The Day I Faced Mariano Rivera

By Jason Klein 

As Seen in In New York Magazine  – 4/5/12

If tomorrow’s Opening Day is the beginning of the end for Mariano Rivera, I’m proud to say I faced him at least once during his remarkable career.

The first time I saw Rivera throw a baseball, I was fifteen years-old.  It was 1995, and I couldn’t drive a car yet.  Luckily, to tag along on his impending ride into baseball immortality, I didn’t have to.

With Mariano Rivera, in 2007, After Our Face Off.

For half of my life, I’ve watched the Yankee closer dominate a sport like no other athlete ever has.  His tranquil disposition and devastating cutter are both legendary. His career regular season numbers are staggering and his postseason stats are incomprehensible.

His competitive spirit and propensity to always do the right thing help make him the most revered player in baseball.  In May of 2007, I got a first-hand glimpse of both these remarkable traits when I personally stepped up to the plate against The Great Rivera.

While working at Steiner Sports Marketing, I would periodically unite passionate clients with their sports heroes during a public question and answer session or a private meet and greet event.  I had arranged to meet Rivera prior to an afternoon game in the Bronx, and introduce him to a client’s child.  The brave youngster was battling illness and desperately wanted to meet his favorite player, Mariano.

The meeting was scheduled for 10:45 AM behind the Yankees Dugout, just before the gates were scheduled to open to the general public.  Rivera was to huddle up with us for about 5-10 minutes, take some pictures, and sign some baseballs.  There were very few people in the Stadium at that point so connecting wouldn’t be an issue if things went according to schedule.  They didn’t.

By 11:00 AM, Rivera had yet to emerge from the clubhouse and other fans were starting to make their way into the building. I reassured the child that everything would work out as planned, but the beads of sweat on my neck told a different story.  I was panicking.

Was I being stood up by Mariano Rivera?  How could this be reconciled?  What would I tell the child?  How could I explain to my boss, Steiner Sports CEO, Brandon Steiner?  It was embarrassing, like a hitter’s feeble attempt to connect with one of Rivera’s cutters.

Then, “The Sandman” entered.  The greatest closer in the history of baseball popped his head over the top of the dugout looking for me.  It was 11:10 AM, the gates were open, and I was now surrounded by autograph-seeking fanatics.  I yelled for Rivera.  So did the three hundred other people now standing with me.  He couldn’t find me in the crowd and disappeared back into the dugout.  The meeting never occurred.

Despite their distinct disappointment, the child and his family were very appreciative of my efforts.  I profusely apologized and left them to enjoy the afternoon from their seats, just behind the dugout.

Two days passed and I received a call from Brandon.  He summoned me to his office to discuss my botch in the Bronx.  When I entered, there was already someone sitting with him – a balding, lanky-looking guy in a brown polo and black jacket.

“Come on in, Jason,” Brandon bellowed with a smile from ear to ear. “Time to defend yourself against Mo! It’s Klein v. Rivera today.”

The skinny fellow sitting in the office calmly uncrossed his legs, spun himself around, and flashed a bright toothy smile in my direction.  It was Mariano Rivera.

I dug in against the legendary pitcher, blaming his tardiness for the plan’s failure.  Rivera stared me down and unloaded some high heat in my direction.  He contended that he was exactly where he was supposed to be and that I was the one who dropped the ball.

Take that!

Mo shot me a look, and then grinned.  He was toying with me, trying to break me like an opponent’s bat.  I didn’t stand a chance, did I?  He was Mariano Rivera, after all.

I knocked the dirt out of my cleats and stepped back in the box.

Again, I detailed exactly what went down, condemning Rivera’s poor punctuality and questioning his recollection of the day’s events.  The competitive Rivera calmly and quietly shook his head in disagreement.  Brandon, still smiling as he presided over the dispute, seemed to enjoy watching me try to take down the celebrated closer.

It was clear, this was going nowhere.  Like on the mound, Rivera, the ultimate competitor, could do no wrong.

