Game 91: NYY vs. BAL — Strong shutout finale in Baltimore

It was a great night for Sonny Gray to close out this series in Baltimore tonight. Gray threw 90 pitches in 6 scoreless innings, gave up just 3 hits and a walk, and struck out an impressive 8 batters along the way to earning a great (and much-needed) win. AJ Cole followed his lead with 2 more scoreless innings, and Chasen Shreve closed out the game with a scoreless 9th to seal the Yankees’ shutout of the home team.

The Yankee batters gave Gray a hefty lead to feel rather secure tonight. In the 3rd, with 1 out, Gardner worked a walk, moved to 3rd on Judge’s single, and then was caught out on a fielder’s choice off Gregorius’ hit. Giancarlo Stanton singled home Judge to get the Yankees on the board, and Hicks then loaded the bases with a walk. It would be Greg Bird to really make an impact with his first career grand slam, a big home run to the right field seats.

Tyler Wade led-off the 6th inning with his first solo home run. (The Red Sox fan who caught the game on a whim during a business trip happily returned the ball for Wade’s keepsake collection.) And Austin Romine hit a 2-out solo home run in the 7th to jump in on the fun of the night.

The Yankees got creative in the 8th. With 1 out, Gregorius doubled and then moved to 3rd on Stanton’s single. A new reliever allowed Aaron Hicks to make it safely to 1st on a sloppy missed catch error, as Gregorius hustled home for an unearned run. In the 9th, Frazier hit a 1-out single, moved to 2nd on Judge’s walk, ended up at 3rd on Gregorius’ grounder, and then scored on Giancarlo Stanton’s single.

Final score: 9-0 Yankees, Yankees win series 2-1 (Yes, there were 4 games this week, but technically, the first game of the doubleheader was part of a previous series and thus is wrapped into that result to be concluded next month.)

Next up: The Yankees begin a 4-game weekend series in Cleveland tomorrow night, the final series before the All-Star Break. After the Break, the Yankees will host their cross-town rivals next weekend for a short home stand before hitting the road again.

Big bummer on the All-Star Game front — Giancarlo Stanton ended up 3rd in the Final Vote. Fans selected Mariners’ shortstop Jean Segura and Brewers’ first baseman Jesus Aguilar. That leaves just Judge, Severino, Chapman, and Torres to represent the Yankees in D.C. next Tuesday at the All-Star Game.

And the participants in the Home Run Derby were announced tonight, and it’s an interesting mix of players, all but 1 are from the NL, despite the fact that most of the home run leaders are in the AL — Jesus Aguilar (Brewers), Bryce Harper (Nationals), Max Muncy (Dodgers), Alex Bregman (Astros), Kyle Schwarber (Cubs), Javier Baez (Cubs), Freddie Freeman (Braves), and Rhys Hoskins (Phillies).

What is most interesting is that the top seed of the Derby (Aguilar) is actually 6th on the home run leaders (not including potential changes from games today) behind Martinez (Red Sox), Ramirez (Indians), Judge, Trout (Angels), and Lindor (Indians), notably all AL power-hitters, by the way. The selected Derby participants have 14-23 home runs this season. Now, it’s worth noting that if 14 home runs was the base line for being in the Derby, Judge, Stanton, Hicks, Gregorius, Torres, and Sanchez all qualified. (And 14 homer put 14 players tied at 55th place on the stats.)

 

I mean, congratulations to all the selected participants, all but Harper are first-time participants. Harper was last in the Derby in 2013 and came in 2nd. I’m just a little confused as to the process of selecting the Home Run Derby participants this year. Unless of course, 47 other players turned down the opportunity, which is quite possibly like Judge’s adamant refusal to do so starting in March.

Go Yankees!

Game 85: NYY vs. TOR — Northern Exposure

Truthfully, I have mixed feelings about all the Yankees’ division rivals and their respective cities. In general, I really like the cities they represent and the people who live there, and I can respect their passion for the game and their home team, even if I’m not a fan of their chosen team. Attending Spring Training annually and actually going to those cities is often what mixes up those feelings.

