August 21, 2014 – On the same day that I interviewed David Ortiz for a vignette on Derek Jeter (see blog entry below), I spoke with Boston Red Sox third base coach Brian Butterfield about the captain.
Butterfield, who coached in the Yankees minor league system for several years, worked closely with Jeter at a crucial time. After making 56 errors during his first year of professional baseball, Jeter was assigned to the instructional league (in the autumn of 1992). According to Jeter, it was under Butterfield’s direction that he made the improvements necessary to ultimately become a major league shortstop.
From the infield at Fenway Park, Butterfield spoke with me about his experiences in working with Jeter day in and day out and hitting more ground balls to the young shortstop than anyone could count.
–Alfred Santasiere III
I began coaching Derek when he was 19 years old. He was a good athlete, but the thing that stood out about him the most, especially as he was around other guys, was the type of personality he had. He was energetic, and he had a great sense of humor. The young guys and the old guys at instructional league gravitated to him. The coaches were always hanging around him to hear what he had to say.
When I began working with Derek, he was coming off a season in which he had made 56 errors. He wasn’t able to work on hitting because he had hurt his wrist, and that turned out to be a blessing in disguise. He had to work exclusively on defense for about a month and a half.
He went out there ready to work and with a smile on his face.
We would get out on the field early in the morning and stay out there until noon. We worked on Derek’s footwork, on catching ground balls, on catching the ball backhanded and on attacking slow rollers. We watched video of the morning session, and then we’d go back out in the afternoon. More than anything else, it was obvious early on that Derek wanted to become a great player and that he had great aptitude. At the end of every day, he was a better player than when he got out there.
I’m proud to have worked with Derek. He has impacted my life a lot more than I could have ever impacted his because he’s quick to give other people credit for everything that’s happened in his career.
August 21, 2014 – Earlier this month, I traveled to Boston to interview Red Sox star David Ortiz for one of the many first-person vignettes on Derek Jeter that will appear in the September Issue of Yankees Magazine.
In the interview, which took place along the first base line at Fenway Park, Big Papi’s respect for his long-time rival on the field was notable.
Below are Ortiz’ words about Jeter as they will appear in the September edition – dedicated to the Yankees captain.
Alfred Santasiere III
I don’t think there’s a human being on earth who has something against Derek. It’s nearly impossible to reach that type of level of respect. It’s hard to be that perfect.
When I watch Derek walk up to the plate, I take notice of his body language and his swagger. It’s unique. I have tried to be like him, to exude confidence like him and to carry myself the way he has.
He’s had a longer prime than any other player I’ve been around. Most players are in the prime of their careers for about five years, but Derek has been in his prime for about 15. He’s been the Hercules of our sport, and he should get voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame unanimously.
I’m glad I’m going out right after him because I’m going to miss him when we play the Yankees. I’ve enjoyed competing against him. I’m going to miss getting to second base and saying, “DJ, what’s up?” He has always had something funny to say, and he’s done it without ever cracking a smile.
August 21, 2014 – For the September Issue of Yankees Magazine, which is dedicated to Derek Jeter, I spoke to two other legendary shortstops for two special Q&A features.
During the time I was in Cooperstown, New York, covering Joe Torre’s Hall of Fame induction, I met up with Cal Ripken Jr. and Ozzie Smith and interviewed both of them about the Yankees captain.
For two “Art of Sport” pieces, the Hall of Famers provided unique perspectives on Jeter’s career.
Smith, who is widely regarded as the greatest fielding shortstop of all-time, broke down Jeter’s performance in the field.
“A lot of times, shortstops are measured by how consistently they make the routine play,” Smith said. “With Derek, the Yankees have always been able to depend on him. When a team has a guy at shortstop who is as reliable as Derek, it has a ripple effect. It takes a lot of pressure off of the pitcher because there is less need to strike batters out. When the pressure is on the pitcher to strike guys out all the time because he doesn’t have steady middle infielders, the results are usually not very good. Defense has always been a big part of the game, and Derek has supplied the Yankees with the defense they needed up the middle for 20 seasons.”
Smith also shared his thoughts on Jeter’s jump throw.
“I think all of us have something unique in the way we go about our craft, and Derek is no different,” the St. Louis Cardinals legend said. “Anytime a play takes you farther away from the base that you want to throw to, it’s going to be tough to make. But the great shortstops have the ability to improvise. That is the greatest asset a shortstop can have because a lot of times, you never really know exactly how you’re going to turn after you scoop up the baseball. Derek has been able to handle the weird hops that are hit toward the shortstop position.”
