September 2, 2015 – The 2015 Edition of Yankees Magazine en Español will be on sale this Friday, September 4 at Yankee Stadium and on newsstands in the Tri-State area.
This publication is the fourth annual edition of Yankees Magazine en Español, and in my opinion, it’s gotten better each year.
For the first time in the four-year history of the publication, we have produced two covers. Since the Yankees retired the numbers of Bernie Williams and Jorge Posada and dedicated Monument Park plaques to both of them in 2015, we decided to further honor the Puerto Rico born legends. Half of the magazines feature a portrait of Williams on the cover and the other half feature a portrait of Posada.
Within the pages of this publication, you’ll find two features on Posada. In January, I caught up with the former catcher in Miami, and captured his words about his entire professional career (see blog entry below). And during the summer, I spent a day with Posada in Puerto Rico for an exclusive look at his childhood.
I was also in Puerto Rico in 2014 with Williams, and in addition to the story that we published that last year on his upbringing, I spoke with the centerfielder about his career in pinstripes for a feature that is included in the 2015 edition of Yankees Magazine en Español.
Senior editor Jon Schwartz traveled to Puerto Rico last winter and spent some time with Carlos Beltran for an exclusive story on the Yankees rightfielder. Schwartz’ feature, along with team photographer James Petrozzello’s images from that trip are among the best we’ve published in a long time.
Around the same time that Schwartz was in Puerto Rico, executive editor Ken Derry traveled to the Dominican Republic to cover the Latino Baseball Hall of Fame festivities and to explore the baseball culture there. Don’t miss Derry’s story in this special publication.
Lastly, as I described on this blog, I have had the opportunity to conduct two exclusive interviews with Alex Rodriguez over the summer. My Q&A feature with A-Rod, which was originally published in the August Issue of Yankees Magazine, can also be found in Yankees Magazine en Español. In English and in Spanish, it offers a unique look at the game’s most compelling player in 2015.
Enjoy this annual publication.
–Alfred Santasiere III
September 2, 2015 – About a month after I sat down with Alex Rodriguez for lunch in Boston (for a feature in the August Issue of Yankees Magazine), I met up with the No. 13 at The Mark Hotel in New York City for an even more candid interview.
A-Rod’s words from my latest interview with him are part of a feature story that I wrote for the September Issue. That feature details his great comeback during the 2015 season.
Soon after A-Rod got to the restaurant inside the hotel on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, I asked him about the game-tying grand slam he hit a day earlier against the Minnesota Twins.
“That was a special moment,” Rodriguez said. You could feel the buzz in the Stadium. Anytime you do something to help win a game, especially in the late innings, especially in a pennant race in the middle of August, it’s huge for the team.”
Besides discussing several of his other clutch hits in 2015, the humble Rodriguez talked to me about his struggles in the month of August.
When I reminded him that he told me a month earlier that he believed he would get stronger in the second half of the season (which has not been the case), A-Rod acknowledged a factor he had not considered.
“When I said that, I didn’t account for one thing — my age,” he said. “I’m feeling it. But that’s part of managing the game and the season.”
Despite those comments, A-Rod wasn’t conceding anything in the conversation.
“The good news is that September is right around the corner,” he said. “From my own experiences, I feel like you always turn the corner in late August and get your second wind. You really start sprinting toward the finish line as fall approaches.”
Rodriguez also shared his feelings on what I feel is the most compelling aspect of his comeback from a year-long suspension. While it’s difficult to imagine that a player who has nearly 700 home runs, more than 2,000 RBI and more than 3,000 hits to his name is still carving out his legacy, that is the case with Rodriguez.
“I’m really grateful that I’m getting this chance to write a different ending,” A-Rod said. “I wanted to contribute to the team and do what I love. And I wanted my baseball career to be about more than my mistakes. I screwed up, but hopefully this season will show that I’m about more than my mistakes.”
–Alfred Santasiere III
August 24, 2015 – On Saturday morning, just prior to when the Jorge Posada festivities kicked off, I spent some time in a private suite with former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach and current CBS football analyst Bill Cowher.
Getting the opportunity to interview Cowher for an upcoming Art of Sport feature was very exciting. Although I was never a Steelers fan, Cowher has long been one of my favorite people in sports. Whether it was his intensity or his story, (more on that in the Q&A) it was hard not to root for him.
At the beginning of the interview, I asked Cowher — who grew up in Pittsburgh and whose dream it was to coach the Steelers — to describe the experience of getting hired to lead the team when he was only 35 years old.
“It was a thrill,” he said. “When I got the job, one of the first things I thought about was, if I don’t’ screw this up in three years, I can go back to my high school reunion as the head coach of my hometown team. My first goal was to make it to my 20th high school reunion, and that worked out.
