March 2011

2011 New York Yankees Official Yearbook – On Sale Now…

March 31, 2011 – For me, one of the most exciting parts of Opening Day has nothing to do with what’s happening on the field.

Today, the 2011 New York Yankees Official Yearbook is on stands for the first time, and this year’s edition consists of 300 pages about the 2011 team, Yankees greats from the past and a moving tribute to three people who passed away last year — our owner George Steinbrenner, our voice Bob Sheppard and our greatest fan Freddy “Sez” Schuman.

As a lasting tribute, a beautiful portrait of the Boss is featured on the cover (as seen below).

If you’re a Yankees fan and you’re not yet convinced that you have to have the 2011 Yearbook, please read the following paragraph!

The 2011 yearbook includes a 40-page section detailing the Yankees World Series history. We’ve dedicated one page to each Yankees team that made it to the Fall Classic.

Hall of Fame writer Bill Madden scripted the entire section, which features a photo from each of the 40 World Series the Yankees have played in.

Simply put, it’s a celebration of the ages …for the ages.

–Alfred Santasiere III


Opening Day at Yankee Stadium

March 31, 2011 – Former New York Giants GM Ernie Accorsi, who is a tremendous baseball fan and a passionate Yankees fan, has commonly said, “Other than Christmas, Opening Day is the best day of the year.”

Well, after a cold winter in the Northeast, Opening Day is here. And whether you are at Yankee Stadium or watching the game from the comfort (and warmth) of your own home, you won’t want to miss a minute of it.

There is truly something special about Opening Day throughout major league baseball. But it is difficult to compare the pageantry and tradition of Opening Day at Yankee Stadium with that of any other ballpark in North America.

From all of the great Openers at the old Yankee Stadium to the more recent ones at the modern-day Yankee Stadium, there are some similarities that have never changed.

My favorite part of Opening Day lore takes place at the start of the afternoon. For nearly as long as the Yankees have been in existence, they have chosen a person, whose legacy is important to organization and to New York City, to throw out the game’s ceremonial first pitch.

From national icon Yogi Berra, who opened this Yankee Stadium with a ceremonial toss in 2009, to Mel Stottlmyre, who took the mound in 2001 after a long absence from the team due to a life-threatening illness, a compelling person is always on the hill to usher in the new season.

Other notable “pitchers” in the last few decades have included Joe DiMaggio, Rudy Giuliani, Reggie Jackson and Bernie Williams.

Mike Mussina, who retired from the Yankees after winning 20 games in 2008, threw this year’s first pitch.

Moose, who was recognized at the Yankees Welcome Home Dinner last night in Manhattan, spent eight years in the Bronx. While the relatively unassuming Mussina was overshadowed at times by the likes of Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens, David Wells and David Cone, he gave the Yankees a most consistent run, winning 15 or games in five of those eight seasons.

It’s only appropriate that Mussina was given the ball today, because for the better part of a decade, he gave the Yankees everything he had.

Yankees Magazine captured some exclusive images of Mussina in a private photo shoot at last night’s dinner. Those photos, along with some feedback from Mussina on his ceremonial toss, will be published in the May issue.

–Alfred Santasiere III


 

Times to Remember

March 25, 2011 – My last trip to spring training came to an
end last week (March 18), and it could not have concluded on a better note.

Yankees team photographer James Petrozzello and I arrived at
George M. Steinbrenner Field at around 7:30 am to set up for a photo shoot with
Alex Rodriguez.

As I wrote in a blog entry a few days ago, I have been
working on a very special feature story on A-Rod, which will appear in the May
issue of Yankees Magazine.

Today, the final two pieces of the story came together. Amid
one of the most picturesque mornings I’ve seen in nearly a decade of trips to
Tampa for Spring Training, Petrozzello captured an image of Rodriguez that
encapsulates my story.

As 8:30 am approached, the thick fog that blanketed the city
for much of the morning began to give way to a hazy and sun-lite sky.

Petrozzello set up shop on a dirt walkway, which is located
right outside the Yankees indoor batting cage (very close to where Petrozzello
photographed Robinson Cano earlier in the week).

The photo, which will grace the cover of the May issue of Yankees Magazine, features Rodriguez
standing in the very spot where the sunlight meets the dark walkway.

That walkway is covered with baseballs, which I plucked from
a hopper that holds more than 150 baseballs. That hopper, which remained about
three quarters full, is also in the background of the photograph.

