Real Dream Team Coach Honored at Yankee Stadium
July 27, 2012 — In the first-ever Women’s Issue of Yankees Magazine, which was published in August 2011, I wrote a feature story on Mike Candrea, who is the head softball coach at the University of Arizona.
In addition to winning eight national championships in his 27-year career with the Wildcats, Candrea also led the United States Olympic softball team to a gold medal in 2004 and to a silver medal in the 2008 games.
After spending a day with Candrea at his home in Tucson, Arizona during the winter of 2011 for the story, he and I have stayed in touch. The coach, who is a life-long Yankees fan and has a room in his house filled with classic baseball memorabilia, has come to New York in each of the last two seasons to take in a few Yankees games.
This season, Candrea and his wife Tina, came to New York a few days after the 2004 USA Softball team was inducted into the United States Olympic Hall of Fame in Chicago. That squad not only won the gold medal, but they also secured their legacy as one of the greatest Olympic teams ever to compete in the games. In nine Olympic contests, Candrea’s Team USA compiled a 9-0 record, while recording eight shutouts. Team USA, which out-scored its opponents by a combined score of 51-1, also graced the cover of Sports Illustrated, where they were dubbed “The Real Dream Team.”
After gaining the permission of Yankees executives, I got to make a phone call to Candrea that I will always remember.
On July 16, a few hours before Candrea was set to arrive at Yankee Stadium, I told him that the Yankees would be honoring him in a pre-game ceremony.
“This better not be a joke,” Candrea responded.
I assured the coach that I was not kidding, and he came to the Stadium with an ear-to-ear smile that lasted the entire night.
A few minutes before the Yankees took on the Toronto Blue Jays, Candrea was announced at home plate. The coach received a warm ovation from the crowd, and he was congratulated by his long-time friend (Yankees hitting coach) Kevin Long, who is a graduate of the University of Arizona.
“I have followed the Yankees my entire life, and I developed my heroes by rooting for them,” Candrea said. “To be standing at home plate in Yankee Stadium for a ceremony in which I was being honored was a dream come true”
For more on Candrea’s on-field recognition, check out the August Issue of Yankees Magazine.
–Alfred Santasiere III