In my interview with Ripken, he also weighed in on Jeter’s signature play in the field.
“It’s a very difficult play to pull off,” the Iron Man said. “Derek has perfected it and probably gotten a lot of people in trouble over the years for trying to emulate him. I never felt comfortable getting my body in position to make that throw without setting my feet. You have to possess a strong arm, and you have to have total control of your body in that position. Many times, it’s difficult for him to stop and turn around because of the speed at which he runs after the ball. But he developed a way to consistently make that jump throw with accuracy. It has opened up a way for shortstops to make that sort of running play into the hole, and it’s been fun to watch.”
After discussing Jeter’s heroics in the field, Ripken shared his thoughts about something he has in common with the Yankees captain.
“I think most players wish that they could have an opportunity to play for one team,” said Ripken, who played for the Baltimore Orioles during his entire 21-year career. “Playing for one team the whole way is special because it’s not easy. Teams make changes in personnel over the years, and they rebuild. From the player’s standpoint, you have to perform well year in and year out. You have to be committed to your team, and you have to understand that there’s a greater value in staying with the team you started with. Your career is more meaningful when you are attached to one team. I can’t imagine Derek wearing another uniform, and in the rich history of the Yankees, Derek is firmly planted as one of their all-time greatest players.”
At the end of each interview, I asked Smith and Ripken where Jeter stands among the greatest shortstops of all-time.
“It’s hard to say because you’re always going to have a debate as to who was the best at each aspect of the game,” Smith said. “I think we were all unique in the way that we went about our business, and we all tried to be as well-rounded as we could be. Derek certainly has been one of the most consistent players that the game has ever seen. And, if you had to choose one word to describe the shortstops who are in the Hall of Fame, consistency would be that word. More than anything else, that’s what has allowed them to be looked upon as the game’s greatest. Derek will be part of the small group of shortstops up here in Cooperstown, and he belongs on the short list of the best players to ever play the position.”
“Derek is at the top of the list,” Ripken said. “He’s the most complete player to ever play the position. He is an all-around great offensive and defensive player, and he is one of the best clutch players the game has ever seen. Derek is the guy you want at the plate if the game’s on the line. He has performed so well in the playoffs, and that separates him from all the other shortstops.”
–Alfred Santasiere III
August 21, 2014 – While I was in Minneapolis for the 2014 All-Star Game (see blog entry below), I interviewed Hall of Famer Dave Winfield for a first-person vignette on Derek Jeter.
Winfield was Jeter’s favorite athlete during the shortstop’s childhood. Today, it appears that Winfield is quite a big fan of Jeter.
Below are the words of the former Yankees outfielder and Minnesota native.
–Alfred Santasiere III
When a young man first makes it as a professional, even in the minor leagues, you’re not sure how he’s going to turn out. You don’t know how he’s going to develop or mature. Derek had difficulty defensively in the minor leagues before he got to New York. Yankees brass didn’t really know that he was going to excel in the big leagues, and they certainly didn’t’ know that they he was going to help them win five championships and perform as well in the clutch for so many years.
Derek’s been a model of excellence on and off the field, and that’s why people look up to him. I appreciate him. He’s always given back to the community, and he’s done everything the right way. The Yankees have been blessed to have him, and he’s been blessed to play for the New York Yankees. It’s been a great marriage.
August 21, 2014 – One of the three features that I wrote for the September Issue of Yankees Magazine is on Derek Jeter’s final All-Star Game, which took place on July 15 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
I arrived in the Twin Cities a few days before the Midsummer Classic and covered the American and National League media sessions at a downtown hotel.
From the minute the first availability began, it was clear that this was Derek Jeter’s All-Star Game.
Jeter was joined by his American League All-Star teammates in a ballroom. The star-studded lineup included the two-time reigning American League MVP Miguel Cabrera, 2010 American League Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez, Angels phenom Mike Trout and Toronto Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista.
But as if Jeter were the only guy in the room, nearly the entire contingent of media flocked to his table.
As he fielded question after question, Jeter shared his favorite All-Star Game memory, which took place in 1999.
“During batting practice, I got a tap on my shoulder,” Jeter said. “It was Hank Aaron. He told me that he had been looking for me because he wanted to meet me. I looked at him and said, ‘You wanted to meet me?’ That was a great honor, and it was one of the best moments I’ve had on a baseball field.”
A few hours after the media sessions, the All-Stars arrived at Target Field for a workout, and Colorado Rockies star Troy Tulowitzki had a similar experience to the one Jeter had all those years before.
