One of the most intense competitors that I have known, next to George Steinbrenner, during my years in baseball has to be Yankee team President Randy Levine. He is always a constant reminder of how it was like to watch a game with the Boss. Like The Boss, Randy can go crazy when watching his team play and things don’t go right. He is always looking for an edge to win.
A classic example was when the Yankees were playing the Toronto Blue Jays. Randy gave me permission to invite Hall of Fame second baseman Roberto Alomar who is also a consultant to baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred, to sit in his Yankee Stadium suite to watch the game. Yankee second baseman Gleyber Torres was not having such a good game. In trying to learn a new position, he had committed a couple of defensive lapses. I could tell Randy was getting quite perturbed. When Randy gets upset, he either gets very quiet or he can erupt. Remind you of someone?
On this day, he was very quiet. He was looking around, then he started to stare at Alomar. After being with Randy Levine for so many years, when it comes to baseball, I can read him like a book. The look in his face said, ‘Hey my second baseman is having some defensive flaws and I’m sitting here next to the greatest second baseman of all time.’
Randy spent the rest of the game finding out about what Roberto saw in Gleyber. Why did Roberto think that Gleyber would turn into a good second baseman, a good baseball player period. During this time, Randy found out that Roberto was like a little brother to me. Robby told him stories about how, in the decade of the 70s, I used to baby sit not only him and his brother, Sandy Alomar Jr. when his dad Sandy Sr. was the Yankees the second baseman, but also Barry Bonds when his dad, Bobby was with the Bombers. As a matter of fact Roberto has been a strong mentor to my youngest son, Ricky, who played in the Blue Jays organization.
After that game Randy came over to me and said, “Wouldn’t it be a good idea if you introduced Alomar to Gleyber. I’m sure Gleyber would be thrilled to meet him.” Well, knowing Randy the way I do, I took that to mean I was to introduce them and let Alomar school Gleyber from one of the greatest to ever play second base.
That evening it was like watching the “Karate Kid.” It was Alomar, acting like Mr. Miyagi, the Sensei and Gleyber, the young student. Gleyber hung on every word that Alomar said. It was beautiful. It was the way that baseball is supposed to be passed on from generation to generation.
The next day I reported to Randy how things went and he was pleased. He did say, “Now let’s see how it transforms on the field.”
Well the rest of the season, Gleyber really did one hell of a job. I’m not saying that it was because of Alomar, Gleyber after all was already a great talent. That is why it took an Aroldis Chapman trade to get him from the Cubs. However baseball is truly a mind game and when the right person can get to you during tough times and say the right things it can make all the difference in the world.
At that time Roberto Alomar, the greatest second baseman of all time, was the right person. I must add that I have to give kudos to Randy Levine for guiding the boat in the right direction that night.