For example, I love the city of Boston, and nearly every Boston fan I’ve met is really a good person that just roots for my chosen team’s greatest rivals. I also happen to think Fenway Park is legendary and historic and a symbol of the great legacy of the sport. (And the Green Monster is just as ugly in person as you’d think.)

But the Yankees play in Toronto this weekend. And let’s just say that it’s not Boston.

And Sonny Gray wasn’t exactly having a great night to start in the opener at Rogers Centre, throwing 62 pitches in just 2 innings, giving up 6 hits, 2 walks, and 5 runs, and still striking out 4 batters. Most of that damage was done in that 2nd inning and it wasn’t good.

A lead-off double moved to 3rd on a ground out and then scored on a single to get the Blue Jays on the board. A wild pitch moved the runner to 2nd and then he scored on another single. After a strikeout and another allowed single, the next batter smacked a big 3-run home run to really push the Blue Jays ahead. A hit-by-pitch, stolen base, and strikeout later, and Gray’s night was over.

David Hale came on in the 3rd and pitched into the 8th inning strong. It wasn’t until the 8th inning that the Blue Jays were able to eke through again. A lead-off double later scored on a 2-out double to cap off their runs. And Chasen Shreve needed just 3 pitches to induce a ground out for the final out of the 8th.

Meanwhile, while the Yankees certainly dented the Blue Jays’ starter’s pitch count (pushing him to 101 pitches after the 1st out of the 5th inning), they only managed 4 hits and 3 walks off him. Aaron Hicks hit a 2-out solo home run, his 16th of the season, in the 3rd inning.

Then in the 5th, the Yankees finally found their opportunity (and pretty much their only one all night). They loaded up the bases with singles to Romine and Gardner and a fielding error on Judge’s sloppy hit. Then Hicks worked a 1-out walk to score Romine and keep those bases loaded. 101 pitches with bases loaded, so it was time for a reliever. Who got a well-placed strikeout and then a line drive out to end the threat.

The Blue Jays pieced together 5 relievers to finish off their game and keep the Yankees from being any kind of threat again for the rest of the night.

Final score: 6-2 Blue Jays

Roster moves/injury updates: Well, the Yankees moved Gleyber Torres to the 10-day disabled list with right hip strain. Muscle strains are always complicated, so they anticipate Torres will be out through the All-Star break.

In his stead, a normal call-up would be Ronald Torreyes, but Torreyes has been out for about a week at this point, dealing with a personal family issue. So, they recalled Tyler Wade, who was sent down in the middle of April due to the excess of excellent bench players.

And if you’re wondering, the Yankees sent Masahiro Tanaka to join AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for his rehab assignment after dealing with hamstring issues last month.

Well, the All-Star Game fan voting has closed, and the results will be announced Sunday night. Also, based on a player ballot and selections from the Commissioner’s Office, each team will fill out most of its 32 spots with reserve players and pitchers. Each team will allow for one more spot, nominate 5 potential All-Stars, and call on fans to vote once more. (There is a rather extensive explanation about how players are chosen and eligibility.)

Speaking of the All-Star Game, the Sunday before the game, representatives from across the farm systems will play in the annual Futures Game. This year, the Yankees will be represented by prospective pitcher Justus Sheffield. Sheffield will play for Team USA in a USA vs. the World kind of structure.

Go Yankees!

Game 80: BOS vs. NYY — Not really a blowout, but a big shutout

After the Yankees’ big game yesterday, the Red Sox decided to prove they could have a big game too, taking full advantage of a weird quirk in the Yankees’ rotation — Sonny Gray’s inability to have a decent start at Yankee Stadium.

Gray threw 68 pitches into the 3rd inning, giving up 7 hits, 2 walks, 6 runs, and no strikeouts. In the 1st inning, after getting a quick 2 outs, Gray started his spiral — a single, a walk, and a single to load up the bases. The next batter hit a big grand slam to give the Red Sox an early, large lead. A double led off the 2nd, and a 1-out walk put more runners on base for the Sox. They both scored on a single and sacrifice fly, respectively.

