February 28, 2013 – The excitement of seeing the Yankees take the field for the first time each spring is generally preceded by on on-field ceremony, which adds to the already special day.
Moments before the Yankees played their first game of 2013 at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa on Sunday February 24, the crowd got an up-close look at a fixed wing HC-130 Hercules aircraft and two HH-60 Jayhawk helicopters.
The United States Coast Guard plane and two choppers flew over the ballpark at an altitude of less than 1,000 feet.
From my vantage point in front of the first base dugout, it appeared as if the plane was barely above the roof of the stadium, and it made for a very impressive spectacle. As the plane and helicopters approached from the third base side of the ballpark, I could read just about all of the words on the belly and sides of the plane. In comparison to many of the flyovers I’ve seen at Yankee Stadium, this one was unique.
Even for the veteran players, who watched the Coast Guard aircrafts from the first base line, the altitude — or lack there of — was eye catching.
“That surprised me,” said David Wells, who serves as a spring training instructor. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that. It certainly got our attention, and it was very cool.”
–Alfred Santasiere III
February 20, 2013 — At 7:15 this morning, Media Day began, and by 10:00 am, Yankees team photographer James Petrozzello had taken portraits of every Yankees player. Many of those photos will end up on the covers of Yankees Magazine in 2013.
Petrozzello was set up on in foul territory in front of the third base dugout at George M. Steinbrenner Field. The cloud cover that hovered over Tampa made for a background that was different from those of past Media Days. The murky white sky made for a nice contrast from the green grass and pinstriped jerseys. Additionally, the fog, which rolled in and out of the ballpark all morning, gave each photo it’s own character — because the colors of the sky were continually changing.
Only time will tell which Yankees players will grace our covers in 2013. But if I had to guess, Ichiro will be there before too long. Below is one of the portraits that Petrozzello took of Ichiro, along with a behind the scenes photo of the photographer and his subject.
–Alfred Santasiere III
February 19, 2013 – Spring Training 2013 has officially begun, and the greatest relief pitcher of all-time is back on the field for the Yankees.
Mariano Rivera, who missed the majority of the 2012 season after he suffered a knee injury, has been participating in team practices and getting ready to make a comeback.
Rivera was on our minds as we put together the first issue of Yankees Magazine in 2013. He graces the cover of the Spring Issue, which comes out on February 21. In my opinion, the image on the cover (below), which team photographer James Petrozzello took last spring in Tampa (on Media Day) brings out Rivera’s intense desire. The look on the closer’s face on the cover is the same glare that Rivera has when he faces would-be hitters in the ninth inning.
The cover story on Rivera was written by senior editor Nathan Maciborski. In the feature, Rivera explains how anxious he is to compete again, and how difficult it was to watch his team from the sidelines. Maciborski spoke with Rivera for the story at a dinner at Yankee Stadium, and he certainly captured exclusive anecdotes.
The Spring Issue also includes a Q&A feature with two Hall of Famers, who are also members of baseball’s 500 Home Run Club. Last March, I sat down with Yankees Spring Training instructor Reggie Jackson and Phillies spring training instructor Mike Schmidt and spoke with them about their storied careers and about being in spring training with their respective ballclubs. For me, the half hour that I spent with these legends in the Phillies dugout at their ballpark in Clearwater, Florida, marked one of the most insightful baseball conversations I have ever had.
There are several other great features in the first issue of Yankees Magazine this year. If you are not already a subscriber, please call (800) GO-YANKS or logon to http://www.yankees.com/publications to get on board. In addition to the print version of Yankees Magazine, we also offer an on-line version.
–Alfred Santasiere III
February 19, 2013 – If you are going to be at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa to catch Spring Training baseball, don’t miss the chance to pick up a copy of the New York Yankees Official 2013 Spring Training Program, which comes out on February 21.
The cover of the program features a photo that Yankees team photographer James Petrozzello took of the lasting tribute to the late George Steinbrenner – a statue of the Boss that stands outside the main gate of the ballpark that bears his name. The photo is framed by two palm trees, and it was taken on a day in which there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. In my opinion, the image represents many of the things that are great about Spring Training – the Yankees storied history, warm weather and a beautiful setting.
In addition to senior editor Nathan Maciborski’s story on the return of Mariano Rivera and my Q&A feature with Reggie Jackson and Mike Schmidt (see blog post about Spring Issue of Yankees Magazine), the spring training program also includes a feature that details the wild experience that Spring Training can be for a young player. For “Melting Pot,” contributing writer Mark Feinsand interviewed current and former Yankees players about what it’s like to be around baseball immortals for a month. The players shared stories about the first time they met and got to work with the likes of Yogi Berra, Goose Gossage, Ron Guidry and Reggie Jackson, all of whom have been Spring Training instructors for years. Feinsand also explains how those legendary Yankees taught the young players about the associated with playing for the Yankees.
