Results tagged ‘ Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal ’
As it turned out, Mark Teixeira got his wish. When he hit a game-winning grand slam Wednesday night against the Red Sox, Tex said afterward that he hoped it would be the last home run of his career.
Plenty of Yankees fans would have hoped Texeira might launch one more drive into the seats Sunday in his last major-league game. Alas, it was not to be. Teixeira had three plate appearances and grounded out twice and flied out once before he came off the field to a standing ovation from the Yankee Stadium crowd of 33,277 at the start of the seventh inning as Tyler Austin replaced him at first base.
The slugging for the Yankees in Sunday’s season finale was by Brian McCann, who led off the fourth inning with his 20th home run of the season. It was the ninth consecutive season of 20 or more homers for Mac and the 10th of his career, which made him the fourth catcher in big-league history with at least 10 20-homer seasons. The others are Hall of Famers Mike Pizza and Johnny Bench with 11 apiece and Yogi Berra with 10.
With Gary Sanchez also having goes deep 20 times, the Yankees became the third team in history to have two hitters who played at least half their games behind the plate to hit at least 20 home runs in the same season. The Yankees had Elston Howard and Johnny Blanchard with 21 each in 1961. The Milwaukee Braves had Joe Torre, later the Yankees manager, with 27 and Gene Oliver with 21 in 1965.
A catcher had the big game for the wild-card Orioles in their 5-3 victory. Matt Wieters socked a two-run home run off Yankees starter Luis Cessa in the fourth inning and greeted reliever Tommy Layne with another two-run blast in the sixth. It was the seventh career multi-homer game for the switch-hitting Wieters and the first from both sides of the plate.
Teixeira, who holds the major-league record for homering from each side of the plate in a game (15 times), finished the season with a .204 batting average within 15 home runs and 44 RBI. Tex was a .268 career hitter with the same total of hits as games played (1,862) with 409 homers and 1,298 runs batted in.
In a pregame ceremony, Teixeira was on the field with his wife, Leigh, and their children, Jack, Addy and Will, when he was presented with a framed No. 25 jersey commemorating his final game by Yankees managing general partners Hal Steinbrenner and Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal and Christina Steinbrenner, Hal’s wife. Tex also received a framed base signed by all of the 2016 Yankees that was presented by CC Sabathia and Brett Gardner, his last remaining teammates from the World Series championship team of 2009. Harlem RBI, the organization for which Teixeira donated $1 million and raised more than $10 million over the years, presented him with a signed thank-you card signed by hundreds of youngsters from Harlem and the Bronx who have benefit from his efforts on their behalf.
The Yankees’ fourth-place finish in the American League East this year was their lowest position since 1992, when they were fourth in the then seven-team AL East.
What the Yankees needed on Andy Pettitte Day Sunday at Yankee Stadium was, well, Andy Pettitte.
Another nostalgic ceremony to retire Pettitte’s No. 46 and install a plaque in Monument Park honoring his pitching career with the Yankees was barely over when CC Sabathia gave up a two-run home run to Indians first baseman Carlos Santana in the first inning in what turned out an ominous day for the big lefthander.
There was no one warming up in the bullpen in the third inning when Sabathia had to come out of the game because of an injury to his surgical right knee. Yankees manager Joe Girardi had to rely on a couple of Scranton shuttle guys, Nick Rumbelow and Branden Pinder, to get through the middle innings.
A chant of “Andy Pettitte” from the bleachers sprung up several times from fans with fond memories of his grim determination on the mound over an 18-season major league career, all but three of them with the Yankees, that included an additional 276 1/3 innings of postseason work that produced a 19-11 record and four World Series championships.
“I just don’t remember ever going out there and feeling like I’m going to step on this mound and absolutely dominate this team because I am so good,” Pettitte told the crowd earlier. “I know some of the great players have felt like that. Every game at the big-league level, mentally, I had to be into it every pitch. It seemed like if I let my focus down for one inning, it was going to be a three-run inning. I needed every ounce of focus and energy to be successful.”
The Yankees had coaxed Pettitte out of retirement once before, in 2012. Too bad they could not do it again Sunday.