Adam Warren came on to complete the 3rd inning for Gray, and then breezed through the 4th and 5th innings and kept the Sox to the runs they’ve already scored. Giovanny Gallegos came in and struggled his way through the 6th and 7th innings. In the 6th, a 1-out single stole 2nd and later scored on a 2-out single. And a 1-out double in the 7th scored as part of a 2-out home run.

As if that wasn’t enough, the Red Sox kept those runs coming against the usually unflappable Jonathan Holder in the 8th. A lead-off double moved to 3rd on a ground out and then scored on a single. Then Chasen Shreve came on for the 9th. He gave up a lead-off single that moved to 2nd on a wild pitch, watched as his teammate had 2 foul balls reviewed and upheld, and then scored on a single, before breezing through 3 outs, including 2 solid strikeouts.

The Yankee pitchers gave up 17 hits and 3 walks, while the Red Sox batters gave up just 2 hits, 2 walks, and a hit-by-pitch. Yes, the Yankee batters were having the opposite kind of night as last night.

Final score: 11-0 Red Sox

In many leagues, there is usually a sort of “mercy rule“, often referred to as the “10-run rule”. Most people know this from Little League or school sports team experience. Unfortunately, this doesn’t apply to any professional league, so teams can win by however much they do.

And as we all know, it doesn’t matter by how much you win in a win-lose kind of sport. Like for those of you following the World Cup (soccer/football) right now, you might note how while the team was ranked by both its win-draw-loss results and its amount of goals scored per game. So those who scored a higher number of goals could potentially outrank another team that has the same number of wins or losses. That doesn’t work that way in baseball. It’s just wins and losses.

While it’s nice to have a big blowout kind of game sometimes, it’s less celebratory (for me, at least) than when they end up with a tight game that is more of a nail-biter, or a game well-fought (even if your team loses in the end).

And if you’re wondering, the modern record for biggest blowout in MLB was set in 2007 when the Rangers, down 0-3 in the 4th, came back to beat the Orioles 30-3. Which is insane on so many levels. But a great reminder that it doesn’t matter by how much a team wins or loses, just that they win or lose, which is any interesting talking point. So, talk about it.

Go Yankees!

{Media note: with some lousy pitching and minimal offense, there’s not a ton of “highlights”. So fingers cross that tomorrow there will be a video clip you’ll actually want to see.}

Game 74: NYY vs. TB — Shutout on Throwback Saturday

Well, that was disappointing.

The Rays began as a franchise 20 years ago, making this their 21st season as a major league team. Originally, they were dubbed the “Devil Rays”, their mascot a sort of large sting ray. In the last 2 decades, that has evolved into a sun ray, which looks more like a starburst or sparkle on the word “Rays”, now the official name of the team.

Now, technically, there is no real thing as a “devil ray”. There is a “devil fish“, which is an endangered species of ray due to its low reproduction rate and sensitivity to environmental alterations (like pollution and overfishing) in its native Mediterranean. In other words, this creature the team decided to honor originally isn’t part of the Florida ecosystem and is misnamed. So, transitioning to a nod to the “Sunshine State” makes a nice way to justify the name without terribly changing the name.

However, because of last season being its 20th anniversary season, the Rays rediscovered their own nostalgia for their original colors, theme, and name. So for this season, they announced that they would don a new/old “throwback” jersey and hat for 4 Saturday home games this year. Today was the third, and many Rays players are really getting into the theme by adding socks and other accessories (sweatbands, gloves, warm-ups, etc.) on those days.

It might be considered good luck as they’ve now won 2 of the 3 games they’ve played on these throwback days, the loss being a slim 1-run margin. Or maybe it’s because they’ve been playing a weird game of relying strongly on their bullpen due to a lack of healthy starters.

Sonny Gray had a sort of mixed outing. When he was hot, he was really good and set the Rays down with relative ease. When he wasn’t, they scored runs. He threw 101 pitches into the 7th inning, giving up 6 hits, a walk, and 4 runs and striking out 7 batters along the way.

In the 1st, a lead-off single scored on a 1-out double complicated by a throwing error. A lead-off double in the 2nd scored on a double. A bunt moved that runner to 3rd and a single scored him. After fending off the Rays for 15 consecutive batters, Gray gave up a 2-out solo home run just barely left of the right field foul pole.

