New Players & Fans Set To Experience Yankees in ALCS For First Time

By Jason Klein  

I walked my daughter to the bus stop this morning.

It’s a short stroll, really.  Around the corner and down a hill – just enough steps to pad my Fitbit stats and see some familiar October sights.  There were pumpkins on porches, leaves on the ground, and an interlocking “NY” on my shirt.

Of course there was.

ALCS Logo

Yankee Stadium Prepares For The ALCS’s Bronx Return.

The Yankees will play Game 1 of the American League Championship Series tonight in Houston.  Watching the Yanks play baseball deep into October is typical of my childhood.  Not so for kids my daughter’s age.

The Yankees reached the ALCS or World Series 7 times from 1996-2004.  Then, 3 more times between 2009-2012.  Since then, their lone Postseason appearance came in 2015 when they lost to the Astros in the AL Wild Card Game.

So, tonight is special for kids like my daughter, born within the last 10 years.

A boy waiting for the bus noticed my shirt and asked if I was excited for the upcoming series.

“Of course,” I said.  “How about you?”

His face lit up.  His smile was huge, like an Aaron Judge homerun swing.

“Yeah!” He said.  “I’ve never seen them play in the ALCS before.”

He then gave me a “thumbs down.”

“When were you born?” I asked.

“2008.  But I was too young to watch the 2009 World Series,” he said.

His excitement reminded me a lot of myself back in 1996 – the first time I’d seen the Yankees win a playoff series.  He had a look of wonderment – like he was about to witness something he’d never seen before.

He is.

My Yankees – you know, Jeter, Bernie, Pettitte, Posada and Mo – are nice historical footnotes for today’s kids.  Now, Judge, Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird and the rest of this young core of players are ushering in a new generation of Yankees success.  They’re bringing the new generation of fans along with them. Judge-Sanchez

The boy’s reaction did make me further appreciate the late-90s dynastic run.  It’s so difficult to sustain success from one year to the next.  Every opportunity to win a championship should be treasured.  You never know when it will happen again.

Many say these Yankees arrived ahead of schedule.  They weren’t expected to compete this soon.  They are “playing with the house’s money.”

I disagree.

It’s never the wrong time to win a Title.  Teams that get this close must capitalize.  “Wait ‘till next year” isn’t guaranteed.

Just ask the 2015 Mets.

It’s possible, this could be the only shot this young group of Yankees have to win a World Series.

Or, it could be just the beginning of another sustained run of success.

The latter would give kids my daughter’s age a childhood experience similar to mine.  Yankees baseball, deep into the Fall, would once again be a familiar October sight.

Like pumpkins on porches, leaves on the ground, and an interlocking “NY” on my shirt.

Connect With Jason

https://jasonklein24.files.wordpress.com/2016/11/instagram-circle.jpg?w=50&h=50

Advertisements

Bernie Williams Did Things His Way, Quietly.

By Jason Klein

“Shut Up.  Play.”

Bernie Williams stood there and faced the media with those three words quietly displayed on his t-shirt.  It was October of 1996, and Williams wore this motivational garb in front of his locker throughout the post season.  This subtle reminder personified the Yankees of the mid-90s.

Williams will have his #51 retired tonight.

Williams will have his #51 retired tonight.

Those Yankees teams never gloated, always acted as if they had “been there before,” and proceeded to win four World Series titles in five years.  When I spoke with Bernie Williams, a few years back, he reflected on his time in pinstripes. All these years later, he still maintained a humble opinion of his years in the Bronx.

“I played on some unbelievable teams, but I was never concerned about where we ranked all-time or anything like that,” he said.  “I was just glad to be there and be a part of all the winning.”

Williams, who officially retired earlier this year, will have his #51 follow suit tonight at Yankee Stadium. The switch-hitting legend will take his rightful place among Yankee immortals during a pre-game ceremony – A fitting tribute for a humble man who enjoyed a special career.

“As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned to appreciate all the precious moments I had,” he told me.  “I was part of a truly great team and I enjoy sitting back and enjoying those moments.”

