Livin’ the Dream

reggie250.jpgEvery time I make my way to the field at Yankee Stadium, whether it was the old place or the new Pinstriped Palace, I instantaneously turn into a kid again. I can’t help it. Doc Brown and the Delorean not necessary. It’s just how it is. I can’t help it. Didn’t I just say that? I know I’m a reporter, and a journalist, but when I interview Yankee legends it’s like a natural high. Look, when Reginald Martinez Jackson walks over and says he’ll answer a couple of questions, well then I just turn into a babbling mess. Like I said, I can’t help it, I’m a fan. I have been since I was a fetus. (My mother still has the ultrasound where they saw the interlocking NY on my forehead)

Of course, I’m kidding, but you get it, I’m a huge fan.

Okay, back to Reggie. The man hit three home runs in a single game in the World Series. He will always and forever be a part of Yankee lore, and here is a kid that grew up a Yankee fan in a small town called South River, New Jersey, on the field before a postseason game interviewing a Yankee legend. It’s going to affect me a little bit. Sorry if everything I learned in Broadcast Journalism goes out the window.

Sometimes I have to jump back and pinch myself. I have a pretty cool job, I have to admit.  Should I be a rabid fan when I do an interview? No. Should I be detatching myself from my fandom? Yes. I know that. But I can’t help myself. Everyone on my block dreamed that one day we would be a New York Yankee. Well, I am as close as anyone will ever be, they all live vicariously through me, and I’m loving every minute of it.

Timeline to live by

May 12, 2009 – Yankees lose 5-1 to the first place Blue Jays – drop to 15 – 17 and 6.5 games out of first place.

May 21 – Yankees win their ninth straight game, 1.5 games out of first

May 29 – Yankees beat Indians 3-1 in Cleveland, take over first place by .5 game

June 11 – Yankees lose their eighth straight to the Red Sox, 2.5 games back

June 17-23 – Yankees go 1-5 and get shut out in the first game in Atlanta – five games back

June 24 – July 9 – Brian Cashman visits Atlanta and Yankees win 13 of next 15

July 10-12 – Yankees swept by Angels, three games back

July 17-27 – Yankees win 10 of 11, in first place by 2.5 games

July 28 – August 1 – Yankees lose four of five and their lead drops to five games over Boston

August 2-15 – Yankees win 12 of 13 including a four-game sweep of the Red Sox, 6.5 up

August 28 – September 9 – Yankees win 12 of 14 increase their lead to nine games

September 11-21 – Yankees lose 6 of 10 – lead down to five games

September 22-27 – Yankees win five straight – including another sweep of Boston, AL East Champs

Do me a favor, take this timeline and live by it. It perfectly illustrates the highs and lows of a very long baseball season. A little over six months to be exact. Time and time again this season, people on Twitter, people in the blogosphere, and people calling into radio shows, acted as if the sky was falling. These people hang on every pitch, of every inning, of every game, like it was the last pitch of the season. I give them all the credit in the world for being the kind of fan they are, but please whenever you doubt a Yankees team go back to this timeline and remember the end result. Print it out. Put it on your bulletin board, your fridge, your computer monitor, or your favorite Yankees poster. Let it be a nice little friendly reminder from yours truly, “The Lighthouse of Hope.”

Is winning the division nice? Of course it is. Is winning the division after dropping eight in a row, then winning 9 of 10 against the Red Sox, including the clincher at home nice? Absolutely! However, there is still some work to be done boys and girls. The Yankees haven’t been to an ALCS since 2004 and we all know what happened in that series. Joe Girardi established three goals in Spring Training: Make the playoffs. Win the AL East. Win the World Series. Two down, one to go.

The talk of the previous couple of weeks was of the Yankees magic number. In case you’re wondering, one still remains and it resides squarely on Girardi’s back – 27.

By the way, be the lookout Friday for an Off the Wall chat session here on with yours truly. See you then!

All gave some, some gave all

groundzero_300_091009.jpgNo matter how many years pass, I will never forget the morning of September 11, 2001. It started out as a normal day for me. I switched shifts with my buddy at MSNBC and instead of working the 8-4 shift, I took the early morning 6-2 shift. I drove in that day from Hoboken and it didn’t matter where I was driving to or from, when I saw that skyline I knew I was home. I saw it countless amounts of times, but every time I was near it, I had to look. It was awe inspiring. Almost got into countless amounts of accidents while looking at it.

