Game 156: SF vs. NYY — Mariano Rivera Day

I should make a list of all the days I don’t want to write about, but they easily include things like retirements, major game losses, and final farewells. I’m not a reporter, so I don’t have my objectivity to hide behind. But my opinions and emotions aren’t always easily expressed on such a blog. I have to admit that I wasn’t looking forward to this day for a lot of personal reasons, but the main one was I just didn’t want this “era of good feelings” (so to speak) to end.

Declaring today “Mariano Rivera Day” was like asking for every living Yankee great to descend on Yankee Stadium. And boy, did they ever. Former Yankees Hideki Matsui, Bernie Williams, Tino Martinez, Paul O’Neill, Jeff Nelson, David Cone, John Wetteland, and Jorge Posada were on hand to say their public farewells. Also present were former Yankees manager Joe Torre, former trainer Gene Monahan, and former GM Gene Monahan. All these amazing men were announced on the field prior to the game today. And then Robinson Cano escorted Jackie Robinson’s widow Rachel and daughter Sharon onto the field to continue to honor Robinson’s impact and legacy as carried on by and through Rivera’s career and uniform number, which they retired in Monument Park just before the ceremony began. It was Derek Jeter who was privileged to escort Rivera’s wife Clara and the Riveras’ three sons Mariano, Jafet, and Jaziel.

There was a wonderful video montage of memories and thank you’s from Rivera’s teammates. And in between innings, the Yankees scoreboard played recorded messages from former teammates like Nick Swisher, Yankee rivals like David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia, and other sports figures like NFL players Tom Brady and Mark Sanchez. It really seemed like everyone came out to say good-bye.

In that spirit, in what was probably the worst kept secret in baseball history, the Yankees had Metallica, in town for a concert last night, in center field, playing the famous “Enter Sandman” as Rivera jogged in from the outfield to the waiting crowd on the infield grass. The Giants presented Rivera with a watercolor painting of an appearance in San Francisco and a Willie Mays autographed guitar, specially co-designed by Metallica. And to compliment that, Metallica presented Rivera a decked-out speaker cabinet.

Then it was the Yankees turn to present their gifts — a $100,000 check to the Mariano Rivera Foundation, a replica of his retired Monument Park number, and a Waterford crystal statue of his exact glove directly from the Steinbrenner family. And Derek Jeter and Joe Girardi carried out a specially crafted baseball bat rocking chair, commissioned by the entire team; Rivera promptly gave it a go right on the infield. Rivera’s assumed man cave is almost now complete with what can only be described as the most eclectic version of Number 42 memorabilia that you can possibly imagine. But I’m guessing he wouldn’t change a thing.

Rivera-Pettitte
Mariano Rivera & Andy Pettitte
via sportsrant.com

But what really made the event worth the entire day was when Rivera himself took a microphone and began his formal farewell to the crowd. He began, as a man of faith and family would, by thanking God and publicly praising his wife, sons, and parents. He also thanked his teammates old and new as his extended family and the Robinson family for the privilege of continuing Jackie’s legacy. In addition to thanking the fans in the stadium and those all over the world, he singled out those in his native Panama, who supported him and his dream of a career in baseball since he was a poor kid playing with a cardboard mitt, with a special moment in Spanish. And then he uttered the words that echo in every ball park across the globe from sandlots to professional stadiums, “Play Ball!”

And let us not forget that it was also a little bit of Andy Pettitte Day, who pitched 7 innings (and one batter in the 8th) like vintage Andy Pettitte — sharp, tight, consistent. He retired 16 of the first 17 batters he faced (with one walk) in what was looking like a no-hitter for a while, right up until the 6th inning. A solo home run broke that no-hitting bid. And it was a lead-off double in the 8th (only the second hit he allowed) that had him pulled after his 104 pitch outing. Seriously, anyone who tries to say that Pettitte did anything but be amazing today will have to take it up with about 50,000 Yankee fans who gave what will probably be their last standing ovation as Pettitte slowly walked that long walk to the dugout on what would be a crushing loss to him and his team. (Is it ironic that a “crushing loss” in September means a one-run game?)

