Hometown Feature on John Flaherty — in the June Issue of Yankees Magazine
By Alfred Santasiere III
February 23, 2016 — Last November, I spent a day with former Yankees catcher and current YES Network broadcaster John Flaherty in Rockland County, New York, for a feature that will be published in the June Issue of Yankees Magazine.
For Flaherty, who played for the Yankees at the end of his 14-year career — after stops in Boston, Detroit, San Diego and Tampa Bay — the rural turned suburban county in the lower Hudson Valley is home. He grew up there, and after signing with the Yankees in 2003, he moved back to the town he spent his childhood in.
During the autumn day I spent with Flaherty, we visited his high school, the house he grew up in and Germonds Park, where at 12 years old, Flaherty tossed eight no-hitters and averaged 17 strikeouts per game.
“I first started playing catcher when I was 7 years old,” Flaherty said. “I caught every year until I was 12. Then, my coach thought it would be a good idea to have me pitch and play first base. I only gave up six hits that season, and that’s when I realized that I had a stronger arm than anyone else on the field. Coach would limit me to six curveballs a game. I would pick the best hitter in the lineup, and start them off with a fastball up and in. Then I would throw the curveball right at them, and it would break over the plate. At that point, I had them.”
When he began to experience arm pain, Flaherty moved back to behind the plate, where he remained for the rest of his baseball career.
After visiting the many landmarks from Flaherty’s childhood, we sat down for lunch at Il Fresco in Orangeburg, New York. When I initially suggested the restaurant to Flaherty, I did so because it’s one of my favorite establishments in Rockland County. But little did I know, it also has special meaning to the former catcher.
During one of the summers that he was enrolled at George Washington University in the mid-’80s, Flaherty took a few classes at Orangeburg’s Dominican College while also working at the restaurant, then named the Old Stone House Inn.
“I took a few accounting classes in the morning,” Flaherty said. “My mom was a secretary at that college, and after my classes, I would walk over to her office and have lunch with her.”
At the time he was taking the summer classes, Flaherty had no idea how valuable those lunches would end up being, but he would soon realize it. About a year and a half later, Flaherty’s mother was diagnosed with cancer, and she passed away soon after.
“When I look back on the summer that I took classes at Dominican College, it’s one of the best memories of my life,” Flaherty said. “When I was meeting my mom for lunch every day, it was one of those things that just worked out as part of my daily routine. But after she got sick, I realized how special those times were. It gave me a lot of time with her that I wouldn’t have otherwise had.”
Enjoy the rest of the story about Flaherty’s life and baseball.
— Alfred Santasiere III