Again, the Spring Training program will be available at George M. Steinbrenner Field. If you can’t make it to Florida this spring, please call (800) GO-YANKS to order your copy of this keepsake.
–Alfred Santasiere III
February 19, 2013 – If you’re interested in getting up-to-the minute updates on what the editors of Yankees Magazine are working on, what to look for in the next issue of Yankees Magazine or what’s going on at Spring Training and at Yankee Stadium, check out the New York Yankees publications Twitter account.
Our Twitter handle is @YanksMagazine.
–Alfred Santasiere III
February 19, 2013 – In December, I had the opportunity to sit down with one of the greatest basketball coaches in history for a “5 Minutes with…” interview, which will be published in the April Issue of Yankees Magazine – along with the Q&A with P.J. Carlesimo.
I caught up with Bob Knight at the Steiner Sports offices in New Rochelle, New York, and the legendary coach spoke with me about several parts of his life including the early part of his career. Before Knight led the 1984 United States Olympic team to a gold medal and before he guided the University of Indiana to three national championships and before he became the first NCAA Division I basketball coach to win 900 games, he coached the Army Black Knights in West Point.
“The best decision I ever made in my life was to join the Army because it enabled me to coach at West Point,” Knight said. “I could not have had anything better happen to me than that opportunity. The whole atmosphere at a service academy is one of discipline, and that is the case at West Point more so than anywhere else. I had to start practices very early in the morning because my players had so many other commitments. From a coaching standpoint, I had to get the most out of the time that was available to me, and that was one of the most valuable lessons I learned in my coaching career. I learned to stay within real parameters, and that was a very positive thing for me during the next 35 years.”
I also asked Knight what he believed was the most difficult aspect of playing for him.
“I used to have a sign in my office that read ‘This isn’t Burger King,’” Knight said. “’You don’t get it your way. You get it my way.’ Kids who came in from weaker environments had to learn how to do other things besides just shooting the basketball, and that made them better players. I was tough on my players, and my practices were difficult, but everything I did was aimed toward winning.”
Near the end of the interview, Knight posed a question to me.
“What record does [former Yankees great] Hank Bauer hold,” the coach asked.
Off the top of my head, I didn’t know the answer, and as a result, I got a tiny dose of what it must of have been like to play for Knight or to have covered him on a daily basis.
“You really don’t know!” he shouted. “Aren’t you the editor of Yankees Magazine?”
The coach, who was synonymous for taunting underachieving players and members of the media then smiled and shared the answer with me.
“Most people don’t know this, but Hank Bauer holds what might be the most significant record in all of baseball. Hank hit safely in 17 consecutive World Series games. There haven’t been many people who have even played in 17 World Series games. You and I might be the only two people in America who know about this record! It’s highly confidential, but I will let you publish it.”
–Alfred Santasiere III
February 19, 2013 – On February 12, I spent a few hours with Brooklyn Nets interim coach P.J. Carlesimo for a “5 Minutes with…” feature that will appear in the April Issue of Yankees Magazine.
I have long been a fan of Carlesimo for several reasons. First, I am from South Orange, New Jersey, where Carlesimo coached the Seton Hall Pirates basketball team from 1982 through 1994, and secondly because I believe that he has carried himself with the same class and dignity in good times and in bad times.
Carlesimo spoke candidly about some of those good times, including the 1989 season, when he led the small Catholic university in a relatively unknown town in New Jersey to the NCAA Championship Game in Seattle.
“No school ever enjoyed the Final Four experience more than Seton Hall did,” Carlesimo said. “We had just burst onto the national scene, and the theme of so many stories that year was where is Seton Hall? Most basketball fans outside of the New York area literally didn’t know where South Orange was. After that season, fans accepted that we were a good team, but in 1989, people couldn’t believe we accomplished so much. That made the whole experience special.
“When we got back from Seattle, there was like an impromptu parade from Newark Airport back to campus, and a few days later there was an orchestrated parade in South Orange,” he continued. “We were a Jersey team, and it seemed like the whole state was behind us. We were a feel-good story.”
Carlesimo also discussed the uniqueness and special qualities of South Orange and Seton Hall.
“We had a tiny campus, and a relatively small student body,” Carlesimo said. “The fact that we were a small school, but yet were on national TV a lot and were nationally ranked never changed what the school was all about. When we recruited players from out of state, they would walk onto campus and ask ‘Where’s the rest of the school.’ But that’s what makes Seton Hall special. The players liked the fact that they could walk down the street to Bunny’s, which was a neighborhood pizza place, and they could also get on a bus to New York City.”
Before the interview — which took place in Carlesimo’s office at the Nets practice facility in East Rutherford, New Jersey — concluded, I asked the life-long Yankees fan which Yankee he would want to coach, if he could choose any player from the past or from the present-day team.