The only work for Pettitte Sunday was getting through a well-constructed speech in which he thanked his family, former teammates, the Steinbrenner family and even us writers, whom he said treated him fairly over the years.
Joining him on the field for the pregame ceremony were fellow Core Four partners Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter and Saturday’s honoree Jorge Posada as well as other former teammates Bernie Williams, Paul O’Neill, David Cone, Scott Brosius, Tino Martinez and Hideki Matsui; former trainer Gene Monahan; former executive Gene Michael; Hall of Famers Reggie Jackson and former manager Joe Torre; managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner and vice president Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal.
“We experienced some amazing wins, some heartbreaking losses,” Pettitte added. “Through it all, this place has become home to me and my family.”
Sabathia was supposed to be Pettitte’s successor as the senior voice on the pitching staff, but he has been slowed down by a knee that has been operated on twice and which was drained twice over the past two months. Sabathia admitted to Girardi that he felt discomfort while warming up but did not say anything until he was interrogated by his manager on the mound.
“It has been a watch for us all year long as we knew it would be,” Girardi said. “For him to say something on the mound it had to be pretty sore.”
Sabathia, who was to undergo an MRI exam late Sunday, has not been himself most of the season. He is 4-9 with a 5.27 ERA, and his record could be worse if the Yankees had not come back from trailing in games to get him off the hook eight times, including Sunday when they tied the score in the seventh inning on a two-run double by Carlos Beltran.
A comeback victory was not forthcoming, however, as Francisco Lindor finished off his second straight three-hit game with a solo home run off Dellin Betances in the eighth inning that held up for a 4-3 victory for the Indians, who were 5-2 against the Yankees this year.
It was almost as painful a game for the Stadium crowd of 46,945 to watch as it was for Sabathia. This was an absolute walkathon with Yankees pitchers combining for 10 walks (four by Sabathia) and the Indians for six. Despite all those free base runners the Yankees allowed, the score stayed close because the Tribe was 1-for-10 (.100) with runners in scoring position and left 11 on base, which would have been more if the Yanks had not turned four double plays.
Sabathia’s injury, which general manager Brian Cashman said would likely put him on the 15-day disabled list, botches plans the Yankees had of going to a six-man rotation with the return from the DL of Michael Pineda, who is scheduled to start Wednesday at the Stadium against the Astros.
The idea was to give an additional day of rest to all the starters, but that will have to go on hold for now. The Yankees could return Adam Warren to the rotation, but as well as he has pitched in relief they are reluctant to do that. The more likely choice for a sixth starter would be Bryan Mitchell, who was on the seven-day concussion list after being struck in the face by a batted ball Aug. 17. Cashman said Mitchell may pitch a simulated game this week.
All these pitching woes and the possibility the Yankees could drop out of first place put a damper on the special day for Pettitte, who might have been a big help had he been able to don a unifiorm.
Andy Pettitte’s Monument Park plaque
ANDREW EUGENE PETTITTE
NEW YORK YANKEES 1995-2003, 2007-2010, 2012-2013
A FIVE-TIME WORLD CHAMPION AND THREE-TIME ALL-STAR, PETTITTE WAS A MODEL OF CONSISTENCY IN THE YANKEES ROTATION FOR 15 SEASONS, GOING 219-127 (.633) AND TYING THE FRANCHISE RECORD OF 438 STARTS.
KNOWN FOR HAVING ONE OF BASEBALL’S BEST PICKOFF MOVES, PETTITTE WILL BE MOST REMEMBERED FOR HIS EXTENSIVE OCTOBER RÉSUMÉ, AS HE WENT 18-10 WITH A 3.76 ERA IN 40 POSTSEASON STARTS WITH THE CLUB. IN 2009, HE BECAME THE FIRST PITCHER TO START AND WIN
THE CLINCHING GAME IN EACH OF THREE SERIES IN A SINGLE POSTSEASON.