Work started out as it usually did, trying to do the impossible. My producers wanted me to put together a Michael Jordan feature because he was coming out of retirement one more time. You’re thinking to yourselves, great project to work on, right? Yeah well, try doing it without a budget. My instructions were to use the internet to get my images, still scrolls of web pages, because video was too costly. After arguing my case for video to no avail, I went and started rolling on Web sites in the IMUS control room.

About 10 minutes later, our day, our world, and life as we know it, would change forever.

While I was cursing my producers for making me do a cheap piece on the greatest athlete of all time, the executive producer of the IMUS show at the time, a great guy named Tom Bowman, bellowed two words I will never forget as long as I live. “Holy ****!” Now Tom is a reserved guy, never heard him swear until that day, so I knew something had to be really wrong. I looked up at our monitor wall and saw the shot of the first tower with the smoking hole.

Instantly, I sprang to my feet and started running down our hall of edit rooms telling everyone to stop what they were doing. I got into the tape room, started rolling on Chopper 4, and tried to assess what was going on with my fellow co-workers. At that time we thought maybe pilot error. The last thing we were thinking was terrorism until a bit later. I was watching Chopper 4 like a hawk and at one point it was in between both towers and you can see over the water and I saw the second plane coming. I saw it hit the second tower live. No one in the control room believed me. They thought it was a bomb, until I took the feed out and scrolled it back and forth to show them. Now we knew we were under attack.

The rest of the day is a blur. I finally left the building at 8 p.m. and settled into the Sheraton right off the Meadowlands Parkway. The New Jersey Turnpike was closed, so was Route 17 and Route 3. There were blue and red flashing lights as far as you could see. I checked into my room, went downstairs to the bar, listened to President George W. Bush speak and that’s when my phone went off. My mom called me to tell me one of my friends from high school, Chris Dincuff, was in the first tower and no one had heard from him.

Chris died that day. He was just one of almost 3,000 people to perish on a day that was hell on earth, and it’s impact still reverberates today.

Never forget September 11, 2001. Never forget the brave firefighters and police officers that were running up those stairs when terrified employees were running down. Never forget the countless amounts of people from all over the country who pitched in to help in the rescue attempts after the towers crumbled to the ground. And also never forget how the world of sports deflected our attention from the atrocities that took place on that day eight years ago. Today is a day for remembrance. Today is a day for mourning. Today, and every year on this day, is a time that we should all never forget. The day all gave some and some gave all.

Never forget.

History is still the future

I went to the Rays-Yankees game last night hoping Derek Jeter would go 4-for-5 and break Lou Gehrig’s all-time franchise hit record. After he struck out his first three times at the plate, I knew the chances of anything happening were slim and none, and slim just went on vacation.

Such is life. I did see David Wells perfect game in person, so I have that going for me, which is nice. It’s not like receiving total consciousness on my deathbed, but still, nice.

Anyway, as the players kept coming up and I kept hearing their musical selections, it got me to thinking. What song would I come up to if I was a Major League player? I thought for a second and then it hit me:

Ah, AB Logic’s Hitman. It may be a little brash, or egotistical, like I am going to get a hit everytime I go to the plate, but isn’t that the idea?

Now I want to know what song you would come out to if you were striding to the plate at Yankee Stadium. I will mention the best responses in the “Off the Wall” podcast tomorrow!

1998 Redux?

Ho hum. Another day, another win. Remind you of any other Yankee teams? Maybe one from 11 years back? The team that seemed like it won almost everyday? The team where if it lost you were like, “Ah, whatever. What are we? 70 games over .500?”

I’m not saying this team is going to win 125 games. I’m just saying the day in and day out winning lately, just got me reminiscing a little bit that’s all.

