September 4, 2013 – Last September, I spent a day at the world-famous Bethpage State Park golf course in Long Island with Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive tackle John Randle.
My wife, Tiana, and a group of our friends teamed up with Randle in the Joe Namath – March of Dimes Celebrity Golf Classic. After a most enjoyable round of golf, I conducted a candid interview with the Minnesota Vikings legend. That “5 Minutes with” Q&A, along with my interview with Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive end Chris Doleman, who also played for the Vikings, are in the September Issue of Yankees Magazine.
As great as Randle’s career was, I was even more impressed by his path to Minnesota and ultimately to Canton.
Randle joined the Vikings as an undrafted free agent out of tiny Texas A&I University, and only through a rare blend of un-noticed talent and unbridled work ethic did he make the team and then become one of the NFL’s most dominating players.
“Not getting drafted was a big motivation,” Randle said. “I always believed that I could play in the National Football League. I was undersized, and I didn’t come from a big school. As a result, nobody gave me much of a chance to make it in the NFL. Every time I stepped on the field for practice or for a game, I wanted to let everyone know what they missed by not drafting me.”
The most interesting part of our conversation was about Randle’s pre-game rituals.
“I would put my shoulder pads on, and then I would get into the shower with them so that they would get tight and form fitting. On Sunday mornings, no one could talk to me or shake my hand. Also, I would take the game programs that were sitting at our lockers and switch them all up. I was transitioning from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde.”
While the interview was fascinating, my favorite experience from the day took place when I got to line up against the Hall of Famer — even if it was just for a photo op. After our golf team sunk the final putt of the day, Randle posed for photos with each of golfers and I in football’s three-point stance. Among the reasons I was smiling in the photo below is because I knew that Randle wasn’t going to barrel over me.
–Alfred Santasiere III
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
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
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
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
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
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
July 29, 2013 – The August Issue of Yankees Magazine will be on sale Friday August 9 at Yankee Stadium.
Of course, you can purchase a subscription to the print version of Yankees Magazine by visiting http://www.yankees.com/publications or by calling (800) GO-YANKS. The digital version of the magazine is available through http://www.yankees.com/publications.
One of the Yankees great stars of today and of the future graces the cover of the August edition. Earlier this month, senior editor Craig Tapper sat down with All-Star relief pitcher David Robertson for the cover story. And, in spring training, Yankees team photographer James Petrozzello shot the portrait of Robertson you see below.
Additionally, executive editor Ken Derry spent a weekend in Scranton, Pennsylvania to cover Derek Jeter, who was finishing up his rehab assignment with the Yankees Triple-A club. Derry’s detailed story on the last stop in the captain’s long road back from multiple injuries is fascinating. The feature takes you inside the blue-collar town in Northeastern Pennsylvania during what was a most exciting time.
While Jeter neared his return, deputy editor Kristina Dodge covered “Newtown Day at Yankee Stadium” for a feature on an emotional afternoon in which the Yankees hosted about 4,000 people from Newtown, Connecticut. In the story, Dodge explores the importance of such events to the town’s recovery from the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
This issue also features my story on Ron Guidry (see blog entry below) and my “5 Minutes with Joe Montana” interview (see blog entry below).
Enjoy this issue. It’s a good one.
–Alfred Santasiere III
July 29, 2013 – As part of our tribute to the legendary Mariano Rivera in the September Issue of Yankees Magazine, we will be publishing a Q&A with Panama’s president, Ricardo Martinelli.
On Saturday, Martinelli was at Yankee Stadium to visit with Rivera, who was born and raised in Panama. After visiting with Rivera for about an hour in the Yankees clubhouse, Martinelli sat down with me for an exclusive interview about the great Panamanian closer.
You’ll have wait until September to read the entire interview. But below are some of my favorite parts of the conversation.
YM: What are your thoughts on how the baseball community has celebrated Mariano this year in the United States?
RM: Every time I speak with President Obama, the first thing we discuss is Mariano Rivera and what he has done. I’m very grateful to the baseball teams and fans in the United States for recognizing him they way they have. It’s great patronage and a great honor to someone who truly deserves it.
YM: In a recent interview with Mariano, he mentioned that his great humility comes from his upbringing. Would you discuss the way he has carries himself?
RM: He’s always been a man with deep religious beliefs. He’s a man that’s done so much for humanity, and he’s made the world we live in a better place. Mariano’s dedication to his family shows the type of character he has. He’s a man of family, a man of hard work and a man who is dedicated to doing things the right way. Future generations will look up to Mariano.
YM: Would you discuss the sense of pride that Panamanians take in Mariano’s success?
RM: He’s one of us. When you talk about somebody who comes from your country and has done something remarkable, you immediately feel a huge sense of pride. Panamanians feel that because Mariano came from humble beginnings and went on to become a legendary baseball player, they too can succeed in whatever they put their minds to. Mariano learned the value of hard work from his father, and he has earned everything he has in life in an admirable way. We are very proud of him for that.
–Alfred Santasiere III
July 29, 2013 – The September Issue of Yankees Magazine will feature a 42-page commemorative section on Mariano Rivera. Over the next month, I will preview several elements of this very special section. But for now, enjoy several of the words about Rivera I gathered for a feature that will be made up entirely of quotes.
I spoke to a few former Yankees at Old-Timers’ Day, and I interviewed several of the game’s greatest players at the 2013 All-Star Game at Citi Field. A day after the All-Star game, I sat down with Joe Torre and Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson at the former manager’s annual golf outing.
“When Mariano came into the game, he always got ahead of you by putting that first pitch over the plate. In my opinion, that really helped him to dominate. He was never afraid to go after you, and he still isn’t.”
“He’s the greatest closer in the history of baseball. He’s had so much to do with the success of this organization during his career. He’s a good family man, a heck of a competitor and a great pitcher. He’s got the whole package.”
“Mariano is the best closer the game has ever seen. He really has changed the game. As a pitcher, I have the utmost respect for him, and I’ve always looked up to him. You can’t tell if he’s getting hit around or not because he’s always composed. That is a rare and very special quality.”
“Mariano is a great friend but I wish I could get a few hits off him. Like a lot of players, I’ve gotten used to making outs against Mariano.”
–Miguel Cabrera (pictured below)
“The most frustrating thing about facing Mariano is that you know what’s coming but he’s still tough to hit. In the nine seasons I’ve gone to the plate against him, he hasn’t changed at all. He’s still the best closer anyone has ever seen.”
“Mariano is a professional on and off the field. Most guys aren’t able to go out while they are at the top of their game, but that’s what Mariano is doing this year.”
“Mariano is a hero. To see him pitch is a dream come true for baseball fans.”
“Mariano has accomplished things in the game that no-one will ever match, especially in the postseason. But, more importantly, he’s played the game the right way. When Mariano saves a game, he just walks off the field. He doesn’t aggravate the opposition with an over-the-top celebration, and that demonstrates the type of respect he has for the game. One of the main reasons I won four championships with the Yankees is because I had a bunch of guys who never took time to admire what they accomplished. They always felt it was their responsibility to live up to what they had done in the previous season, and Mariano did that better than anyone.”
“Mariano is the type of player who comes around once a century, and because of the way he carries himself on and off the field, he’s great for the game.”
“There’s only one Mariano Rivera. There won’t be another person who will come along and do what he did. No one does it like him. It was an honor to catch him and play alongside him for as long as I did. He made my job as a catcher so much easier. Mariano is a special person and obviously a special player.”
That’s it for now. But the September Issue of Yankees Magazine will feature the words of these great players as well as several others.
–Alfred Santasiere III