June 2010

STRIKE!

June 29, 2010 — A few days ago, I predicted that my June 26 ceremonial first pitch at Scranton’s PNC Field would be a strike.
Well, I am a man of my word. I threw a strike — as if you couldn’t tell by the emotion captured in the photo below.
I arrived in Scranton the day before the first pitch and my book signing, where I inked copies of Twenty Seven. On Friday, I spent a few hours with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre catcher — and highly-touted prospect — Jesus Montero. Our afternoon began at a LongHorn Steakhouse, where I learned about the Montero’s family and his desire to become a star in pinstripes.
After lunch, Montero, Yankees photographer James Petrozzello, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre radio announcer Mike Vander Woude and I found a scenic spot on Montage Mountain for Petrozzello to grab some unique shots of the catcher.
After the photo shoot, Petrozzello and I accompanied Montero the PNC Field weight room, where we observed — and photographed — the slugger’s daily workout.
My interview and observations, along with Petrozzello’s photos, will make for a very special feature story, which will appear in the August issue of Yankees Magazine.
The story will also detail my first pitch, which was caught by Montero. I was sure to tell the catcher about my prediction, and he was sure to throw a few good-natured barbs my way during our lunch.
But after the ceremonial toss, Montero dished out praise — “Great pitch, man.”
And I responded by praising him – “You’re going to be a great player. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”
The feature will provide Yankees fans with the most in-depth story that Yankees Magazine has ever published on a prospect.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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Drew Brees the pitcher. Who knew!

June 20, 2010 – New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees,
who won Super Bowl MVP honors in February, threw the ceremonial first pitch
before today’s game against the Mets.

Before Brees took the mound, I spoke with the proud father,
whose son joined him on the hill, for a “5 Questions” feature that will appear in the August
issue of Yankees Magazine.

Brees took special pride in showing me the details in his
Super Bowl ring. And I was equally as proud to show off my World Series ring to him.

“Our ring features several symbols of the city of New
Orleans,” Brees said. “It has the St. Louis Cathedral, which is located in the
heart of the French Quarter. It has musical notes, our Super Bowl parade float
and the Superdome. When I look at it, it brings back memories of every game of
our Super Bowl season.”

–Alfred Santasiere III

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My Home Town

June 20, 2010 – There are few – if any – stories I will ever
write that mean as much to me as the one you will see in the September issue of
Yankees Magazine.

My late grandmother, Mildred Santasiere, who lived in South
Orange, New Jersey for the first 80 years of her life, witnessed history when
she was 19 years old.

In 1929, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig played for South Orange’s
semi-pro team in a state championship game against New Brunswick. The Yankees
icons, who were no stranger to barn storming games, were promised $100 for
every home run they would hit out of South Orange’s Cameron Field. Gehrig hit
three homers and Ruth hit one. The duo combined for eight of the Villagers 14
runs, and they helped the South Orange club claim the 1929 championship.

There weren’t many stories my grandmother enjoyed telling
more than the one about that fateful game. In honor of her 100th
birthday, which she would be celebrating in September, I returned to my
hometown and conducted extensive research on the day that Ruth and Gehrig
visited the small suburban town. I have attempted to uncover every detail,
including the distance of the sluggers’ home runs and the recruiting efforts of
Mike Gazella, who played for the Yankees before joining the Villagers. There
are still a few stones left to be unturned – which is among the reasons the
story won’t be published until September. But I am confident that my version of
this story will be the most riveting and interesting of them all – except, of
course, for the account that my grandmother shared with me so many times.

Several years after Ruth and Gehrig played at Cameron Field,
Whitey Ford pitched there as part of the Army’s baseball team. In September of
1952, at which time Ford was serving in Fort Monmouth, he threw a complete game
against the South Orange American Legion Giants. Fort Monmouth won the game
3-1.

When I spoke with Ford about the game for a sidebar that
will also run in September, I asked him if he would like to take a trip back in
time, and return to Cameron Field for the first time in nearly 58 years. The
Hall of Famer was game, and he and I met Yankees team photographer James
Petrozzello at the field last Thursday for a very special photo shoot.

My father, Alfred Santasiere, Jr. (pictured below), who was saw Ford pitch in
South Orange, served as our tour guide through town.

“I often talked about seeing Whitey Ford pitch in person at
Cameron Ford,” my father said as we left the field. “I’m not sure if you ever
believed me when you were a kid. Never in my wildest imagination did I think I
would meet Whitey Ford on the baseball diamond at Cameron Field 58 years
later.”

–Alfred Santasiere III

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Second Chance for First Pitch

June 19, 2010 — It’s not often that you get a second chance at something.