It was time to shift to Chasen Shreve, who has been struggling lately and continued his struggles in the 7th inning. All he needed was 1 out to get out of the inning. Instead, he loaded up the bases with a walk, a single, and another walk before getting a beautiful strikeout to finally get out of the inning and his self-induced jam. Chad Green had his own issues in the 8th, giving up a couple of hits to put runners in scoring position before getting a great strikeout to end that threat.

Meanwhile, the Yankees bats were virtually silent against the Rays pitchers. Their starter threw into the 6th inning, only giving up 3 hits and a walk. Later in that inning, last night’s starter (who only threw an inning) came in for 4 outs. They just kept shifting relievers to balance the rest of the game and keep the Yankees scoreless this afternoon.

Final score: 4-0 Rays

With today’s loss, the Yankees are guaranteed a loss of this series. They haven’t lost a series since the May 21-23 against the Rangers in Texas. They have split several series along the way, but mostly, they’re riding high on generally winning most series this season so far.

Many of the talking heads are making the easy comparison to the 1998 championship team. And that makes sense to me too. At this point in the 1998 season (Game 74), the Yankees were 55-19. Currently, the 2018 Yankees are 50-24. Things evened out a bit for the 1998 Yankees after the All-Star Break, ending the season with 114 wins. If the 2018 Yankees stay on their path, they could potentially win 109 games this season. This would make them a shoo-in for the postseason, and this team deserves the same attention and chance.

But there is still so much of the season left. The season is so very long, and we’re not even at the half-way point. Just shy of it, actually, at 46.25% of the season done. And really, with the combination of crazy weather this year, potential injuries, and just your run-of-the-mill bad luck and streaks, there is really nothing predictable about baseball. It’s still anyone’s game.

Except maybe the Orioles and Royals, who’ve only won 23 games this year. But never say never. Right, Cubs fans?

Go Yankees!

Games 68 & 69: NYY vs. WAS — “Let’s play one and a half”?

Last month, the Yankees traveled to the nation’s capital to play a short series, the now popular 2-game series of this year’s schedule. But lingering showers and storms that plagued much of the country made playing in some games almost like chasing or avoiding the weather its own sport. Such delays seem to have trickled out (pun intended), so that means that we’re now in the making all those missed games up part of the schedule.

Anyway, despite over an hour delay last month, the Yankees and Nationals played 5 1/2 innings of their first game of the series before seemingly unending showers forced the powers that be to suspend the game as it was. They were supposed to pick up that game before the next game on the following day, but those same storms continued on into the next day. And it forced them to do a sort of doubleheader make-up game tonight. Or rather about a game and a half.

Game 1: The Suspended Game
The two players that made the most impact on this first game are no longer on the active roster. Now on the DL due to some hamstring strains, Masahiro Tanaka started the game for the Yankees, and all the Yankees’ runs were due to Tyler Austin’s bat. Austin is back in AAA due to some overcrowding on the Yankees’ bench.

Tanaka threw 72 pitches in his 5 innings, gave up just 4 hits, no walks, and 3 runs, and struck out just 2 batters. He gave up a 2-out solo home run in the 1st to get the Nats on the board early. And in the 2nd, a lead-off double scored on a 1-out single, who then scored on an RBI double.

The Yankees chipped away at that lead, as I said before, thanks to Tyler Austin. In the 4th, Gregorius made it all the way to 2nd on a Little League-style fielding error before scoring on Austin’s big 2-run home run. Then in the 5th, the Yankees loaded the bases — Judge walked, Stanton singled, and Sanchez walked. Gregorius hit into a fielder’s choice, getting Judge out at home, and then Austin’s sacrifice fly scored Stanton to tie up the game.

As the rain came down in the top of the 6th, the Yankees left a man stranded as the middle of the inning came and they suspended the game. So, coming back tonight to resume the game (and keep up with roster moves of pinch-hitters and replacements), Chad Green came out for the Yankees and got into a bit of trouble. With 1 out, he gave up a single and 2-run home run to give the lead back to the Nationals.