“ Derek Jeter,” Carlesimo said without hesitation. “He’s everything that’s good about professional sports and the Yankees. As great of a player as he is, the way he’s handled playing in New York City is even more impressive. So many other athletes struggle in New York and don’t do the right things off the field, but that’s not the case with Derek. He could write a textbook on how to excel as one of the best professional athletes to ever play in this city.”
To read the rest of the interview, pick up a copy of the April Issue of Yankees Magazine, which comes out on April 1.
–Alfred Santasiere III
February 19, 2013 – In addition to spending time with Jorge Posada during my recent trip to Miami, I also got to know former Yankees pitcher Orlando El Duque Hernandez.
I first met the El Duque at Bucky Dent’s annual golf outing in Lake Worth, Florida, and I spent an afternoon with the Cuban born pitcher a few days later in Miami.
At the golf tournament, El Duque played in a foursome, which included my wife, Tiana, and two of my colleagues. Although I don’t play golf, I still spent a few hours on the course with the group, and I enjoyed getting to know El Duque in advance of the interview – which had been set up a few weeks prior to my trip.
I was quickly reminded of what I learned about El Duque when I was around him for a brief time in 2004 (he returned to the Yankees that season after a glorious run in pinstripes from 1998 through 2002): He’s an intense competitor.
Whether he’s on the mound or the links, El Duque’s spirit is the same. It took him a few holes to begin to enjoy himself as much as the others in the group. It also seemed that he was wound tightly in the first few innings of big games, and his demeanor mirrored that through the first few holes of the golf tournament.
But before long, El Duque’s intensity gave way to ear-to-ear smiles, and the group enjoyed his company and much as they relished his nearly 400-yard drives. Despite El Duque’s mammoth drives, clutch putting by Tiana and several great swings off the fairway by John Mendez and Cliff Rowley, our group didn’t win the tournament.
But, in the end, everyone was happy — even El Duque.
“I enjoyed it,” El Duque said. “It was a good group, and we all played well.”
On January 31, I met with El Duque at a café in Coral Gables for what was one of the most candid interviews I have ever conducted.
I interviewed El Duque for a story on his inspirational life, which will appear in the September Issue of Yankees Magazine and in the second edition of Yankees Magazine en Espanol, which will also come out in September.
The story will detail El Duque’s larger-than-life status in Cuba after he helped bring home an Olympic gold medal. The feature will also shed light on the incredible turn of events that followed. After El Duque’s brother, Livan Hernandez, defected to the United States and earned 1997 World Series MVP honors with the Florida Marlins, the Cuban government banned El Duque from baseball because they believed he had a role in his brother’s defection.
With virtually no chance of ever playing baseball again in Cuba, El Duque became determined to follow his brother to the United States. In what he called “more detail than I’ve ever shared with a journalist” El Duque described how he made the dream of playing baseball in the United States a reality.
“After unsuccessfully trying to leave Cuba eight times, I believed the ninth time would be different,” said El Duque, who along with his wife and six others, set out for the United States on December 26, 1997. “At about 5 in the morning, I walked out into water that was up to my chest at a campsite near the Ministry of the Interior, which is Cuba’s state police. That’s where I had to enter to get to the water. We got on a fishing boat and traveled about eight miles out, past several keys. On the way out to the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean, we passed a big Cuban Coast Guard boat, but they didn’t see us because we were lying down on the floor of our boat. The only people they saw were the two fishermen, who owned the boat.
“Once we got about 12 miles out, we were supposed to be picked by a speedboat, but it never came,” El Duque continued. “The two fishermen wanted to go back, but naturally, we wanted to keep going. There was a bit of a fight. Finally, I said, ‘The closest island Anguilla Cay,’ and they decided to drop us off there. We were on Anguilla Cay for four days, and finally the United States Coast Guard showed up in a little red boat. They were going to bring us to another boat, which was going to take us back to Cuba because of the wet foot, dry foot policy. If you don’t make it to the United States, and the Coast Guard catches you, you’re sent back to Cuba. But when we were on the boat, we met a member of the Coast Guard whose parents were Cuban. One of the people who was with me told him that I was El Duque, Livan’s brother. The Coast Guard officer said, ‘They’ve been looking for you for four days.’ And, for some reason, they decided to not put me on the boat back to Cuba.”
From there, El Duque’s brother, along with agent Joe Cubas, was able to secure humanitarian visas for the pitcher, his wife and one of the other defectors. El Duque spent a few more days in the Bahamas, and then went to Costa Rica, where he trained for a visit from several major league scouts.
El Duque’s rapid climb with the Yankees, the joyous reunion with his children — who joined him in the United States later that year — and what he is up to now, is all part this most exclusive story.
