That Special Day At Yankee Stadium

They have always been special, opening days at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx  But this  home opener was one the Yankees anticipated, perhaps even more than the one that opened their new billion dollar ballpark last April. There was that ring ceremony before the game that made it more special before beating the Los Angeles Angels 7-5.

A World Series championship ring that epitomized all the accomplishments of getting number 27 in early November will make any opening day more special. There was the captain Derek Jeter, and the manager Joe Girardi who presented owner George Steinbrenner with his ring in the owner’s box before the pre ceremonies.

Girardi said it was the best part of his day. “Mr. Steinbrenner gave me the opportunity to get three as a player and one as a manager.”   And then there was the pre game prank that Jeter did to his former teammate, the World Series Most Valuable Player Hideki Matsui, now a member of the Angels.

“You always like to win the home opener,” said Jeter with a smile who contrived the idea with his teammates of giving Matsui a fake ring in a box, a replica that was presented to Yankee fans down in Tampa at their last spring training game a week ago.

Jeter would also make the day extra special with a third inning home run off the Angels Ervin Santana. Nick Johnson got it started with a solo shot in the first, the newest and original Yankee who returned to the Bronx, who hopes to be a part of another ring ceremony in the Bronx next April.

“It was awesome and I am happy for the guys,” commented Johnson, in the designated hitter spot that Matsui once occupied.  Matsui got the loudest ovation when he was introduced. When he got his prank ring he acknowledged the crowd. His former teammates surrounded him. And then Matsui got two more loud ovations from the 49, 293 in the stands.

When he came out of the visitor’s dugout again and took his place on the third base line for the pre game lineup introduction, Matsui tipped his cap. Then he came up to bat as the last batter in the Angels first. He tipped the red helmet this time when he stepped out of the box. Then the Yankees starting pitcher, Andy Pettitte, who got his real ring, the fifth as a Yankee, threw a fastball that Matsui missed ending the inning. Matsui would go hitless 0-for-5 and would get his real ring that was rightfully deserved.

“This game the ring ceremony,” said Pettitte “almost more pressure than the World Series. “A special day for the organization and fans,” he said.  This may be the last year for Pettitte as a Yankee or for any other team. He pitched that final game last November that gave the Yankees number 27, and Matsui in pinstripes drove in six runs that finished the Phillies.

Rings resented by Yankee World Champions and Hall of Fame members Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford. Berne Williams who knows something about a ring ceremony threw out the first pitch. He has four that Pettitte, Jeter, Rivera and Jorge Posada have

A win then that finished 2009 that christened their new ballpark, and now it on to maybe getting number 28 in the Bronx again, and ring number six for Pettitte, Jeter, Posada, and of course Mariano Rivera who closed the game.  It was the 64th time Pettitte and Rivera have combined for a win and save as Yankees.

“As soon as he steps in the box you make good pitches against him,” added Pettitte about pitching to Matsui. It was no different pitching to any other batter despite the fact that Matsui was on the other side this time. “As soon as he steps in the box you make good pitches against him,” he said about pitching to his former teammate.

So Jeter contrived a plan to prank Matsui with a fake ring before he got the real one. The Yankees still know how important a teammate he was the past seven years.  And Matsui knows how important it was for his former mates to get their anticipated rings on opening day in the Bronx.

Opening Day at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx and it always gets better each time.  Now 5-2 these Yankees, their best start since going 6-1 in 2003, and as Jeter said, “Matsui deserved it.”  Getting the real ring and not about getting the prank from his former captain is what Jeter meant about honoring Matsui.

Because Matsui was a special Yankee for the team and the fans that made it a more special day in the Bronx and Pettitte is perfect in two starts.

Email Rich Mancuso: [email protected]

About the Author

Rich Mancuso

Rich Mancuso is a regular contributor at NY Sports Day, covering countless New York Mets, Yankees, and MLB teams along with some of the greatest boxing matches over the years. He is an award winning sports journalist and previously worked for The Associated Press, New York Daily News, Gannett, and, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

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