David Robertson took the mound to grab one out before allowing an RBI double so that the Giants jumped to a 2-1 lead (That one run from the Yankees was courtesy of the 3rd inning solo home run into the Giants’ bullpen from Mark Reynolds). And maybe as courtesy to the fans on today, Girardi opted to go to Rivera for 5 outs, which he did with his usual panache.

The Yankees, stuck with that sole run from early in the game, made every effort in the bottom of the 8th to do something spectacular. Rodriguez singles and is replaced by pinch-runner Almonte, probably due to Rodriguez’s recent string of leg issues and the need for a faster runner around the bases. Cano doubles, moving Almonte to 3rd. Soriano’s at-bat turned into a fielder’s choice with Almonte getting tagged out at home trying to score. And it was on Nunez’s single that Cano tried to tie up the game but was brutally tagged out at home as well. Cano seemed to be okay, limping slightly, but this late in the season, there’s no more room on the DL short of “broken” or worse.

The Yankees’ offense just didn’t spark today after a 49 minute delay at the beginning with all the ceremony, and that’s part of why I didn’t want to write today’s story. It’s bittersweet in so many ways, and I’m just not okay with that.

Go Yankees!

Game 155: SF vs. NYY — SuperNova Shutout

Today was all about the Nova. Our very own SuperNova. Ivan Nova threw his second complete shutout game and third shutout game he started. All 9 innings of Nova being Nova and throwing 108 pitches (73 strikes). He gave up 6 hits, 1 walk, and no runs, and struck out 7 San Francisco batters. All 42, people were on their feet celebrating Nova’s complete game and final out.

And backing his SuperNova-ness was the Yankee offense. In the 3rd, Reynolds and Ryan hit back-to-back singles, and Stewart walks to load the bases with no outs. So when Ichiro Suzuki hits a sacrifice fly, all runners advance and Reynolds scores. Then Alex Rodriguez grounds out, but Ryan still scores and Stewart advances to 3rd. So Robinson Cano’s single easily scores Stewart. And suddenly, the Yankees are up 3-0. To tack on a little cushion for Nova, Eduardo Nunez hits just his 2nd home run of the season, also scoring Granderson — a 2-run homer into the left field seats. And just in case that 5-0 lead wasn’t enough, Alfonso Soriano plants a home run in his sweet spot (the left field seats) in the 6th.

So Nova walks away with his win in this afternoon’s 6-0 shutout of last year’s World Series champions.

I’ve been spending much of this weekend, in light of recent announcements, reminiscing about the old days. The days when it was assumed the Yankees would be in the postseason, the days of the last dynasty and the Core Four and 5 World Series rings. The days that made the Yankees relevant again. And I guess I realized I’d been in denial for the last season, praying somehow miraculously that the veterans, the “experienced” players, would somehow just be those young, strong, bold players they were in their 20s. And I’m guessing with a string of injuries, I’m not alone in that wish, especially from within the Yankees’ own clubhouse and front office.

But today, we glimpse the future of Yankee pitching. Nova is in his 20s, young, strong, bold, and clearly on the way to be something special on the Yankee rotation. He was “disciplined” in a way earlier this year, sent down to the minors to clean up his form that had become sloppy and less consistent. But when he came back, he didn’t falter. He came back that fierce competitor that the Yankees look for in their team. He wanted to do nothing but win and be the best Nova he could be. Sound familiar? Probably because that’s the Yankee mentality, something all the guys from the “old guard” have said at one time. Nova is a true Yankee.

And that gives me hope for the future of the team.

I guess I’m also reminiscing a bit to the more recent past — Spring Training. The Yankees aren’t going to lose their grit, their drive, their motivation because the veterans are moving on. Because there’s a whole crop of guys in their farm system chomping at the bit waiting for their chance to do something, to contribute to the club’s legacy, to find their own niche in the history of the pinstripes.