The Yankees are six straight wins away from reaching an unbelievable 40 games over .500 this season. Why is it unbelievable? Do you remember last year? My, what a difference a year makes. My, how the glasses go from half empty to half full. Although I guarantee you there are some fans out there that STILL aren’t satisfied. Maybe they are upset they lost the series to the Rangers? Get over it. It was the first series they lost since they were in Chicago at the beginning of August. In fact, since the All-Star break the Yankees have played 13 series. They are 11-2. By the way, the 11 wins include two series wins and a four-game sweep over the Red Sox. They also swept the Tigers, Orioles, Blue Jays and White Sox.  This team is playing how everyone expected it to play after an unbelievable offseason of signings.

Let me throw some more numbers at you. Since Alex Rodriguez came back into the lineup in Baltimore on May 8, the Bombers are 59-33. Since June 25, they are an unreal 42-16. Since the All-Star break, they are 31-11. They have the best record in the Majors, they are the best team in baseball right now. Not arguably the best, they ARE the best, right now. Some more numbers now for the remaining naysayers and people who can just never be happy. Maybe this will turn that frown upside down. August 31, 2008, the Yankees were 72-64 — just 8 games over .500, 12.5 games back of Tampa and in third place. Do I see a smile? Or was that just gas?

Come on people! Stop waiting for the other shoe to drop. This team is flat out good. They are proving it on the field everyday! You know who you are. Don’t make me sic Susan Powter on you. Children of the ’80s you know who I speak of — “STOP THE INSANITY!”

powter.jpgLet me take you back to a past blog. At the All-Star break, if you remember, I was asked to grade the Yankees as a guest on WFAN. I gave them a B+ and I got destroyed. Here’s an excerpt that entry:

Baseball is cyclical. If you have ever played the game you would
understand that sometimes the ball looks like a pebble and you’re trying
to hit it with a toothpick, and sometimes it looks like a beach ball
and you have that big fat red wiffleball bat. 

There are 73 games left, 73. That’s almost an entire NBA or NHL season.
What? I’m gonna worry? GLASS HALF FULL PEOPLE! I said this last year
and I’ll say it again. If you don’t like rooting for a team that
consistently runs out players that are fit to win championships ever
season, there’s always Pittsburgh, Kansas City or Washington. Pledge
your allegiance to teams and owners who put money into a new yacht
instead of putting money into their team.

Am I patting myself on the back? No. Was I right? Yes. The Red Sox won eight straight in the first half of the season. In the second half, the Yankees have taken six of seven. The Yankees are 19-4 in their last 23 home games. They are scoring close to six runs per game, and they are batting .287 with 38 home runs. The fat red wiffleball bat is in full effect. The pitchers are keeping it in the park as well, pitching to an even 3.00 ERA.

Back then there were 73 games left, now 32 remain. The Red Sox keep winning and are still lurking, just six games back. Chew on this though. If the Yankees played .500 ball the rest of the way, that’s 16-16, Boston would have to go 22-10 just to tie. I’m not a betting man, but I like the odds.

So, as the Tempo’s once sang, “See You in September,” everyone. It’s been a heck of a ride, and hopefully the good times will keep rolling along. Hopefully we’ll see you in October, and November where the only number that will matter is 27.

Weekend Warriors

I know that no one cares that I still play baseball on Sunday, and that’s cool. I Twitter about my team from time to time, mostly in a joking fashion, but when Sundays roll around it’s serious business. You here the phrase, “For the love of the game” all the time. Well, in the Sunday leagues, the love of the game isn’t just shown when you are between the lines playing. It’s also shown two hours before game time when you are not only baseball players, but the grounds crew. It doesn’t happen every week, but when Mother Nature decides to display her anger from time to time, and with the crappy baseball fields we play on, it’s necessary to work on them before first pitch. It amazes me that football fields from coast to coast are meticulously maintained, while baseball fields are left to rot in the summer. It’s a travesty and something should be done about it, but I digress.

So 6 a.m. this morning e-mails and text messages started flying back and forth with the team. Fritz brought his tractor, Chris brought the attachment for the tractor to smooth out the infield. There were about six metal rakes in action, I was wielding one of those, a tamper, a couple of shovels, and two leaf blowers. This morning was Sunday playoff baseball in the MSBL over 28 Connecticut league, however, you would think by looking at us, we were a professional grounds crew, not the team that was to take the field in less than two hours.