Our showdown yielded a benign base on balls as I walked out of Brandon’s office without resolution. Baffled by Rivera’s stubbornness, I slumped back down at my desk and got back to work.  I remember thinking, this must be what it’s like to hit against the tenacious pitcher.

Then, like he seemingly always does, Rivera did the right thing.  He stopped by my desk on his way out and assured me he would connect with the boy and his family at an upcoming game.  He confidently nodded his head at me as if to say, “I got this, don’t worry.”

He never admitted he was late the first time – he didn’t have to.  After all, a good closer is always last to enter a game, but ultimately, seals the deal when the pressure is on.  Mo did just that.

He met the boy during the next home stand.  The get-together was just a brief stop on baseball’s freeway for Rivera, but it was a prime example of how the closer always gets the job done.  He’s hinted that 2012 will be his final stop.  If he decides to take the exit ramp at season’s end, it will take him directly to Cooperstown.

He’s a Hall of Famer both on, and off the field.

It’s been a heck of a ride for Mo.

I’m glad I got to face him at least once along the way.

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Steiner Sports Adds Spice to an Already Hot Rivalry

By Jason Klein

Originally Written For The Official Steiner Sports Blog – 5/7/10

As if fans needed any more reason to watch the greatest rivalry in sports, Steiner Sports has one more!

Now through Saturday, May 8th at 3:05 PM EST, fans who purchase Steiner Sports Yankees or Red Sox player-specific memorabilia will receive their item free of charge should that particular player hit a home run during the game.  It’s that simple.

Fenway Park will host Saturday’s Steiner Sports HR Contest

“To celebrate this weekend’s Yankees-Red Sox Series, we wanted to offer fans this unique opportunity,” says Brandon Steiner, CEO of Steiner Sports.  “This adds another level of excitement, for fans of both teams, to a game that would ordinarily be must-watch television anyway.”

Fans can log onto www.SteinerSports.com or call 1-800-909-9162 to purchase their player-specific item.  Should that particular player hit a home run on Saturday, the fan will not be charged for their ordered item, and will receive it free of charge (however, standard shipping rates will apply).  If that player fails to hit a home run, all orders will be treated as a normal order and will be subject to any impending charges.  Fans will be asked to provide a credit card upon purchase, but will only be charged if, and only if, their particular player fails to hit a home run on May 8th.

“It’s really simple,” says Steiner.  “For example, purchase a Derek Jeter hand signed baseball from Steiner Sports prior to the game, if Derek hits a home run, you won’t be charged for that baseball.  The same would apply for all players on both teams this Saturday.”

Fans are encouraged to place their orders under the following guidelines: Orders must be placed prior to first pitch on Saturday, May 8, 2010 (approximately 3:05 PM EST).  All sales are final, even if a particular player doesn’t appear in the game.  The standard 30-day return policy does not apply.  Game used or Yankee Stadium demolition items do not apply.  This promotion cannot be combined with any other offer and is only valid on new orders placed between Thursday, May 6 at 3:00 PM and Saturday May 8 at 3:05 PM.  Should multiple players appear on a single piece, all players must hit a home run to qualify.

“This sort of promotion really appeals to all fans, no matter how big of a collector they are,” says Brett Schissler, Director of Sales.  “There is a little bit of risk involved, but ultimately, whether a particular player hits a home run or not, fans will walk away with a great Steiner Sports collectible to add to their collection.  This is a great opportunity for anyone to get a special Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, or even a birthday gift for free.”

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Prepare for Pre-Signings

By Jason Klein

Originally Written For The Official Steiner Sports Blog – 2/12/09

Why Wait?

Looking for something unique to add to your sports memorabilia collection?  Perhaps something specific you’ve been patiently waiting for?  There’s no need to sit back and hope that exact item miraculously finds its way into the Steiner Sports inventory.  Instead, Steiner Sports offers collectors the opportunity to take a proactive approach to upcoming athlete signings.

Long before a player picks up a Sharpie, Steiner Sports allows customers the shot to pre-order something special from a signing.  Specific requests, including personalizations and inscriptions, are taken in advance and presented to the athlete on the day of the signing.