No, Yankee fans, there is hope because that will to win and be the best comes with donning the pinstripes and playing on the same field with legends around you and legends memorialized just over the center field wall. It becomes ingrained in the DNA of every player, that they’re part of something bigger, a mere season of a storied history. And that makes me hope.

Go Yankees!

Game 154: SF vs. NYY — Goodbye, Andy. Hello, Alex!

Andy Pettitte will pitch his last regular season home game on Sunday. He announced today that this is his last year of professional baseball, meaning he will start Sunday and have one more start next weekend in Houston. Houston, if you’ve been following the Yankees for any length of time, is where Pettitte spent 2004-2006. As a preview of things to come, I’ll be dedicating Monday’s post to Pettitte, his career, his retirement, and (of course) him. Spoiler alert: he’s one of my all-time favorite Yankee players. And I’m very bummed I cannot be there on Sunday to wish him and Rivera (for whom the day was originally intended) farewell with 50,000 other amazing Yankee fans.

His press release read:

“I’m announcing my retirement prior to the conclusion of our season because I want all of our fans to know now-while I’m still wearing this uniform-how grateful I am for their support throughout my career. I want to have the opportunity to tip my cap to them during these remaining days and thank them for making my time here with the Yankees so special.

“I’ve reached the point where I know that I’ve left everything I have out there on that field. The time is right. I’ve exhausted myself, mentally and physically, and that’s exactly how I want to leave this game.

“One of the things I struggled with in making this announcement now was doing anything to take away from Mariano’s day on Sunday. It is his day. He means so much to me, and has meant so much to my career that I would just hate to somehow take the attention away from him.”

Oh, and they played a game tonight — and a pretty good game at that too. It’s always fun to play against a former World Series title holder, but the San Francisco Giants are a shadow of the World Series champions they were last October. In fact, after last year’s 94-68 win-loss record, taking the NL West by 8 games and sweeping the Tigers in the Series, they are competing for last place in the NL West, currently 8 games below .500. It’s like the Giants and Red Sox have swapped Cinderella stories. Yes, the world is a crazy place.

So, starter CC Sabathia showed up tonight to throw a pretty good game — 107 pitches, 7 innings (and 1 batter in the 8th), 7 hits, 1 run (an RBI double in the 3rd), 3 walks, and 4 strikeouts. Robertson took his turn on the mound in the 8th, and set up Rivera for an 8-pitch 9th, which turned out more of a treat than a save because the Yankees decided to give their pitchers a bit of a cushion.

And on a quick note, it should be said that although the offense and Pettitte’s announcement will take the majority of the stories from tonight’s game, it’s worth noting that the defensive player of the game is clearly Eduardo Nunez, who played at 3rd for most of the game. I think most people view him as a lesser Jeter at shortstop, which is unfair both to him and Jeter. But he’s actually a really good 3rd baseman as he demonstrated tonight with a bare-handed grab on a bunt to get an out in the 3rd and a diving stop onto his knees in the 5th. More displays like that and Nunez could work his way into more of a utility role in the infield.

The Yankees jumped ahead of the Giants in the 2nd with Alfonso Soriano’s solo homer to the first row of the right field seats. His usual power swing plants his home run balls into the left field seats, but the late swings, the afterthoughts, end up in right field. It takes a rare player who can swing as an afterthought and still hit a home run.

Going into the bottom of the 7th, perhaps spurred on by “God Bless America”, but whatever woke the sleeping giant (no pun intended) had everyone reaching for the record books. Nunez singles, Ryan is hit by a pitch, Murphy grounds into a force out at 3rd, and then Ichiro walks to load the bases. And there’s 2 outs on the board, and Alex Rodriguez steps up to the batter’s box and plants a grand slam deep to right center field.

Rodriguez-Pettitte
Alex Rodriguez & Andy Pettitte
via BronxBaseballDaily.com

That grand slam for Rodriguez was his 24th career grand slam. That broke the tie he held with Lou Gehrig (his 23rd was hit last season) for the most grand slams in MLB history. And it helped win the game for the Yankees 5-1.