We don’t get paid to play. We pay to play in these leagues. When Sunday’s roll into Monday’s we get back to the grind. Whatever are normal lives entail. Bumps and bruises don’t ache, they feel good. Making a running catch, feeling a ball come off a wooden bat, diving and snagging a ball up the middle, getting the game winning hit in the bottom of the ninth, these are the reasons we play. Not because we are in a contract year and we need to get a raise, not because we have to, but because we love the game.

Love in this sense is defined as taking a strong liking for something or taking great pleasure in something. Waking up at 7a.m. and tending to a field that looks like a hurricane hit it, all before playing nine innings in 90-degree weather? That’s my definition of love.

Final score: Stamford Mets 4, Wilton Red Sox 3. Shearn: 2-2 GW RBI bottom of the ninth.

That doesn’t hurt either.   

Yankee Mount Rushmore

mountrushmore_375_081909.jpgAn interesting question arose the other night in the studio before Yankees Batting Practice Today presented by Audi began. Who would be on your Yankee Mount Rushmore? Which four Yankee legends would you carve into rock for eternity?

The most popular and obvious choices amongst the crew and myself were: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, and Mickey Mantle. Four Yankee legends and really a no-brainer. Think of the players you are leaving off though. Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Don Larsen. The list could just keep going and going like that stupid battery bunny.

It got me thinking and I am curious to know who would make your Yankee Mount Rushmore – or Mount Mystique and Aura? Leave a comment with your four choices. Also don’t forget to check out an all-new Off the Wall podcast with me and the Godfather of, Joe Auriemma.

You Don’t Live in Boston…

The New York Yankees run a VERY classy organization and their fans are dubbed by the players as the most knowledgeable fans in the league. Well this week the Boston Red Sox come into town and David Ortiz will bring his cheatin’ heart along with every other cheatin’ part of his body into the Bronx. This will be the time, ladies and gentleman and boys and girls, to show the rest of the country, especially Boston, that not only are you the most knowledgeable, but you handle yourselves with class. Not only because your own team has been caught out on more than one occasion with steroid use, but because you have more CLASS than your “school on Sunday” counterparts in Beantown.

The field microphones picked up plenty of steroid chants when Alex Rodriguez came to the plate whilst the Yankees were in Boston. I don’t want a repeat of that happening at the Stadium. It’s just plain embarrassing.

First of all, for these gulli-bulls, for these nin-cow-poops (Bugs Bunny terms) up in Boston, who thought their precious team was pristine, and free from PED’s … oh wait, that’s right, these are the same people that have re-elected Ted Kennedy over and over and over again, so I shouldn’t be shocked there. The wool is, how you say, easily pulled over their eyes. The entire game was jilted by the juice. Not just New York teams as the Mitchell Report would have you believe, which by the way was run by a guy with ties to the Red Sox.

So Yankees, fans when the big bloody sock machine pulls into town on Thursday for a four game set at the stadium, leave your blow up syringes and steroid chants at home. You don’t live in Boston, YOU live in the greatest city in the world. You, ladies and gentleman boys and girls of all ages, have something your counterparts from the North will never have … class. It reminds me of a coach who took the microphone once and said something along those lines to his hometown crowd.

First “Off the Wall” Podcast

In case you haven’t come across it yet, Joe Auriemma (The Godfather of and I, hosted our first foray into the podcastophere (pretty sure I just made that word up). You can call in with your questions or comments (646-487-3668) and we will use the best every week, but I was thinking earlier this morning — there’s no place for you to vent back at us.

We have to be fair. I have to admit — I was hard on you insatiable Yankees fans in my monologue. So every week, if you want to fire back at us for that — so be it — I will put a blog up so you can empty all your frustrations on me. l can take it just as well as I can dish it out. If you want to get on my case — just leave a comment underneath here and I will get back to you.

We will have a brand new podcast up next Thursday and we are working towards doing this more than once a week. Also, Joe and I will be visiting three Minor League parks in 24 hours starting 7 p.m. this Monday in Trenton, followed by 11 a.m. the following day in Staten Island and wrapping up our trip in Scranton Tuesday at 7 p.m. Single-A, Double-A and Triple A in one day. We are documenting the entire trip and it should be a lot of fun to watch, and we will be discussing said trip in our podcast next week.