January 2013

Reliving History with Aaron Boone

January 24, 2013 – On Thursday January 16, I spent a few hours interviewing former Yankees third baseman Aaron Boone in Scottsdale, Arizona for a feature that will be published in the October Issue of Yankees Magazine.

The story will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Boone’s epic 11th inning home run in Game 7 of the 2003 American League Championship Series against the Boston Red Sox.

I met Boone at True Food Kitchen, which is an eatery in the Scottsdale Quarter. For nearly two hours, Boone shared his memories of the 2003 season with me — which was my first year with the organization — from the time he found out that he was going to be traded from the Cincinnati Reds to the New York Yankees to the postgame celebration that followed his historic home run.

While enjoying a warm afternoon in the outdoor mall, I watched Boone’s level of excitement increase when he began speaking of the 2003 postseason. When he got to the point in the story that mattered most — ALCS Game 7 — he was more descriptive and more animated than at any other time.

One of the anecdotes that I found to be most interesting was Boone’s description of the bench-clearing brawl in Game 3 of the ALCS. As most fans remember, things got heated at Fenway Park when Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez hit former Yankee Karim Garcia in the back of the neck with a fastball. In the next inning, Roger Clemens, who was already the least popular player among the Red Sox faithful, tossed a high fastball that Boston slugger Manny Ramirez believed was intended to brush him off the plate. Ramirez approached the mound with his bat in hand — and from there, things got crazy.

Moments later, Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer, who was 72 at the time, charged after Martinez and was violently thrown to the ground by the Red Sox pitcher.

“Whenever we faced Pedro, Zim used to wear him out,” Boone said. “Zim would just yell at him the whole time he was on the mound, and it seemed to get into his head at times. I can’t repeat most of what Zim would yell at him, but it got all of our attention.

“After Pedro threw at Karim, we knew it was going to get real hairy in a hurry,” Boone continued. “When you see a ball fly into a teammate’s neck, you know things are going to escalate. There was bad blood with Jorge [Posada] and Pedro, and the whole situation was intense. It was a full fledged rivalry from that moment on, and the brawl ratcheted up in the world’s view of that series.”

The Yankees won Game 3, and a few nights later, they took on the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium in what would be one of the greatest games in franchise history.

“We knew what was at stake that night,” Boone said about Game 7. “It was the kind of game every athlete dreams about playing in, but at the same time, we were all trying to stay calm and stay in the moment. I felt like I had to keep things as routine and as relaxed as possible. That was the biggest challenge for me.”

Boone, who had struggled at the plate during the postseason and who didn’t start the contest, took the field for the first time as a pinch runner in the bottom of the 8th. By that time, the Yankees had come back from a 5-2 deficit to tie the game.

“It was a cool, autumn night,” Boone said. “I’m wasn’t used to coming off the bench so it was an odd feeling. I’m glad I got to pinch run because it threw me into the fire a little bit before I had to go into the field.”

Two innings later, Boone stepped to the plate to take on knuckleballer Tim Wakefield.

“When I was running off the field after the top of the 11th, I had a good feeling,” Boone said. “I hadn’t swung the bat very well in the series but I felt like I was going to do something good.

“When I was walking to the on-deck circle, Joe [Torre] said to me, ‘Hey, stay through the middle. It doesn’t mean you won’t go deep, but just stay through the middle,’” Boone continued. “The whole time I was on deck, I was thinking, I might take a pitch to start the inning. But as I walked to the plate I said to myself, ‘I’m going to hit the first good pitch I get.’”

Boone hit the first pitch of the at-bat into the left-field seats. The home run defeated the Red Sox in one of the most awe-inspiring series in baseball history, and Boone became a big part of Yankees lore.

In the feature, Boone will tell the story of his memorable season and his classic home run in the first person. This special piece will include much more than what is in this blog entry, along with a few anecdotes that have never been published before.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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Special Send-Off from Bermuda

January 8, 2013 – On the final day of the trip to Bermuda with Curtis Granderson, we received a special visit at Tucker’s Point resort.