It seemed like all the veteran Yankee players came out to play in response for the events of the day — Soriano and Rodriguez from the batter’s box (the irony that both of them are playing on the same team now isn’t lost on most people); Sabathia, Robertson, and Rivera from the mound; and Pettitte and Jeter cheering on from the dugout. And in light of the seemingly non-stop changes and rapid departures of favorite players, there’s something rather comforting about that consistency, even though we have that for just a few more games.

Go Yankees!

Game 153: NYY vs. TOR — Creative defense without the “Diva Factor”

Some days, this job is cake — there are bit stories to include, everything works out right for a great game, and I’m feeling inspired and creative. Some days, this job is challenging — there’s a ton of stories to have to talk about, a ridiculously eventful game, and I’m feeling inspired and creative. And some days, it’s more of a chore — there’s nothing to talk about, a mundane game, and that spark of creativity and inspiration is muddled by life and personal exhaustion. Let’s just say, today was one of those days, and you’ll have to figure out which one I mean.

Starter Hiroki Kuroda went 102 pitches over 6 full innings, giving up 8 hits, 3 runs, 4 walks, and 7 strikeouts. Those 3 runs came courtesy of an RBI double and sacrifice groundout in the 3rd and a solo home run in the 6th. It was just in the 3rd inning, that it seems like Kuroda had a hard time with control, but the rest of the game he was his usual reliable self. And with just those 3 runs, the Yankees might have been able to pull themselves together and at least make an effort for the win. But things rarely work out like you predict.

So they opt to send in Joba Chamberlain in the 7th. But Chamberlain isn’t the pitcher he was when he debuted in Toronto 6 years ago. He walked a batter, allowed a single, and then gave up a whopper 3-run home run. And suddenly, the Blue Jays had pulled ahead with their 6 runs. In comes Cabral to get the first two outs and Daley for the last one in the 7th. And it was David Phelps to the rescue in the 8th, who easily gave one of the best appearances with his 13 pitch, 1-2-3 inning. This was a sign to me and most other analysts that the recently rehabbed Phelps is about ready to resume his long-term, even starting duties again.

Offensively, the Yankees were limited to half Toronto’s hits (5 for New York) and just two runs. Curtis Granderson struck first with a solo home run in the 6th. And in a last-ditch effort at a rally in the top of the 9th, with 1 out, Rodriguez walks, Cano singles, and Soriano walks to load the bases. On the third pitcher of the inning, Vernon Wells grounds out, but scores Rodriguez. And the Yankees are down 6-2, which they immediately concede the game on the very next out.

The Yankee defense was again something admirable, and tonight they got a little creative. Right in the 1st inning, a batter hits a slow grounder up to Kuroda, who throws it home to Stewart to get the runner going home. But the runner isn’t near home plate, so backs up back to 3rd in a rundown, which Stewart flips to Reynolds for the play. The runner dodges the tag from Reynolds, but here’s the problem: the other runner is already at 3rd base. We got 2 runners at 3rd. The initial runner isn’t on the base any more and is tagged out by Reynolds, and Reynolds also tags the new runner out, even though he’s on 3rd looking safe. Here’s why it’s a double play: once the first runner is back at his original base, the new runner must vacate back to his last base and since he was off his appointed base, he was still in play and could legally be tagged out. Nice effort by Reynolds just tagging everyone. (I’m kind of surprised the 3rd base coach didn’t get in on the action because of how close he was in all the fuss.) Just your average 1-2-5-5 double play.

And I think we can safely say the Mark Reynolds may just be the defensive MVP of the game because of his creative way to get an out (above) in the 1st, and for his own initiated double play in the 2nd. Reynolds may go quickly hot and cold in the batter’s box, but his defense is consistent and fits in with the natural flow of the field. For only being with the team a very short time, I know I’m impressed with how Reynolds seems to be carving his own niche in the team.

