Here’s The Catch: Posada Should Receive #602 From Mo

By Jason Klein

Originally Written For Ed Randall’s Talking Baseball – 9/13/11

Mariano Rivera is about to catch Trevor Hoffman. When he does, Jorge Posada is the right man to catch Rivera.

The immortal Rivera is just one save shy of 600, two away from joining Hoffman atop the all-time career saves list with 601, and three away from passing him with 602.  After that, there will no doubt be more saves added to Rivera’s first-ballot Hall of Fame resume – the ageless closer currently has a 2.09 ERA, and at age 41, looks as good as he ever has.

Posada Should Hand Ball To Rivera for #602/Getty Images

Perhaps prospects like Jesus Montero or Austin Romine will backstop Rivera’s final career save, sometime in 2012 or beyond.  That’s for another day.  When Rivera collects his 602nd career save, probably sometime in the next week or so, it should be Posada receiving the record-breaking, and no doubt devastating, cutter.

There is no one more fitting to do the honors.

For 13 seasons, from 1998-2010, Posada was a mainstay behind the plate for the Yankees.  Although the switch-hitting catcher was always revered more for his abilities at the plate, rather than behind it, he certainly held his own defensively over the years.  With the acquisition of Russell Martin, and up-and-comers Montero and Romine on the way, Posada was relegated to DH in 2011, getting the occasional start at first base.

He was also embarrassed twice, on national TV.  First he was dropped to 9th in the line up on May 14th, and then he lost his DH job on August 7th – both prior to games with the Red Sox.

Iroinically, when injuries claimed Martin and back up Francisco Cervelli, Posada was thrown behind the plate for the first time all season on September 10th.   However, the Yankees were so disenchanted with the 40-year-old catching, they called up the 22-year-old Romine the next day to take over.

Posada has lost a step, and this will most likely be his final season in pinstripes, but he deserves the opportunity to be a part of history with his battery mate, Rivera.

On July 9th, Posada was the first one to congratulate his long-time teammate Derek Jeter at home plate following his 3,000th career hit.  For 13 seasons, Posada was the first to toast his closer, dropping the ball in his mitt, save after legendary save.  He’s certainly capable of catching one more inning – the ninth of course – during the record-breaking affair.

It’s the right thing to do for a franchise obsessed with history and magical storylines.  There’s no question, the moment will belong to Rivera, but Posada should get to play a small part in the festivities.

“Enter Sandman” will fill the air as Rivera makes his iconic trot to the hill, in hot pursuit of history.  The flashbulbs will be popping that night.  It’s only fair that Posada’s glove is popping too.

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4,000 Career Hits Within Reach for Jeter

By Jason Klein

Originally Written For Ed Randall’s Talking Baseball – 7/9/11

One thousand hits to go.

Derek Jeter will get to 4,000 hits. Guaranteed.  No joke.

Sure, his much celebrated 3,000thhit, a home run off David Price of the Tampa Rays, was only written into the record books earlier today, but there’s no need to let the ink dry before looking ahead.  There are still plenty of base-knocks left in his clutch bat – at least one thousand more to be exact.

4,000 Hits Within Reach for Jeter

That’s how the Captain of the New York Yankees has always operated – good or bad, the past is the past and he will reflect back when his career is over.

Mr. 3,000 now.  DJ4K then.

There will be skeptics.  Many will claim he is slowing down, his skills are diminishing, and that the end is near.  Go ask Yogi, he’ll tell you when it’s over.  Despite what critics say, Jeter will continue to push forward.  That’s all he knows how to do.

He’ll celebrate number 3,000, as he should.  It’s a remarkable achievement – one that only 27 other men in the history of the game can share with him.  He is also the first Yankee to ever reach the milestone.  But Derek Jeter has made a career out of achieving greatness without losing focus.  This will be no different.

When it happens, Jeter will join the only other two players in baseball history to reach the 4,000 hit mark: Pete Rose (4,256) and Ty Cobb (4,189).  It’s easier to compare Jeter with Rose than it is with Cobb.  Widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all-time, Cobb had a 3-year head start on both Jeter and Rose, breaking into the big leagues at age 18.  As a result, he collected his 3,000th hit as a youthful 34 year-old in 1921.

