20, 2010 — The second installment of HOPE Week has just come to a close, and
for the second year in a row, it was a tremendous success.†
days, the Yankees provided memories of a lifetime for the people who were this
year’s HOPE Week honorees. Each of the five days were jam packed with thrilling
moments for deserving individuals, groups and families.
In 2009, Yankees director
of media relations came up with a platform to help others, and the Yankees
created HOPE (Helping Others Persevere & Excel) Week.
HOPE Week sheds light on individuals and organizations worthy of
support with the hope that it will not only bring joy to those involved, but
also inspire others to act in their own communities.
“Why not take advantage of this gift and this opportunity we
have here and bring joy to a bunch of people?” Zillo said. “At its core, this
isn’t even really about the Yankees. At the floor of this thing, it’s just
immersing yourself in joy. It makes me feel like I’m living –really
living — not just existing.”
Each of the Yankees Magazine editors, including me,
covered one of the HOPE Week events. And the September issue of Yankees Magazine will feature a
five-part story, detailing each of the spectacular days of HOPE Week.
I covered the Wednesday’s events, and I was honored to get to
know Mohamed Kamara, his sister Fatmata and his high school history teacher and
mentor, Joe King.
What follows is Mohamed’s story (and a photo from each day of HOPE Week) that will
appear in the September issue of Yankees Magazine. But trust me, you
don’t want to miss the other four stories. Each of them is as inspiring as the next.
In his first 18 years of life, Mohamed Kamara has seen it all.
Kamara was born in Sierra Leone during the civil war. By the
time he was 9 years old, he was burdened with the responsibility of foraging
for his family’s food, while his parents and younger siblings kept a low
profile to avoid violent rebels who continually invaded their village.
Kamara’s troubles reached their zenith when his family went
missing for two weeks, leaving the young boy on his own.
In 2001, the United States offered asylum to young men and women
of Sierra Leone, and Kamara made the decision to move to the United States with
his older sister, Fatmata, leaving his parents and four younger siblings
Since relocating to the Bronx, where Kamara lives with his aunt
and uncle, he graduated in the top quarter of his class at the Bronx Leadership
Academy High School. During the last four years, Kamara has also put in long
hours as a caddie at a New Jersey golf club, sending his earnings to his family
in West Africa.
In September, Kamara began studying business at Johnson &
Wales University in Rhode Island. But a few weeks before Kamara took his first
class, he got to see the business world in a way he never imagined.
Kamara arrived at the New York Stock Exchange with his high
school history teacher and mentor, Joe King, and Fatmata for what he thought
was a public tour. But Kamara was instead whisked into a room where CC
Sabathia, Reggie Jackson and Brian Cashman awaited his presence.
“I was very surprised when I saw the players,” Kamara said. “I’m
honored to be a part of HOPE Week.”
The group traveled to the trading floor, where they were given a
VIP tour and where Kamara was offered a coveted summer internship position at
the stock exchange.
From Wall Street, the group traveled to City Hall, where New
York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg — along with Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson
and Marcus Thames — shared a few minutes with Kamara.
“Mohamed is smart, and he has a great personality,” Bloomberg
said. “He represents the future of America.”
“Mayor Bloomberg gave me advice about school,” Kamara said. “He
told me to keep working hard and to never give up, no matter what happens.”
Before the contingent left Manhattan, they made a stop at the
United Nations, where Shekou M. Touray, Sierra Leone’s permanent representative
to the United Nations, greeted Mohamed. A guided tour of the General Assembly
The day concluded at Yankee Stadium, where Kamara took in
batting practice from the field, watched the Yankees defeat the Tigers from the
seats, and then returned to the field to take part in the team’s postgame
“He handled himself with dignity,” Jeter said. “He was really
–Alfred Santasiere III
August 16, 2010 — While September marks the beginning of the
football season, it also brings a few football players to Yankees Magazine.
The September issue will feature a “Five minutes with”
article with Hall of Famer Nick Buoniconti, who anchored the Miami Dolphins
defense during their back-to-back championship campaigns of 1972 and 1973.
Buoniconti’s ’72 Dolphins defeated the New York Giants at the old Yankee
Stadium en route to the NFL’s only Perfect Season.
I had lunch with Buoniconti last week in Long Island, and the
former linebacker spoke about taking the field at Yankee Stadium.
“I went out to Monument Park as soon as I got to the Stadium,
and I will never forget that,” he said. “As a Yankees fan, it was
special to see Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio’s monuments and then play on the same
field they played on.”
