September 9, 2011 – Before today’s game, the Yankees held a ceremony to commemorate the tragic events of 9/11.
In the ceremony, congressional medal of honor winner Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Arthur Petry was honored and former secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld escorted several wounded veterans, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade, onto the field.
Following the ceremony, Hank Grazioso of the Yankees ticket office threw out the game’s ceremonial first pitch. Grazioso lost both of his sons, John and Tim, on 9/11. Both men worked in the World Trade Center.
Grazioso is kind man, who is well respected throughout the Yankees organization for his spirit, work ethic and passion. I was honored just to be standing on the field with Grazioso in the moments before he took the mound. When Grazioso greeted me with a hug, I felt overwhelmed by his warmth.
As I’ve said before, Grazioso’s sons would be proud of their father today — and they would have been proud of him on every other day since 9/11.
After the game got under way, I interviewed Rumsfeld about the ceremony. While I was interested in his words about the festivities, I couldn’t wait to hear the former secretary of defense’s comments about Grazioso.
“I was happy to have a chance to visit with Hank and his family,” Rumsfeld said. “They are strong people, and I admire them for that. I told Hank that I was glad he was throwing out the ceremonial first pitch because I’ve got a titanium right shoulder, and I couldn’t have gotten it half as far as he got the ball.
“I have a lot of respect for the Yankees organization for hosting this ceremony, for bringing in the Wounded Warriors and for inviting the Medal of Honor winner to be here,” Rumsfeld continued. “As we approach this tenth anniversary of 9/11, it’s important for everyone to pause and remember the sacrifice of the troops, the firemen and the policemen, those who lost their lives and their families and friends. I appreciate what the Yankees organization has done.”
–Alfred Santasiere III