August 2013

Clutch Save for Mo

August 19, 2013 – As I’ve written about on this blog, there will be a commemorative section on Mariano Rivera in the September Issue of Yankees Magazine.

The section will include a retrospective on Rivera’s career in pinstripes, a photo essay dedicated to the greatest closer of all time and a Q&A with Rivera and Cal Ripken, Jr.

The 42-page layout will also include a story that I wrote about one of Rivera’s greatest saves off the field.
Since 2011, Rivera and his wife, Clara, have spearheaded a $3 million renovation of a church in New Rochelle, New York. The church, which is located in the town that the couple lived in during the late 1990s, was originally built in 1891 and served as a house of worship for nearly a century. But, in the mid-1980s, the then Presbyterian church encountered a decrease in parishioners and was forced to close its doors.

For the last 20 years, the church was used by the New Rochelle Police Department as a storage facility. That was until Rivera and long-time Yankees tailor Joe Fosina (who is a close friend of Rivera and a former city council member in New Rochelle) approached city officials about the church.

“The building was old and strong,” Rivera told me during my visit to the church last week. “The interior was beat-up, but I didn’t see it like that. I saw the beauty of the church and what we could do in this church for the community.”

After many discussions, New Rochelle officials agreed to sell the church to Rivera for a $1, if he were to fund the renovation project. In addition to donating more than $1 million of his own money — through the Mariano Rivera Foundation — Rivera raised millions of dollars to restore the beautiful stone building.

Rivera also added three rooms to the original building. Those new rooms will be used as a learning center for children, and they will also house food and clothes drives.

The Pentecostal church is expected to open its doors in October, and Rivera’s wife Clara will serve as the pastor.

“Clara is excited,” Rivera said. “She knows that it’s going to be a challenge, but it’s a wonderful thing to do for the community.”

For Rivera, the church in New Rochelle is not the first house of worship he built. Since his career began, Rivera has built churches in his native Panama, as well as in Puerto Rico and Mexico. Rivera has also made annual donations of between $500,000 and $1 million to benefit underprivileged children in Panama.

Through my interview with Rivera about the church and from spending a morning inside the building with him, I learned that the closer is as proud of this project as any accomplishment he’s had on the field. I hope you enjoy reading my story as much as I enjoyed writing it.

–Alfred Santasiere III

Mariano Rivera (at church)

Team Photo Day – 2013

August 15, 2013 – Yesterday afternoon, Yankees chief photographer Ariele Goldman Hecht took the 2013 New York Yankee team photo at Yankee Stadium. The photo will be published in the October Issue of Yankees Magazine – as that edition’s poster.

Unlike so many of the other team photos I have worked to coordinate, the weather was not an issue today. This year’s photo was not taken on a rainy day or even on a cloudy day. Instead, it was 75 degrees on the field at 4:00 pm, and the sun was shining brightly on the team.

It was so bright, in fact, that within a few seconds, it became difficult for the players and coaches to look into the camera for more than about ten seconds. With less time to work with than Yankees photographers have had in the past, Hecht had to work quickly and efficiently.

“You want to do it right but you don’t want to make the players uncomfortable from the natural sun light and the lights from the flash,” Hecht said. “In the end, the result was exactly what we wanted.”

–Alfred Santasiere III

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Commemorative Cover Photos — of Mariano Rivera

August 15, 2013 – The September Issue of Yankees Magazine will include three commemorative covers – all of which will feature Mariano Rivera.

Prior to the team photo shoot yesterday, Yankees photographers captured incredible portraits of Rivera — who is planning to retire after the season — for two of those covers and for the cover of the second annual Yankees Magazine en Espanol.

The first portrait of the day was taken by chief photographer Ariele Goldman Hecht in Monument Park, and that photo will grace the Yankees Magazine cover that will only be available at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 22. On that day, the Yankees will be honoring Rivera in a special pre-game ceremony.

Team photographer James Petrozzello took the second portrait of the day on the mound. While there have been a countless number of photos taken of Rivera on the mound during games, this beautifully lit image includes the backdrop of a empty sun-soaked Yankee Stadium. That photo will appear on the cover that will be available all month anywhere Yankees Magazine is sold.

Petrozzello captured the image that will run on the cover of Yankees Magazine en Espanol in foul territory down the third base line. Like the photo on the mound, the backdrop of this image is the Stadium.

For the cover that will only be available at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 26, which will be Rivera’s last home regular season game, Hecht photographed Rivera in the bullpen. That photo was taken during a game.

In addition to all of the great cover images that were taken today, the photographers got some special photos of Rivera on his way out to Monument Park and on his walk from Monument Park to the mound. Assistant photography editor Matthew Ziegler took the image below of Rivera walking through the outfield. It will be published within the 42-page commemorative section on the closer that will highlight the September Issue of Yankees Magazine.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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5 Minutes with Hall of Famer Cris Carter

August 15, 2013 – On Tuesday afternoon, newly-enshrined Pro Football Hall of Fame wide receiver Cris Carter came to Yankee Stadium for an exclusive tour, a Yankees Magazine interview and the game.