Bermuda’s attorney general and minister of legal affairs, the Hon. Mark James Pettingill, [L in the photo below with Granderson and I] and the island’s minister of tourism development and transport, the Hon. Shawn Granville Crockwell [R] presented the Yankees centerfielder with a few gifts including a photo book about Bermuda.

In return, Granderson autographed a baseball for each of the dignitaries.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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New York Yankees History in Bermuda

January 8, 2013 – Shortly after our cruise around Hamilton Harbor ended, Curtis Granderson and I, along with the rest of our group did some sightseeing in downtown Hamilton, and we visited the place that holds more Yankees history than any other spot in Bermuda.

In 1913, the New York Yankees held spring training at a complex in Bermuda’s capital city. That’s right, the Yankees spent one spring in Bermuda, and this year marks the 100th anniversary of that season.

The organization was officially given the name “New York Yankees” during the 1913 season, which meant the last spring training the organization spent as the New York Highlanders took place in Bermuda.

The Highlanders trained at a sports complex located next to the little Hotel Bruswick, which is where they stayed — and which is no longer in existence. According to the Society for American Baseball Research, the Highlanders, which were led by manager Frank Chance, scrimmaged against a minor league team from New Jersey named the Jersey City Skeeters, and after posting a 57-94 record in 1913, then Yankees brass decided not to return to Bermuda the following spring.

Today, the grounds located between Bruswick Street and Dutton Street that once featured the baseball diamonds that the likes of Birdie Cree, Roger Peckinpaugh and Hal Chase played on, feature a soccer field, a 500-seat tennis stadium, a few other clay tennis courts and a softball field.

For Granderson, the visit marked a meaningful part of the week.

“The legacy of the New York Yankees can be felt throughout the world,” the centerfielder said. “This shows that the tradition extends beyond the Bronx, beyond New York City and beyond the United States. We’re in Bermuda, and we’re visiting a place where the team prepared for a season. Regardless of where you travel, you can’t escape Yankees lore, and that is one of the many things that makes the organization so special.”

–Alfred Santasiere III

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Cruising through Bermuda’s Hamilton Harbor

January 8, 2013 – On the third day of the trip to Bermuda with Curtis Granderson, we again received some VIP treatment and got to see much of the island.

At 3:30 p.m. on Jan. 5, Granderson and his friends, Yankees team photographer James Petrozzello and my family and I boarded Holding Firm 11, which is a 40-foot modern classy Searay boat, and we cruised through Hamilton Harbor for almost two hours.

The cruise enabled us to see about half of the island from the water including the capital city of Hamilton. As we cruised past mansion after mansion, the boat captain, Damian Tucker, educated us on the history of influential business people who have lived in Bermuda or who are currently property owners, including New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg along with Warren Buffett and Ross Perot.

While the mansions were fun to look at, the sunset that we were graced with in the last half hour of the boat ride was unforgettable. And, the glow of the setting sun off the water enabled Petrozzello to capture yet another unique and special photo of Granderson (below), which will be published in the May Issue of Yankees Magazine.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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High Above Bermuda

January 8, 2013 – On the second day I was in Bermuda with Curtis Granderson, we went on a sightseeing adventure that few tourists ever get to experience.

Roger Trott, who is a member of the concierge staff at Tucker’s Point resort, and who regularly shuttles guests from the resort to the beach on a golf cart, brought us to the top of one of Bermuda’s tallest mountains.

We began the trip at the resort, weaved through the Tucker’s Point golf course and made our way up the approximately 1,000-foot mountain, which is referred to as The Tower, on a slippery and muddy road.

Trott led the way in a golf cart carrying Granderson and his friends, and my 5-year old son Alfred (who sat on my lap) and I drove the second cart, which carried Yankees team photographer James Petrozzello and my wife Tiana.

Two water towers, each of which stand about 35-feet high are located at the mountain top, and in order to see the best view that the island has to offer, you have climb a ladder to the top of the one of the water towers.

