April 2014

5 Minutes with Hockey Legend Mark Messier

April 24, 2014 – A few weeks ago, I interviewed hockey legend Mark Messier for a “5 Minutes with…” Q&A feature that will be published in the May Issue of Yankees Magazine.

I met up with the NHL’s eighth-ranked goal scorer at the old Kingsbridge Armory, which is in the process of being transformed into the largest ice facility in the world. Only a few miles from Yankee Stadium, there is a building that will soon hold nine full-sized ice rinks. While the project is far from complete, Messier, who is the chief executive officer and an investor in the Kingsbridge National Ice Center, predicts that the project will be complete by 2017.

After taking a tour of the cavernous 750,000 abandoned landmark with Messier, the Hockey Hall of Famer spoke with me about his dream for the facility.

“I have a shared vision to do something here in the armory that will be inclusive of everyone in the community,” Messier said. “I understand that we’re not going to get every child in the Bronx to play ice sports, but it’s a healthy alternative. We look at this armory as the vehicle to create economic growth. It will create jobs in the Bronx and bring in new businesses. That will help everyone.

“I want to walk through the front door and see six or seven different ice disciplines on the ice all at the same time,” the former New York Rangers captain said from a rooftop that overlooks Manhattan. “There will also be a health and wellness center and a community center, which will have several after-school programs. We are also planning to have internship and mentorship programs available every day.”

After our conversation about the ice facility, I asked Messier about the guarantee he made 20 years ago, when he told the world that his Rangers would defeat the New Jersey Devils in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

“The basic inspiration behind [the guarantee] was to find a way to make sure that my teammates knew that I believed in them,” Messier said. “We had lost momentum in that series, and I wanted my teammates to know that I thought we could win that game and win the series. I knew we could win the game, and I was just doing anything I could to instill the confidence and the belief that we could do it.”

Behind Messier’s hat trick, the Rangers won that game. A few weeks later, the team captured its first Stanley Cup in 54 years. From that epic championship run, Messier became a New York legend, and I asked him what it’s like to be one of the very few people who will never have to buy a drink in the Big Apple.

“It means a lot,” Messier said. “I came here when I was 30 years old, and although I was excited about what was ahead of me, I never expected to be embraced the way I was. I was lucky to be part of a great team on and off the ice, and that is a big reason why I am still well respected in New York. We were approachable and honest, and we played hard. Everyone on that team was entrenched in the community. When the team embraces the community, the community embraces the team, and there’s an energy that forms. That’s what happened to us in 1994, and for me, that energy has never gone away.”

To read the rest of this compelling interview, check out the May Issue of Yankees Magazine, which will be available on May 2.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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Special Feature on Don Mattingly’s 1984 Batting Title – June Issue

April 11, 2014 – In early March, I spent a morning with former Yankees first baseman Don Mattingly in Glendale, Arizona. I interviewed Mattingly about his historic 1984 campaign for a feature that will be published in the June Issue of Yankees Magazine.

Thirty years ago, Mattingly edged out teammate Dave Winfield for the American League batting title on the last day of the regular season.

In my conversation with Mattingly, he spoke about the first time he realized that he and Winfield were atop the batting charts in 1984.

“At some time in June, Dave and I were asked to pose for a Sports Illustrated photo together,” said Mattingly, who is the manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers. “I didn’t think about it as a serious competition. We were on the same team, and we were trying to win games. I wasn’t really competing with Dave, and I didn’t feel any pressure. Dave had the tough job. He was the older veteran who had a big contract and I was just a young kid. I felt as if anything I accomplished beyond hitting .300 was gravy.”

Mattingly also spoke about the final game of the ’84 season. In that game, Mattingly thrilled the Yankee Stadium crowd by going 4-for-5. In his first at-bat, Donnie Baseball got things going with a bloop single.

“I felt good after I got that first hit,” Mattingly said from the Dodgers’ spring training complex. “After that, I hit two first-pitch doubles. I never used to swing at the first pitch but I had a feeling that the they were going to throw me strikes right away that afternoon. I just wanted to take advantage of that, and I was able to do that.”

At the end of the interview, Mattingly shared his memories of the moment when the batting title became a reality.

“After my fourth hit of the game, Dave hit a ground ball,” Mattingly said. “They threw me out at second base. I went back to the dugout, and the fans quickly called me out to do a curtain call. Without planning it, I went over to first base, and Dave and I tipped our caps together. When I look back on my career, that moment stands out. Dave and I have been friends for a long time, and that was something neither of us will ever forget.”

–Alfred Santasiere III

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Special Opening Day at Yankee Stadium

April 11, 2014 – As someone who has been at every Yankees’ home opener since 1992, including the last 12 as a member of the team’s publications department, I can honestly say that certain Opening Day games stick out in my memory more than others.

The first Opening Day game I was at — a month after my 13th birthday — was unforgettable. The 1996 opener, during which a young Andy Pettitte earned a win against the Minnesota Twins in a snowstorm, was equally as memorable. The 2003 Opening Day game became an instant thriller when Hideki Matsui hit a grand slam in his debut in pinstripes. Of course, the 2009 home opener was also significant, because it was the first game at the current Yankee Stadium. In my opinion, everyone who had a seat in the ballpark that day was part of history.

This year’s home opener on April 7 was one of the most memorable of them all. As everyone on the planet knows, it was Derek Jeter’s final Opening Day, but in reality, it was more than that.

Opening Day at Yankee Stadium marked the first of many tributes to one of the greatest Yankees — and baseball players — of all time in what will be a year-long celebration. Some of those tributes will be planned, and others, like the thunderous ovation Jeter got when he was announced before the game, are not part of any script.