Buoniconti also spoke at length about his son Marc who was paralyzed
in a college football game 25 years ago. In the wake of Marc’s injury, the
elder Buoniconti co-founded the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, which has since become the
leading research center for spinal cord injuries in the world. On Sept. 27, the Miami Project’s annual dinner will be held in New York City (Log on to http://www.miamiproject.miami.edu for more information).
“When Marc was injured, I tried to find out what kind of
research was being done for spinal cord injuries,” Buoniconti said.
“People were doing small things, but nothing major. When I heard that, I
became determined to do anything I could to help. Marc’s injury was the
catalyst for the Miami Project, and it has raised $185 million.”
Check out the September issue of Yankees Magazine to
learn more about the Buonicontis inspiring story.
And for those of you who follow this blog, I will share a story
that you won’t find in Yankees Magazine — because I could only fit so
much content on two pages.
Buoniconti, who is an attorney, represented several Yankees
players in the early 80’s, including Bucky Dent and Mickey Rivers. While on
that topic, Buoniconti shared a story with me about negotiating a contract with
“After the 1978 season, I was negotiating with the Yankees
for Bucky Dent, and I wasn’t getting anywhere with their GM. I told him that
Bucky and I were getting on a plane to go to California, where Bucky was going
to sign with the California Angels.
I told him that that although Bucky wanted to stay with
the Yankees, he was going to sign with the Angels.
Then I got a call from George’s office. He said, ‘Nick,
what are you doing with my boy? You’re not really going, you’re bluffing aren’t
you?’ I said ‘Yeah, I’m bluffing, George. It’s flight 1721, and it leaves at
George asked me to meet him for lunch at the Essex House.
When I sat down, he said, ‘You’re serious about this, aren’t you?’ And I said
‘Yeah, I’m very serious about this. Bucky’s going to be a California
So George said ‘You have the leverage in this deal, but
Bucky’s not going to California. I’m going to match their offer.†He shook
my hand, and that was it. Then we talked about football over lunch.”
–Alfred Santasiere III
August 6, 2010 — Within minutes of Alex Rodriguez’ 600th home run, a special commemorative issue of Yankees Magazine went on sale at Yankee Stadium.
August 6, 2010 — Alex Rodriguez’ 600th home run landed
in the same place that he will end up someday — Yankee Stadium’s Monument
The historic drive came in the first
inning of the Yankees’ 5-1 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on August 4 — three
years to the day after Rodriguez hit his 500th career home run. With Derek
Jeter on first base, A-Rod deposited Shaun Marcum’s 2-0 fastball — which came
in at 85 miles an hour — into a net that sits a few feet above the monuments.
“You’ve got to be a big man to hit a
home run in centerfield in this ballpark,” Nick Swisher said. “It was an honor
for all of us to be here to witness that.”†
Frankie Babilonia, a Yankee Stadium security
guard who was filling in for a co-worker when Rodriguez gave the Yankees’ a 2-0
lead with the long-ball, retrieved the baseball.
“It was a lifetime experience, and
I’ll never forget it,” Babilonia said. “My job was to retrieve the ball and return
it to my supervisors, and that’s what I did.”
After the game, Yankees officials
presented the baseball to A-Rod, who in turn gave Babilonia a signed bat.
“I feel blessed that Frankie was so
generous,” Rodriguez said.†
Rodriguez became the seventh player
in major league history to reach the 600 home run plateau, and the youngest to
do so. At 35 years and 8 days old, A-Rod edged out Babe Ruth by 188 days.
“It’s hard to believe,” Jeter said.
“He’s only 35. He got to 600 pretty quickly, so I’m sure this won’t be the last
milestone. There’s a lot of good things left for him.”
“When you reach that plateau, no
matter when it happens, it’s a tremendous accomplishment,” said Hank Aaron, who
hit 755 career home runs. “It means an awful lot.”
While Rodriguez’ overall journey to
600 came rapidly, the last hurdle didn’t come easily.
Twelve games and 46 at-bats passed
between A-Rod’s 599th home run and his 600th. During that time, specially
marked baseballs were put into play when A-Rod stepped to the plate.
“There’s no question that I was
pressing,” Rodriguez said. “I wanted to get it out of the way and get back
to playing good team baseball.”
On an 89-degree afternoon in the
South Bronx, A-Rod got the monkey off his back.
“It’s definitely a special number,”
Rodriguez said as he peered at the home run ball. “I’m proud of it, and I will
treasure it for a long, long time.”
–Alfred Santasiere III
August 3, 2010 — The 2010 New York Yankees posed for their annual team photo today.
August 2, 2010 — The August issue of Yankees Magazine came out today.