THE LEFTHANDER RETIRED WITH THE THIRD HIGHEST WIN TOTAL IN FRANCHISE HISTORY, AND HE IS THE CLUB’S ALL-TIME STRIKEOUT LEADER, WITH 2,020. TWICE A 20-GAME WINNER, PETTITTE FINISHED HIS CAREER AS THE FIRST PLAYER TO PITCH MORE THAN 15 SEASONS IN THE MAJORS WITHOUT EVER HAVING A LOSING RECORD.
DEDICATED BY THE NEW YORK YANKEES
AUGUST 23, 2015
During Saturday’s ceremony at Yankee Stadium for former All-Star catcher Jorge Posada, whose uniform No. 20 was retired and who received a plaque in Monument Park, I got a text from my son Corey, who was watching on television from his home on Long Island.
“Watching this makes me feel very old!”
Corey is only 33. If he thought he felt old, how about me? I met Posada at his first spring training camp with the Yankees 20 years ago. There is a photo in the office of my Queens apartment of me presenting the James P. Dawson Award to Posada as the outstanding rookie in training camp for 1997 before a spring training game at Tampa, the year before there was a major league franchise in that area.
And now there was Posada, still trim but his wavy black hair turning grey, standing behind a podium surrounded by former teammates, Yankees dignitaries and his family drinking in praise from a sellout crowd in the Bronx talking about a career that does not seem all that long ago.
One of the feelings that these celebrations at the Stadium convey is the passage of time. Posada was an integral part of a period in Yankees history that was indeed glorious and to people of Corey’s generation a dominant part of their personal scrapbook, the way previous generations venerated the careers of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Mickey Mantle, Bobby Murcer, Thurman Munson, Ron Guidry and Don Mattingly.
“I can’t believe I’m standing up here right now,” Posada told the crowd. “And I can tell you, I’ve never been nervous on a baseball field. Being here seems surreal. I can honestly tell you, this is one of the happiest days of my life.”
His partners in the Core Four — Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte, who will be honored Sunday — were in attendance as well as former teammates Bernie Williams, David Cone, Hideki Matsui and Paul O’Neill; former manager Joe Torre; former trainer Gene Monahan; former player, coach, manager and executive Gene Michael and general partner Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal.
Posada was truly moved at being considered part of the legacy of great Yankees catchers that began with Bill Dickey and continued through Berra, Elston Howard and Munson, whose widow, Diane, was also on the field. Posada kept a baseball card of Munson in his locker throughout his playing career.
“I never saw myself as part of that group,” Posada said. “Just a lot of respect for the guys. It’s just being there with them now is such a great honor. I’m never going to forget this day.”
Berra, hobbled by painful knees, was unable to attend but sent Posada a personal message that was displayed and narrated on the video board in center field.
“You were a really good ball player for a long time,” Berra wrote. “I’m proud of you, kid.”
Posada could not help but appreciate the irony that he had resisted at first the Yankees’ suggestion that he convert to catcher from second base, his natural position, while in the minor leagues in 1991. He recalled a conversation he had with Mark Newman, then the Yankees’ director of player personnel.
“He said, you have a great arm. You’re going to be very strong because your legs are very strong. You haven’t been catching, so you’re going to be very durable. Your knees are not [worn out]. They haven’t caught.’ And he said, ‘It’s the fastest way to get to the big leagues.’ When he said that, that was it. That was it for me. I wanted to get to the big leagues. That’s all I wanted.”
Posada went on to play 17 seasons behind the plate, all for the Yankees, and batted .273 with 275 home runs and 1,065 RBI. He was a five-time All-Star, won five Silver Slugger Awards and wore four World Series rings. Only twice did the Yankees fail to reach postseason play in Posada’s time. He played in 125 postseason games, including 29 in the World Series.
Posada evoked DiMaggio when he said, “Today, I must say I want to thank the Good Lord for making me a Yankee.”
He was all Georgie when he said, “Ever since I can remember, all I wanted to ever do was play baseball. Honestly, I didn’t have a Plan B.”
That was a break for all of us, no matter how old it made us feel Saturday.