By contrast, both Jeter and Rose broke in as 22 year-old rookies (at age 21, Jeter did play 15 games in 1995, but didn’t qualify as a rookie until 1996).  Also, both players reached career hit number 3,000 at age 37 – Rose got his on May 5, 1978.  Rose went on to play another 8 years, but it only took him 6 more seasons to eclipse 4,000, turning the trick on April 13, 1984 – one day before his 43rd birthday.

Currently, Jeter has 74 hits in 2011, giving him an even 3,000 for his career.  If he collects another 100 hits over the next few months, he will finish the season at 174, and 3,100 for his career – very doable for a player who has averaged 194 hits per year over the last 15 seasons.  Under those very realistic pretenses, Jeter would only have to average 150 hits per year, over the next 6 years, to reach 4,000 by the age of 43 – just like Rose did.

Still don’t think Jeter can do it?  Consider this: he has never failed to reach 150 hits in a single season.  The closest he came was in 2003, a year he lost significant time to a shoulder injury.  He only played 119 games that season, and still had 156 hits.  True, those productive campaigns all came from a much younger Jeter, and he is bound to take a step back as he continues to age, but it won’t be significant enough to prevent one of the most consistent players of all-time from reaching Club 4K.

As Jeter battles both opposing pitchers, and Father Time, en route to 4,000 hits, there are four concessions he must make:

He has to change positions.  Making the move to the outfield, and spending more time as the designated hitter, will make Jeter a more flexible piece within the Yankees plans.  He could even see time in a third base/DH platoon with Alex Rodriguez.  Sure, as a shortstop, he won his fifth Gold Glove Award in 2010 at the age of 36, and continues to prove doubters and statistical analysis wrong, but he won’t be able to keep that up as he gets into his forties.

He must take a pay cut.  Prior to the 2011 season, the Yankees gave Jeter a new contract that takes him through his 40th birthday – the final year is an option year.  The financial terms of the deal were very aggressive for a player of his skill level and age.  However, he got paid, in large part, for his intangibles and his legacy with the franchise.  When this current deal expires, he will need a new three-year deal to reach 4,000 hits.  Jeter will not be able to command the same dollars then.  While money is never an issue for the Yankees, they will have little interest in giving a 40-43 year-old Jeter the same $15-$17M annually that they gave him at age 37.  If Jeter wants to preserve his legacy and collect his monumental 4,000th hit in pinstripes, he has to take less money.

He has to stay healthy and smart.  Jeter, the definition of consistency, has only missed significant time twice in his career – the aforementioned shoulder injury in 2003, and this latest DL stint for a bum calf.  Throughout his career, he has made a habit of playing through injury and shrugging off any suggestion that he might need to take a rest.  For him to successfully make it through the next six seasons, he will need to avoid any major injuries and be smart about which minor ones he decides to play through.  His body will heal slower as a forty-year-old.  He must understand this and not push the envelope and risk further damage and missed time.

He needs to chase a personal goal for once.  Forget Charlie Sheen, Derek Jeter is all about #winning. The unselfish Jeter has never been about personal statistics.  Instead, he focuses all of his efforts towards the team’s mission statement: World Series championships.  That has to change, slightly, during his quest for 4,000 hits.  No doubt, the opportunity to add additional rings to his collection will motivate Jeter to continue playing, but his statistical contribution to the common cause will start to diminish.  He must accept this, check his pride at the door, and be willing to play a few seasons below the “Jeter standard of excellence” in order to compile the necessary hits he needs.

If he can do the four things mentioned, and make 4,000 hits a priority, there is no doubt he will achieve it.  After all, when has Derek Jeter not succeeded at something he set his mind to?

One thousand hits to go.  No joke.

Mr. 3,000 now.  DJ4K then.

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Bald Vinny Leads Roll Call, Passionate Bleacher Creatures

By Jason Klein 

Originally Written ForIN New York Magazine – 4/12/11

Bald Vinny comes to play every night.

A staple within the hallowed walls of Yankee Stadium, like pinstripes and Sinatra, “Bald” Vinny Milano can be seen, and definitely heard, sitting in section 203 during every home game in the Bronx.  It’s obvious that Milano is a passionate and dedicated Yankees fan.  He is also the most prominent member of the Yankee Stadium Bleacher Creatures.