Derek Jeter Signing at Steiner Sports

Want Eli Manningto inscribe “happy birthday” on a photo?  Not a problem.  How about a ball personalized by Derek Jeter?  Done.

Customers are even encouraged to send in personal items to be included in upcoming signings.  Such an arrangement is orchestrated via a Steiner Sports Collectibles Sales Consultant in advance of the signing.

Worried a specific piece will sell out quickly once the signing is complete?  Customers can take advantage of a pre-sale by reserving a specific photo, jersey, helmet, etc., prior to the signing.  The Steiner Sports Signings Division will make a note of the pre-order and make sure a piece is included in the signing to fulfill all requests.

“Our goal in every signing is to make sure the customer is taken care of,” says Eric Levy, the official Steiner Sports Autograph Handler.  “If a customer pre-orders an item from a signing, it gets flagged on our priority list and is given special attention during the course of the signing.  There is definitely an advantage to pre-ordering.”

Collectors can gain insider access to the Steiner Sports signing schedule by reviewing the Upcoming Signings page on SteinerSports.com.  This autograph calendar is updated daily and serves as a guideline for those looking to pre-order items.  While most signings are held within the confines of the Steiner Sports Corporate Offices, located in New Rochelle, NY, others are open to the public and held at venues like the Steiner Sports Store in Garden City, or one of the many Last Licks Locations.

As the leader in sports collectables and memorabilia, Steiner Sports enjoys exclusive autograph agreements with some of the biggest names in sports.  Players like Derek JeterPeytonEli ManningMariano Rivera,Dustin PedroiaHank Aaron, and Martin Brodeur are just some of the exclusive athletes consistently signing for Steiner Sports.

Keep in mind, there are limitations on the number of items an athlete has time to sign at a given Steiner Sports autograph session.  So, collectors interested in reserving something special from an upcoming signing should give it some thought, contact a Steiner Sports Representative, and get in on a piece of the action early.

Don’t wait!

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Quick Year is a Memorable One at Steiner Sports

By Jason Klein

Originally Written For The Official Steiner Sports Blog – 12/24/09

“Life moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Those words, once spoken by Matthew Broderick in the 1986 hit “Ferris Bueller,” couldn’t be more apropos when thinking back on 2009 at Steiner Sports.  It was a year that had Steiner Sports employees’ heads spinning with activity and customers’ heads turning with curiosity and intrigue.  Though it flew by, it was a challenging, yet rewarding campaign, filled with moments and achievements that revolutionized the sports collectibles industry…again.

The final year of the “double zeros,” the “oughts,” or however one chooses to refer back to this decade, saw Steiner Sports prosper through three defining moments in company history, events that changed the way the company functions, and further developed the way sports fans collect memorabilia.

The Move

In recent years, Steiner Sports has developed relationships, and partnerships with some of the most successful organizations in professional and collegiate sports.  The company currently provides exclusive access to game used collectibles from the New York YankeesBoston Red SoxDallas Cowboys, and Notre DameAlabamaNorth Carolina, and Syracuse Universities.  The growing roster of partners, presented a growing inventory for a growing company occupying, what seemed like, a shrinking warehouse.

In an effort to satisfy the company’s need for more space, Steiner Sports moved into new digs in March.  Just like their pinstriped partners in the Bronx, the company shifted across the street into a new venue, better equipped to handle their needs in an ever-changing marketplace.  The move has been a positive one for all parties involved.  The state-of-the-art facility has allowed the company to function more efficiently, better serving loyal customers – many of whom made the pilgrimage over the last nine months to check out the new place.

The Seats

In 2009, Steiner Sports urged all Yankees fans and baseball historians to “Take a Seat in History.”  In May of 2009, the company announced plans to offer authentic seats, and other stadium artifacts including sod,monument park bricks, and foul pole pieces, from the original Yankee Stadium.  A flurry of activity ensued.  Eager fans were able to gobble up pieces of the historic stadium, scooping up whatever relics became available.  Owning an actual piece of Baseball’s Cathedral was an opportunity that few fans passed up on.