I know that many people believe that if you’re a professional, you should be able to play with anyone. And while that should be true, it’s not something I see very often exhibited. For how it’s not done well, watch any All-Star Game. All the players are super professional, used to their positions, used to playing at a high level, but there’s always one team that just doesn’t work as a team. Why? The “Diva Factor”. At this level, the lack of good teamwork isn’t usually poor training, but one or two “bad eggs” who prance around like divas — stereotypically, this would be either the overpaid assumed star or the young rookie hotshot. And even as I write this, I’m thinking of some players (and thus some teams) that fit both.

In other news (and I promise you this isn’t related to my previous paragraph), the Red Sox have officially clinched the AL East, and the Dodgers the NL West. I know I have some friends and family who will be very happy with that news. Most other races are pretty close to being concluded, being as we only have 9 games left to play this season. But there’s some really interesting things happening  in the AL Wild Card and the NL Central and Wild Card races. If it was so easy for those top 10 teams to grab their postseason places, it would make September the most boring month is baseball. And instead, it’s most fascinating that Opening Week. There’s nothing like September Baseball…

Except maybe October Baseball…

Go Yankees!

Game 152: NYY vs. TOR — 8th inning wake-up call

The Yankees know they’re coming to the end of the series. The silly stereotype of “dumb jock” doesn’t really apply to most baseball players, especially a clubhouse filled with well-educated, ridiculously literate, seriously smart men. So when the calendar hits September, they know that time is running out, and the cliché of the “long season” isn’t going to fly much longer. So when you’re down to your last two weeks of games and your postseason isn’t locked in, every game counts, everything matters, every pitch is crucial, every run is icing on the cake.

It was a Hughes/Huff outing tonight again north of the border. Phil Hughes went first, 56 pitches over 3.1 innings, just 4 hits, a 2-run homer in the 4th, and 2 strikeouts. And after that big home run, the Yankees flipped to David Huff, who ended up giving up another home run (just a solo home run this time) in the 4th inning. His 47 pitches took him through the 7th inning, but he never allowed another hit or run, so that certainly helped the Yankees. In fact, Huff’s tight game actually earned him the win tonight.

This was because the Yankees came alive in the top of the 8th inning. Brendan Ryan hit a lead-off ground-rule double (thanks, Toronto fan, for your silly interference), (a pitching change), Curtis Granderson singles, (a pitching change), a strikeout, and Robinson Cano singles home Ryan. And then it got interesting. Alfonso Soriano doubles and scores Granderson, and Vernon Wells’ double off the left field wall scores both Cano and the speedy Soriano. And suddenly, that 3-0 lead the Blue Jays were so sure of late in the game got flipped on its end. The Yankees had an inning and a half to protect their tight lead of 4-3.

So they did just that. “Houdini” David Robertson got two quick outs in the 8th inning, but allowed a single to a player and was to face one of their most consistent hitters. So they went to Mariano Rivera for a 4-out save. Rivera nabbed that last out in the 8th but gave up back-to-back singles in the 9th, (maybe just to make things more interesting for the fans), before getting those final 3 amazing outs, with runners perched in scoring position. And Rivera walks away with his 44th save of the season, and number 652 for his career.

Old Sign
courtesy of Google Images

I’ve been reading a lot lately about how attendance is down at parks all over the country, even at stadiums where there’s a playoff race happening. There’s some really tight division and wild card races in both the NL and AL, and people just aren’t showing up. And without being pessimistic or instructional, I have no other option but to be encouraging — I’m encouraging you to go to a game or two or ten before the regular season ends. Most of America lives within driving distance of a major league park, and if you don’t, make it a fun weekend road trip.

Ask yourself what’s holding you back from watching a game. And if it’s what always gets tossed around, I’m guessing your number one answer is ticket prices. But here’s the trick, you don’t have just one place to buy game tickets, like it’s a concert. Look for online discount ticket exchanges; I’ve had a lot of success finding tickets for at least half the regular price. Fun story: I once paid $7 a ticket for $75 seats, through such an online store. That’s a rarity, I know, as it’s usually not that discounted. But you never know until you take a risk and try for it.

Just go to a game. You don’t have to “root for the home team”, or even the visiting team. Just go enjoy a game for what it is — a wonderful sport, steeping in history and legend.