Although Milano is not the official leader of the Bleacher Creatures – that distinction goes to Tina “The Queen Bee” Lewis, a regular in the bleachers since 1983 – he became known as the face of the Creatures in 2005 after being featured on the YES Network’s “Ultimate Roadtrip.”

Just another day at the office for Bald Vinny

With his cult-like following comes a unique responsibility.  Prior to the first pitch of every home game, Milano rallies the rest of the creatures to their feet, and works them into a pinstriped frenzy.  As the first pitch crosses home plate, Milano gazes into centerfield, through his signature Oakley sunglasses, cups his hands around his mouth, and goes to work.

“Yooooooooo…Curtis!”

The Roll Call is underway.

Starting with the Centerfielder – Curtis Granderson has the honor in 2011 – Milano and the rest of the Creatures work their way around the Yankees defense, chanting the player’s name until they receive acknowledgement (typically a waive) from the player.

“Brett Gard-ner…Brett Gard-ner…”

A tradition in the Bronx since 1997, the Roll Call only takes place during home games.  According to Milano, “it disrespects the other team” if done on the road.  It’s also extremely difficult to rally enough troops to be heard while in enemy territory – not something the Creatures struggle with on East 161st Street and River Avenue.

“The Bleacher Creatures are the heart, soul, and passion of Yankee Stadium,” says Milano.  We represent the most dedicated and passionate of Yankees fans, and we always show up in full force to do whatever we can to help the team win.”

“Swish-er…Swish-er…”

According to Milano, the Bleacher Creatures are a different breed of fan.  They believe their proactive approach to cheering benefits the Yankees on the field.  With the Bronx Bombers in contention for a World Series almost every year, it’s difficult to argue with the results.

“Most baseball fans around the country only cheer when something happens,” says Milano.  “Yankees fans cheer in order to make something happen.  In the bleachers, it’s our job to make noise when there needs to be noise.  We are always the first on our feet when we need a big hit.  We’ll do whatever we can to give our team an advantage.”

“Mark Teix-eira…Mark Teix-eira…”

However, for Milano, it’s not just about peanuts and Cracker Jack at the old ballgame.  Attending every single home game as a fan is a time-consuming task in itself – he’s missed only 7 games since 2004.   For Milano, it’s also his livelihood.

Before and after each game, Milano is stationed on River Avenue, selling official Bleacher Creature T-Shirts, a business he developed in 2001.  In essence, he’s truly just doing his job everyday at the Stadium, getting to enjoy a ball game during his lunch break

“Rob-in-son…Rob-in-son…”

He often gets the question, “how do I become a Bleacher Creature?”  According to Milano, there are only three simple rules to follow.  First, a fan must willingly choose to sit in the bleachers.  An everlasting passion for the Yankees is the second requirement.  Finally, complete dedication is necessary.  Milano is quick to point out that it’s easy to sit in the bleachers for a few games each year and claim to be one of them.  That just won’t cut it.

“[Bleacher Creatures] attend 40-50 home games a year,” says Milano.  “It’s about being there in person and supporting your team, day in and day out.

“Der-ek Jet-er…Der-ek Jet-er…”

Perhaps no one was as consistently devoted to supporting the Yankees as Freddy Schuman, the legendary super fan, better known as “Freddy Sez.” Schuman would walk around Yankee Stadium each night with a frying pan, urging fans to hit it with a spoon for luck.  Schuman passed away in October 2010, during yet another Yankees postseason run, perhaps leaving Milano as the “next generation” face of the Yankees fan.

“That’s incredibly flattering to hear,” says Milano.  “Freddy was such an iconic presence.  I remember him when I was a kid.  His longevity is really admirable.”

“A-Rod…A-Rod…”

Rather than compare himself to someone like Schuman, Milano remains humble, just happy to be associated with a great group of fans, and the premier franchise in professional sports.

“I’m proud that I get to represent the creatures, and I appreciate all the support I’ve gotten from Yankees fans,” he says.  “I’ve gotten to live out quite a few ‘Yankees fantasies’ over the years and I enjoy sharing those experiences with other fans.”