In addition, Original Yankee Stadium memorabilia was on display throughout the Inaugural Season inside the Great Hall, courtesy of Steiner Sports.  The Yankees-Steiner Collectibles Store flourished inside the Stadium too, giving fans insider access on game days.  Throughout the season, Steiner Sports employees were on hand to meet fans, and explain the unique line of items pulled from the “House That Ruth Built.”

What an unbelievable season it was too!  The Yankees broke in their new quarters in grand fashion!  The Greatest Closer of All-Time, Mariano Rivera, converted his 500th career save in June, and The Captain, Derek Jeter, passed Lou Gehrig on the all-time Yankees hits list in September.  Both historic moments served as appetizers for October’s (and November’s) main course…

The Title

The instant Mark Teixeira squeezed the final out of the 2009 World Series, the Yankees hard work towards a 27th Championship was over.  However, the work within the Steiner Sports office was just beginning.  Commemorative collagesplaques and crystals had already been prepared weeks in advance, but the quest towards a team signed project was quickly underway.

Over the course of about three weeks in November, twenty-nine members of the World Champions made their way through the Steiner Sports office, signing everything from team signed baseballs and photos, to game usedproduct from the 2009 season.  Once again, Steiner Sports had the most complete and intriguing collection of commemorative memorabilia to offer customers, featuring an unprecedented collection of superstars – perfect timing for the upcoming holiday season.

The Future

While 2009 was a legendary year in the history of Steiner Sports, the future is bright for the innovative leader in sports collectibles and gifts.  There are many exciting announcements on the table for 2010, events that will fire up customers, and further transform the collectibles industry.  2009 was fast.  2010 will move just as quick.  Just be sure to stop and look around.  Big things are coming so pay attention!  Bueller?

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Apple Pie & Autographed Baseballs

By Jason Klein

Originally Written For The Official Steiner Sports Blog – 8/17/09

On the Mount Rushmore of sports memorabilia, the autographed baseball is George Washington.  It’s the crown jewel of the sports collectible industry.  Signed jerseys and helmets are great too, but there’s something uniquely appealing about a signature on a baseball.

According to Steiner Sports CEO, Brandon Steiner, a signed baseball is simply part of American culture: “There’s Chevrolet, apple pie, and autographed baseballs,” he says.  “Nothing beats it!  A signed baseball is at the very heart of collecting.”

In recent years, companies like Steiner Sports have introduced new and creative ways to collect, developing exciting new products and giving life to the game used industry.  Though the memorabilia industry has evolved, the simplicity that is an autographed baseball still reigns supreme in the collectibles world.

Why Collect Baseballs?

A baseball is inherently collectable.  It’s small in stature, but largely coveted.  Because they’re so little, autographed baseballs are very easily displayed and stored.  When wall space is at a premium, collectors opt to stack baseballs on shelves and desks rather than clutter up walls.

Its size also makes it a perfect candidate to bring to a public signing or the ballpark.  Collectors have a much easier time transporting a few baseballs than photos or jerseys.  Very rarely will a fan pull out a batting helmet inside a stadium and ask for a player’s autograph.  In addition, the clean white palette of every ball’s sweet spot provides the perfect canvas for baseball’s biggest stars to sign.

Which Players Should You Collect?

Like snowflakes, no two collections are alike.  The only similarity from one to the next is the emotional investment made along the way.  While some choose to collect top players, potentially bringing the largest payday down the line, others prefer to gather autographed baseballs from players they grew up watching and have a connection to.

“I collect moments,” says Steiner.  “I go to games with my son, I watch players develop and improve, those are the things that move me as a collector.  Those items will always have value to me.”

Since determining a ball’s monetary worth over time is not an exact science, it’s important to collect players of personal rooting interest.  This approach will ensure long term satisfaction for the collector.

If looking for a little more direction, Steiner recommends collecting those who are, quite simply, best at what they do.

“If I were starting a collection today, I’d focus on my top ten,” says Steiner.  “I’d have to get a ball from Mickey [Mantle]Ted Williams, and Joe DiMaggio…have to start with those guys.”   Rounding out Steiner’s top ten are: Derek JeterMariano RiveraNolan RyanWillie MaysHank AaronCal Ripken, Jr., and Sandy Koufax.

