All fans are on their feet, as Aroldis Chapman rears back and fires a fastball. It seems as if the Yankees are back in a pennant race.
All of a sudden my mind races back to 1978. The year of the miracle comeback. Ron Guidry is on the pitcher’s mound and for one of the first times, the Yankees are using a radar gun. I am operating the gun directly behind the home plate part of the stands. Fans are surrounding me, because they want to see the little screen readings of 94- 95-96 mph. With the evolution of time, the players are bigger and stronger but the anticipation of the fastball is the same. The excitement is still the same. And the end result is still the strikeout.
My mind races back to present day and as Chapman strikes out the final San Francisco Giants player to save the game, I see the same smile that I’ve seen before. Because I have spent so much time with Chapman, I have gotten to know him quite well. He has different degrees of smiles. He has an OK smile, a middle smile, and what I call for him, a very happy smile.
The very happy smile comes along with a strikeout to end the game or with a walk around the empty Yankee Stadium holding his baby daughter, as was the case during the Yankee players’ picnic the day before. When Chapman handed his baby back to the baby’s mom, he started kicking a soccer ball around the field with the grace of the great soccer star Pele. I was sitting in the press box watching, while writing another story, but was distracted by the joy that this person was living. When the event ended, I told him I was watching him from the stands and I asked him if he was as happy as he looked. He responded by saying in Spanish, “absolutely.”
I asked Chapman what he thought of New York and he said, “It is the best city to play baseball and you can’t have it any better than being a Yankee.” I asked him about the fact that baseball is a business and trades are always possible and he responded by saying, “I know that but I would love to play with the Yankees for the rest of my career. I hope that something can be worked out, and I can re-sign here. Since baseball is a business and I could possibly be traded, I would never forget the great times here.”
As a fan, I asked him, “We have seen 104 and 105 mph is there 106 in your arsenal?” He gave me his middle smile and said,” Anything is possible!”