“Also, my parents and my brothers sill lived in Pittsburgh,” he continued. “That really made it a dream come true. But when you’re in the middle of it, you’re just coaching. Re-establishing that football team so that they could compete for a championship every year was what I was focused on. That couldn’t have happened in a better place because that’s where my roots were.”
Cowher also spoke with me about the heartbreak of losing the 1994 AFC Championship Game on the last play, and then winning the AFC crown the following season, in an equally as dramatic scenario.
“Our season came down to the last play with a chance to go to the Super Bowl,” Cowher said. “Literally, a year later, we were in the same situation. We were dealing with the same end zone in the same stadium. The first time we were on offense, and the second time we were on defense. When we won, it was a tremendous, overwhelming feeling.”
Finally, I asked Cowher to discuss the man of the hour, Jorge Posada. I was impressed by his response and by the comparison he made to a guy who helped him win the Super Bowl in 2006.
“When you see a guy spend 17 seasons with one team, win five championships and play catcher, that’s pretty incredible,” Cowher said. “Jorge was a selfless leader and the kind of guy who was going to be there when you needed him. He reminded me of Jerome Bettis in that you almost took him for granted. Then, when he’s gone, you see the impact he had on the organization and the individual players, whose eyes light up when they talk about him. That’s how it was with Jerome, and I can only imagine that Jorge has the same effect on the people who played alongside him. Today’s honors are well deserved, and I’m glad I’m here to see it happen.”
–Alfred Santasiere III
August 24, 2015 – The last two days have included celebrations at Yankee Stadium. On Saturday, the Yankees dedicated a plaque to Jorge Posada and retired his number, and a day later, Andy Pettitte received the same honors.
Having been around both players for several years, I’m thrilled that No. 20 and No. 46 will never be worn again in a Yankees uniform. Posada and Pettitte were essential to a run of five championships — and as any sports enthusiast knows, that type of success is incredibly rare.
I’ve had the great privilege to cover both players since I began working for the Yankees in 2003, and in the last year, I’ve spent time with each of them in their homes. It’s been an honor.
As I stood on the field for the ceremonies, I was especially sentimental watching career highlight videos of the gritty catcher and pitcher. As I said to my wife, Tiana, after the Pettitte ceremony, “It’s too bad they had to get old — or at least too old to still play the game.” But time marches on, and the memories they left us with will never leave. Posada and Pettitte left nothing on the field, and they are so very deserving of these honors.
Our team of photographers were also on the field, and they captured every moment of the ceremonies. Below are two photos that will be published in the September Issue of Yankees Magazine.
–Alfred Santasiere III
August 4, 2015 – The August Issue of Yankees Magazine will be on sale today at Yankee Stadium and on newsstands in the Tri-State area.
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://yankees.com/publications.
Without a doubt, this edition is a tremendous keepsake. It includes my exclusive interview with Alex Rodriguez (see blog entry below), who is the most compelling player in baseball this season.
Additionally, the two men who are being recognized later this month at Yankee Stadium are featured prominently. There are two features on Andy Pettitte and a first-person account from Jorge Posada about his career (see blog entries below).
On August 22, the Yankees are planning to retire Posada’s number and dedicate a Monument Park plaque to him. The next day, the team is scheduled to bestow the same honors on Pettitte. A portrait of Posada will grace the commemorative cover of copies sold on the catcher’s big day. A second commemorative cover, featuring a portrait of Pettitte, will be released at Yankee Stadium on the afternoon of his tribute.
Managing editor Nathan Maciborski covered Brett Gardner’s first All-Star Game for a must-read feature, and a portrait of the outfielder will be on the cover of the August edition during the rest of the month.
Without his speed on the base paths, Gardner might not be an All-Star. A few other guys known for moving at a fast pace are also featured in August. I sat down with 2015 Triple Crown winning jockey Victor Espinoza a few days after he won the Belmont Stakes for an Art of Sport Q&A (see blog entry below). A few weeks before that, contributing writer Scott Walsh interviewed NASCAR drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Joey Logano at Arm & Hammer Park in Trenton, New Jersey, for another Art of Sport piece.
There’s plenty more on the pages of the August Issue. Grab your copy soon.
–Alfred Santasiere III
August 3, 2015 – While I was at Andy Pettitte’s ranch in South Texas for the story about his post-baseball life (see blog entry below), I also interviewed the pitcher about his time in pinstripes.
Both features will be published in the August Issue of Yankees Magazine. That edition will be on sale all month, including the day that the Yankees will be dedicating a Monument Park plaque to Pettitte and retiring his No. 46.