After all, you never know if you may be watching the next Babe Ruth or Mickey Mantle or Derek Jeter.

Go Yankees!

Game 151: NYY vs. TOR — Dueling pitchers stall Yankee hopes

It’s amazing to me how similar the two starters were from today’s game — both were men, late in their careers, played most of those careers in New York and Texas, family men, honorable men of faith from southern states, and recognized as some of the better pitchers in the league on a long-term scale. It was an interesting match-up even before the game began, and it turned into an interesting match up once the game got up and running.

Andy Pettitte took the mound tonight for the Yankees and really gave a pretty good outing for the season, throwing 110 pitches over 6.2 innings. He gave up 6 hits, 1 run, 2 walks, and 5 strikeouts. And he still walks home with the loss. That home run came courtesy of a long solo home run in the 4th inning. Exiting in the 7th, he ceded the mound to Shawn Kelley, who promptly gave up his own solo home run before grabbing that final out. David Robertson closed the door on the Blue Jays and kept them at those two runs for the game.

The Yankees had plenty of chances offensively to make a move, but never capitalized on opportunities, even with bases loaded and runners in prime scoring position. Dickey (Toronto’s pitcher) is a really good pitcher, with some really hard struggles this season, but he was really sharp and on his game tonight. And the Yankees’ lack of offensive spark is proof enough for that.

But the Yankees defense was actually on point tonight. They kept runners from scoring at all possible costs, and made those daring sliding catches on Toronto’s turf (and you long-term readers know how I feel about artificial turf). Brendan Ryan made two amazingly strong throws in tonight’s game — one to get the runner out at 1st in the 2nd inning and another to get the runner trying to score at home in the 8th. Curtis Granderson’s sliding grab in the 5th left the announcers and all of Twitter abuzz. And Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay made the most interesting out of the game, with Reynolds throwing all the way past 3rd base in foul territory to Overbay who caught it in the base path and tagged the runner jogging into 1st.

I love watching the Yankees play defense. I always have. It’s usually a little rough in Spring Training, at the beginning of the season, or when you throw a new player in the mix, but once they hit that “team” flow, it’s like watching magic happen. And while defense doesn’t win games, it certainly helps keep games to lower scores, like tonight’s 2-0 loss to Toronto.

Today was Roberto Clemente Day across MLB. I featured him yesterday on this blog, and if you haven’t read it yet, I encourage you to read up on him. He was an inspiration as to what it means to be a baseball player. He fit my personal criteria for what a good ball player is — ability, teamwork, and integrity. And I love that his accomplishments both on and off the field are recognized and honored and set as an example for all the young players and their fans.

I also want to take a moment and honor those who were lost or injured in the Navy Yard shooting yesterday. You and your families are in our thoughts and prayers. I also would like to honor those first responders, investigators, and all those who were there to help limit the devastation and immediately help those hurting. I can only hope that with more people like that, taking up a Clemente-like attitude of giving and help to those who need it desperately, we will someday soon see less of these tragedies.

Go Yankees!

What does a non-Yankee from Puerto Rico have to do with a pinstriped kid from Alabama?

Roberto Clemente died in an aviation accident 41 years ago this December — a tragic end to a great ball player. Clemente played 18 seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates, hitting his stride through the 1960s and 70s, helping the team win the NL Pennant and World Series in both 1960 and 1971. He also was a NL MVP (1960), World Series MVP (1971), 12-time All-Star in 15 games, 4-time batting champion, and 12-time Golden Glover. And he earned his 3000th career hit on the last day of the season in 1972. It would be his last game he ever played. But that’s not what people remember about Roberto Clemente.

Clemente was born in Puerto Rico in 1943 to a poor family and after he “made it big” in baseball. He was one of the first Hispanic players in major league baseball and never forgot that gave him an opportunity and platform to give back to his community at large and give voice to future Hispanic players that we seem to take for granted now. But in the mid-20th century, this was as shocking as Jackie Robinson was just a decade before. More so, due to the language barrier this introduced. While announcers, baseball cards, and fans called him “Bob Clemente” because it was “less ethnic”, the guys in the clubhouse began what would open the door to a multi-lingual standard — a diverse fraternity of sorts in color, age, origin, and language.

