a knowledgeable Yankees fan.

He’s also my favorite TV actor, and I can say I played catch
with him for a brief moment in the Yankees bullpen today.

While I didn’t get hooked on the Cheers craze during the
’80s, I’ve more than made up for it in the last decade – thanks to late-night
syndication.

And in that same way, Frasier
has become the show I watch more than any other.

I gave Kelsey a copy of my first book, Yankee Stadium: The Official Retrospective, and I wrote the
following inscription in it:

“Kelsey, My very best to an iconic actor, who I watched when
I was a kid, and who I watch with my kid.”

The interview with Grammer, who I consider one of the kindest and classiest people I’ve ever interviewed, will appear in the August issue
of Yankees Magazine, but I will
provide a preview of the “5 Questions” feature for those who can’t wait.

Early in the interview, I asked Grammer if he was ever outspoken
about his allegience to the Yankees, while he was part of a prime-time show (Cheers), which took place in the heart
of Boston.

“When you’re in Boston, everyone is a Red Sox fan, so it’s
wiser to keep your mouth shut,” Grammer said. “Boston is the birthplace of ‘Don’t
ask, don’t tell.’ I always loved the Yankees, and there’s never been another baseball
team for me.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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Son-Day

May 31, 2010 — I’ve been at Yankee Stadium (old and new)
for nearly 1,000 games in the eight years I’ve been a member of the Yankees
front office. Before that, I worked for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AHL
affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins), the Philadelphia Phillies (as a ticket
sales intern) and the Miami Dolphins.

So, I think it’s safe to say that I’ve spent a bunch of days
at the ballpark — or arena – during my 20′s and early 30′s.

There have been memorable games, and days that I would
rather forget. Today was as memorable as any for me, because it was my son’s
first baseball game. Alfred Santasiere IV is two-and-half-years old, and he
watched about two-and-a-half innings of the Memorial Day game before the
thought of playing in my air-conditioned office became too enticing to pass up.

I won’t ever forget the experience of sitting in the outside
seats of a Yankee Stadium suite with my wife Tiana and Alfred — watching a
ballgame. Alfred cheered for the Yankees when other fans applauded. And he
repeated his favorite phrase – “Let’s Go Yankees,” as each batter stepped to
the plate.

For me, the most exciting moment of the day took place when
Alfred saw the lush green field for the first time. When he walked out of the
suite doors, he pulled his mom toward the front row of seats and said with a
big smile, “Yankee Stadium.”

My father took me to my first game at Yankee Stadium when I
was 7-years-old. I vaguely remember the game and seeing the massive, bright
green grass for the first time. But through my father’s stories of that night,
it’s a joy to re-live.

Alfred won’t remember this day, because it took place far too
early in his life. But his parents certainly will, and I’m sure he will hear
about it as many times as I heard about my first game.

–Alfred Santasiere III

Seizing the Moment

May 28, 2010 — Robinson Cano came to the plate in the bottom of the seventh inning with the bases loaded, and with no outs.

The Yanks second baseman didn’t waist any time putting tonight’s game out of reach. Instead, Cano slammed a no-doubt, line-drive home run into the right-field seats.
The blast was Cano’s 10th home run of the season — which, along with his .351 batting average and Gold Glove play at the the Keystone Corner — have clearly elevated him to the ranks of baseball’s most elite players.
Cano has come up with a ton of big hits this year, but tonight’s grand slam was his biggest thus far in 2010.
–Alfred Santasiere III
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Building Momentum

May 28, 2010 — The Yankees entered tonight’s matchup with Cleveland — which marks the first contest in a four-game weekend series with the Tribe — four and a half games back of the Tampa Rays.