Williams played on some of the most successful Yankees teams of all-time, and the center fielder had a major role in most of those triumphs. Over the course of his 16-year career – all with the Yankees – Bernie Williams was selected to 5 All-Star Games, won the 1996 ALCS MVP Award, won 4 Gold Gloves for his wizardry in center field, and captured the 1998 Batting Title.  Despite all his personal accolades along the way, Williams insisted his greatest memories are team oriented.

“The batting title in 1998 was special, but that whole 1998 team was unbelievable,” he said.  “Those are the things I remember the most…the things we accomplished as a team.”

It is that unassuming personality that has landed Bernie a special place in the hearts of most Yankees fans.  Adulation that was never more evident to Williams than at the final game ever played at the original Yankee Stadium.

With Bernie Williams

With Bernie Williams

“It was awesome to see the fans embrace me the way they did,” he said.  “Especially after being out of the game for a few years.  I was so surprised I got introduced after Yogi!”

Williams was invited back the following April to help open the new home of the Yankees.  He appeared in center field, playing “Take me out to the ball game” on his guitar, and highlighted an extraordinary day at the new ballpark.

“Playing [the guitar] in center field on Opening Day was weird,” he said.  “It was such a bizarre moment.  I was in Yankee Stadium, with a guitar, playing in front of a full house.  It was such a cool moment.  There was so much electricity that day.  It reminded me of the old Stadium a lot.”

Inside that old Stadium, Bernie Williams cemented his place in Yankees lore, quietly positioning himself in the record books alongside other Yankees center fielders like Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio. Tonight, he’ll join them in Monument Park as well.

“I have no regrets about my career,” he said.  “I was part of a great team for 16 years.  I am very proud of that, and I did it my way.”

He shut up and just played.

*Updated from original 2009 Piece.

Connect With Jason

https://jasonklein24.files.wordpress.com/2016/11/instagram-circle.jpg?w=584

One More Time, Jeter Brings Out The Kid In Me

By Jason Klein

It was supposed to mark the end of my childhood.

Instead, I got thrown right back in the middle of it.

I was a kid again – despite having kids of my own now – all because the kid from Kalamazoo did what he always does…one last time.

Jeter Leaps Following His Walk-Off Hit.

Jeter Leaps Following His Walk-Off Hit.

Thursday night against the Orioles, in his final Yankee Stadium at bat, Derek Jeter poked a bottom of the ninth, game winning RBI single to right field. In the last huge moment of his twenty-year career, Jeter came through again.

Of course he did.

His storied career is loaded with sweet ice cream sundae moments, and this last one will sit near the top like a cherry. Captain Clutch’s latest greatest moment didn’t surprise anyone who’s been paying attention for the past two decades. It certainly didn’t shock me. Instead, it brought me right back to the late-90s, when these types of things happened with regularity.

After securing victory, Jeter leapt high into the Bronx night, the way he used to back when I was in high school. In that moment, his recent injury woes and diminished abilities didn’t matter. The forty candles on his last birthday cake didn’t matter either. In that moment, the only thing that mattered was that Derek Jeter – at least for one night – was a kid again, flying high through the sky, arms raised, like the super hero he’s been for more than half my life.

Teammates Celebrate With Jeter.

Teammates Celebrate With Jeter.

He always seems to save the day for the Yankees.

As teammates flooded the field, so did memories of previous triumphs, so magical and so perfect, you’d think the whole thing was a Hollywood script. Instead, it’s reality, and Jeter’s been the one writing history, one remarkable moment at a time, for the past twenty seasons.

When the spotlight – and camera phone flashes – were brightest, that’s when Jeter would always shine brighter. Thursday night was no exception. His walk-off hit was so reminiscent of past Jeter conquests, you’d swear you saw the Posadas, Pettittes, Bernies, Tinos, Torres and Mos out there celebrating victory with him.

And then they actually were.

Torre, Posada, Rivera & Martinez Wait To Walk Jeter into Retirement.

