As we gear up for Yankees Opening Day and a long season of baseball, it brings back memories and emotions of past seasons. The excitement of opening day never wanes as each season approaches and the dream of another pennant winning season are alive as ever.
Pinstripe Alley has asked us recently how we became New York Yankees fans. For some, it’s an easy answer. The pride, tradition and legendary history draw us to the most prestigious franchise on Earth. The cathedral like atmosphere of famous Yankee Stadium is enriched in history and a sense of mystique and aura like no other sports venue in the world. The legendary player’s who’ve adorned the pinstripes, help bridge the gap from generation to generation, becoming a family tradition like no other.
In my family it started with my grandfather, son of Polish immigrants living in Jersey City, who fell in love with the game of baseball. It was during a time Joe DiMaggio roamed center field at Yankees Stadium and the Yankees were dominating baseball. The stories he has passed down of going to the ballpark and watching one of the greatest ball players on the greatest teams ever could give you goose bumps. His stories would bring you back in time, to where you’ve only seen in pictures black and white, and add magnificent color.
My father grew up during a different era and a different place. He was born outside Arlington, Virginia where the Yankees weren’t a staple in the area. Still he idolized Mickey Mantle and dreamed of becoming a ballplayer just like him on the sandlots of his small town. Becoming a switch hitter, and even limping around the bases mimicking the nearly cripple Mantle.
He once entered a writing contest as a 12 year old for the local paper and won. It was on the topic of who his hero was and why. He won a set of encyclopedias, and later received a photo signed by the Mick himself, thanking him for the admiration. The encyclopedia and autographed photo have now been passed down to me, which I possess this very day.
For me it was easy to become such a huge fan. I was raised by two great men who have passed on the tradition. I grew up during a time when the Yankees became great again. I was lucky to catch the end of Don Mattingly’s career and the beginning of a dynasty. I had the privilege of watching Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera immortalize their Yankee careers along the likes of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle.
I was able to watch many great games and teams. The 1998 team that won 125 games, David Wells and David Cones perfect games in back to back year’s, and the Subway Series trouncing lead by Derek Jeter. I have also seen heartache, like in 2001 after 9/11, where the Yankees helped heal a wound of a city and nation, but fell just shy of a World Series; Felt disappointment after the collapse in 2004.
My father passed away before the 2009 season and was never able to see the New Yankee Stadium. It became clear I was the one left to carry on the tradition into the new stadium. As the Yankees celebrated in the infield after clinching the World Series, it helped ease the grief and continue a tradition celebrated in my family.
There are many reasons to love the Yankees. I can’t help but feel it’s in my blood, and that I was born a Yankees fan. I have my father and grandfather to thank for making me a baseball fan, the two most important men in my life who I love and respect. I also have to thank the legends before me, who made the stories true, and the future legends that will carry on the Yankee pride and tradition for years to come.
Opening day reminds me year after year how important Yankees baseball is in my life. The season is long and so much can happen, but this week it is fresh and very promising. Whether the 2018 season will be another special year for the Yankees remains to be seen, but there will be times I will look up to the heavens and thank my father and god for making me a Yankees fan.