Pettitte’s feelings about the upcoming ceremony on August 23 are included in the Q&A piece.
“From the first day I put the pinstripes on, I wanted to be the best pitcher in Yankees history,” Pettitte said. “So it’s very satisfying to be appreciated by the organization and the fans. I don’t feel like I had all the talent in the world, but I had the mental ability to handle tough situations, and that helped me to accomplish what I did.”
In our conversation, Pettitte also reflected on the first time he met some of the fellow members of the famed Core Four.
“I don’t remember the first time I met Mariano [Rivera], but I’ll never forget the first time I met Jorge [Posada],” Pettitte said. “I got called up to Oneonta, and Jorge was already there. They asked him to catch me in a bullpen session. I threw a knuckleball back then, and he had just switched from second base to catcher. He missed a few of the knuckleballs I threw. One went off his foot, and another one hit him in the leg. He’s pretty fiery, and he got very mad.
“I met Derek [Jeter] right before a game in Greensboro,” Pettitte continued. “The first thing he said to me was that I looked like one of his uncles. I shook his hand and said, ‘Nice to meet you too.’”
In addition to Pettitte’s take on so many of the pivotal moments in his career, the feature includes a portrait photo of the lefty that chief photographer Ariele Goldman Hecht took in Monument Park this summer (below).
Enjoy the rest of the interview.
–Alfred Santasiere III
Unique Story about Andy Pettitte (from his South Texas Ranch) – in the August Issue of Yankees Magazine
August 3, 2015 – Around Christmastime, I traveled to South Texas to spend a day with Yankees great Andy Pettitte on his ranch for a story that will be published in the August Issue of Yankees Magazine.
I’m proud of the feature because it’s the product of unparalleled access into Pettitte’s life today. It includes anecdotes and photos that show Pettitte in a very different light.
During my day on the ranch — which has a 16-mile perimeter — I accompanied Pettitte and his family and friends on a deer hunting expedition.
“This is one of the most beautiful places in the world,” Pettitte said on the chilly morning. “When I sit on our back porch and look out onto the land, it feels surreal. This is my happy place. There’s nothing I love more than hanging out with my family and friends here.”
After the successful morning hunt, the group gathered for breakfast, and it was great to witness the enthusiasm that everyone shared.
“When everyone’s here, it’s more fun for me to just watch the kids hunt,” Pettitte said. “Just seeing the excitement in their eyes is pretty cool.”
Pettitte and the group would go back out for an afternoon hunt but not before the father of four played catch with his two oldest sons, who are pitchers at the high school and collegiate levels, respectively.
“When people ask if I would ever try to make another comeback, I just laugh,” Pettitte said as he lobbed a baseball back to one of his kids. “Even if I wanted to, I got nothing left.”
Enjoy the complete story, in the August Issue of Yankees Magazine.
–Alfred Santasiere III
August 3, 2015 – A few months before I traveled to Puerto Rico with Jorge Posada for a story in the September Issue of Yankees Magazine on the catcher’s upbringing (see blog entry below), I sat down with him in South Florida for another feature.
In early January, I met Posada for lunch in Coral Gables. During the three hours we spent together, Posada shared memories of his journey from Calhoun Community College in Alabama through his final days in pinstripes.
Posada’s first-person story will be published in the August Issue of Yankees Magazine. Of course, on August 22, the Yankees will be dedicating a Monument Park plaque to Posada and retiring his number.
Not long after we sat down, Posada discussed his earliest days in the Yankees organization.
“As a 24th-round draft choice, there was no guarantee that I would someday make it to the majors,” he said. “But I always had a strong belief in myself and a great work ethic. When you’re in Triple-A, you realize that you’re one step away, and you start thinking about who’s ahead of you. At that time, Mike Stanley was the starting catcher, and Jim Leyritz was there, but there wasn’t anyone who had much of a chance to leapfrog me. I knew it was just going to be a matter of time before I was in New York.”
A short while later, the former catcher shared what he considers to be the most difficult experience of his life.
“The 2001 season was a great year for me on the field, but it was an incredibly hard time for me off the field,” Posada began. “My son, Jorge, was born in 1999 with craniosynostosis, a birth defect in which the joints in his skull closed prematurely and before the brain was fully formed. In the summer of 2001, he had his second of 11 surgeries, but during that one, he got a serious infection. The surgery was a complete failure, and he was in the hospital [in New York City] for about a month and a half.
