A Game To Remember

As I make my way through the crowded dining hall, my body there, but my mind down in Miami, I watch on my phone as the opening ceremonies to tonight’s Mets-Marlins game commence.  My body on autopilot, putting food on my plate whilst my attentions was completely on the game.  This moment was bigger than life, bigger than baseball, bigger than all of us.

Looking around and seeing all of those Fernández jerseys worn by his teammates was quite special to see.  You couldn’t look at one person in that stadium and not see the grief on their faces.  They had lost a teammate, a friend, a brother.  There was so much love and support for Fernández not only in the stadium, but around the baseball world.  People everywhere, including myself, tuning in to mourn and celebrate the life of José Fernández.  

The ceremony was short, yet touching.  Watching the Marlins take the field with heavy hearts was brutal to witness.  The players surrounded the mound and everyone removed their caps as they held a moment of silence for José.  It was gut-wrenching to watch his teammates weep into their hats as they stood out there on the field during the silence and then as “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” began to play.  I’ve never heard such a fun, lighthearted song be played in such an eerie, somber manner.

Afterwards, came the National Anthem, which was sung beautifully by the Carrollton Choir.  Following that, the Mets came out to hug and give their condolences to the Marlins, which was a very beautiful gesture to do.  Seeing two teams put aside their competitive differences to celebrate the life of a wonderful human being.

As a tribute to José, all the Marlins players went to the mound and rubbed dirt onto their pants like José would always do, because he grew up not using a resin bag when he pitched, so he made due and would use dirt from the mound instead.  Some of the players could even be seen writing the number 16 and little messages in the dirt in memory of their fallen teammate.  Then afterwards, they all gathered behind the mound and shared an embrace while Giancarlo Stanton shared a few words with his team.1280_miami_marlins_getty610592258.jpg

What really got to me was watching Giancarlo Stanton warm up in the outfield before the first inning began.  He could hardly fight back the tears as he played catch.  It was nearly unbearable for me to watch without getting choked up.  Seeing a man who I always looked at as one of the biggest and strongest players I’ve seen break down and cry like that was too depressing to bear.  

The game itself was too perfect and too fitting and I loved every moment of it, especially when it came to Dee Gordon’s performance because not only was a Marlins win great, but his performance left us with a perfect tribute to José Fernández.  Dee Gordon to begin with, was one of the players who appeared most affected and distraught by this tragic event.  I really felt for the guy.  He had lost a good friend and it was really taking a toll on him.  Seeing him a day earlier at the mound by himself, looking at the number 16 that was painted onto the mound, in utter disbelief. 610402530.jpg Watching him made me wish I could’ve just given him a hug through the screen.  When he first got up to the plate, he stepped in right-handed, while wearing Fernández’s helmet as a tribute to teammate.  He took the first pitch, for a ball, then switched helmets and sides.  Gordon then found himself in a 2-0 count and proceeded to smack his first home run of the year to the upper deck in right to give the Marlins a quick 1-0 lead.  As he was rounding the bases, I could see him crying the whole way around, bringing tears to my eyes as well.  You simply can’t write this stuff.  As he reached home plate he looked upCtUUzO4WAAAC2yc-dee-gordon-compressor.jpg to the sky, and to José as if to say, “that one’s for you.”  Gordon reached the dugout, where he was greeted by hugs and high fives from his teammates, then proceeded to head into the locker room to have a moment to himself.  

Gordon’s home run was great enough, but he went on to finish the game with four hits and two RBIs to lead the Marlins to a 7-3 victory.  It was more than just a win, though, it was a win for José.

The death of José Fernández was a tragic loss of such a young and talented individual.  I will surely never forget his time here on this Earth and I will certainly not forget this game for it was one of the most emotional games I have ever watched.  Whoever said there was no crying in baseball clearly never experienced something like this.usatsi_9569375.jpg

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Rest In Peace, José Fernández

It was truly tragic for me to wake up to the news of the death of José Fernández.  Upon hearing the news, I immediately got up and called my dad to tell him about the news.  He hadn’t heard about it, so it came as quite the shock to him as well.  Fernández was the first hero and inspiration of mine to have died within my lifetime, making this sad news even tougher to take.

José had such a promising career ahead of him, one could tell simply by looking at his stats over the past few years, having such high strikeout numbers, along with never having an ERA above 3.  You could simply tell by looking at him, that this kid was going to be great.  He just had the look of determination in his eyes that said “I’m going to be the best.” And he was one of the best during his time on this earth.  Teams feared facing him every single time out, especially when Fernández was pitching at home, a place he dominated.  What I admire most about Fernández isn’t his baseball abilities, though, it’s his heart and love of life.