After that photo shoot, Petrozzello took a few photos of
Rodriguez along an outdoor walkway that leads to a practice field. The
beautiful morning really added to the radiance of the photo.

While I’m not going to reveal the cover photograph now, I
will provide you with an early look at the photo of Rodriguez, which was taken
on the outdoor path. Hopefully, you like the photo as much as I do, because it
will run as the pull-out poster in the May issue.

When the photo shoots were done, A-Rod invited Petrozzello
and I into the indoor batting cages so that Petrozzello could capture a few
more photos and so I could observe him in a place in time that few ever get to
see.

I will provide much more detail about Rodriguez’ preparation
in the story, but for now, I can report that the third baseman’s level of
intensity was off the charts. He began the exercise by hitting baseball after
baseball off a tee before smacking (maybe destroying is a better word) every
one of the 50 or so pitches Kevin Long tossed. And Rodriguez hit them in
whichever direction he desired.

As exciting as my morning was, the end of my day was even
more thrilling. After a long day of travel (and traffic) from Tampa to New
York, my 3 ½ year old son and I took advantage of whatever daylight was left
for our own batting practice session.

That’s when I got to witness Alfred hitting a baseball –
that was pitched to him –for the first time. After a few warm-up tosses from
about five feet away, he made contact with a pitch, driving it 21 feet. After
the baseball’s momentum stopped, we hugged each other like two guys who had
just won the World Series, and that was as wonderful as the hit itself.

I had two unforgettable experiences in one day. The one with
Alex will stay with me for a long time and the one with Alfred will be with me
forever.

–Alfred Santasiere III

 

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The Making of a Feature Story – on YES Network’s Yankees on Deck Show

March 25, 2011 – Last Wednesday (March 16), Yankees Magazine joined forces with the
YES Network’s Yankees on Deck show,
which is a half-hour TV program geared toward kids.

On an upcoming episode of Yankees on Deck, the show’s host, Amanda Semian, will provide
viewers with an inside look at how a Yankees
Magazine
feature story is made.

The subject of the feature that Semian worked with me on is
Robinson Cano.

The cameras started rolling at about 10:00 am, when Yankees
team photographer James Petrozzello began setting up lights and conducting a
series of test shots for two photographs.

The first photo that Petrozzello got ready to shoot was a
horizontal shot of Cano in the seats behind the Yankees dugout at George M.
Steinbrenner Field.

That shot will likely run as the opening spread photo for
the story, and it features Cano in a completely empty ballpark.

After Petrozzello got that shot set up, I spent some time
with the show’s host, going over the list of questions I planned to ask Cano.

After the interview tutorial, the Yankees Magazine and Yankees
on Deck
personnel walked down the right-field line and ducked into a
walkway that spans from the field to the Yankees batting cages.

That dirt walkway would be the site of the second photo
shoot of the day. The purpose of the shot was to capture a magazine cover.

A few hours after Petrozzello got everything into place –
and after a few delays — Cano came off the field (after taking batting
practice) and joined us in the seats.

With a little assistance from the show’s host — Semian held
an umbrella that blocked the sun from shining directly on Cano — Petrozzello
took a series of photos of Cano.

Immediately following that photo, Semian and I took our
seats on either side of Cano, and I began to interview him.

After I had asked Cano about a dozen questions, Semian asked
the Gold Glove second baseman to describe the range of emotions he felt in the
seconds before and after he made the final out of the 2009 World Series. With a
big smile on his face, Cano reflected on the happiest moment of his career.

“It was hard to believe it was happening,” Cano said. “I was
more excited than nervous when the ball was hit to me. I couldn’t wait to get
it into Mark’s [Teixeira] glove, because that would mean we were champions.”

As planned, we took our show back to the dirt walkway in
right field, so that Petrozzello could create the cover imagery.

While I don’t yet know which 2011 issue the Robinson Cano
feature will be in, I will update this blog as soon as it is hashed out.

Also, I will write a reminder blog entry as soon as I know
which episode of Yankees on Deck this
segment will be part of.

Stay tuned!

–Alfred Santasiere III

 

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Commemorative Opening Day Program – First Look

March 14, 2011 — Earlier today, the cover of the Commemorative
Opening Day Program was finalized (see it for the first time below).

This is truly a sneak peak, since the magazine hasn’t even
printed yet. If you follow the Yankees
Magazine
Homestand Blog, you are seeing this cover before anyone else.