Shreve and Warren each took an inning, while waiting for the Yankees to face the Nationals’ bullpen and find the strength possibly lingering from Austin’s power last month. It wasn’t going to happen.

Final score: 5-3 Nationals

Game 2: The Rain Delay
About 30 minutes after the conclusion of game one, enough time for the grounds crew to make the field all pretty again (and the guys to change uniforms for a clean one), the game that was delayed due to rain started. There’s been a lot of talk about how bad Sonny Gray does at home in stark contrast to how well he does on the road. Tonight, he proved the formula true again. Gray threw 86 pitches in his 5 innings, gave up 6 hits, a walk, and 2 runs, and struck out 7 batters.

In the 2nd, he gave up consecutive singles that moved into scoring position on a wild pitch. A ground out scored the lead runner and moved the other one to 3rd. The next batter hit into a fielder’s choice that had the runner caught in a brief rundown for the out. A lead-off double in the 4th moved to 3rd on a ground out and then scored on a sacrifice fly.

Holder, Robertson, Betance, and Chapman closed out the final 4 innings for the Yankees, collectively (with Gray) getting an impressive 15 total strikeouts and keeping the Nats to those 2 runs. Though they threatened at bit in the 9th inning, a long fly ball run down and captured on the warning track by Judge handed Chapman his 21st save.

Meanwhile, the Yankees actually struck first. Hicks led-off the game with a double, and 2 outs later, scored on Giancarlo Stanton’s single. In the 5th, down by just a run, the Yankees came back. Romine led-off with a single but was out when Gray bunted into a bad grounder. Gray then scored as part of Aaron Hicks’ big 2-run home run to give the Yankees back the lead.

Clint Frazier led-off the 7th by being hit by a pitch and then moved to 2nd on a sloppy pick-off error. Two outs, a walk to Judge, and a pitching change later, Stanton doubled and scored Frazier. Torres was intentionally walked to load the bases, but they ended their rally this inning with just one insurance run. It would be all they needed.

Final score: 4-2 Yankees, the short make-up series was split 1-1

Roster moves: Before the game, Clint Frazier was recalled, Ronald Torreyes sent to AAA Scranton, and Giovanny Gallegos was recalled as the Yankees’ 26th man for the doubleheader. Gallegos will be on his way back to Scranton now.

Next up: the Yankees head back to the Bronx where the Mariners await their 3-game series with them there tomorrow. After they close out this home stand, they hop a flight down to St. Petersburg to face the Rays this weekend and then up to Philadelphia for 3-games next Monday. Then home again for the final home stand before the All-Star Break.

It’s worth noting that what most people talked about for the first game was the player who hit the winning home run was not yet with the team when the game was suspended. He wasn’t called up to the main team until May 20 (5 days after the originally scheduled game). Now, because of how they have to score this, as being played on May 15, they marked this as his 1st home run. But it’s actually his 6th home run since his call-up. So, everyone is making bad jokes about time travel and pointing out the obvious problems and loopholes of how records are kept in the league.

Go Yankees!

Game 63: WAS vs. NYY — Splitting the mini-series during #HOPEWeek

The Yankees conclude their brief series with the visiting Nationals by splitting it with the visitors. Sonny Gray got the start tonight and continued his struggles at home, throwing 89 pitches in his 5 innings, giving up 7 hits, 2 walks, and 4 runs, and striking out just 1 batter.

In the 1st inning, the lead-off batter got a ground-rule double, moved to 3rd on a single, and then scored on a sacrifice fly to get the Nats on the board early. Later, in the 4th, with 2 outs, Gray gave up a walk and a single to put runners on the corners before giving up a line drive bouncing off the left field wall for a 3-run home run to put them in the lead again.

Meanwhile, the Yankee batters weren’t exactly sitting on their laurels. In the bottom of the 1st, Gardner led-off with a single and then stole 2nd, but ended up at 3rd on a throwing error. He then scored on Aaron Judge’s sacrifice fly to tie up the game at that point. Greg Bird’s 1-out 2nd inning solo home run put the Yankees in the lead.

