This weekend, I journeyed with some friends to New York City, in order to see the Yankees' home opener against the Orioles. Without keeping you in suspense, yes, the Pinstripes won, 4-2. With everything that happened, that was just an added bonus.
I first thought up this Crusade after Derek Jeter made his retirement announcement back in February. The influence of my Grandfather on me, as a Yankee fan has been well chronicled in these blogs. This chapter is another one in his honor. Most of my prized Harry Wharton Jr. (my Papa) memories are just that, memories. Him helping me 'build' a pre-existing deck after he gave me my first 'tool kit,' the radio that was always on in his garage, which was always set to the Yankees' games, and Sunday morning breakfasts are just a few. But the concrete things are a physical presence that can bring on the strongest of emotions.
On my desk sits the trunk symbol to a random Cadillac that he once gave me. On my right wrist, you can find a bracelet that he wore everyday of his life. The last one, is a New York Yankees hat. It's nothing fancy. It's not a fitted hat. It's not one I would have bought. But it's the one that means most to me. On the inside of the brim, you can still see his sweat band. I'm relatively certain it's one he either picked up at the flea market for a $1 or $2, or he bought it from one of the street vendors on the way to Yankee Stadium. I don't know the story of how he got it, I'm certain that he got a great deal on it. That's just who he was.
After he passed in August of 1999, I took a stronger interest in the Yankees. Over the years, I've watched players that he cheered get traded away or retire. Now, there was only one; Derek Jeter. Wearing my Papa's hat, I would see his last, and favorite Yankee's final home opener.
This trip was actually my first time at the new Yankee Stadium, but that seemed lost on me with everything else that was going on that day. They called each player up to the first baseline. Honestly, I thought there would be a little more fanfare, but that wasn't really the Jeter way. New York did bring back Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, and Andy Pettitte for the honorary first pitch, and it was awesome to see the Core Four back to together. It was just an added bonus for Grandpa, who I know was looking down on his team that day.
I could list off stats, or tell you which player stood out, but the afternoon was really about the power of sports. That's why I'll never understand how some one can say, "It's just sports." No, it's not. It never will be. It's a feeling that can instantly be brought back. It's an emotion that is stronger than any other. I always ask the non-sports loving folk to keep an open mind. You know the ones. They're the people that don't understand "Field of Dreams." "So wait, it's just about two guys throwing a ball?" I can't help those people, as much as I try.
All I know, is that on Monday afternoon, the New York Yankees helped bring me closer to my Grandpa, than I have felt in just under 15 years. Thank you, Sports.