Torre, Posada, Rivera & Martinez Wait To Walk Jeter into Retirement.

Jeter’s baseball brothers stood behind home plate in the Bronx, quietly watching their former teammate do what he always seems to do…one last time. Then, they too congratulated him and symbolically asked him to join them in retirement.

It was a poignant moment that, no doubt, had Jeter fighting back some tears.

“I think I’ve done a pretty good job of controlling my emotions throughout my career,” he would later say, “but today, I wasn’t able to.”

Neither were those of us watching the drama unfold.

Eliminated from playoff contention the night before, it was the first game of Derek Jeter’s Yankee Stadium career without any meaning.

Jeter Acknowledges The Yankee Stadium Crowd.

Jeter Acknowledges The Yankee Stadium Crowd.

Except, in the end, it really meant so much.

For Jeter, it was the final big moment of a career he would later deem to be “above and beyond anything I’d ever dreamt of.”

For me, it was a chance to be a kid again, one more time, when these types of Jeter moments happened with regularity.

Connect With Jason

https://jasonklein24.files.wordpress.com/2016/11/instagram-circle.jpg?w=584

 

Bernie Williams Did it His Way, Quietly.

By Jason Klein

Originally Written For The Official Steiner Sports Blog – 8/28/09

“Shut Up.  Play.”

Bernie Williams stood there and faced the media with those 3 words quietly displayed on his t-shirt.  It was October of 1996, and Williams wore this shirt in front of his locker throughout the post season.  This subtle reminder personified the Yankees of the mid-90s.

Those Yankees teams never gloated, always acted as if they had “been there before,” and proceeded to win four World Series titles in five years.  To this day, looking back on it, Williams still maintains a humble opinion of his years in pinstripes.

“I played on some unbelievable teams, but I was never concerned about where we ranked all-time or anything like that,” he said.  “I was just glad to be there and be a part of all the winning.”

Williams, looking like he could still slip into his pinstripes, visited the Steiner Sports Corporate headquarters on Thursday and for #51, the autograph session quickly turned into an opportunity for reflection.

“As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned to appreciate all the precious moments I had,” he said.  “I was part of a truly great team and I enjoy sitting back and enjoying those moments.”

Williams played on some of the most successful Yankees teams of all time, and the switch-hitting center fielder had a major role in most of those triumphs. Over the course of his 16-year career – all with the Yankees – Bernie Williams was selected to 5 All-Star Games, won the 1996 ALCS MVP Award, won 4 Gold Gloves for his wizardry in center field, and captured the 1998 Batting Title.  Despite all his personal accolades along the way, Williams insists his greatest memories are team oriented.

“The batting title in 1998 was special, but that whole 1998 team was unbelievable,” he said.  “Those are the things I remember the most…the things we accomplished as a team.”

It is that unassuming personality that has landed Bernie a special place in the hearts of most Yankees fans.  Adulation that was never more evident to Williams than at the final game ever played at the original Yankee Stadium.

“It was awesome to see the fans embrace me the way they did,” he said.  “Especially after being out of the game for a few years.  I was so surprised I got introduced after Yogi!”

Williams was invited back the following April to help initiate the new home of the Yankees.  He appeared in center field, playing “Take me out to the ball game” on his guitar, and highlighted an extraordinary day at the new ball park.

“Playing [the guitar] in center field on Opening Day was weird,” he said.  “It was such a bizarre moment.  I was in Yankee Stadium, with a guitar, playing in front of a full house.  It was such a cool moment.  There was so much electricity that day.  It reminded me of the old Stadium a lot.”

Inside that old Stadium, Bernie Williams cemented his place in Yankees lore, quietly positioning himself in the record books alongside other Yankees center fielders like Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio.

“I have no regrets about my career,” he said.  “I was part of a great team for 16 years.  I am very proud of that, and I did it my way.”

He shut up and just played.

Connect With Jason

https://jasonklein24.files.wordpress.com/2016/11/instagram-circle.jpg?w=584