He gets to do just that, when he shows up to play, every night.

To view Bald Vinny’s Line of Bleacher Creature Apparel, visit www.baldvinny.com

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Believe it. Pettitte One Of Most Reliable Yankees Pitchers Ever.

By Jason Klein

Originally Written For The Official Steiner Sports Blog – 2/3/11

Trust Andy Pettitte.

For sixteen seasons, he dramatically stared down opposing batters and came up big in the biggest of spots.  More times than not, Pettitte delivered, earning the trust of his teammates and his fans alike.  Tomorrow afternoon, Pettitte will stare down a throng of media at Yankee Stadium to announce his retirement.  When he does, trust him when he says, he’s thrown his final pitch in baseball.

Pettitte will not pull a “Brett Favre” and un-retire.  He gave the game of baseball, and the New York Yankees specifically, everything he had.  Joe Namath once said, “If you aren’t going all the way, why go at all?”  Pettitte, a workhorse, and a perfectionist on the mound, must have asked himself this very question.  Most likely, the answer wasn’t up to his standard of excellence and he decided to move on rather than perform at a level below what he expects.

Pettitte’s Reliability Will Be Tough To Replace.

So Andy Pettitte will call it a career.  One of the most beloved and reliable players in Yankees history, he will retire a 3-Time All-Star and a 5-Time World Series Champion.  He is the all-time leader in Postseason victories (19), finishes with a 240-138 career regular season mark, and a 3.88 ERA.

Along with teammates Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, and Mariano Rivera, Pettitte helped make up the “Core 4” of longest-tenured Yankees, despite playing three seasons in the middle of his career for the Houston Astros.

Perhaps his most memorable moment in pinstripes came during his second season in baseball.  It was Game 5 of the 1996 World Series, and the Yankees and Braves were tied at 2 games each.  The Yankees called on their young lefty to win a pivotal game in Atlanta, squaring off with John Smoltz.  Pettitte threw 8.1 innings allowing 0 runs on just 5 hits.  That night, his reputation as a big-game pitcher would be born.

Over the next 14 years, Pettitte would appear in 7 more World Series (once with Houston in 2005) and would consistently answer the bell when called upon.  Whenever the Yankees were in need of a big win after a Game 1 series loss, Pettitte could be trusted with the ball.

In 2007, Andy Pettitte confronted the allegations of his HGH use with the same class he displayed throughout his tenure in the big leagues.  His admission to wrongdoing restored faith among fans and his sincerity allowed him to turn a dark page that other offenders never could.

With his retirement, Pettitte will most likely settle back down in Texas, with his family, and leave behind a legion of adoring fans and a suspect pitching rotation in the Bronx.  The 38-year-old Yankees legend will depart as an iconic figure in franchise history and a fan-favorite.

Tomorrow, when Andy Pettitte tells the world he’s retiring, trust him.  He will not be making any comebacks, not if he doesn’t believe he can pitch at the level he expects.  While his final statistics place him in the Hall of Fame discussion, there is no guarantee he will ever find himself enshrined in Cooperstown.

Monument Park is a different story.  Andy Pettitte Day at Yankee Stadium will happen one day soon and his #46 will be removed from pinstriped circulation.  He’ll be honored for his remarkable body of work, his class, and for the way he represented the Yankees.

The game of baseball says goodbye to one of its greats.  Yankees fans will miss him and his reliability on the mound will be nearly impossible to replace.

That you can trust.

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Mariano Rivera Meet & Greet Scheduled for February 7

By Jason Klein

Originally Written For The Official Steiner Sports Blog – 2/1/11

Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” might not be playing, but everyone will know when Mariano Rivera enters the room.

On Monday, February 7, the greatest closer in the history of baseball will be meeting and greeting fans at the Steiner Sports Corporate Headquarters in New Rochelle, NY.  Rivera commands a room just as well as his cut fastball, and will have the lucky audience captivated with his pinstriped stories.

Want to Meet Mariano Rivera?

A 5-Time World Series Champion and 10-Time All-Star, Rivera’s legendary career with the Yankees is mind-blowing.  At age 41, he has shown no signs of slowing down, and has remained at the top of his craft for over 15 years.  He is currently just 42 saves behind Trevor Hoffman on the all-time saves list, a number he could potentially pass in 2011.

