A Day on the Ocean with Lou Piniella
August 26, 2011 – In the October issue of Yankees Magazine, there will be a two-part story on Lou Piniella.
The first part of the story will detail Piniella’s time with the Yankees, which included tenures as a player, coach, manager and executive, along with his overall baseball career. Hall of Fame baseball scribe and New York Daily News columnist Bill Madden, who covered Piniella for two decades Yankees will write that feature.
Madden is the best in the business, and he was in the ballpark for virtually every significant moment in Piniella’s Yankees career. Additionally, the mutual trust and admiration that Piniella and Madden have for each other will certainly go a long way in making this an inimitable story.
I wrote the second section of the story, and it details the most recent time Piniella’s life. Since managing the final game of his career last August with the Cubs, Sweet Lou returned to Tampa, where he was born and raised.
These days, Piniella is more relaxed than baseball fans would ever imagine. The fiery former skipper’s main priority is family. He and his wife Anita, who have been married for nearly 45 years, live within a few miles of their three children and three grandchildren, and they are enjoying all of the free time they now have.
“My family needed me to be home, and I needed to be home,” Piniella said. “People always told me that I would know when it was time to leave the game, and I defiantly knew it was time.”
Piniella, who works as a scout for the San Francisco Giants — but rarely travels out of the Tampa area, has also found time to pursue his life-long passion for fishing.
Since last fall, Piniella has spent at least one day a week on his 35-foot fishing boat. He has a full-time captain at his service, and, he has fished in the Gulf of Mexico and in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean near Tampa and off the coasts of Key West, Miami, Panama and other locations.
About a month ago, Piniella invited me to spend a day with him on his boat, which is named Extra Innings.
That day took place on Aug. 23, and it was as thrilling as it was hot.
At 8 in the morning, Yankees team photographer James Petrozzello and I met Piniella at the St. Petersburg marina where “Extra Innings” is docked.
We traveled 24 miles from shore, and amid the nearly 100-degree heat, Piniella and I caught a dozen fish. We released the assortment of red grouper and gag grouper, which were about 20 inches long, and which were living near the bottom of the 100-foot depth in that area of the ocean.
Reeling in the hard-diving grouper for 100 feet in 100 degree weather was challenging and exhilarating. Each fish took about 3 minutes to get into the boat, and when I woke up the next morning, I felt like I had been in weight-lifting competition.
That challenge is what Piniella enjoys most about being on the water.
“This is a rush,” he said a second after hooking his first fish of the day. “It doesn’t compare to baseball, but it’s a heck of a lot of fun.”
Each fish that Piniella and I caught provided us with a new highlight of the day. But for this writer and fisherman, the most captivating moments were those in which Piniella spoke about his current place in time.
One of those moments came in the middle of the afternoon when I remarked about the fact that regardless of what direction we looked in, all we could see was the clear blue ocean, the light blue sky and the horizon.
“This truly is serenity,” Piniella said. “When I’m out here, I am completely relaxed, because the only thing I’m thinking about is fishing”
–Alfred Santasiere III