“I slept at the hospital on the night of Sept. 10,” Posada continued as his eyes welled up. “On the morning of Sept. 11, Jorge wanted to watch a kid’s show that we had on tape. As I was rewinding the tape, the news was on, and they were showing images of a plane crashing into one of the World Trade Center towers. I walked over to the window, and I saw the second plane hit the other tower. I walked out into the hallway and asked the nurse if she could unhook all of the tubes that Jorge was hooked up to because I thought that I had to get him out of there. I thought that the whole city was going to be under attack. A few minutes later, they began bringing beds downstairs to the emergency room because they were anticipating a lot of people coming in, but no one came in. It really hit me when one of the nurses said, ‘There’s no wounds; no one’s hurt. People are just dead.’”
About a half hour after Posada told me that compelling story, our conversation reverted back to baseball, and he took me through his game-tying, eighth-inning hit in Game 7 of the 2003 American League Championship Series against Pedro Martinez and the Boston Red Sox [which the Yankees ultimately won.]
“I was glad that I would have the chance to face Pedro with the game on the line,” Posada said. “In the brawl at Fenway Park a few days earlier, Pedro pushed [Yankees coach] Don Zimmer to the ground, and I didn’t like that. Pedro didn’t need to do that. I was screaming at Pedro, and he pointed to his head, saying that he was going to throw a pitch at my head. I was very angry at Pedro for the way he acted, and I wanted revenge.
“With a 2-2 count, he threw a fastball on the inside corner of the plate,” Posada continued. “I swung at it, and it broke my bat. The ball landed in between second base and center field, and both runners scored. As I was standing on second base, I felt like a lot of pressure was lifted off my shoulders. I had gotten revenge, and it was very gratifying.”
During a visit to Yankee Stadium this summer, chief photographer Ariele Goldman Hecht snapped a portrait of Posada for the opening spread of the story (below). The photo was taken on the suite level of the current Stadium, and the view in the background is the site of old Yankee Stadium — where Posada played for many seasons.
For the rest of the story about Posada’s legendary career — in his own words — be sure to pick up a copy of the August Issue of Yankees Magazine.
–Alfred Santasiere III
August 3, 2015 — On the weekend before the All-Star break, I sat down with Alex Rodriguez for an exclusive interview that will be published in the August Issue of Yankees Magazine.
During our conversation, which took place over lunch at Hillstone restaurant in Boston, the highly-publicized slugger spoke about his comeback this season, as well as several of the career landmarks he’s reached in the last few months.
But before I asked A-Rod about 2015, we discussed his very first major league game, back in 1994. That game took place at Fenway Park, located only a few miles away from where we met for lunch.
“The thing I remember most is that I was 18 years old and only a few months removed from my senior prom,” Rodriguez said. “I was excited and full of anxiety. I remember walking into the tiny visitors’ clubhouse in Fenway Park and going out to the field to take ground balls. When I got to the ballpark, I saw my name in the lineup, and that sight has stayed in my mind forever.”
When we got to the 2015 season, A-Rod spoke about how much he has enjoyed everything about it.
“This has been the most fun season I’ve had in New York,” he said. “I’ve never been this happy or relaxed playing baseball. I feel like I’m a little kid in my backyard, playing baseball. I think that the year off, although it was extremely tough, was a blessing in disguise because it made me appreciate everything the game has given to me.”
Rodriguez also talked about what reaching 3,000 hits means to him in comparison to his other great accomplishments.
“To me, it’s synonymous with longevity, and I’m proud of that,” A-Rod said. “It also means that I’ve played for great teams with incredible players who have made life hard for opposing pitchers. It’s really a toast to all the great players I’ve been surrounded by for along time.”
At the end of the interview, I asked the now 40-year-old if it’s realistic to expect him to match his performance from the first half of the season after the All-Star break.
“Yes,” A-Rod said emphatically. “It’s realistic. Going into the season, I thought that the most challenging months would be April and May because I hadn’t played baseball for a long time. I also thought that as the weather got warmer and I got more repetition, I would get more fine-tuned and play better. I still feel that way.”
Before A-Rod left for that evening’s game against the Boston Red Sox, I thanked him for the candid interview, and his response was unforgettable.
“This is the longest I’ve spent with someone who is putting together a story on me,” he said. “I’ve shared more with you today than I have with any other writer before.”
–Alfred Santasiere III
July 18, 2015 — In late-June, I traveled to Jorge Posada’s hometown of Río Piedras, Puerto Rico to spend a day with the former catcher. My story on Posada’s upbringing will be published in the September Issue of Yankees Magazine and in the 2015 edition of Yankees Magazine en Español.
There will also be a first-person story on Posada’s career in pinstripes in the August Issue of Yankees Magazine. Posada shared his experiences about his baseball career with me over lunch last winter in Miami, and that story will be out on the day the Yankees retire the catcher’s number and dedicate a Monument Park plaque to him.