Right from the start, his story was touching and inspiring.  José wanted nothing more than to pursue a good life in America, and nothing was going to stop him from getting here.  It took José four tries to escape from Cuba, including three stints in jail.  On the fourth try, he was even willing to dive into dark, cold water to rescue someone who had fallen overboard, unbeknownst to him that it was his own mother.  He had such a big heart and would do anything to help a fellow human being out in a time of need.  He constantly would do things for the kids in the community and loved working with the youth.  An all-around class act who loved the game as much as humanly possible.

Every time out, José would give his all and do it with a smile on his face.  He was always laughing and joking around with everyone, all in all having a good time playing a game that he loved dearly.  His smile was infectious, and you rarely saw him without one on his face.  His antics led to some of my favorite gifs ever.  Moments such as him catching the comeback liner by Troy Tulowitzki, giphyor his celebration after a go-ahead homer by Giancarlo Stanton, are the reasons why I love José Fernández.  He was such a happy, good spirited person who made the game of baseball so fun to watch.  He was a player loved by all of his josefernandeznutsteammates, as well as players around the league.  He had a love for the game that I haven’t seen in a player in a long time.  I wish I could have gotten a chance to watch him pitch in person, but sadly I was not, but I am still honored to have walked the same Earth as someone who had so much love and life in his heart.  

I’m truly going to miss José Fernández.  He was really something special, a player that only comes around once in a lifetime.  It’s tragic that his life was taken from him so soon, tragic that he wasn’t able to show the world what he was really capable of.  He was already a spectacular pitcher, but I knew that this was just the beginning of a long and prosperous career.  It’s a shame that the rest of his career will never be seen.  One can only speculate now as to just how good José Fernández could have been, but that’s not what is truly sad or important about this tragic moment in history.  What is truly important is the fact that the world lost a great man today.  Not only one who was only talented and gifted, but one who was truly a great, down to earth man.  A man who loved and cared about all, and wished nothing but happiness for all of those on this great Earth.  

Rest easy, José Fernández, we were all lucky to have known you.  We will all miss you dearly.060516-MLB-Miami-Marlins-Jose-Fernandez-smile-PI.vresize.1200.675.high.83.jpg

My Encounter With Stephen Drew: A Sestina by Zach Percy

I take my first step in the convenience store

In search for a drink that interests me.

I walk to the freezer section and take in the place,

When who should walk in none other than Stephen Drew.

The infielder walks directly to my side on the left

And proceeds to look at me up and down.

 

He nods at me and in awe I put my head down.

What brings him to this tiny little store?

“Aw they have no Cool Blue left.”

Stephen, upset, looks right back at me

“Hey what flavor you got there?” questions Stephen Drew.

I look at the gatorade in my arms resting in place.

 

“Riptide Rush, there’s plenty in this place.”

He asks “Where?” and I point down.

“Thanks.  Is it good?” asked the legendary Stephen Drew

“Yes, it’s a flavor I hold in great store.”

Suddenly, on the radio played You’ve Got a Friend in Me

It was as if fate put him to my left

 

He grabs one out of the many that were left.

He picked it up and set it down in place.

“Hey thanks for helping me.”

“No problem.” I replied, shyly looking down.

He took a baseball card and marker out of a pocket where he did store,

And on it a signature he had drew.

 

But he was not done, that kind Stephen Drew.

The National held a ticket in his hand on the left.

I was filled with excitement for what was in store

That I was practically jumping in place,

But I tried my best to calm myself down

He took the items and handed them to me.

 

“You’re a very kind person for helping me.”

“It’s nothing, I’m a big fan of you Stephen Drew.”

He told me how good the seats were and to come on down.

The seat was right behind their dugout on the left

The dugout of the Washington Nationals who lay in first place.

Ahead of me today, much fun was in store.

 

I went down to the game with my Nationals  jersey on me.

With the gatorade from the store that I bought with Stephen Drew.

He held the same in his left, turned around and we toasted each other in place

 

Black Magic

I’m honestly at a loss of words to describe this Yankee season.  By all calculations I have made this year, what the Yankees are currently doing, simply makes no sense.  I mean, I’m not complaining, but it just makes no sense.  At the end of April, they were sitting at 8-14, yet now here they are fighting for a playoff spot, a mere 4 games out of 1st place in the East, and only 2.5out of the wild card.  This series with the Blue Jays is just one of many important series’ the Yankees will play in September, and they are not rolling over, having finished off the sweep earlier tonight with a clutch homer from Castro and stellar pitching.  But what a finish the second game of the series featured.