Before 29-year-old shortstop stepped into the batting cage, he got a tap on the shoulder. It was Jeter.
“I just want to congratulate you on a great first half, bro,” Jeter said. “You’re really doing a great job.”
I caught up with Tulowitzki afterward.
“It’s something that I will always remember,” Tulowitzki said. “When I was growing up, I had a poster of Derek in my room. Anytime someone who you’ve admired since you were a young child wants to talk to you and pays you a compliment, it gives you chills.
The Midsummer Classic proved to be as much of a celebration of Jeter as a baseball game, and in my story, I detail each of the emotional ovations that the captain received.
And, before his exit from the game, Jeter made a significant impact on the American League’s victory, going 2-for-2 with a double, a single and a run scored.
“I can still play,” Jeter said after the game. “I’m not retiring because I can’t play anymore. It’s just time to move on.”
–Alfred Santasiere III
August 21, 2014 – In early July, I spent an afternoon with Derek Jeter’s parents, Dr. Charles Jeter and Dorothy Jeter. Over lunch at the Highlawn Pavilion restaurant in West Orange, New Jersey, the Jeters shared story after story about Derek’s childhood and his career with the Yankees.
The Jeters’ willingness to share so many never-before-told stories about their son has allowed me to put together an unprecedented feature for the September Issue of Yankees Magazine. I am extremely grateful to the classy couple for their candor, for their time, and for sharing their collection of family photos with me for this feature.
From Derek’s first day of school to the first time he played baseball to the day he was drafted by the Yankees, the Jeters really provided me with a perspective I had never heard.
Of course, our nearly three-hour conversation included some funny moments.
“Derek played football when he was about 8 years old, but he pretty much gave up on his career in that sport on one play,” Dr. Jeter said. “He was playing defensive back, and he had really good speed. The running back from the other team took the ball, broke through the line of scrimmage and was running down the field. Instead of tackling the guy, Derek ran all the way down the field with him. I was yelling, ‘Derek, tackle him.’ Then, in the next game, Derek tried to tackle a player, but he was too skinny to take him down. The guy carried Derek on his back right into the end zone. We still tease him about that now.”
On a more serious note, Mrs. Jeter spoke about her son’s love of baseball, which began at a very early age.
“The first team Derek played on was a city league T-ball team in Kalamazoo when he was 4 years old,” Dorothy said. “They played one game a week, and from the first day, Derek loved putting the uniform on. During his childhood and even when he was in high school, he would put his uniform on at home before the season began to make sure that everything looked good. He wanted to make sure everything was perfect before he went out to the field.”
“That tradition of trying the uniform on started during the first year Derek played ball,” Charles added. “They had a parade, and Derek was really excited about marching with his team. The night before the parade, he tried his uniform on. He couldn’t have been more proud to be part of that team. He didn’t march down the street; he strutted.”
What will stay with me forever from that lunch was the enormous amount of pride that Derek Jeter’s parents have in him. They are a special family, and the fact that Derek is as great a person as he is a baseball player has a lot to do with the way he was raised.
In a touching moment near the end of our lunch, Dr. Jeter spoke about watching his son play in his first major league game (see photo below from Derek’s major league debut, against the Seattle Mariners in the Kingdome).
“Hearing Derek’s name announced prior to his first at-bat is something I will never forget,” Charles said. “As I sat in the seats that night, I reflected on watching him play in Little League. I thought back on his first year of T-ball and how proud he was to march in that parade. I could still picture him strutting down the street and talking about how he someday wanted to be the shortstop for the New York Yankees. It was an emotional night, and it’s still the proudest moment I’ve ever had.”
–Alfred Santasiere III
August 9, 2014 – The August Issue of Yankees Magazine is on sale now at Yankee Stadium.
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.
The August Issue features three covers. Joe Torre, who was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in July, graces the cover that will be on sale for most of the month. In that cover photo, taken by team photographer James Petrozzello in March, Torre is sitting in the middle of the Hall of Fame’s plaque gallery — a few feet in front of the wall that his plaque now hangs on.
Petrozzello also took a portrait of Paul O’Neill in Yankee Stadium’s Great Hall for the cover that will be sold at the Stadium only today, the day that the Yankees dedicated a Monument Park plaque to the great rightfielder.
The third cover features a portrait of Torre that staff photographer Matt Zeigler took in the home dugout at Yankee Stadium. That cover will be sold at Yankee Stadium on August 23, when the Yankees will be dedicating a Monument Park plaque to Torre and retiring his No. 6.