While the Yankees’ 28-19 start places them a few games back of the AL East Division leader, it must be noted that throughout baseball, only the Rays have a better record than the Yankees.
In other words, the Yankees are right there.
Of equal importance, this holiday weekend is a time the Yankees can build on their performance in their last series, and begin to put serious pressure on the Rays.
The Yankees came into tonight’s game after taking two out three against the equally impressive Minnesota Twins in Minneapolis’ new ballpark.
Phil Hughes has only given up two runs in six innings of work against the Indians tonight — marking his seventh quality start of the 2010 campaign. And, the Yankees got a big boost in the outfield as Curtis Granderson returned to the lineup for the first time in a month.
In recent years, the Yankees have built winning streaks (and winning months) off of their own momentum. The second half of the 2009 season was the perfect example of that. The Yankees kept their heads above water until the All-Star Break, and then they took off. Once they began winning, they never stopped — straight through the clinching game of the World Series.
It might be a bit early to predict a big run, but the Yankees have been impressive over the last four games — and they were equally as good before being ravaged by injuries in early May.
Great pitching and clutch hitting have returned to the Yankees makeup. And they’re getting healthy in a hurry. In addition to Granderson, Jorge Posada and Alfredo Aceves will likely be returning from injuries in the next month.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, the Yankees have a 4-2 lead over Cleveland. It’s been a well-played game, and I expect much of the same as the weekend rolls on.
–Alfred Santasiere III
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Nothing but Nets

May 20, 2010 — New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov visited Yankee Stadium yesterday, and I spent a few minutes with the Russian billionaire. In an interview that will be published in the July Issue of Yankees Magazine, Prokhorov discussed his lofty aspirations for his team.

“We’ll be a championship contender sometime in the next five years,” he said. “We have everything at our
disposal. We have a great management team, and we have the element of surprise
from Russia.”

Prokhorov, whose business portfolio includes media corporations, financial companies and gold mines, also discussed his desire to make it to the top of the NBA mountain.

“For me, there’s only one place to be: first place,” he said. “I’m a
competitor, so from that standpoint, I think about it a lot. It would also mean
a lot to me because it would be the first championship in Nets history.”

Prokhorov, whose team will be moving to Brooklyn in two years, exudes confidence in everything he does. He’s not shy about his plans to conquer the NBA and the entire American sports landscape like few others have.

It was be interesting to story line to follow over the next decade. But for an introduction to the newest New York sports figure, read Prokhorov’s exclusive words in the July issue of Yankees Magazine.

–Alfred Santasiere III
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Play of the Year… so far

May 18, 2010 — With all the drama
that took place in the Yankees gutty win last night, one out got lost in the
mix.

One spectacular out, which was
recorded by Mark Teixeira in the fifth inning. Phil Hughes had just given up a
three-run home run to J.D. Drew and he was on the ropes — admittedly not having
his best stuff — but holding on to a one-run lead.

The Red Sox next hitter, Kevin
Youkilis, hit a pop fly to the area behind first base in foul territory. The
ball’s trajectory made it appear as if it was going to land a foot or two in
front of the wall that separates the seats from the field and about 20 yards
behind first base (clearly a long run was necessary for Teixeira to get to the
ball).

Right off the bat, Teixeira turned
around and sprinted toward the ball, tracking it perfectly and getting to it
just before it landed. Because the ball was so close to the wall, Teixeira had
to slide as he snagged it. And the first baseman had to make an
over-the-shoulder grab, which he made look easy.

Teixeira made plenty of highlight
reel catches last season, en route to his third Gold Glove Award. But, in my
opinion, the one he made last night was his best in pinstripes. When the ball
was hit, it didn’t look catchable. Not even if nine-time Gold Glover Don
Mattingly was out there. But Teixeira got there, and he made it look easy.

–Alfred Santasiere III

Tough Battle, Huge Win

The Yankees took on the Boston Red Sox on the heels of a tough loss to the Minnesota Twins yesterday, in which Mariano Rivera didn’t get it done.
The Yanks wasted no time in getting rid of the yesterday’s sour taste. They scored five runs in the first inning tonight. But Boston didn’t give up; instead they battled back and eventually taking a 9-7 lead in the eighth inning.
As the case has been in so many games over the last year, the Yankees struck back in their last at bat.
Trailing by two runs in the bottom of the ninth — and facing the Jonathan Papelbon — Brett Gardner lined a 3-2 pitch to left field for a lead-off double.
Then, with one out, Alex Rodriguez came to the plate with the chance to be the hero… again. And again, he came through, this time blasting Papelbon’s first pitch deep into the left-center field seats.
Only days removed from his go-ahead, seventh-inning grand slam against the Twins on Friday, and less than a year removed from a postseason in which he hit three game-tying home runs, A-Rod did it again.
That’s right, he did it again. Another clutch home run for A-Rod. Another game-tying, ninth-inning home run for the amazing Alex Rodriguez.
After retiring Robinson Cano, Papelbon drilled Francisco Cervelli in the arm with a fastball.
Marcus Thames made Papelbon pay by launching a two-run home run over the left-field wall to win the most dramatic game since the 2009 postseason.
The Yankees lost a big lead tonight, but in the end, they showed the same determination that fueled them to a championship last year. It was another thrilling night in the Bronx. And by the looks of it, there’s many more to come this season.
–Alfred Santasiere III
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Welcome to the Neighborhood

