Growing up on Staten Island, NY you are a fan of either the Yankees or Mets. No, seriously, I do not know anyone from Staten Island that is not either a Yankees or a Mets fan. For me, I grew up a diehard Yankees fan. I was always watching games on TV and even went to a few games each year. Those games were always exciting to watch, not only because they were winners, but the team had an incredible rivalry with the Red Sox. As a child watching the the “Core Four” (Jeter, Rivera, Posada, and Pettitte) was astounding. My love for the Yankees even motivated my family to name our dog “Jeter”.
Born in 1992, it was a perfect time to be a Yankees fan, especially having an older brother who loved sports. His love for baseball influenced my love for the Yankees. There was a lot of winning and a lot of role models to look up to at that time. Going to games was my favorite thing to do. Since the age of five, all I ever wanted to do was play baseball. My family and I would go to games and sit right behind home plate. I remember one game, we were so close to home plate that Paul O’Neill fouled a ball straight back and I thought it was going to hit me in the face. Luckily, they had a net right there because it would have hit me square in the face (which wouldn’t have ended well for me). The guy behind me was no lucky as but not so lucky, as I had a big soda in my hand and when the ball was coming my direction, I flinched and spilt my drink all over that him. (Whoops)
As I got a little older my brother and I would go to games via public transportation and sit in the bleachers. We would take the train to the ferry, ferry to Manhattan, then walk to the subway and take the 4 train to Yankee stadium. We would bring food with us, well because “Bleacher Creatures” were allowed to do that (haha). I remember it was the second to last game in the old Yankee stadium and I would run up to the bullpen every inning trying to get a ball. It was about to be the last inning and Mariano Rivera was warming up, so obviously there were a lot of people around watching him throw. I remember he threw his last warmup pitch and the music came on, “Enter Sandman” by Metallica. The crowd started to go crazy, as he’s leaving the bullpen and everyone is watching him, I see the bullpen catcher toss the ball up into the stands and while everyone is watching Mariano run out to the field. I’m the only one who sees this ball coming my way. Of course I catch it and immediately run to my brother speechless. I remember how happy I was. I just caught a ball that Mariano Rivera threw. I mean, what are the chances, right? My brother didn’t even believe me a first. It was one of the coolest moments I ever had being a Yankees fan.
In 2013, following my collegiate career at Seton Hall University, I was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 14th round. Flash forward four years through my journey through the minor leagues, and I find myself in the big leagues playing against the New York Yankees. They came to Minnesota to play a big series against us and I had my first two RBI’s against the Yankees and my first Gatorade shower after the game. It did not really hit me that we played the Yankees until we went to Yankee Stadium in September. Walking into the ballpark I got the chills. I grew up here, as a fan, and now I get to play against this team. First thing I did when I got into the clubhouse was walk out and see the field. I walked out to the outfield and just stared at the field. It was a dream come true. I went inside Monument Park and checked out all the legends that came through the organization and it was so special to see. The amount of family and friends that came out to support me made this moment even more unbelievable. It was a great feeling to see all of them there and cheering for me, even though most of my friends still wore Yankees gear.
We end up back in the Bronx for the one game playoff. It was cool playing them in the regular season but now it was business. I did not care that it was the New York Yankees. We wanted to win and they were trying to stop us. We got out to an early lead but gave it back in the next two innings. The way I describe that game is like a boxing match. Every pitch means so much and is so intense for four straight hours. It was an awesome atmosphere and a great experience. I got to go in the game midway through following an injury. It was crazy, I remember running out to center field like a kid in a candy store. I was playing the New York Yankees in the postseason.
I’m playing in a playoff game, is all I kept thinking about. People go their entire careers without making it to the playoffs. I remember getting a hit off Dave Robertson on a cutter that snuck through the “4 hole” and I remember how fast my chest was beating. Getting a hit in a playoff game was as cool as you can imagine. We ended up losing the game and the weirdest part for me was getting in my friend’s car and having him drive me home. We just lost a playoff game to the New York Yankees, my first season in the Major Leagues was over, and just like that, I was already home. No plane ride back to Minnesota, just an hour drive from the Bronx to Staten Island. I’m not going to lie, for the first time ever, it wasn’t cool that the Yankees won. It actually sucked losing to them. I grew up watching them beat so many teams so many times. But this time, it was different. It’s definitely different when you’re the one on the field and not a fan in the stands. Its crazy how quickly things can change when you put on a Major League uniform. You go from fan to foe real quick. Either way, the best part about baseball is there is always another day and another season to look forward to. And even though I’ll always be a kid form Staten Island who used to cheer, “Lets Go Yankees”, now I’m a guy who plays in Minnesota yelling “Lets Go Twins”
Digmi Contributing Author