During the hour-long event, Rivera plans to recount his past successes and entertain questions from fans. After posing for photos with those in attendance, fans will receive a special limited edition photograph, signed and inscribed specifically for the event.  Restricted to just one hundred total people, this unique opportunity to spend time with the future Hall of Famer is not to be missed.

Among the most intimidating pitchers of all-time, Rivera is warm and respectful in person, reinforcing his place in the hearts of Yankees fans.

Raucous crowds welcome him nightly in the Bronx.  When the Sandman enters the room on February 7, he will have the audience silent, in awe, hanging on his every word.

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Steiner Sports Did it Again in Twenty-Ten!

By Jason Klein

Originally Written For The Official Steiner Sports Blog – 12/22/10

The 2010 Steiner Sports year moved faster than Brett Gardner beating out an infield single.

After an historic 2009 at Steiner Sports, the company had a lot to live up to in the first year of the new decade.  The previous year saw Steiner Sports move to a new facility, make available artifacts from the original Yankee Stadium, and develop a new line of exclusive product to commemorate the 27th World Series Title in Yankees history.  How would 2010 stack up in an encore performance?

New Partnerships

The New Year began with a “Giant” announcement.  In January, Steiner Sports informed collectors and sports historians of their plans to offer a new line of collectibles from the soon-to-be demolished Giants Stadium.  The 2010 NFL season would see the Jets and the Giants move into the New Meadowlands Stadium, vacating their previous home across the parking lot.  Similar to their efforts at the original Yankee Stadium, Steiner Sports offered one-of-a-kind artifacts from the old Meadowlands, including seats, seatbacks, stadium signage, sod from the field, and pieces of the goal posts from each end zone.  Both Jets and Giants fans relished the opportunity, snatching up Meadowlands memorabilia at a record pace.

Meadowlands Seats

2010 also saw the World’s Most Famous Collectible Company partner up with the World’s Most Famous Arena: Madison Square Garden.  With MSG set to undergo renovations over the next few years, Steiner Sports began offering unique pieces of the building for fans to add to their collections.  In addition to physical pieces of the building hitting the market, including pieces of the court and arena signage, game used items from the Knicks,Rangers Liberty also became available.  Fans were able to scoop up game used uniforms, basketballs, pucks, sticks, and clippings from the basketball nets and hockey goals.  These unbelievable items are all available on the Steiner Sports website and inside MSG during Knicks and Rangers home games.

The Dirt

In previous seasons, Steiner Sports had developed a line of product offering actual infield dirt from Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, and Wrigley Field.  In 2010, Steiner Sports got down and dirty with all 30 Major League Baseball Stadiums.  A team of Steiner Sports Product Development specialists created an entire line of memorabilia, released in April 2010, that incorporated Certified Authentic, game used field dirt from every stadium in baseball, giving fans of all teams a “field pass.”

The new line, approved and authenticated by Major League Baseball, included team logo crystals, key chains, stadium and player plaques, ceramic coasters, and 11×14 collages – all containing a capsule of field dirt.  A line of “In the Game” collages were also developed – a unique 20×24 player collage with actual stadium dirt sprinkled on the photo.

Due to favorable pricing, the MLB dirt collection was a popular choice for holiday gifts, and in corporate incentive programs around the country.

The Padded Seats

In an unprecedented move, Steiner Sports temporarily adjusted the price on a pair of padded, championship-level Yankee Stadium Seats, giving fans the opportunity to “Take a Seat in History” at an exclusive price.  The comfy blue seats had listed for $1,750 at their original release, but were discounted, for a limited time, at a price of just $999.

The response was overwhelming.  Yankees fans, and baseball historians alike, reserved their piece of history, for display within their sports rooms or office.  This rare collectible currently remains at the reduced price of $999, and will remain there through the holiday season.  All other pairs of authentic Yankee Stadium seats remain at their original retail price.