But less than a year after I threw a ceremonial first pitch — in the dirt — at a Trenton Thunder game (pictured below), I will have a second chance to throw a strike.
This time, I’ll be taking the hill prior to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees game on Saturday June 26 at PNC Field in Scranton.
This time, I’m making a prediction: I will throw a strike.
After the pitch, I will describe it on this blog. And don’t worry, I will be honest, just as I was last year (to read that post, look for Nerves of Steel in August 2009).
My catcher on Saturday will be Scranton/Wilkes-Barre catcher Jesus Montero, who will also be the subject of a feature story in the August issue of Yankees Magazine.
Starting at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, I will be signing copies of Twenty-Seven, the Yankees 2009 World Series championship commemorative book, which I co-wrote. I will be stationed in front of the PNC Field team store before and after the first pitch.
I hope to see you there.
–Alfred Santasiere III
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Follow the Jeters

June 19, 2010 — July is almost here, but I will end the suspense a little early.

Derek Jeter will grace the cover of the July issue of Yankees Magazine.
In each of the last three off-seasons, I have had the chance to spend a few days with Jeter and and his family during the captain’s annual Turn 2 golf outing in Tampa.
I went to Tampa this year intent on finding out everything I could about Jeter’s leadership quality. I asked Derek’s parents how long their son has been a team leader, and they shared stories from as far back as his Little League days.
Derek spoke about the type of leader he considers himself to be — and those comments will surprise even the most knowledgeable Yankees fans.
I asked Derek’s teammates –past and present– whether they would be wearing all of those World Series rings if the Yankees were void of on-field leaders. And from Jorge Posada to Tino Martinez, the answer was the same every time.
“No.” Martinez said before I could even finish the question. “You can have a great season with good players. But you can win championships with good players and leaders.”
“There’s no way,” Posada added. “Every team, including the one that just won the World Series, had followers. But they needed someone to lead them, especially when things weren’t going well. Managers are leaders, but they can’t do it themselves.”
Michael Jordan and Marcus Allen (both pictured below)were among the other celebrity guests who came to support Jeter’s foundation. I spoke with both Hall of Famers about Jeter, and they offered high praise of the shortstop.
“Derek is clearly a guy who is self-motivated and driven,” Allen said. “He impacts his team with his play, and he motivates players around him to be better.”
“Some people are born to lead,” Jordan added. “Derek is one of those people. He doesn’t wear it on his sleeve, but he has a great work ethic, which people admire him for.”
That’s just a small part of this story. You don’t want to miss the rest.
–Alfred Santasiere III
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World Series Trophy at Yogi Berra Museum – June 24

June 15, 2010 — Don’t miss the chance to get an up-close look at the 2009 World Series trophy – and one of the finest baseball museums in the country.

On June 24, from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm, the Yankees 2009 hardware will be on display at the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center in Little Falls, New Jersey. For more information, please call (973) 655-2378.
–Alfred Santasiere III
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Yogi’s 20th… Golf Outing

June 15, 2010 — As the case usually is, Nick Swisher said it best.

“Anything
that is related to Yogi Berra is nothing but a good cause,” the rightfielder said when I asked him about his support of the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center. “Yogi stands for so many wonderful things, and he’s been an inspiration to me. I
don’t think there anyone in this entire universe that doesn’t like Yogi Berra. He
asked me if I was going to be here, and I told him that I wouldn’t miss this
for the world. It’s an honor to be here to represent him.”

Swisher (who is pictured below with Yogi and Carmen Berra) was among 44 celebrity guests at Berra’s 20th annual golf outing, which was held at the Montclair Country Club in West Orange, NJ yesterday. The event raised $300,000, and the proceeds will benefit the museum’s signature programs, including summer camps and youth seminars.

“Yogi has
reached so many children,” said former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is pictured below with my wife TIana and I. “He gives children
an introduction to the game that is very positive. I can’t think of anyone
better at that than Yogi, because he has such a wonderful personality and aura.”

“I’m
grateful to everyone who came out to support us,” Berra said. “Joe Girardi,
the coaches and all the players help to make it successful.  It’s a
lot of work for everyone, but it really helps us keep doing what we’ve been
doing.”

–Alfred Santasiere III

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Dandy Andy

June 15,
2010 – During the 2009 postseason, in which Andy Pettitte recording victories
in three series-clinching games, I wrote that the lefthander should receive
serious Hall of Fame consideration when the time comes. That opinion was based
on Pettitte’s body of work through 2009.

In 2010,
Pettitte, who turns 38-years-old today, has an 8-1 record, and he is throwing the
ball as brilliantly as he did in the ’09 postseason.