Due to my dorm room having no cable, I am subject to blackouts online so I was not able to watch it, (had to settle for  Houston vs. Cleveland) but I was still following it play-by-play (Okay so maybe I wasn’t really watching the Indians game), and my god what a game it was.  With the Yankees offense being so hit or miss, I thought for sure it was game over when the Blue Jays took that 4-3 lead in the top of the 8th, but, like many, many times this year, I was wrong.  Ellsbury gets the leadoff walk, then later a triple by Gregorius scores him to tie the game.  Then, next at-bat, Castro hits a sac fly to give the Yanks a 5-4 lead.  After that, I thought, Perfect, that’s all we need with Betances on our side, yet the Bronx Bombers weren’t done.  

With two outs, McCann draws a walk to bring up Chase Headley, who has really improved since his slow start to the year.  On a 0-1 count, Headley drives a scorcher to right that just barely gets out to give the Yankees some insurance runs.

Going into the ninth, I was confident the Yankees had the win in the bag.  A three run lead going into the ninth with Betances on the mound?  Who wouldn’t be confident?  Yet Betances comes in and walks the first two batters he faces, then throws a wild pitch to allow the runners to move up, which sets up Encarnacion for an RBI single to bring in Bautista.  Okay, okay, don’t panic, it’s just one run, he’s got this.  Next at-bat, Betances strikes out Martin.  See self, you have nothing to worry about.  Buuuuuuuut then he walks the pinch hitter Navarro, aaaaaand then gives up a single to the player formerly known as BJ Upton.

By this point I had already tied the noose and had the noose around my neck.  Betances was pulled and in comes Blake Parker, a player acquired off waivers from Seattle a month prior.  To be quite honest, with the amount of bullpen arms the Yankees go through in a season, I had never even heard of this guy, but I damn sure will not forget him.  Parker comes in and gets two quick strikes on Pillar.  On an 0-2 count, Parker proceeds to throw a wild breaking pitch that Sanchez manages to miraculously block with his forearm by sliding all the way to Cambodia, saving the day once again.  Parker recovers to strike out Pillar on the next pitch.   2 down now and I put the noose down.  Now, up comes Justin Smoak, and I’m pretty confident in myself.  We can get Smoak out no problem, he’s only a .225 hitter.  Then, BAM!  First pitch he takes to deep left field.  I immediately pick the noose back up and put it around my neck.  But right as I was about to end it all, Gardner makes an incredible catch at the wall to save the game.  I threw that noose aside and began to weep tears of joy.  

This team is truly magical and keeps making me happier and prouder every day to call myself a Yankee fan.  It seems the Evil Empire is destined for their return to being the villain of baseball, and I cannot wait.  

The New York Yankees Episode CXV: A New Hope

By Zach Percy

At the beginning of the year, I had mixed feelings about how this season would play out.  So many factors came into play, so much of the success of the team was reliant on mainly injuries and how the aging veterans would perform.  Although players like A-Rod, CC Sabathia, and Mark Teixeira were reaching the twilight of their career, I still held onto hope that they would have a positive impact on the season. alex_rodriguez_on_august_22c_2016_28cropped29 

For a player coming off a year-long suspension at the age of 38, many believed A-Rod would underperform greatly.  Once the 2015 season came around, he proved many wrong.          A-Rod last year parked 33 big flies, bringing in 86 RBI’s with a surprisingly solid OBP of .356.  His batting average was…well…average (Sick joke am I right?) at .250.  His strikeouts really stood out, sitting at 145 in 523 ABs, meaning he struck out nearly 3 out of every 10 at-bats.  Now, to be quite honest, strikeout numbers don’t really mean much to me, or at least, in this day in age, players do not fear the strikeout as much and are willing to take a chance in their at-bats.  (That discussion is for another day, however) Along with this, he posted a WAR of 3.1, which was clearly nowhere near the top of the pack, but was still quite decent for a player at his age.  To top it all off, he finished in a whopping 28th place for the AL MVP.  I know, I know, he was so close, how could I ever doubt his ability?  With a great bounce-back season after his year long suspension in 2014.  With a great bounce-back season coming off a season-long suspension, A-Rod looked to be in good shape for the 2016 season.

As for Mark Teixeira, he finished with stats quite similar to A-Rod (So similar he too finished 28th in the MVP voting), lots of power (31 HR), solid OBP (.357) and decent AVG (.255).  Teixeira, however, had a slightly better slugging than his counterpart, .548 compared to A-Rod’s .423.  He also featured less strikeouts, but you have to take into account that Teixeira played in 40 less games than A-Rod.  This was due to Teixeira’s inability to escape the injury bug, which has plagued him for much of his time as a Yankee.  Teixeira, however, has a larger value than Rodriguez, due to his ability to play the field and give the Yankees consistent confidence that their first baseman will get the job done and then some.  Teixeira’s defensive abilities at the corner is something that you simply cannot find anywhere, making him a key piece for the 2016 season.