Protect What You Collect!

Sports memorabilia is meant to be enjoyed by everyone, not hidden away in a closet or attic somewhere.  Of course, it is up to the individual collector to decide how best to exhibit a collection.  No matter what forum is selected, one rule should always apply: keep autographed baseballs out of direct sunlight!

In order to maintain its white complexion and crisp signature, avoiding open windows and bright rooms is key.  The ideal shelter for these gems are behind UV protected glass – not an expensive proposition, and completely worth it over the course of time.  When investing time and money into a collection, protect it, and put it in position to last a long time.

Your Memories are Authentic, Your Signed Baseballs Should Be Too!

“There’s nothing like meeting a player and having him sign a ball for you,” claims Steiner.  “You will always have that story to tell and it adds a personal touch to the collection.”

If a collector can’t personally witness a ball being signed, it’s important to acquire items from a trusted source.  There’s a lot of stress involved in purchasing a signed baseball on the second-hand market.  One might never feel completely confident that what they own is real.  More often than not, it’s worth spending a little more for the peace of mind that comes with owning an authentic piece of memorabilia.

“Why would you get a baseball that wasn’t authenticated?  It’s foolish,” says Steiner.  “If someone told you they had a great deal on a Mercedes, but all the logos would be stripped from the car, including the hood…would you still want it?  Would you still feel good driving it?  Having our hologram on a baseball adds to the value and selling power, should you decide to sell your collection some day.”

Companies like Steiner Sports guarantee the authenticity of their hand signed collectibles.  Each item autographed at a Steiner Sports signing is witnessed by a Steiner representative before being cataloged and inventoried.  Athletes are asked to sign an affidavit to document the date and location of the signing and a tamper-proof hologram is affixed to each item, declaring it 100% real.  Certificates of Authenticity are also issued, further guaranteeing its genuineness.  Such measures not only provide serenity, but will help the item maintain value over time.

Collect with Passion

It would be naïve to think that collectors looking for financial gain don’t exist.  There are some who collect baseballs to eventually sell them off for a profit.  However, if monetary goals were paramount, there are other, more lucrative things to invest in.  People choose to collect signed baseballs because they are passionate about, well…baseball.

Many collectors have aspirations of one day passing their prized possessions onto their children, a symbolic way to share the stories of their childhood, and at the same time, leave behind a piece of themselves.

For some, collecting baseballs is an escape from reality, a source of pleasure, and a way to preserve the accomplishments of childhood heroes.  Whatever the reason, Steiner has one simple piece of advice for all involved.

“I always tell people to have fun with their collection,” he says.  “If you aren’t having fun, what’s the point?”

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Get Connected

By Jason Klein

Originally Written For The Official Steiner Sports Blog – 4/23/09

Connect.  That’s what I do every day I’m in the Steiner Sports offices.  I connect sports fans with their heroes…customers with memorabilia…legendary sports moments with new product ideas.  I help passionate people realize their sports fantasies by getting them closer to the game than they thought possible.

One might say I’m a glorified middleman.  That’s one way to put it.  One thing’s certain, I’m always in the middle of something exciting, thanks to the relationships Steiner Sports has with some of the most elite athletes and franchises in professional and collegiate sports.

For years, I’ve enjoyed connecting with many of you over the phone, via e-mail, and in many instances, meeting face-to-face at some of our unforgettable meet-and-greet events.  This blog is an opportunity for me to further advance that relationship, giving you exclusive insight into happenings within the Steiner Sports community, and providing my take on sports news as it breaks.

Many of you have asked me what it’s like working directly with athletes like Derek JeterDustin Pedroia, and Eli Manning or partnering with teams like the Yankees,Red Sox, and Cowboys.   I’m constantly asked: What innovative new items are coming out?  Who’s signing next?  Or, simply, what did you think of the game last night?  At Steiner Sports, there is always something going on…I look forward to sharing some of it with you along the way.  Get connected.

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