Without hesitation, Granderson followed Trott to what seemed like the top of the world, and the rest of our group was not far behind.

Before I took my first step up, I could hear Granderson’s reaction to the view.

“Wow,” he shouted. “This alone was worth the trip to Bermuda.”

I soon realized that he was correct. The view was stunning, and what was most impressive about it was that we could see the entire island from up there.

Before we climbed back to the ground, Petrozzello snapped the photo of Granderson below.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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Visiting Bermuda with Curtis Granderson

January 6, 2013 — I have spent the first few days of 2013 in Bermuda. I’ve been on the 22-mile island, working on a feature story about Curtis Granderson, which will be published in the May Issue of Yankees Magazine.

The Bermuda Department of Tourism recently purchased a print advertising package in all New York Yankees 2013 official publications, and they invited me to the island for a long weekend. The department of tourism also asked me to extend the invitation to any Yankees player.

Granderson, who has traveled to New Zealand, Korea, Panama, South Africa, Taiwan and several countries in Europe over the last few years, was the first player I reached out to, and he gladly accepted the invitation.

Granderson and a small group of his friends; my family and I; and Yankees team photographer James Petrozzello arrived in Bermuda on Jan. 3, and before we began enjoying the relaxing vacation, we got to work on my feature story.

Within an hour of checking into Tucker’s Point resort, Petrozzello took a portrait of Granderson in front of a 20-foot waterfall that sits at the mid-way point of a nature trail on the grounds of the resort (see photo below). Petrozzello then shot a second portrait of Granderson a few feet away from the nature trail.

For that photo, Granderson stood in between two long rows of palm trees and in front of the sea.

After those two photo shoots, we got on golf carts and drove to the Mid Ocean Club beach, which features some of the most breathtaking views I saw on the island.

There are several large and small rock structures in the area where the sand meets the ocean, and we asked Granderson to walk up to a plateau on one of those structures for what will be the opening spread photo of the feature. Petrozzello climbed about half way to where Granderson stood and took what may very well be one of the most spectacular photos Yankees Magazine has published.

In the portrait, Granderson is looking out onto the ocean (which sits about 40 feet below him) and he is illuminated by the sun and draped with a cloud cover that looks too beautiful to actually be real.

After those photos were taken, our plan was to walk up to a patio at the Mid Ocean Club, so that I could interview Granderson for the story. But as we walked down a small path on the rock structure, Granderson came up with a better idea.

“Let’s do the interview on the beach,” he said. “Those rocks look like a better option than any chairs we’re going to sit on.”

I gladly took Granderson’s suggestion and conducted a lengthy interview with him in a most unique location (see photo below).

In the interview, Granderson spoke candidly about his expectations for the 2013 season.

“I’m very excited about this season,” he said. “We’re used to being the team that everyone expects to see in the World Series, but going into this season, that’s not the case. I am really motivated by that, and I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people.”

The centerfielder, whose 2012 season ended with a hitless performance in the ALCS, also discussed how that series has shaped his off-season focus.

“I have struck out before, and I’m going to strike out again,” Granderson said. “That’s going to happen, but I still want to be the guy that comes to the plate when the game is on the line, and I worked as hard on the mental aspects of the game this offseason as the physical aspects.

“I went back to the basics,” Granderson continued. “I’m put a lot of effort toward not chasing pitches out of the strike zone, and I’ve studied what opposing pitchers have done to try to get me out. In 2013, I plan to be more aggressive, as well. Some of best times to hit are early in the count, and one of the best ways to eliminate strikeouts is to avoid hitting with two strikes. That’s something I think I will be better at in the future.”

Lastly, Granderson, whose 84 home runs over the past two seasons has led the majors, spoke about how his game has evolved.

“I hit three home runs in my first minor league season, and at that time, I could have never envisioned that I would be looked at as a power hitter,” Granderson said. “People say that power comes as you get older, and I’m a living testament of that happening.”

I will be posting a few more entries on this blog about the great experiences on this trip over the next few days, so please stay tuned.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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