In addition to my cover story on Torre (see blog entry below), and my exclusive feature on Bernie Williams (see blog entry below), senior editor Jon Schwartz wrote an in-depth piece on O’Neill, and it is a must-read.
This issue also includes executive editor Ken Derry’s feature on the baseball in Trenton, New Jersey, the home of the Yankees Double-A affiliate. Derry’s feature provides an interesting history of the earliest days of baseball in New Jersey’s capital city, and it also sheds light on the experience of seeing the Thunder play today (which I can say from first-hand experience is wonderful).
Enjoy this edition of Yankees Magazine.
–Alfred Santasiere III
August 9, 2014 – On the final weekend of July, I traveled to Cooperstown, New York, to chronicle Joe Torre’s Hall of Fame induction for the cover story of the August Issue of Yankees Magazine.
During my three-day stay in baseball’s holy cathedral, I had exclusive access to the former Yankees skipper. I interviewed him at the Otesaga Resort Hotel, where he and more than 50 other Hall of Famers stayed. I also had the unique opportunity to attend two private parties, one of which was held in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s plaque gallery and the other which was held at Brewery Ommegang.
The small gathering at the local beer factory and restaurant was co-hosted by the New York Yankees and Major League Baseball. Near the end of the night, baseball commissioner Bud Selig grabbed a microphone and saluted Torre.
“I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Joe for 54 years,” Selig said in a speech that you will only find in Yankees Magazine. “This is a wonderful day for the New York Yankees, for Joe and for his entire family. Joe has clearly distinguished himself in his career on the playing field and as a manager, winning four world championships. But the thing that I’m proudest of is that he has represented this sport in a really, really remarkable way. Tomorrow, he will get inducted into the Hall of Fame on merit and clearly because of who he was and what he did on and off the field. On behalf of Major League Baseball, congratulations on the most richly deserved honor.”
As the crowd of about 50 people applauded, Selig handed the microphone to Yankees managing general partner/co-chairperson Hal Steinbrenner.
“On behalf of the entire organization and my entire family, I want to congratulate you on this very well-deserved honor,” Steinbrenner said. “During your years with us, you managed some very special players and some very special teams. Your leadership, your poise, your character and your coolness under pressure made those teams world champions many times over. We couldn’t have done it without you. Thank you for everything you did for the organization.”
At the conclusion of Steinbrenner’s speech, Torre embraced him and shared his own thoughts.
“It’s an honor just to be associated with your family, and especially your father,” Torre said. “I had a great relationship with George, and I’m forever grateful to him. I was never a Yankees fan until the first time I put the pinstripes on, but once you do that, it’s an unbelievable feeling.
“But my coolness under pressure is going to be tested tomorrow,” Torre continued. “I never afforded myself the luxury of thinking about the Hall of Fame. I knew what the Hall of Fame was, and I respected the heck out of the guys who were in the Hall of Fame. I’ve dreamt about it on occasions, but I always thought it was unreachable.”
Before he concluded, Torre spoke about the recent days in Cooperstown.
“One thing I realized over the last few days is that there’s an awful lot of Hall of Famers at the Hall of Fame,” Torre said. “Every one of them checks their ego at the door, and that’s really cool. The outpouring of love that I’ve felt this week is something I’ll never forget.”
In front of about 48,000 fans, Torre joined baseball’s greatest fraternity the next day, as he was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
In my story, I detail just about every step Torre took on induction weekend, as well as the key points of his speech. This special story also includes several anecdotes from Torre’s time with the Yankees, which he shared with me during a visit to Cooperstown in March (see photo below from that interview in the Hall of Fame’s plaque gallery).
–Alfred Santasiere III
August 9, 2014 — Stephen Costello is an executive vice president at Steiner Sports, a leading sports marketing and memorabilia company, and a long-time partner of the New York Yankees. Costello recently wrote the book, “My Father Never Took Me To A Baseball Game,” which details his childhood with an abusive father. The book is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions. I recently sat down with Costello, who I have worked with for several years, to discuss his life and his new book.
–Alfred Santasiere III
Alfred Santasiere III: How would you describe a typical day with your father when you were growing up?
Stephen Costello: He was a truck driver. So, he would go somewhere to pick the truck up, be in the truck all day, and then at night, he was very gruff and very belligerent. The way he talked to everyone, including me, was definitely a hit on our confidence. Once I was a little older — around 12 years old — I would just leave out the back door when I saw his car in the driveway. I would go to my friends’ houses where the type of tension that existed in our house didn’t exist.