Please take a moment to let me know what you think of the
Opening Day cover, and please stay tuned for more Yankees Magazine covers during the season. I will continue to post
them here first.

And even if you are not attending the Yankees Opening Day
game against the Detroit Tigers at Yankee Stadium on March 31, you can still
purchase the game program. To do so, please call (800) GO-YANKS.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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April Issue of Yankees Magazine Preview

March 14, 2011 – A few weeks ago, I spoke with Joe Girardi
about a dozen or so topics. We talked about Alex Rodriguez and his tireless
work ethic. We discussed A.J. Burnett, and Girardi expounded on why he is so
confident that the pitcher will rebound. Then I asked the skipper about
Rafael Soriano, the Yankees new eighth inning man.

That’s when the manager’s demeanor changed. His eyes lit up,
and he began to smile.

“Rafael is going to change our entire game plan,” Girardi
said. “There’s going to be a lot of pressure on the other team to score enough
runs during the first seven innings of each game.”

Girardi’s optimism is warranted. Soriano established himself
as one of the best closers in baseball last year with the AL East champs, the
Tampa Bay Rays. He led the American League in saves with 45 — and only blew two
save opportunities — and he posted a career-best 1.73 ERA.

Soriano is a power pitcher, who struck out 57 batters last
season, while only walking 14.

Now Soriano is the bridge to Mariano Rivera, who is coming
off another brilliant season in the greatest career a relief pitcher has ever
had.

Are Mo and Sori the best one-two punch in baseball today?
Are they the best late-innings tandem in Yankees history? Will there presence shorten games for opposing teams?

In the next issue of Yankees
Magazine
, which will be on sale on March 31 — Opening Day 2011 — I take my
best shot at answering those questions and at providing an in-depth look at the
newest Yankees star.

Besides talking to Girardi for this story, I spoke with
Soriano on the day he signed with the team (see photo below). I also asked
Derek Jeter for his take on just how difficult Soriano is to hit, and pitching
coach Larry Rothschild gave me his insight on Soriano’s repertoire and command.

The April issue also includes the first of two “New York
Yankees Alumni Newsletters” that will be published in 2011. This month’s alumni
spotlight is on Bubba Crosby, who was a fan-favorite earlier in the decade and
now runs a huge landscaping business in Texas.

And, earlier this winter, Yankees
Magazine
senior editor Kristina Dodge participated in the first-ever Women’s
Fantasy Camp. In between swings, Kristina was taking notes for a very special
first-person account of the camp that will also appear in April.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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Say Hey, Willie

March 7, 2011 – Last week — in between trips to Tampa — I
traveled to Arizona to conduct a highly sought after interview.

On March 3, I met with Willie Mays at his house in
Scottsdale and discussed the career of Alex Rodriguez with him. The interview
took place at Mays’ dinning room table, and it lasted about 30 minutes.

Mays is one of several all-time baseball greats who I interviewed
over the last few months for a feature-story on Alex Rodriguez, which will
appear in the May issue of Yankees
Magazine
.

I spent some time with Hank Aaron, Don Mattingly and Yogi
Berra in New York City earlier in the year, and I met up with Mike Schmidt in
Clearwater, Florida two weeks ago.

The Mays interview will make what I feel is an already
special story even more exclusive. When I initially reached out to Mays through
his personal assistant, I was told that he rarely does one-on-one interviews,
and that she couldn’t imagine why someone from the New York Yankees wanted to
speak with him. I asked Mays’ assistant to let the Say Hey Kid know that
Rodriguez and I put together a wish list of players whose words we wanted to be
in the story — and Mays was at the top the list.

That got Mays to “mull it over” for a week.

Then the Mays’ camp asked me who else I spoke to for this
story, and I provided them with the names above.

A day later, I got the call I had been hoping for. “He said
yes,” Mays’ assistant said a second after I picked up the phone.

Less than a week later, I was on my way to the Southwest.

On the day of the interview — a mere 20 minutes before I was
scheduled to meet Mays at Scottsdale Stadium — the Hall of Famer called an
audible, asking me to come to his house for the interview.

I was humbled by the opportunity to spend a half hour with
Willie Mays at his dinning room table. It was certainly one of those times that
felt surreal.

But it was real, and it was a challenge. Mays, who hit 660
home runs, was selective in the topics he was willing to discuss.