May 17, 2010 — As a crowd of nearly 500 people — and a mariachi
band — stood outside Washington Heights’ El Nuevo Caridad, Alex Rodriguez,
Curtis Granderson and Greg Golson served lunch to members of local Little
League teams within the restaurant.

The meal, which was passed out to 200 youngsters
a few hours before tonight’s game, was on the
house.

“We like to take care of Little Leaguers
programs from all over the city,” said the restaurant’s owner, Miguel Montas.
“The food is good, and the players are great.”

For Montas, the Yankees’ visit was especially
meaningful because, A-Rod, a Washington Heights native, was on hand.

“Alex is the best baseball player in the world,”
Montas said. “The respect that these kids have for Alex, and the respect that
Alex has for them and for this community is a big deal.”

Trust me, that feeling was shared by every kid, every parent and very grandparent inside and outside the restaurant. They are proud to claim A-Rod as their own; they share pride in his accomplishments; and they are ecstatic when he stops by — even if it’s only for a few minutes.

A-Rod arrived some time after the other players, but I could here the roar of the crowd when his SUV neared — from a back room inside of the restaurant.

Granderson, who is one of baseball’s more giving players, relished the opportunity to support
Montas’ efforts.

“Today, I got a chance to see this community for
what it is,” said Granderson as he donned a chef’s hat. “To see a restaurant help it’s neighbors like
this is what it’s all about. These kids enjoyed the meal, but they wanted to
talk about baseball, as well. It shows where our support comes from.”

–Alfred Santasiere III

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Lord of the Rings

May 17, 2010 — A few days ago, I ran into Yogi Berra, who has been one of my favorite Yankees (past or present) to cover. He had not received his 2009 World Series ring yet — he got it a day later, though. 

When Berra and his wife Carmen noticed that I was wearing my 2009 World Series ring, they asked to see it, and I was happy to pass it around. 
While Mrs. Berra remarked about the blue stone that lies beneath the interlocking NY on the ring, Yogi offered a classic quote.
“It’s heavy,” he said “They didn’t used to weigh this much.”
For a few minutes, I was sharing my first World Series ring with Yogi Berra, baseball’s Lord of the Rings. That was quite a thrill.
The former catcher has 10 World Series rings — several of which are on display in the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center in Little Falls, N.J. 
I guess I can say that my ring has been blessed by baseball’s best.
–Alfred Santasiere III

Hall of Rings

May 16, 2010 — Holding baseball’s top job has its perks.

Regardless of which team takes home the World
Series trophy each October, the commissioner is awarded a World Series ring.

Prior to today’s game against the
Minnesota Twins, Joe Girardi presented Bud Selig’s 2009 World Series
ring to National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum president Jeff Idelson for
permanent display at the museum.

I spoke with Idelson this morning about the latest Yankees ring.

“The 2009 ring features a classic Yankees
design,” Idelson said. “It’s going to stand out from the others in a meaningful
way because of its class.”

To commemorate the occasion, seven Yankees World
Championship rings from as many decades were displayed on the field. And prior the ceremony, Idelson showed the collection to several Yankees players, including Mariano Rivera and Alex Rodriguez (photographed with Idelson below).

Baseball enthusiasts can see the every World
Series ring, a tradition that began with the 1922 New York Giants, in
Cooperstown.

“It’s a very popular exhibit, especially among
those who are involved in the game, and those who understand what World Series
rings mean to the game and what it means to win one,” Idelson said. “Fans love
the exhibit because it really shows the way the rings have changed with society
over the continuum of time.”

The rings that Idelson brought to the Stadium today are from (from left in the photograph below) 1927, 1932, 1941, 1956, 1961, 1977 and 1999.

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