On Friday
night (June 11), Pettitte notched the 200th win of his Yankees
career. To put that accomplishment in perspective, consider this: only two
hurlers in Yankees history have won more games than Pettitte has in pinstripes.
Whitey Ford hung up his cleats with 236 wins and Red Ruffing tallied 231.

To
compare Pettitte with modern-day contemporaries, take a gander at this
statistic:

In the
2000′s (2000-2009), Pettitte ranked first among all major leaguers in wins with
148. While there are several pitchers behind him on that list who have received
much more fanfare — such as Randy Johnson or Roy Halladay — none of them guided
their teams to more victories than Pettitte.

And when
it matters most, number 46 has more wins than anyone – ever. The southpaw’s 18 postseason triumphs are tops in
baseball history.

Pettitte’s
Hall of Fame credentials have expanded since last fall, and he is now in an exclusive class of Yankees pitchers with 200 wins. Ford and Ruffing have are
Hall of Famers, and both have plaques in Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park. In my
opinion, Pettitte will find his way to both hallowed locations — once he decides to stop winning games for the Yankees.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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Perfect Night — at Misericordia

June 9, 2010 — On Saturday night (June 5), I returned to my
alma mater — Misericordia University in Dallas, PA — for the second time in
the last year. In November, I was back on campus to sign copies of Twenty-Seven.

On Saturday, I was in at the school to accept Misericordia’s
Young Alumnus Award. That award is bestowed on an alumnus who graduated within
the past 10 years and who has achieved exceptional success in their profession,
as determined by the University’s alumni association.

I am honored to have won such a prestigious award, and I was
thrilled to have had the privilege of sharing Saturday night with my family. My
father delivered a moving speech about me at the ceremony, where he was joined
by my mother, my wife and my son.

And, for the second time in a year, the Yankees were kind enough
to send the 2009 World Series Trophy to Misericordia for the event. Following
Saturday’s award’s ceremony, the University held a cocktail party and dinner
for the nearly 500 alumni on hand. Each and every one of them — along with
professors Don Skiff and Becky Steinberger whom I invited — had the
opportunity to get an up-close look and pose for photos with the trophy.

The praise that I received for bringing the trophy back to my
alma mater was, at times, overwhelming. I will never forget many of those
kind words, and I will always be grateful to Yankees brass for sending the hardware
to Northeast PA.

For me, Saturday night was about my family, Misericordia
University and the New York Yankees. Combining those three institutions into
one event made for the perfect night.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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Under the Same Sky

June 3, 2010 — Last night, the New York Yankees hosted an event at Yankee Stadium to honor the
survivors of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, in which more than 250,000 women were
raped and where approximately 70 percent of the surviving women were infected
with HIV.

In
the pre-game gathering, the Yankees joined forces with Same Sky, a company
whose mission is to empower Rwandan women by giving them the tools to lead
self-sustaining lives. Same Sky currently employs 34 Rwandan artisans, who
handcraft bracelets made of glass beads.

The
event was hosted by Francine LeFrak, who founded Same Sky in 2008, Mindy
Levine, wife of Yankees president Randy Levine, vice president and assistant
general manager Jean Afterman and Sadye Zillo, wife of Yankees director of
media relations Jason Zillo.
The Honorable Agnes Gasana, wife of
Rwandan Ambassador to the United Nations Eugene-Richard Gasana was also in
attendance.

“We
help the women whose stories were the saddest,” LaFrak said. “We help women who were not only left
with the scars of losing their families, but who had also contracted HIV from
being raped. We taught them crochet, and they started making these beautiful bracelets.
We asked them if they wanted aid or trade, and they said, ‘Please give us
trade. Please give us an opportunity to have dignity.’ That’s what we did.”

Besides
providing a forum for Same Sky to sell the handmade bracelets, the Yankees’
support created exposure for the fair-trade organization.

“We
don’t pretend to be well-known in Rwanda, but we believe that because the
Yankees are a global brand, our participation tonight will bring awareness to
Same Sky in countries around the world,” Afterman said.

For
members of the Yankees front office, Legends Hospitality, the YES Network and
Securitas who were in attendance, the event provided perspective on the 1994
tragedy.

“We’re
able think about people who are not as fortunate as we are,” Mindy Levine said.
“We get to think about baseball everyday, not about life and death. Baseball is
a serious business, but the women of Rwanda help put things in perspective.”

“What
happened in Rwanda was never supposed to happen after the atrocities of World
War II,” Afterman added. “These women have brought themselves back from the
brink. We can’t imagine what they’ve gone through, but we are all living under
the same sky.”

For
more information on Same Sky, log on to http://www.samesky.org.

–Alfred Santasiere III


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