After the interview, we walked to Riviera Park, and team photographer James Petrozzello snapped several photos for the story. The image of El Duque sitting on a park bench (below) will be the opening spread of the feature, and in my opinion, it’s a classic shot.
Again, the feature will be published in the September Issue of Yankees Magazine and in the second edition of Yankees Magazine en Espanol, which will also come out in September.
–Alfred Santasiere III
February 19, 2013 – On a recent trip to South Florida, I conducted a lengthy interview with Jorge Posada for a feature that will appear in the April Issue of Yankees Magazine.
The story will detail Posada’s first year of retirement, which, of course, came after the former catcher’s 17-year career with the Yankees.
The interview took place on the 16th hole of the Falls Golf & Country Club in Lake Worth, Florida, where Posada was greeting participants of Bucky Dent’s annual charity golf outing.
As I began talking with Posada, I quickly realized that he was more relaxed than I had ever seen him – and I interviewed him on countless occasions during my first nine seasons with the Yankees.
These days, Posada is enjoying the time with his wife Laura and their two young children, and he is also taking part in what he calls relaxing activities.
“During the week, I take our kids to school, and then I go to the gym to work out,” said Posada, who lives in Miami. “On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I ride my bike about 40 miles. On the weekends, I hang out with my family on our boat.
“Getting to spend so much time with kids has been wonderful,” Posada continued. “Just waking up in the same house as them every day and going through the ups and downs of their lives has been great because I missed a lot of that when I was playing.”
Posada confessed that it took some time to adjust to life at home.
“At the beginning, it was tough to find out what I wanted to do, but once I got the hang of it, and my wife wasn’t kicking me out of the house every day, it was fun,” Posada said.
Posada also said that coming to terms with the fact that his career was over contributed to the difficulties he had in adjusting to retirement.
“The first few months were tough, because I had to come to terms with being done,” Posada said. “But once that happened, it was a lot easier.
Today, Posada is indeed relaxed – and he’s at peace with his career and his life.
“I’m happy now, because I know that I can’t play the game anymore,” Posada said. “I don’t have to wonder if I made the right decision. My mind is clear, and I’m at peace with the decision I made.”
Finally, I asked Posada which games he has the fondest memories from. In addition to David Wells’ 1998 Perfect Game, which Posada caught, and the five World Series clinchers he was part of, the former catcher shared his thoughts about Game 7 of the 2003 American League Championship Series. In that game, which the Yankees won in 11 innings, Posada collected a two-run double with one out in the eighth inning. The clutch hit tied the game, and it came off of Pedro Martinez, who Posada had been jawing with the entire series and on several other occasions.
“When I was standing at second base, I had a revenge-type of feeling,” Posada said. “I felt like I had beaten my biggest enemy. I felt like a boxer that had just knocked out my arch-rival. He was really tough to hit off, and I had tied the game. I felt like I had accomplished everything in that moment.”
There’s a lot more to this exclusive story, and if you have followed the Yankees over the last few decades, you won’t want to miss it. Again, it will appear in the April Issue of Yankees Magazine.
–Alfred Santasiere III
February 19, 2013 – I was fortunate enough to spend some time with a living legend last week.
I attended a New Jersey Devils practice and interviewed Martin Brodeur in the locker room afterward. Brodeur, who is the NHL’s all-time leader in wins, saves and shutouts, was a big reason why the Devils have won three Stanley Cups since 1995. Brodeur has also helped Canada take home two gold medals in Olympic competition.
In the interview, which will be published in the May Issue of Yankees Magazine, I asked the 41-year-old goalie what his most valuable keepsake is.
“Believe it or not, I have two hole in ones, and those golf balls are at the top of this list,” said Brodeur, who has saved sticks from each of the 205 playoff games he has started and pucks from each of his 120 shutouts. “The golf balls are a big thing for me, because I don’t consider myself to be very good at golf, and so getting two hole in ones is incredible.
“My gold medals are pretty cool, as well,” Brodeur continued. “I have smaller replicas of the Stanley Cup, and they are important to me because they represent what we did as a team.”
I also spoke to Brodeur about Mariano Rivera, who the goalie has often been compared to.
In my opinion, Rivera and Brodeur are two of a kind. They are the most rare and special type of athletes in that they have dominated their respective sports from the time they were in their early ’20s through their 40th birthdays and beyond. Their statistics and level of play have remained consistent for nearly twenty years, and no-one has been as good as Rivera or Brodeur at their respective positions. It’s difficult to imagine that we’ll see one — let alone two — athletes like Brodeur or Rivera for a long time.
“You have to be durable in order to stay on top for so long,” Brodeur said. “That’s what I think is amazing to me about Mariano. There are so many guys who want your job, and to be able to keep it, and to be the best at it for so long, is incredible. Mariano and I have that drive inside of us to stay on top. That makes us a little different than everyone else.”
–Alfred Santasiere III