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2009 Champions

The Yankees’ road to their 27th World Championship was a little like what I went through today to finally witness their crowning, requiring all the resources of technology and media at my disposal in order to follow the game.

When the first pitch was thrown, I was somewhere above 30,000 feet, probably over the Washington DC area. I was hoping it would be a typical postseason game, with lots of slow pitching, visits to the mound, hitters taking pitches and working the counts, because then maybe by the time I could get a signal there would still be plenty of game left.

We landed early! I flipped my phone out of airplane mode the moment the wheels touched down and as we taxied I saw on the MLB “At Bat” app that there had been no score, and it was only the second inning!! Unbelievable. Matsui was at the plate facing Pedro with a man on and no one out. I quickly swapped to Safari to open MLB.com’s Live pitch-by-pitch for mobile devices. Matsui looked like he was putting up a battle. On pitch-by-pitch it looks a lot like FOX Trax, where the pitches appear as little circles in a box that represents the strike zone. Green circles are balls, red circles are strikes and fouls.

Blue circles are balls hit into play. Every 15 seconds the browser refreshes and one or two new circles appears. The screen went blank as it refreshed, then BLAM, the blue circle appeared right in the middle of the strike zone. 89 mph fastball… I had to scroll down just a little to see the results: “Hideki Matsui homered. Derek Jeter scored.” corwin and I began fist pumping. Then it was time to actually deplane.

I made my way out to the concourse area and turned on my portable XM radio unit. It took a while to get the wires untangled and by the time I did, it was a commercial, but the score was clearly 2-0 Yankees. Then the dulcet tones of John Sterling accompanied me through the airport. I had changed into my lucky Mike Mussina pinstriped jersey while in the airport in Boston and now Yankees fans were giving me the thumbs up as we went through the airport. The host at one of the sports bars in the Charlotte airport even called out the score, and another guy who had heard the score asked me if I knew how they got the two runs.

Then we went down to baggage claim and unfortunately we lost the signal down there. Even the WiFi wasn’t working right and pitch-by-pitch wouldn’t refresh. A few minutes later we were picked up in a car by a friend of ours to drive to the healing arts conference we’re attending in Columbia, SC (I am a part-time massage therapist as well as baseball writer).

Out came our OTHER portable XM radio unit, this one made for automobiles. I hooked it up to the car stereo, but we didn’t get a signal again until we got out from under the arrivals ramp. Only to discover the Phillies had gotten a run. I see-sawed from being convinced at seeing the Matsui homer that surely this was the night and nothing could stop them, to intense worry that the Phillies were going to rise up and ruin it all.

Matsui sent me right back to feeling like there was no stopping the Yankees. After Alex was called out on strikes (and on pitch-by-pitch it didn’t look like a strike at all, by the way…), Matsui didn’t waste much time connecting again for a base hit and bringing in two more runs. I still remember how in 2003 he didn’t get a hit off Pedro all year, and then in that epic game (the “Grady Little” game) Matsui finally doubled off him. That was six years ago but it’s like Matsui’s bat still remembers.

In the fifth the Yankees were at it again. Pedro wasn’t sent back out again, but it didn’t seem to matter who was on the mound. (It was Chad Durbin, though, for the record.) Jeter led off with a ground rule double. Hairston, who was only in the game because Damon had left with a pulled calf muscle, bunted him to third, and Teixeira cashed him in with a base hit. We were passing the giant baseball on Route 77 then. It’s actually a water tower painted to look like a baseball, and we see it every year on the way to this seminar in Columbia.

We were hungry but didn’t want to stop to eat because it would mean missing the game. What’s good when there’s a championship on the line? The rally continued. A-Rod Walked. Another pitcher came in. Matsui didn’t care who it was (although it was J.A. Happ). He doubled off the wall, only a foot or two from being another home run, driving in his fifth and sixth RBIs of the game and tying the World Series record for most RBIs in a game with former Yankee great Bobby Richardson.

We finally arrived at the hotel. I ran in and checked us in during a pitching change. We hurried up to our room and put on FOX. At last! We ordered room service and settled in to watch the last three innings or so, hoping to also catch all the postgame celebrations… hoping there would be celebrations.

The Phils wouldn’t roll over and die, though. Ryan Howard hit a two-run homer off Pettitte in the sixth, ending Pettitte’s night and finally producing something after his bat had been shut down since Game 1, but it would be too little, too late. His next time at the plate, Howard would strike out for the 13th time in the Series, setting a new record for most Ks in a single series, surpassing Willie Wilson of 1980. Joba Chamberlain would get three men out, but when it looked like the Phils were mounting a rally against him, on came Damaso Marte to retire the red-hot Chase Utley, who lived up to his name, chasing a Marte slider to strike out on three pitches. Then to start the 8th there was the K of Howard, aforementioned, and then it was Mariano Time. I had a plate of chicken wings and a cup of the soup of the day, room service had sent up hot rolls and butter, too, and so basically at that point I definitely felt I had it made. I was exchanging texts with my brother and my friend Lori, who were at the game with the tickets I couldn’t use.

And still the Phils didn’t go down easy, not like in Game 3 when Mariano only threw 5 pitches, or Game 4 when he retired the side on 8 pitches. Tonight, it took Mo 9 pitches just to get Raul Ibanez out of the batters box and unfortunately he doubled. But again, each time the Phillies tried to cash in, the rally was stopped short by Yankee pitching. In the ninth, with a man on, Shane Victorino did not want to go home. He battled Mariano in a ten pitch battle, but ultimately, Mo, and the Yankees, prevailed.

Lori texted me to say she was buying me a 2009 Champions shirt. Ah, how sweet it is, even if I couldn’t be there.

I’m now in bed in my pinstripes, typing this in the dark. corwin’s already asleep. We indulged ourselves switching back and forth between FOX, ESPN, the Yankees radio postgame, and then at 1am our favorite Yankee fan on the radio JT the Brick on FOX Sports Radio. A complete binge of interviews, but hey, you have to enjoy it while you can, right? Now I’m going to post this and then go to sleep, and sleep the sleep of the fulfilled.

(Did you enjoy reading this blog entry? Please consider buying me a hot dog.)

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