To use a baseball comparison, I felt like a pitcher who
didn’t have his best stuff for the first 20 minutes of the conversation. But I
stayed with the list of questions I had prepared, and it paid off. In the last ten minutes of the
interview, Mays spoke candidly about A-Rod, even discussing the first time he
heard about him.

“A scout for the Seattle Mariners told me about this guy who
had just been called up,” Mays said. “He said to me, ‘Willie, this kid is only
19 years old, but I honestly think he can do everything you did in the game.
The first time I saw Alex swing the bat, I agreed with the scout.”

Stay tuned to this blog over the next month, because I will
be posting several more entries about the interviews and experiences that went
into my one-of-a-kind story on Alex Rodriguez, including two days I spent with
A-Rod in Miami.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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Saluting the Boss

February 28, 2011 – Moments before the first pitch of 2011
was tossed, the Yankees paid tribute to George Steinbrenner in a city that
benefited from the late owner’s charitable works for three decades.

In a heartfelt ceremony, Ron Guidry, Joe Girardi, Goose
Gossage and Derek Jeter each read a part of a plaque that resides near a larger
than life statue of Steinbrenner outside the aptly named George M. Steinbrenner
Field. Steinbrenner’s wife Joan, along with his daughters Jennifer and Jessica,
followed the plaque dedication by each laying a rose on the interlocking NY
logo that is painted on the grass behind home plate.

The interlocking NY was chosen over home plate because the
ceremony’s organizer felt that it was important to incorporate some symbolism.

George Steinbrenner shaped the Yankees image for a long
time, and in my opinion, there was no better place for those roses to sit.

A complete wrap-up of the day with reactions from players
that span nearly four decades will be published in the April issue of Yankees Magazine.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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5 Minutes with… Dwight Howard

February 27, 2011 – In a rare break from baseball this
spring, Yankees team photographer James Petrozzello and I traveled a few hours
east of Tampa to see the Orlando Magic take on the Oklahoma City Thunder on
Friday night (Feb. 25).

The Magic won convincingly behind a David versus Goliath
performance by all-world center Dwight Howard. Howard scored 40 points, blocked
six shots and brought down 16 rebounds. I stopped counting the number of slam
dunks Howard amassed after he reached eight.

Following the game, I sat down with Howard in the Magic
locker room for a “5 Minutes with…” piece, which will be published in the May
issue of Yankees Magazine.

One of the topics we discussed was Howard’s affinity for
baseball.

“When I was in high school, I really enjoyed playing baseball
as much as basketball,” the 6-foot, 11-inch star said. “I was a pitcher, and I
had a good fastball. I really liked to watch Randy Johnson pitch because he was
so tall and he used his height to his advantage.”

Howard also spoke to me about a familiar face he sees each
spring.

“CC Sabathia is here a lot during spring training,” Howard
said. “He has come up to me before a few of our games and said, ‘I’m here to
see you play.’ I really admire him
for that, and I’m honored that he wants to take the time to see me out there.”

–Alfred Santasiere III

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Yankees Universe Fan Club – Join Now!

February 27, 2011 – If you didn’t join the Yankees Universe
Fan Club in 2010, which was its first year of existence, don’t wait any longer.

Yankees Universe has been re-vamped and now includes four
levels of membership. While the
merchandise that is offered varies from level to level, all Yankees Universe
members are privy to a members-only website with exclusive content.

That content includes feature-length stories that won’t even
be published in Yankees Magazine, a
season-long series of exclusive video interviews, which can’t be seen anywhere
else and a game-by-game blog by long-time New York baseball writer Jack
O’Connell.

In the last week, I conducted several of those video
interviews with Yankees players and coaches. My conversation with Joe Girardi,
in which the manager spoke about his expectations for 2011 and the addition of
Rafael Soriano, among other topics, will be the first interview to go live on
Yankees Universe (and it will posted in the upcoming week).

I also sat down with Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter
(pictured below), along with top prospect Jesus Montero and centerfielder
Curtis Granderson, who spoke about his approach to his second season in
pinstripes.

Spring Training is always a busy time, and this year has
been no different. The work-day starts early for players, coaches, writers and
front office personnel. But through these interviews, I feel that I captured
the pulse of the team and the atmosphere in and around George M. Steinbrenner
Field.

While you wait for the season to start, please call (800)
GO-YANKS or log onto Yankees.com/universe for more information about Yankees
Universe – and once you join, please let me know what you think.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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