We will be publishing a “5 Minutes with…” Q&A feature with Carter in the October Issue of Yankees Magazine.

Before I sat down with Carter for the interview, we visited Monument Park and the New York Yankees Museum.

On our way to the museum, Carter posed for a few photos in the Stadium’s Great Hall. While we were in the wide expanse, I asked Carter if I could throw a pass to him (with a football that we were using as a photo prop). Without hesitation, Carter began to jog toward the middle of the Great Hall, and I connected with him on a 10-yard completion (see photo below).

I’m proud to say that I threw a pass to a Hall of Fame receiver, even though he wasn’t overly impressed with my ability to toss the pigskin.

“You throw like [Tim] Tebow,” Carter said in reference to the New England Patriots backup quarterback, whose arm-strength has been the source of much criticism.

During our time at the museum, curator Brian Richards gave Carter the opportunity to hold the bat that Babe Ruth used to hit the first home run at the old Yankee Stadium (see photo below).

During his NFL career in which he amassed 1,101 receptions and 130 touchdowns, Carter earned a reputation for making catches that no other receiver could make. Carter made the most difficult grabs with regularity because of he had what football experts called the best hands in the game.

When Carter picked up Ruth’s bat and got into a batting stance, he brought up the subject of his Hall of Fame hands.

“Babe, I’m not sure if you’re watching,” Carter said. “But I promise you that your bat is in good hands.”

After our stop in the museum, we took in batting practice from the field. During BP, Carter visited with several Yankees players including Derek Jeter. Carter spoke with Jeter at length. In the conversation, the Yankees captain congratulated Carter on his Hall of Fame induction. Carter responded with some flattering words about Jeter.

“You play the game the right way,” Carter said. “You represent the Yankees with so much class, and I’m proud just to know you. You really are one of the all-time greats.”

After the conversation, Jeter, who is from Michigan and is a loyal supporter of the University of Michigan Wolverines, walked toward the dugout. As Jeter was walking away, Carter, an Ohio native and a former Ohio State University Buckeye, stoked the great college football rivalry.

“You better watch out during the last weekend of November,” Carter shouted with a smile. “We’re coming after the Wolverines, and we’re going to be undefeated.”

Without slowing down, Jeter looked over his shoulder and hit Carter with a quick but effective comeback.

“Stay humble, buddy,” the captain said.

The former wide receiver began to laugh.

“He’s one cool guy,” Carter said. “What else can you say?”

As for Carter, he had a plenty more to say. In the interview, which took place in my office after batting practice (see photo below of Carter, my wife Tiana and I), the former Minnesota Viking spoke about his struggles to overcome substance abuse, his great career and his afternoon at the Stadium.

“When I have grandchildren, I will tell them that I held Babe Ruth’s bat on the same day that I met Derek Jeter,” Carter said. “You really can’t top that.”

–Alfred Santasiere III

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Hideki Matsui Tosses BP to Minor Leaguers

August 9, 2013 – While in Trenton for Yankees Magazine night, I also spent some time with retired outfielder Hideki Matsui, who has been throwing batting practice to the Thunder and to the Staten Island Yankees (Single-A affiliate) this summer.

I interviewed the 2009 World Series MVP for a sidebar that will run with the minor league report in the September Issue of Yankees Magazine.

During our conversation, which took place a few minutes after Matsui threw a round of BP to Thunder players, he shared his thoughts on being back on the field.

“It’s nice to come out here,” Matsui said through his translator, Roger Kahlon. “It’s nice to throw to the young players and to contribute to their growth on the field. I can sense the aspiration that the young players have to reach their potential. It reminds me of myself when I was a young player. I was hungry to make it to the top.”

–Alfred Santasiere III

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Taking the Mound

August 9, 2013 – On July 30, the Trenton Thunder (Yankees Double-A affiliate) hosted Yankees Magazine night at ARM & HAMMER Park.

As part of the annual promotion, the first 1,000 fans received a complimentary copy of the July Issue of Yankees Magazine, and I threw one of two ceremonial first pitches.

My 5-year old son, Alfred, threw the other ceremonial pitch. For me, the opportunity to take the mound at a professional baseball game with my son was unforgettable.

All-Star outfielder Curtis Granderson played for Trenton that night, as he made his way back to the big leagues (after suffering a broken finger). Prior to the game, I asked if Granderson — who I had spent time with in Bermuda during the offseason for a feature story — would catch the ceremonial pitches.

Granderson agreed to be our catcher, and Alfred and I both tossed strikes to the plate.

As exciting as it was to have Granderson catch my pitch, seeing my son throw a strike in front of a few thousand people was an even greater thrill. Alfred got a warm ovation from the crowd, and a nice compliment from our catcher.

“He’s got a cannon,” Granderson said as he handed the baseballs back to me. “That was a fastball.”

–Alfred Santasiere III

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