In the 3rd, Judge hit a 1-out double, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on Giancarlo Stanton’s single. Down by a run after that 4th inning homer, Gleyber Torres led-off the 5th inning with a game-tying solo home run.

After Gray’s night was over, the Yankees handed the ball to Chasen Shreve, who kept things as is in the 6th, but then gave up a big 1-out solo home run in the 7th to give the Nationals a slight lead again. Robertson and Holder each took an inning to keep them from adding to their lead and waiting for the Yankee bats to reawaken.

But it was the Yankee defense that was clicking in the latter part of the game. Romine and Torres teaming up to catch a runner stealing 2nd in the 8th, and Didi Gregorius being a defensive icon and throwing to 1st in the midst of falling to the ground to make the out in the 9th. Even when the Yankees did get on base, they just weren’t collecting enough to get any further runs.

Final score: 5-4 Nationals, series split 1-1

Next up: the Rays come to visit the Bronx tomorrow to start their 4-game weekend series. Remember, the Yankees will travel to D.C. to see the Nationals again on Monday to play 1 1/2 games to make up the rainy mess of last month before returning to the Bronx to finish up their homestand against the Mariners.

HOPE Week Day 3: HOPE Week continued today, with a strong theme of the week repeated again in today’s honoree. The Yankees joined Brian Williams, founder of “Think Kindness“, for a special assembly at a local elementary school. Since 2009, Think Kindness is an anti-bullying organization the runs special assemblies and programs in schools nationwide (and a few internationally) with the intent not to focus on bullying but rather on being a facilitator of kindness in your world.

Fourth and fifth graders at P.S. 73 in the Bronx were invited to a special assembly hosted by Williams and featuring Aaron Hicks, David Robertson, CC Sabathia (a clear favorite), Luis Severino, 3rd base coach Phil Nevin, and GM Brian Cashman. Williams, a former martial arts instructor, challenged P.S. 73 to be the school that does the most acts of kindness and then gave every student a journal to record their completed acts. Williams hopes display at least a million documented acts of kindness and has already has 2.4 million at their headquarters in Reno.

As with every HOPE Week honoree, Williams later threw out the 1st pitch before tonight’s game and accepted the $10,000 donation on behalf of his organization.

Once again, kindness matters. Those little moments of kindness add up. They make a difference. One moment, one act, one kindness at a time. Those matter to someone. And because they matter to someone, they matter, they count, they are necessary.

Kindness matters.

Go Yankees!

Game 62: WAS vs. NYY — #HOPEWeek Starts, #CCStrong & #SirDidi shut out Nationals

The Yankees are back in the Bronx, and it’s HOPE Week. While the Yankees face the Nationals tonight and tomorrow before starting their series against the Rays, they are also using their days to give back to their community in their 10th Annual HOPE Week. (More on that after the game recap.)

CC Sabathia got the start in tonight’s game and zoned into a strong momentum to keep the visiting Nationals scoreless. He threw 101 pitches into the 6th inning, gave up 4 hits and 3 walks, and struck out 3 batters. Also, he hit an amazing milestone in the 4th inning — his 1,500th strikeout with the Yankees. They stopped the game for a moment to allow the 44,000 fans at the stadium to give him a nice audience.

Sabathia has 2,893 in his career, making him 17th in the overall list of pitchers and the leader among active pitchers. And it’s worth noting that all but 2 listed above Sabathia on that list are in the Hall of Fame.

With 2 outs and a runner on 1st with a single, Sabathia handed the ball to Chad Green. While he was dealing with the next batter, the runner took off for 2nd, and Romine fired the ball to a waiting Torres at 2nd to make the tag. Originally ruled safe, the Yankees challenged the call and after review, the play was overturned. Then Green’s 7th inning followed Sabathia’s clean sheet, before Betances and Chapman’s 8th and 9th innings just got cleaner and cleaner.

