December 2010

Bowl Week 2010

December
30, 2010 – To say it’s been an eventful week in New York City would be an
understatement.

On
Sunday night, the Syracuse and Kansas State football teams arrived — amid one
of the most severe snow blizzards New York City has seen in years — and they
have been on the run ever since.

Pinstripe
Bowl week has included practices at the New York Giants and New York Jets
facilities, visits to the New York Stock Exchange, Ground Zero, a children’s
cancer center and the Empire State Building. Despite the less-than-ideal
weather conditions, the Syracuse and K-State players and coaches experienced
the best that New York City has to offer, while also giving back in a big way.

The
New York Yankees publications staff has been everywhere this week. We’ve covered
every event, every practice and every interview. You’ll see that coverage in
the 2011 New York Yankees Official Yearbook, where we will be publishing a
roundup of this week’s events, along with a story on today’s Inaugural
Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium.

On
Monday, I covered both teams’ practices at the TIMEX Performance Center in East
Rutherford, NJ — which is the New York Giants indoor practice facility. As I
walked through 40 mph winds and blowing snow in the parking lot, I was happy
that the practices were indoors.

While
some of the Syracuse players hadn’t even arrived in New York by that time because of flight delays and cancellations, those that were there tried to keep their excitement in check.

“You
don’t want to get too excited too soon,” Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone said.
“Focus is key, and it’s my job to keep these guys focused on the task at hand,
which is preparing for Thursday. We haven’t been in a bowl game since 2004, so
we’ll be motivated on Thursday.”

On
Tuesday morning, I accompanied a group of Kansas State players to
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, where they spent a few hours with young
patients.

I’ve
been on several visits to Memorial Sloan’s pediatric center with Yankees
players through the years. While those days are marked by memories of
professional athletes posing for photos, signing autographs and offering encouraging words, this
was a vastly different visit.

The
K-State contingent didn’t include household names, but it did consist of
players who were there to do a lot more than shake hands and sign autographs.
When we arrived in the giant indoor playground, which sits in the pediatric
cancer center, the players quickly found seats at the arts and crafts table,
alongside kids who were playing video games and next to kids who were relaxing
on couches.

At
the arts and crafts table, a group of players spent about an hour making purple
and white (K-State colors) bracelets and paper snowmen. Other players engaged
young patients in video game competition — playing the latest football game.

The
lengthy visit gave the patients — many of whom have been in the hospital for
more than a month — a much-needed lift. And the way these young
student-athletes cared for the kids was inspiring and deeply touching.

“It put my own life in perspective,” defensive back Dahrnaz Tigner said. “When I think that football is hard, and then you see people dealing with life-threatening conditions, it opens your eyes.”

There
were several highlights during the week, but in my opinion, none were more memorable or spectacular than that visit.

On Wednesday, both teams were at Yankee Stadium for walk through practices, and both posed for their official Pinstripe Bowl team photos on the field. I have coordinated the New York Yankees team photo for the last five years, and that task comes with challenges — getting every player on the field at the same time, setting up the shot quickly. But at least baseball teams only have 25 man rosters. Syracuse and Kansas State feature rosters with more than 115 players each.

In the end, the Syracuse and K-State sports information departments and photographers were great partners in setting up and taking the photos. They helped to make it a seamless process.

After the team photos, Marrone spoke to a group of Bronx youths.

“I told them, ‘Don’t let anyone tell you what you can’t do, because through education, you can do whatever you want,'” Marrone said. “When I was growing up, I watched the Yankees and I wanted to be a baseball player. In my heart, I believe that somewhere there will be a kid who will turn on the TV tomorrow and say that he wants to play football at Yankee Stadium. And that might lead him to success in his life.”

–Alfred
Santasiere III

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