Jorge Posada’s Plaque
JORGE RAFAEL DE POSADA VILLETA
NEW YORK YANKEES
1995 – 2011
A MEMBER OF FIVE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP TEAMS AND A FIVE-TIME SILVER SLUGGER AWARD- WINNER, POSADA WAS A HOMEGROWN YANKEE, PLAYING ALL 17 OF HIS MAJOR LEAGUE SEASONS IN PINSTRIPES.
CONTINUING THE LEGACY OF GREAT YANKEES CATCHERS, HE APPEARED IN 1,829 CAREER GAMES, COMPILING A .273 BATTING AVERAGE, WITH 275 CAREER HOME RUNS, 1,065 RBI, AND A .374 ON-BASE PERCENTAGE.
THE FIVE-TIME ALL-STAR SET CAREER HIGHS WITH 30 HOME RUNS AND 101 RBI IN 2003, FINISHING THIRD IN AL MVP VOTING AND MATCHING YOGI BERRA’S SINGLE-SEASON RECORD FOR MOST HOME RUNS BY A YANKEES CATCHER.
IN 2007, POSADA HAD A HISTORIC SEASON, BATTING .338, WITH 20 HOME RUNS, 90 RBI, 42 DOUBLES, AND A .426 ON-BASE PERCENTAGE.
DEDICATED BY THE NEW YORK YANKEES
AUGUST 22, 2015
The non-profit Harlem RBI and the Yankees have invited 25 of Harlem RBI’s most generous donors to experience a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity at 8 a.m. Thursday to play a game at Yankee Stadium. Through this unique fundraiser and with commissioner Rob Manfred on hand to support, Harlem RBI hopes to raise $500,000 to help build a new “Field of Dreams” in the South Bronx, similar to the organization’s field in East Harlem.
Harlem RBI is a 24-year old non-profit serving the communities of East Harlem and the South Bronx with comprehensive sports and academic enrichment programming, now serving more than 1,700 boys and girls each year. The organization uses baseball and softball as a hook to recruit, engage and retain youth and achieve positive outcomes like high school and college graduation.
Richard Berlin, executive director of Harlem RBI, said, “We’re incredibly thankful to the New York Yankees, specifically Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal and Harlem RBI board member Mark Teixeira, for presenting this rare opportunity to bring together some of Harlem RBI’s most loyal supporters to the world famous Yankee Stadium. While it’s a tremendous treat for us to be on the field, we’re even more excited to be a step closer to building our own Field of Dreams in the South Bronx through the funds raised at this game. Our boys and girls deserve a beautiful ball field to play, learn and grow on and we can’t wait to make that dream a reality for them.”
“We are thrilled to be able to partner with Harlem RBI for such an important initiative,” Swindal said. “This is a special day for the Yankees and our community and we look forward to celebrating the many achievements that will be reached on this Field of Dreams in the Bronx for years to come.”
“I am so happy to share the field at Yankee Stadium today with these amazing supporters who are playing to build a field for Harlem RBI’s South Bronx site,” Teixeira said. “This will mean so much to our kids. As a Harlem RBI board member, I want to thank each and every one of the players for their generosity and I wish them luck on hitting one out of the park!”
Players will play alongside several Yankees alumni including Homer Bush, Bucky Dent, Cecil Fielder, Jim Leyritz, Mickey Rivers and Roy White. Stadium public address announcer Paul Olden will call the game live from the field.
Following the game, a short brunch reception will take place with opening remarks from Swindal and Manfred.
A group of Yankees players with manager Joe Girardi stood to the right of the plate at Yankee Stadium 10 minutes before the start of Tuesday night’s Yankees-Royals game to greet former U.S. Navy officer and educational professional Richard Albero, who concluded his 1,150-mile walk from George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla., to the Stadium.
Albero began his journey March 2 to honor his nephew who passed away in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project.
The final leg of Albero’s trek brought him to “The Bat” by the site of the original Stadium, where he was joined by six Wounded Warriors from the United States Army — Sgt. First Class Shafeek Karamat, Capt. J.C. Brave, Sgt. First Class Jacob Weltsch, Capt. Gregory Backer, Sgt. Rafael Rodriguez and Specialist Anthony Gonzalez.
