Bock’s Score: Baseball Can Be Special

AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann

There are moments in baseball when the game reminds you just how wonderful it really is and how just how great it always will be.

And that has nothing to do with Commissioner Rob Manfred and his legion of deputies who spend their time monkeying around with the best sport ever invented.

No, Manfred has nothing to do with a couple of fans who interacted in the left field bleachers at a game in Toronto the other day and how Aaron Judge showed how terrific baseball can be.

Young Derek Rodriguez showed up at the Yankees-Blue Jays game wearing his Yankees jersey with Judge’s No. 99 on the back. That is something you wouldn’t do at some venues — like, perhaps, Philadelphia. In the row in front of him was Blue Jays fan Mike Lanzillotta.

They were well removed from the action when Judge launched a shot that landed in the second deck at Rogers Centre. The ball seemed headed for Rodriguez’s row when it landed instead to where Lanzillotta was seated.

The Jays fan corralled the ball and turned to hand it to Rodriguez, who took it and burst into tears as he hugged his new best friend.

You have to understand the way a 9-year-old thinks when he comes to the ballpark. Maybe, just maybe, a ball will come his way. It almost never does but on this day Blue Jays fan Mike Lanzillotta did.

Young Rodriguez was overcome with emotion and it would be nice if that were the end of this story. But it was not.

The Yankees got word of what had happened between the two fans and decided to do something nice for them. Rodriguez and Lanzillotta were invited to meet Judge after batting practice in the Yankees dugout the next day.

The Yankees slugger greeted the young fan warmly and that led to more tears, not only from the kid but from anybody with feelings for a 9-year-old meeting his hero. Judge chatted with the youngster and gave him his batting gloves. For Judge, it was a reminder of his own childhood, when he was a fan and cherished his own baseball heroes.

And then, the Yankees really stepped up, inviting Rodriguez and Lanzillotta to visit Yankee Stadium with their families for a game later this summer.

They will have seats in the right field bleachers, the section affectionately known as “The Judge’s Quarters.” It will be a memorable time and all because an adult showed some kindness to a kid.

Baseball does that sometimes.







About the Author

Hal Bock

Hal Bock is a contributor with NY Sports Day. He has covered sports for 40 years at The Associated Press including 30 World Series, 30 Super Bowls and 11 Olympics. He is the author of 14 books including most recently The Last Chicago Cubs Dynasty and Banned Baseball's Blacklist of All-Stars and Also-Rans. He has written scores of magazine articles and served as Journalist In Residence at Long Island University's Brooklyn campus where he also served on the selection committee for the George Polk Awards.

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