While the Yankees’ pitching was strong, the Yankees’ batting needed to step it up and take advantage of the opportunities they could. In the 2nd, Didi Gregorius hit a solid 1-out solo home run to get things started fairly early. Aaron Hicks then worked a walk, and Walker’s single and a bad throw moved both runners into scoring position. Hicks then scored on Austin Romine’s sacrifice fly. Didi Gregorius later led-off the 6th with another solo home run to cap off the Yankees’ scoring.

Final score: 3-0 Yankees

Today, MLB released the first results of fan voting for the AL nominees of All-Star Game, and there were a lot of Yankeesa lot of Yankees that could make the roster this year if fans continue to pull through. Gary Sanchez leads all Catchers by about 13,000 votes; Gleyber Torres is a distant 2nd at 2nd; Miguel Andujar is a distant 2nd at 3rd; Didi Gregorius is 3rd in a tight field at Shortstop; and Giancarlo Stanton is a distant 2nd at Designated Hitter. Plus, all Yankee Outfielders are found in the top 15 — Aaron Judge is 3rd, Brett Gardner is 7th, and Aaron Hicks is 11th.

Based on current patterns and numbers, Sanchez and Judge are almost locks for the starting roster, so Yankee fans, do your stuff and vote!

HOPE Week is back for its 10th year. Helping Other Persevere and Excel is the motto of the Yankees annual community outreach for the last 10 seasons. It’s easily my favorite week of the year, and it’s something Yankees Director of Media Relations Jason Zillo calls “The greatest thing we do all year.”

Yesterday, during the Yankees off-day, the Yankees sent 3 of their biggest stars to the TODAY Show to preview HOPE Week and meet with the fans that pack Rockefeller Center every morning. Brett Gardner (a HOPE Week veteran since Day 1), Aaron Judge (in his 2nd HOPE Week), and Giancarlo Stanton (a HOPE Week rookie) went on the show to promote HOPE Week and talk about “bringing light to some special situations and meeting some really cool people”.

HOPE Week, Day 1: Monday, the Yankees visited Cindy and Louis Campbell who founded the “Muddy Puddles Project“, hosting the annual Mess Fest at Mohawk Day Camp (about an hour north of the City). The Campbell’s lost their 5 year old son Ty to brain cancer 6 years ago and his greatest wish before he died was just to jump in the mud puddles. So in his honor, they founded this messy, fun opportunity for children with cancer and their families to enjoy a day, raise money for pediatric cancer research (over $800,000 in five years).

Manager Aaron Boone, Bench Coach Josh Bard, Brett Gardner, Sonny Gray, Didi Gregorius, and Yankees General Partner Jenny Steinbrenner brought a $10,000 donation and Ty Campbell’s favorite cartoon Peppa Pig to join in today’s festivities. They got messy in the mud and then clean thanks to a big soapy washing station and a water balloon fight. Children from all over the area being treated for various forms of cancer got to hang out with the Yankees (and Peppa Pig), including one kid celebrating his 8th birthday. It was definitely a day to remember. (And now, I want to go jump in a bunch of mud puddles!)

HOPE Week Day 2: Today, the Yankees invited a special girl named Cassidy Warner to hang out with them. Many of you may remember Cassidy as the young girl who posted a video earlier this year about being bullied in her school and then asking people to just be nice to each other. The Yankees responded to her video with one of their own, inviting her to come and have lunch with them some time. That came true today.

Cassidy joined Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, AJ Cole, Neil Walker, a handful of coaches, and a group of local 6th graders from a national anti-bullying organization called “No Bully” to play kick ball at the field across from Yankee Stadium (where the old stadium used to stand). Cassidy then joined the Yankees for lunch at the Stadium and later joined Cindy Campbell to jointly throw out the 1st pitch before the game.

No Bully’s Vice President Erik Stangvik personally encouraged Cassidy for sharing her story and challenged the whole group to be an “upstander” instead of just being a “bystander” and stand up for people. He said, “Ultimately, it’s just being kind. It’s a pretty simple way to walk through the world.”

 

And that, I think, is the ultimate message of HOPE Week — that kindness matters. And that being kind is a lifestyle choice, something we all can choose every day. Kindness impacts our own little corner of the world and ultimately lands like ripples on the pond to affect further than we can possibly imagine.

Kindness matters.

Go Yankees!