Although he played in 12 Major League seasons and compiled more than 1000 hits, was part of the first three-generation MLB family with grandfather Ray, father Bob and brother Bret, and made an incredible comeback from open-heart surgery, New York (and Boston) fans will remember Aaron Boone most for his singular moment. His 11th-inning, ALCS-winning home run off Tim Wakefield on Oct. 17, 2003, is one of the all-time greatest Yankees moments and rivals the Bucky Dent A.L. East playoff game home run in 1978 in the pantheon of New York-Boston games.
After retiring following his comeback with the Astros in 2009, Boone, one of the game’s good guys, stepped into the broadcasting realm and currently works as an analyst for ESPN.
On Wednesday, Boone spoke to NYSportsDay prior to coaching in an Appreciation Game for local Challenger Division Little Leaguers in Los Angeles. His dugout “opponent” in the SUBWAY-sponsored event was, of course, Jared the SUBWAY Guy.
NYSD: Most players will never experience the kind of thrill that the 2003 ALCS home run provided. How has that changed your life?
AB: I think it changed in that more people knew who I was — strangers recognized me on the street, made me realize how big a rivalry the Yankees-Red Sox is. Every day, someboday says something to me about it, explains which side they were on, Yankees or Red Sox. It never ceases to amaze me.
NYSD: Do you speak to Tim Wakefield about it ever, and now that he is also retired, do you think you’ll get together with him for events like Ralph Branca did with Bobby Thomson and Mike Torres and Bucky Dent have done?
AB: (Laughs) I don’t know about all that. We never talked about it. We have a good relationship, just as fellow players, I have a lot of respect for him, he went on to be a part of two World Championship teams. No, we don’t speak about it, but each time I see him, we usually speak. He has a special place in Red Sox history.
NYSD: Compare the feeling of hitting the home run with your first at bat for the Astros in 2009.
AB: The home run really is a blur to me. I learned more from seeing the replay and people’s reactions, and my reaction to it, but my memory is not really clear. It’s very foggy. I remember runnning around the bases, and telling myself to look around, enjoy the moment. In September with the Astros, I was maybe as nervous as I have ever been in a game, including when I was first called up in 1997. Being in the lineup, at Wrigley Field, a day game, all that I had been through to get back, it was a blessing and an exciting day for me. I remember feeling a lot of butterflies.
NYSD: Yankees Old Timer’s Day is Sunday, I know you’re not on the list – do you expect to participate in one soon? Can you imagine the reception you will get?
AB: I know anytime I go back, everyone in New York and Yankee Stadium is warm and treats me very well. I do plan on doing an Old Timer’s Game at some point. It’s a little difficult working Monday Night Games, I have to be in that city on Sundays usually, but I do plan on getting back there one of these years and don the pinstripes again.
NYSD: A lot of sons of former major leaguers were taken in this year’s draft – do you think it was a huge advantage for you and your brother, being in your family line?
AB: I think looking back it’s somewhat of an advantage. You have to have the ability and you have to be able to succeed against that guy on the mound. But I think being around it, I liken it to a footbal coach, being around the ballpark, Major Leaguers, I don’t think it can do anything but rub off on you. That’s beneficial on some level.
NYSD: This Challenger Game you’re coaching sounds like a very special event. Can you tell me more about it?
AB: It’s really neat and a beautiful day in L.A. Subway does their annual Little League Appreciation game, and this year they are doing it with the Challenger Division, for mentally and physically challenged kids. I’m the coach of one of the teams, and Jared the Subway guy coaches the other team. There is also a “Buddy Badge” program, where fans can design a “Buddy Badge” at Subway’s Facebook page. The winner will be announced at the Little League world Series, and that badge will be used on all the Challenger uniforms for the entire 2013 season.
NYSD: Have you met Jared before? Does he know anything about baseball?
AB: I met him for the first time [recently]. He’s a really good guy, a Cincinnati Reds fan, so he talked to me about seeing me play in Cincinnati, going to games in Riverfront Stadium, so I enjoyed meeting him a lot.