And yet, Clemente is still not remembered for that. No, he dedicated his off-seasons to giving back to the poor communities of Central and South America. On December 23, 1972, a large earthquake rocked Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, where Clemente had visited earlier that month. He was in the process of arranging relief when word came that the packages had been diverted by the corrupt government and never made it to the people in need, displaced by the quake. So, he decided to go and deliver the relief packages himself, organizing a flight for December 31. The plane, unfortunately, had a history of mechanical problems, an inexperienced flight crew, and was overloaded by 2 tons of supplies. It crashed almost immediately after takeoff, all crew and Clemente himself perished. Though the crew’s bodies were later found, Clemente’s body never was recovered.

A Pirates’ teammate Tom Walker, a strong supporter of Clemente’s missions, helped Clemente load the plane that day and wanted to join him in his efforts. But Walker at the time was single, so Clemente encouraged the young man to enjoy his New Year’s Eve. Because he missed the flight, his son Neil now plays 2nd base for the Pirates.

Clemente was posthumously elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973, something he no doubt would have earned in time because he was a great baseball player. No, he never played in pinstripes. In fact, he helped the Pirates beat the Yankees in the 1960 World Series, but I won’t hold that against him. Because his legacy isn’t limited to baseball.

An award had been established by the commissioner of baseball in 1971, given every year to the player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team”. The award named the “Commissioner’s Award”, was voted on by fans and members of the media. In 1973, to honor his outstanding contributions to his community and to baseball, MLB renamed it the “Roberto Clemente Award”. Each year, team’s nominate a single player from their team who fits the qualifications of the award, and the winner is announced at the World Series. Beginning in 2007, the award is now presented by Chevrolet, who donates money and a vehicle to the winner’s charity, money to the Roberto Clemente Sports City (a non-profit children’s rec center-like organization in Puerto Rico), and additional funds to each of the nominee’s charities. Past award winners include Yankees like Ron Guidry, Don Baylor, and Derek Jeter.

This year, the Yankees nominated David Robertson. Robertson and his wife Erin founded High Socks for Hope in 2011 following the devastating tornadoes that wrecked their home state of Alabama. What they discovered that homes were being rebuilt, but people couldn’t afford to buy furniture for their homes. So High Socks for Hope was raising funds to purchase things like mattresses, couches, tables and chairs, basic household furniture so that four walls became a home once again for people. Last fall, after Hurricane Sandy ripped through their new residence of New York, it was High Socks for Hope once again to help with the relief efforts. In June, they delivered $20,000 of new furniture to families in Far Rockaway, one of the areas hit the hardest by Sandy. When a tornado destroyed Moore, Oklahoma this May, Robertson pledged his charity and his own money with $100 for every strikeout to go directly to Moore recovery efforts. As of today, he has 73 strikeouts, thus raised $7300.

In a post before the season started, I discussed how I’ve always admired that part of being a Yankee, let alone a professional ball player, was the almost compulsion to give something back. This spills into a corporate sense of community outreach with the Yankees through HOPE Week and into the individual players through their own foundations and charitable organizations. I like that they recognize community outreach on a broader scale within MLB because it brings recognition to people who are doing something truly amazing, and I think it encourages the rest of the players to step it up if they need to or perhaps continue their own participation in such endeavors.

And I would hope it encourages everyone to give a little something back to their own community. You can do so much on your own or choose to partner with an organization you believe in to reach people you may never meet. I have my own such endeavors, and I hope you do too. It’s that spirit of giving that shouldn’t be limited to the holiday season, but transcend time and create a sense of responsibility and participation in our community. So get involved with something, change your world, and make a difference. There is no such thing as too small a gift because that gift may just be the world to that one person.

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.” — Gandhi {Note: This is often misquoted as “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Now because I’m not a big fan of misquotes, I thought I’d find the actual quote as it applies here.}

Go Yankees!