Finally, CC Sabathia.  The once Cy Young Award winner who has begun to reach his twilight over the past few years.  A pitcher once known for his velocity, now finds himself averaging a mere 90 mph on his four seam.  CC is quite an interesting key player for the Yankees.  Although he is no longer the number one of the rotation, since the addition of Masahiro Tanaka, he still plays a vital role for the Yankees.  Although his numbers right off the bat do not show it, CC is still quite capable of being an effective pitcher.  In 2015, he started off rough, but as the season went on, he would show flashes of his former self and have a stellar outing where he would strike out 8 or 9 while giving up little to no runs.  CC especially displayed this ability in the second half of the season.  With CC appearing to be on the upside, things looked hopeful for his 2016 season.

Now, here we are nearing the end of the 2016 season and oh how things have turned out.  A-Rod is not longer with the team, Teixeira has announced this season to be his last, and CC…is still…pitching.  There’s not much to say about CC as of late, but at the beginning of the year he was outstanding, one of the hottest pitchers in the league at the time, leading me, personally, to believe that the Yankees should trade him while he was hot.  But at the moment, the Yankees were on the fence when it came to buying and selling, sitting in the middle of the pack, so they held off on moving anyone.  As the season wore on, though, CC regressed and began getting lit up day after day, and with his performance declining, his trade value followed suit.  If the Yankees had decided sooner that they were sellers, god only knows how much bigger of a prospect haul the Yankees would’ve got.  

As the season wore on, the more and more my interest in the team faded.  There was no life to them.  They appeared to be just coasting, going through the motions.  They weren’t the Yankees I grew up with, so energetic and exciting to watch.  This Yankee team was different.  This Yankee team looked old, sluggish, and bored.  They were not a team that I wanted to watch.   Don’t get me wrong, I love the Yankees, but I honestly found myself rooting for them to lose, just so Steinbrenner was more convinced to be a seller at the trade deadline.  It was the biggest conflict of interest for me.  One part of me rooted for the pinstripes, while the other, and clearly more dangerous, part of me, wanted to watch the team burn.  As the deadline grew nearer I began to get a feeling as though a change was about to come.

After the dust settled on the morning of August 2nd, Chapman was gone, Miller was gone, Nova was gone, Beltran was gone.  The Evil Empire had finally done what no one had ever thought they would; Sell.  I was absolutely shocked, yet so joyful at the time.  I did not think it would ever be done.  The beast had evolved.  It shed it’s skin and began rebuilding.  With new additions to the farm system, with guys like Clint Frazier and Gleyber Torres, the Yankees looked poised for the future.

And I thought that was the end of it.  But it wasn’t.  This story had another chapter.  An ongoing, exciting chapter that I don’t want to end.  

On August 3rd, Gary “Pablo” Sancgary_sc3a1nchez_on_august_162c_2016hez, was brought up.  Thus beginning the Baby Bomber era.  Gary immediately caught fire and began boosting a team that desperately needed one.  Sanchez began lifting the team from the depths of mediocrity and straight into playoff contention.  Since joining the club, he has posted incredible stats highlighted by 11 home runs, an AVG of .362, and an OPS of 1.194.  Sanchez also took home back to back Player of the week awards in August as well as both AL Rookie and Player of the Month for August.  Sanchez also set the record of fastest to 11 career home runs by doing so in a mere 23 games, breaking the longstanding record held by Trevor Story.   If he keeps putting up numbers like that, and leads the Yankees to the postseason, one could argue that he is much deserving of winning Rookie of the Year.  

Shortly behind Sanchez, came the big bats of Aaron Judge, and Tyler Austin, who were believed to provide the Yankees with a power boost, which Sanchez has, in fact, gladly given the Yankees instead.  The duo surely made a great impression when they went back-to-back in front of the home crowd in their first career at-bats.  I know they sure impressed me, although I was already excited for Judge to come up.  In fact I was practically giggling like a little schoolgirl when I heard he was being called up, but that’s beside the point.   These rookies now gave me and a lot of other Yankee fans a reason to watch.  They were exciting again.  They were competitive and energetic.  Sanchez and the other rookies display the passion and the drive that I hope to see out of every player.  The drive that just wasn’t there earlier in the year.  And although Judge and Austin may not be doing well at the moment, they still give me hope.  They still give me a reason to watch and a reason to say why I am proud to be a Yankee fan.

A team that seemed destined to be stuff in the limbo that is mediocrity, a team that appeared to throw in the towel and sell their assets, suddenly find themselves in the middle of a chase for the postseason.  For once the Yankees may be the underdogs in the league, but not for long, for soon, the Evil Empire will strike back.

 

 

2nd Image Provided by Arturo Pardavila on Flickr