2014 New Era Pinstripe Bowl Official Game Program — ON SALE NOW

By Alfred Santasiere III

December 24, 2014 — The 2014 New Era Pinstripe Bowl will be played on December 28 at Yankees Stadium, and in my opinion, this year’s game program is the best one yet.

If you’re going to be at the game, you can pick up your copy at the Stadium. The official game program is also be available on www.yankees.com/publications and by calling (800) GO-YANKS.

Thanks to the tremendous efforts of managing editor Nathan Maciborski and the rest of the Yankees editorial staff, this publication if filled with all of the information fans could ever want about Penn State University’s football program and Boston College’s team. The official game program also includes features about the title sponsor of the bowl, college football at the old Yankee Stadium and the current Yankee Stadium and a few guys who played in the New York City’s bowl game in recent years.

My favorite feature in the publication details some of the greatest games in college football history, which took place between teams that are now in the ACC and the Big 10 — the two conferences that are represented in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. As senior editor Jon Schwartz noted in the feature, many of the teams that participated in these games were not in their current-day conferences when these epic battles took place, but they are now.

In addition to scribing that story, Schwartz also put together a Q&A piece with the 2013 New Era Pinstripe Bowl MVP, Zack Martin. The offensive tackle from Notre Dame was picked in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys, and he has been a standout from the first day of training camp.

A little closer to home, I traveled to the New York Giants practice facility in East Rutherford, New Jersey, for a conversation with Justin Pugh. The former Syracuse University left tackle played a big role in his team’s victories in the Inaugural New Era Pinstripe Bowl in 2010 and in SU’s win in the 2012 game.

In the interview, I asked Pugh, who has been the Giants’ starting right tackle since he was selected in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft, about the thrill of playing in what was the first college bowl game in New York City in several decades.

“There definitely was pressure on us because we’re New York’s college team,” Pugh said. “Also, [then Syracuse head coach] Coach Marrone is from the Bronx, and we really wanted to win it for him. When you’re playing a team from Kansas in New York, you feel like you really have to represent New York. We felt like it was our duty to defend our home turf.”

Pugh also discussed his team’s 369-yard rushing performance in the 2012 game against West Virginia University.

“We had a running back who ran more than 200 yards and another one who ran for more than 150,” Pugh said. “Playing that game in the snow and watching our fans throwing the snow into the air was a lot of fun. That will always be one of my favorite memories of playing football.”

At the end of the interview, I asked Pugh a few questions about his first two seasons with Big Blue, and he spoke about the Giants’ first win last season. As I wrote about in the 2014 New York Yankees Official Yearbook, Mariano Rivera took the field and served as the Giants’ honorary captain for that game. (see previous blog entry below).

“Having the greatest closer of any era there to support us was a great motivation,” Pugh said. “He’s a calm, quiet guy who always went to the mound and got it done, and that was the kind of mentality that we needed that night.”

I also wrote a long feature on the fascinating history and culture of New Era, a fourth-generation family-owned company that began in Western, New York, in 1920, has remained there ever since.

During the day I spent at New Era’s headquarters in downtown Buffalo, New York, I interviewed owner and CEO Chris Koch, whose great grandfather founded the company nearly 100 years ago.

New Era has grown exponentially over the last few decades, and it’s one of the largest sports apparel companies in the world today, producing more than 50 million hats a year.

What impressed me most during the time I spent with Koch and other executives, including president Peter Augustine, wasn’t the magnitude of New Era’s hat production or the creative designs, but instead, it was the way the atmosphere within the building.

Koch knows everyone who works in the four-story Buffalo office, and he is just about as concerned with maintaining New Era’s family culture as he is with the growth of the company.

“As you grow bigger, you try to figure out how you can continue to have the culture of family and caring,” Koch said from his third-floor office that overlooks the city on the banks of Lake Erie. “We’re always striving to make sure that people here understand the history behind where we came from. Out of our 95 years, we’ve only been an international corporation for about the last 15. Our foundation is the family atmosphere, and it’s vital to our success that we maintain that.”

As far as moving New Era’s hub to bigger city, the Buffalo native, who has worked for New Era since he was a teenager, wouldn’t even dream of it.

“It’s important to the city of Buffalo to have a global company headquartered in Buffalo,” Koch said. “Our 15 satellite offices throughout the world help us understand the market in those regions, but we still have a sense of Western New York in everything we do. That’s very important to me.”

In New Era, the Yankees certainly have a classy partner.

— Alfred Santasiere III

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