The Yankees made an already special day even more meaningful when they paraded Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte out to the infield for two ceremonial first pitches. Rivera tossed a pitch to Jeter, and Pettitte hit Posada’s mitt with a strike.

A few seconds after the pitches were thrown, Yankees chief photographer Ariele Goldman Hecht captured an exclusive photo of the Core Four coming off the field. The group of legends stopped on their way back to the dugout and posed for what may be the only photo that features Jeter in uniform and Rivera, Posada and Pettitte in street clothes. That image will be featured prominently in an upcoming issue of Yankees Magazine.

Speaking of Yankees publications, don’t miss your chance to grab a copy of the 2014 New York Yankees Official Opening Day Program (see cover image below). Whether you were at the game or not, you can be part of the historical day. To purchase a copy of the Opening Day Program, please call (800) GO-YANKS or log on to http://www.yankees.com/publications.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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2014 New York Yankees Official Yearbook – ON SALE NOW

April 11, 2014 – The 2014 New York Yankees Official Yearbook is on sale now.

You can purchase print version of the Yearbook by calling (800) GO-YANKS, and you can purchase the print or digital versions by logging on to http://www.yankees.com/publications.
For many reasons, this Yearbook is one of the greatest keepsakes in baseball. For starters, Derek Jeter graces the cover, and the captain is the first person to be featured by himself on the cover a Yankees Yearbook since Don Mattingly earned that distinction in 1992.

In the cover photo, which was taken by Yankees team photographer James Petrozzello, Jeter has a huge smile (see blog entry below about the photo shoot). Jeter’s love of the game and the pride he takes in wearing the pinstripes is captured in this rare photo. The cover also features a line that reads, “The Final Season of Derek Jeter.”

The interior of the book is pretty special, as well. In addition to a feature story on the Yankees free agent acquisitions, a 2014 season preview, and bios on every player and coach, this publication includes a massive section on Mariano Rivera.

In the nearly 100-page tribute to the greatest closer, 53 pages are dedicated to Rivera’s farewell tour. Our team of editors, writers and photographers were in every city that the Yankees played in last season. We documented the many ways that Rivera was honored along with all the instances in which he met with small groups of fans, thanking them for their support of the game.

The Rivera section also includes a career retrospective by deputy editor Kristina M. Dodge along with my story about the Yankees recent trip to Panama, where Rivera was honored in his home country. Closer to home, the New York Giants recognized Rivera last fall by making him an honorary captain before their win against the Minnesota Vikings (see blog entry below). I was with Rivera on the field that night, and I am proud of the story I was able to put together for the Yearbook.

There is also a section on the legendary career of Andy Pettitte in the Yearbook. That section includes my feature on Pettitte’s final game (see blog entry below) along with a photo essay that will take you through all the great seasons Pettitte spent in pinstripes.

Finally, Joe DiMaggio would have turned 100 in 2014, and contributing writer Pete Caldera went to the Yankee Clipper’s hometown of San Francisco to put together a special story for the Yearbook. In Caldera’s feature, he discusses several remnants of DiMaggio’s youth, which still exist today. From DiMaggio’s first home, to the restaurants he once frequented to the church that he received his first Holy Communion in, to the playground where he first swung a bat, Caldera described all the key places from the great centerfielder’s earliest days. What resonated with me the most when I read Caldera’s story was that even after DiMaggio’s death, his presence is still very much alive in San Francisco.

The 2014 New York Yankees Official Yearbook spans generations of great players and teams. It’s a keepsake for the ages.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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April Issue of Yankees Magazine – ON SALE NOW

April 11, 2014 – The April Issue of Yankees Magazine is on sale now. You can purchase a subscription to the print version of Yankees Magazine by calling (800) GO-YANKS, and you can purchase a print or digital subscription by visiting http://www.yankees.com/publications.

This edition of the team’s flagship publication includes several exclusive stories. From the team’s newest players to the honor of a lifetime for one of the Yankees greatest players — plus a lot more — it’s all in this extraordinary issue.

Masahiro Tanaka is the subject of the cover story. I was fortunate enough to spend more than an hour with the star pitcher on one of his first days in the United States (see blog entry below). In our conversation, which took place over lunch, Tanaka spoke candidly about his career in Japan and his expectations for the future.

I also wrote a lengthy feature on the Yankees spring training trip to Panama, during which Mariano Rivera was honored in his home country (see blog entry below). A few weeks before that trip, I interviewed former President Bill Clinton in his midtown Manhattan office for a special “5 Minutes with…” piece that I believe is a must read (see blog entry below).

There is a second “5 Minutes with…” feature in this issue. In November, I interviewed former NFL quarterback Jay Fiedler over dinner in New York City. Fiedler’s story is a real inspiration, and I am excited to have published my interview with him in Yankees Magazine.

After a record-breaking career at Dartmouth College, Fiedler signed with the Philadelphia Eagles as an undrafted free agent. After two seasons in Philly, Fiedler found himself out of football for two years. But, regardless of how bleak things looked, he never gave up on his dream of becoming a starting quarterback in the NFL. Through tremendous determination, Fiedler made his way back to the NFL, eventually becoming the Miami Dolphins starting quarterback in 2000.

Executive editor Ken Derry wrote two features in this issue. Derry traveled to the Yankees Baseball Academy in the Dominican Republic to explore how so many of the organization’s prospects and established players hone their craft. Derry also interviewed Jacoby Ellsbury during spring training for a feature on the Yankees new centerfielder.

There are several other great stories in this issue. Grab your copy now!

–Alfred Santasiere III

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