Ralphie Report: Remembering A-Rod in preparation for his last appearance with the Yankees
The Yankees won the 2009 World Series. I was living in a spacious one-bedroom apartment in downtown Wilkes-Barre and of course the Bronx Bombers had just defeated the other popular team in Northeastern Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia Phillies. Things were going well at 97 BHT. I was about to start dating a girl. Life was good.
I logged on to Steiner Sports’ website and saw that they were holding a special autograph event in Westchester, New York. The date would feature appearances from a number of baseball stars, including Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi and third baseman Alex Rodriguez.
Wait, A-Rod?! He never holds public signings. Immediately I called my best friend, my cousin Anthony, back home in Niagara Falls. We first bonded over collecting sports memorabilia and have been best friends ever since. The event was on a Saturday. So we devised a plan: he would drive from the Falls to me Friday night. We’d wake up Saturday morning, go to the show and come back. Depending on how he felt, he would crash with me Saturday or drive right back to Western New York.
The night before he arrived, I made a trip to Wegmans to stock up on groceries. There were a few new additions in the magazine section, including a special edition Sports Illustrated commemorating the World Series championship.
I picked up two and continued on with my shopping. When I got home, I called Anth again and the idea dawned on me. I’ve never attempted a “team piece.” I truly lived through this championship, attending the most games in a season at the stadium in my life including the division clincher and Game 6 of the American League Championship Series. Plus I was about to attend an event where both the manager and one of the star players, who rarely makes such appearances, would be signing autographs.
So I set out on a mission: I wanted all 10 lineup starters, the three starting pitchers, the closer and the manager to sign this magazine.
Rodriguez would be the first piece to the puzzle. We left NEPA on a crisp fall morning in November. There wasn’t a ray of sunshine in sight but it didn’t matter. The drive to Westchester was relatively easy and we immediately parked and made our way inside, picking up our tickets for the autographs and sitting in line for A-Rod. The third baseman was on time and in a jovial mood. The line actually moved slower than normal because Rodriguez took his time with each person. You could tell how much the championship and the love from the fans affected him.
I walked up and handed over my Sports Illustrated. A-Rod had yet to see the issue and instead of signing my piece, picked it up and started thumbing through the magazine! He held up the line for a few minutes (seemed like an eternity standing there in front of him) as he turned to his handlers to show them various photos.
My cousin Anth snapped a photo, he signed the piece along with my cousin’s photo (which he also marveled at for a bit) and we went on our way.
Almost seven years (and 11 magazine signatures) later, New Yorkers and Yankees fans alike, will bid adieu to the much maligned star when he plays his final game in pinstripes on Friday. A lot will be written about A-Rod, but I think most Yankees fans will center their memories of him on that ’09 championship. I know I will.
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