While I’m proud of both stories, I consider the experiences I had with Posada in Puerto Rico and that story to be among my best.
On a hot and humid morning, I met Posada in the lobby of the hotel he was staying at, and he drove me to several of the landmark places from his childhood.
One of our first stops was Parque de Pelota de Isla Verde, a fenced-in baseball field in the Carolina neighborhood of San Juan. It was there, as a member of Casa Cuba — a social club that Posada and his family belonged to — that he played in his organized game of baseball when he was 9 years old.
When we got to the field, Posada walked across the dirt infield past the puddle of water near first base and over to the shortstop position — where he played when he was a kid.
“The thing I remember most about this field is the day I got my first baseball uniform,” Posada said from the red wooden bleachers behind home plate. “I was sitting right here when the coach walked over with a box in his hands and began to hand out our jerseys. They looked just like the old Texas Rangers uniforms. They were red and blue, and they said ‘Casa Cuba’ along the front.”
A little while later, we sat down for lunch at one Posada’s favorite restaurants, Ceviche House. During the meal, Posada spoke about the ways his father — a former baseball player in his native Cuba — instilled tough love and pushed him to the limit when he in his youth.
When Posada was about 8 years old, his father insisted that he learn to bat from both sides of the plate and that he only swing a wooden bat.
“He didn’t tell me that I was going to bat left-handed against righties until I started playing organized baseball,” Posada said. “I struck out and struck out and struck out. It was probably more mental because my swing was there, but it took me awhile to get the confidence I needed to have from the left side. It wasn’t easy at the beginning.”
Amid a long streak of consecutive strikeouts, Posada pleaded with his father to go back to his natural side.
“Without even thinking about it, he said no,” Posada said. “He told me that if I kept working at it from the left side, I would be fine. He always encouraged me to stay with it.”
After lunch, we drove to the house that Posada grew up in and where his parents still reside. Almost as soon as we walked in, the couple led us through their living room and dining room and into a sitting room in the back of the house.
That room is a temple to Posada’s professional career and specifically to his 17 seasons in pinstripes.
The white concrete walls are covered with photos of him celebrating championships, magazine articles and even his first Yankees Magazine cover. There is a bat rack behind the couch with one bat from each of the five World Series Posada won in New York. Sitting on a table next to those bats is the first of five Silver Slugger Awards the catcher took home during his career, and Posada’s locker nameplates from each of the five All-Star games he played in hang on another wall.
From that treasure trove of memorabilia symbolizing the catcher’s years in the limelight, we walked down the hall to a small bedroom that was Posada’s when he was growing up (see photo below).
Much of what was in that bedroom when Posada was growing up is still there. The twin bed that he fell asleep in night after night takes up about half the width of the room. Two shelves hang above a wooden dresser on the wall next to the bed, and they are packed with mementos from Posada’s youth, including a few baseballs and more than a dozen trophies from various baseball seasons and tournaments.
On the part of the ceiling above the bed, there are several tiny marks and grooves.
“Every night, when I would lie down, I would play catch,” Posada said. “I would pretend I was playing for a major league team. I tried not to hit the ceiling, but that was hard to do.”
At the end of the day, we spent time on the family’s backyard patio, and as the afternoon turned to evening, Posada’s father — the man who rarely showered his son with praise — reached into his pocket and pulled out a piece of paper.
On the paper, there was a list of all the catchers in the Hall of Fame — and Posada. The players’ most important statistics — games played, batting average, home runs and RBI — were listed along with their rankings in each of those categories. Among the Hall of Fame catchers, Posada was in the middle of the pack or better in all of the statistical categories.
Posada’s father handed the paper to his son.
“The Hall of Fame is next,” the older Posada said. “You have the numbers, and what’s different from a lot of the other catchers on this list is that you have won five World Series and played in five All-Star Games.”
Posada smiled and then carefully looked over the paper, discussing the accomplishments of a few of his favorite catchers.
A little while later, the older Posada walked toward the refrigerator. As he was about to open it, he stared at a magnet on the refrigerator door. The magnet, which was produced by the Yankees, featured a photograph of the former catcher, and it read “Jorge Posada Day, August 22, 2015,” referring to the afternoon the team is scheduled to retire his number and dedicate a Monument Park plaque to him.
“It’s like a dream,” the older Posada said. “It’s like I’m walking on air. I couldn’t be prouder of him.”
That touching moment made what was already going to be a great story, more special than I could have ever imagined it could be. I’m forever grateful to Jorge Posada and his family for that moment and several others that day.
–Alfred Santasiere III