AS: Did you ever talk to anyone outside your home about your father?
SC: No. It was a different time back then. People really didn’t say anything about what was going on in their homes back then. I was scared to say anything or tell anybody so I just counted the days until I was old enough to get out of the house.
AS: How were you able to re-establish your confidence amid the negative and abusive behavior of your father?
SC: There were certain things, that regardless of what my dad said, I knew I was a good at. I was a good baseball player. I knew I was a good student. I knew I was a good writer. Maybe he said some things because he didn’t want me to become a truck driver like he was, but I knew from a very young age that I was not going to be a truck driver. I was pretty certain of that. Once I got to a certain mental level, I didn’t let anything he said or did affect me.
AS: You talked about it being a different time now as opposed to when you were growing up. Please speak to the progress our society in the United States has made in raising awareness for domestic abuse and limiting it.
SC: It’s definitely not tolerated. Today, there’s a much-heightened awareness to abuse. It’s very hard for a parent to get away with it for a substantial amount of time without a neighbor, a teacher or a friend finding out about it and speaking up. In the 1960’s and ’70s, the mindset was “mind your own business,” and that was wrong in every way.
AS: Tell me how writing the book, “My Father Never Took Me To A Baseball Game” has affected you from an emotional standpoint?
SC: The point of the book is that if you’re abused as a child, you should try to minimize it. You should try to escape the situation, and you should understand that it doesn’t have to ruin your life and you certainly should not pass it on to the next generation. After I wrote the book, I have had so many people tell me what happened to them. It’s not something that any of us are proud of, but writing the book really let me get out from under it.
July 21, 2014 – Among the features in the August Issue of Yankees Magazine will be a very special story on former Yankees centerfielder Bernie Williams.
Earlier this month, I traveled to Puerto Rico with Williams to spend a few days with him in his homeland.
During our trip to the beautiful island, we visited the field in which Williams was playing centerfield on when he was first approached by a Yankees scout. We also visited his favorite place in the world, a beach that his late father used to take him to when he was a young child.
We didn’t stop there. We also visited Williams’ high school and the track that he established himself as one of the fastest young sprinters in the world on when he was a teenager.
In addition to conducting several lengthy interviews with Williams for the feature, I sat down with the ballplayer’s mother and brother during two separate meals to discuss the great Yankee before he was a major league star.
Of all the stops we made in San Juan and in Williams’ hometown of Vega Alta, the most memorable one was at the field where he fist played baseball (see photo below).
When we arrived at Parque de Pelota del Barrio Maricao in Vega Alta, Williams hopped out of the SUV we were in and walked to a metal fence that surrounded to the field.
To his amazement, the gates on the fence were locked, and we had no way of getting onto the field.
Just then, a man in a red SUV approached the field and came to a complete stop.
“Welcome back, Bernie,” the man shouted in Spanish. “I will get someone to open the gate and get you on the field.”
Although Williams didn’t know the man, he was confident that he would come through.
That’s exactly what happened.
Within minutes, a second man pulled up to the field.
“Bernie Williams,” the man shouted.
With a huge smile on his face, Williams walked over to the man and embraced him.
The man was Angel Crespo Jimenez, and he coached Williams during his early teenage years.
Jimenez unlocked one of the gates, and Williams stepped on the field for the first time in more than a decade.
“The first position I ever played was second base,” Williams said as he crouched down and began to draw in the sand with his index finger. “I wasn’t very good at second base because I never paid attention to the game, and I was more interested in playing with the infield dirt like this. My coach moved me to shortstop and then to first base, but I wasn’t much better at those positions. Then, he moved me to center field and I fell in love with the game.”
Just as Williams finished his thought, Jorge Lopez Adorno, the coach who first put him in center field, arrived.
Williams greeted Adorno — who has been involved with the local youth league program for more than 50 years — at the pitcher’s mound.
“If it wasn’t for these guys, I would have never developed the love for the game that I have,” Williams said. “Their love and obsession for the game was contagious. I had to do a lot of work on my own, but it was because of them that all of the teams I played on were assembled and all of the tournaments took place.”
“When Bernie was 8 years old, his mother, who was the principal at the school I taught at, wanted him to play baseball,” Adorno added. “We didn’t have a team for 8 year-olds, but as a favor to her, I put together a team.”
To read about this entire scene — which was one of the most surreal occurrences I’ve ever witnessed — along with the rest of the story about Bernie Williams’ upbringing, grab your copy of the August Issue of Yankees Magazine.
–Alfred Santasiere III