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August 29 2000: A Night With The Baby Bombers

scooter1I think I have met the Yankees’ biggest fan.

He’s not a Bleacher Creature, not an ANSKY guy, and not the fella in the upper deck who bangs the frying pan for good luck. He’s ten years old, his name is Andrew, and he loves the Staten Island Yankees.

Yeah, Staten Island. I finally got around to seeing the “Baby Bombers”–the Yanks short season Single-A farm team.

When I arrived at the park, the buzz in the press box was about Wade Boggs, there with the visiting Hudson Valley Renegades (Tampa Bay) as a roving hitting coach. Boggs, Shmoggs. I didn’t go all the way to Staten Island to meet anyone retired. I was there to meet someone young. I could have talked to new prospects Lance Parrish or “Tiger” Wang from Taiwan. Or even a fellow with a familiar name to Yankee fans, Tim Nettles.

But my best interview was with someone a lot younger than I’d expected. Andrew happened to sit next to me in the stands behind home plate–lucky for me, since Andrew was a better source of information on the players than the press notes. Andrew lives just a few minutes from the ballpark and he goes to “pretty much all” the games.

“Do you listen to the away games on the radio, too?” I asked him.

“Nah, I just read about it in the newspaper the next day,” he replied. He was keeping the most detailed scorecard I’d ever seen, thanks to the spacious boxes provided in the program book.

“Do you go to Yankee Stadium a lot?”

“I’ve only been once.” Apparently, the one time Andrew had been to the Stadium was with tickets he’d won during a between-inning contest at a Staten Island game. That night, he wore the Derek Jeter shirt he’d gotten at the stadium, and his Staten Island Yankees hat. “Contests are fun,” he concluded, as we watched another young fan race the mascot (“Scooter the Holy Cow”) around the bases for a prize. Scooter the Holy Cow

But I hadn’t gone there for the prizes, the “dirtiest car in the parking lot” contest, the inexpensive hot dogs, or to see the fans of player Elvis Corporan don Elvis Presley glasses (with fake sideburns) every time he came to the plate, while a kid in a “Little Elvis” T-shirt lead the “Let’s Go, El-vis!” cheer. I’d gone there for the baseball.

The young Yanks did not disappoint, although a multi-error fifth inning allowed the Renedages to tie the game at four. Through four innings, it had been all Yankees, as pitcher Matt Smith walked none and held Hudson Valley to two hits, while Jason Kinchen put the Bombers ahead with a three run home run, adding to popular player Pedro Santana’s RBI double in the first. (FYI, Elvis, despite the cheering section, went 0-4 with four strikeouts and a walk. Maybe we should have quit distracting him.)

I think I’d have to give the game’s MVP award to Mitch Jones, though. Santana was in contention, with the RBI double in the first, a leadoff double in the third (scored on the HR), and an intentional walk in the bottom of the eighth. But Jones made two great throws from left field to nail runners at the plate, saving two runs, and when he came up in the eighth, the Yankees were trailing 5-4, bases loaded, two out.

Andrew said to me, “If Mitch strikes out right now, I’m never going to ask for his broken bat again.” (At the souvenir tent, they sell the players’ broken bats, autographed, for ten bucks apiece.) Jones hadn’t gotten a hit that night, with two walks and two strikeouts.

Then came the proverbial mighty crack. The ball sailed into the gap for a bases clearing double–three runs scored! Jones had done his job, though imperfectly–he got caught in a rundown between second and third and was tagged out to end the inning. But he had created a slim two run lead for Andrew’s favorite player, the team’s closer, Oscar Martinez.

According to my pint-sized press bureau, Martinez had ten saves and had never given up a home run. Martinez wasn’t quite warmed up when he came in, as the save situation had come about so suddenly. He walked John Jacobs to lead off the inning, then struck out the next batter. The walk haunted him, though, as Jacobs went to third on a botched pickoff throw, and then scored on a groundout.

With the score now 7-6, and two outs, the crowd came to their feet, cheering for a final out. Even Andrew’s mom shouted “Come on, Oscar!”

The next thing I knew, Martinez struck out the final batter to end the game and earn his eleventh save.

How perfectly Yankee-esque.

(This column originally appeared at, Yankees Xtreme. Reproduced here by permission of Ultrastar.)

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