The Events

Steiner Sports Clients were treated to a wide array of athlete Meet & Greet opportunities in 2010, both within the confines of their Corporate Offices, and their retail and Last Licks locations.  Fans got up close, and personal with an impressive “who’s who” list of athletes including Eli ManningAmar’e StoudemireDavid Wells, members of the 1977/1978 Yankees,Vinny TestaverdeJoba ChamberlainDustin KellerJim LeonhardJay FeelyMagic JohnsonBrian CashmanHakeem NicksMark Teixeira, and Nick Swisher, among others.

Jets Event With Leonhard, Feely & Keller

Live Meet & Greets, and the ability for customers to interact with athletes, is a trend that is sure to continue in 2011.

More Digital Interaction

2010 saw the world become more connected through the use of popular social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter.  As they so often do, Steiner Sports led the way in the sports memorabilia industry, connecting with thousands of new fans.

Through the popular websites, Steiner Sports found a new and unique avenue to connect with customers and sports fans, publicizing upcoming events and signings, running daily contests, promoting new product, and even sparking heated and passionate sports debates.  It also gave fans a new forum to speak directly to the company, often expressing their interest in the industry or requesting information about athlete signings or products listed on SteinerSports.com.

Individual Steiner Sports Sales Representatives also joined the party, creating their own Facebook and Twitter accounts, giving their clients a new means to increase communication and interact on a more personal level. (Friend Jason on Facebook.  Follow Jason on Twitter).

Moving Forward

In the first year of the new decade, Steiner Sports proved, once again, that the future is bright for the leader in authentic, hand signed and game used collectibles.  There is no doubt that 2011 will prove to be more of the same.  In the New Year, Steiner Sports figures to further revolutionize the sports collectibles industry with new and exciting product and events, in an effort to bring fans closer to their heroes than ever thought possible.  If it’s happening on the field, it’s happening within the Steiner Sports corporate offices in New Rochelle, NY.

Just don’t blink.  It’s a fast-paced, ever-changing industry, moving quicker than number 11 in pinstripes.

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“5 Questions” With Bucky Dent

By Jason Klein

Originally Written For The Official Steiner Sports Blog – 12/15/10

His home run propelled the New York Yankees into the post season and helped preserve “The Curse of the Bambino.”  It also changed his life.

Bucky Dent During Answering My “5 Questions”

There’s no telling how Bucky Dent’s life would be different in 2010 had he never hit that mythical home run at Fenway Park in 1978.  During his recent visit to the Steiner Sports Corporate Offices in New Rochelle, NY, Dent addressed this topic, among others, after signing some great new collectibles for the Steiner Sports inventory.

Jason Klein: Obviously, your HR in 78 brings back a lot of good memories for Yankees fans…what goes through your head when you think about that day at Fenway?

Bucky Dent: Oh, just how important the game was, and it was just a classic game, and something that you’ll never forget because of the importance of it.  What we did in 78, as a team, coming back, to get to that situation, just the impact of the game.

JK: How many times a day does someone ask you about that home run?

BD: Probably once or twice a day someone comes up to me to talk about it.  I like to talk about it.  I think it’s fun.  It just shows you, the game itself, the impact it has.  People remembering it, that it was a one-game playoff between Boston and New York, it doesn’t happen very often.  I love to hear the stories. Confidence

JK: If you had never hit that HR, how would your life be different today?

BD: I probably wouldn’t be talking about the 78 Playoff game.  Maybe in a different way.  It’s something, as a kid, you always dream of doing, you know, hitting the big home run, and doing it in the World Series or in a big game, and you know, it all happened for me, it all came true.  I got a chance to hit a big home run and also win MVP of the World Series.  It’s just special.

JK: Which of the following, in your opinion, is the biggest home run in Yankees history?  Dent?  Chambliss?  Boone?

BD: That’s hard to say.  I always tease Chambliss about his home run.  I tell him, “I was a kid, driving down the highway, listening on the radio when you hit yours,” and he tells me, “oh, get out of here!”  I don’t know which one was the biggest.  They were all very important and they all impacted different years and different situations.

JK: How special is it to re-unite with all of your old teammates at an event like this?

BD: It’s a lot of fun, a lot of fun.  You don’t get to see these guys all the time.  When you can gather with them and be around them, and kind of, just look back at the memories.  You get flashbacks of the games that you play in and all the special moments.

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