The group walked through Heritage Park, across East 161st Street and up Jerome Avenue toward Gate 2 of the current Stadium. Alberto and the Wounded Warriors entered the Stadium through the left-center field wall and made their way around the left field warning track all the way to the plate.
Albero had enough energy left to throw a strike to catcher John Ryan Murphy as the ceremonial first pitch of the game.
Aided by a number of support drivers by his side, Albero completed his trip in 86 days. He has already raised around $27,000. The Yankees nearly doubled that with a donation of $25,000. Presenting Albero with the check in the pre-game ceremony were Yankees managing partner and president of the New York Yankees Foundation Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal and senior vice president of marketing and Yankees Foundation board member Deborah Tymon.
To make a donation, please visit richardsyankeeswalk.org.
Ohio State head football coach Urban Meyer, who directed the Buckeyes to a 42-20 victory over Oregon in the 2015 College Football Playoff National Championship, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to Friday’s 7:05 p.m. Yankees-Orioles game at Yankee Stadium.
In three seasons as head coach at Ohio State, Meyer has a 38-3 record. He is the only head coach in college football history to have won a national championship as part of two different conferences – the Big Ten and the SEC. Along with Nick Saban, Meyer is also only one of two Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) head coaches to have won national titles at two different schools (also in 2006 and ‘08 while at Florida).
As part of the celebration, a special ticket offer with savings of up to 50 percent on select seats for Friday’s game is now available for all Ohio State alumni, fans and supporters. For complete details on the offer, fans should visit http://www.yankees.com/osu15. Please note that all ticket specials are subject to availability.
In a pregame ceremony prior to Friday’s game, Meyer will be presented with an autographed base signed by all of the members of the current Yankees active roster. Making the presentation to Meyer will be Yankees general partner/vice chairperson Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal.
The Yankees and New Era Pinstripe Bowl began their eight-year affiliation with the Big Ten in 2014, between the two legendary brands features the Big Ten’s commitment to play in the annual New Era Pinstripe Bowl through 2021.
Established in 2010, the New Era Pinstripe Bowl has had increased attendance in each of its first five years of existence. In 2014, a record sellout crowd of 49,012 watched Penn State defeat Boston College and establish the bowl’s highest all-time attendance figure.
The 2015 New Era Pinstripe Bowl is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 26, at a to-be-determined kickoff time. The game will mark the second consecutive year that the bowl will feature a team from the Big Ten and the ACC. The Big Ten’s partnership with the New Era Pinstripe Bowl is the conference’s first ever bowl game tie-in on the East Coast.
Tickets for the 2015 New Era Pinstripe Bowl will be made available in the near future. For up-to-the-moment information regarding the game, fans are encouraged to visit http://www.pinstripebowl.com, the official Web site of the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, and follow the bowl game’s official Twitter and Instagram accounts – @PinstripeBowl.
And then there was one, which is actually two.
The discussion is about uniform numbers. The Yankees retired No. 6 for Joe Torre Saturday. It occurred to the popular former manager that the shortstop he brought to the major leagues and nurtured through his early career has another distinction besides being the Yankees’ all-time leader in games played and hits.
Looking into the dugout where Derek Jeter was leaning against the railing from the top step, Torre said to the sellout crowd of 47,594 in the pregame ceremony, “There’s one single digit left out there.”
That would be Jeter’s No. 2, the only single digit not yet retired by the Yankees but definitely will be at some point, perhaps as early as next year following his retirement. Yogi Berra, one of the two No. 8’s retired (fellow catcher Bill Dickey is the other) took part in the ceremony, along with several former players, including two others who have had their uniform numbers retired, Reggie Jackson (44) and Ron Guidry (49).
Berra and Dickey are in that group of single-digit retired numbers that also features Billy Martin (1), Babe Ruth (3), Lou Gehrig (4), Joe DiMaggio (5), Mickey Mantle (7) and Roger Maris (9). So DJ now stands alone.
Torre, his wife Ali and other members of the family began the ceremony in Monument Park where he unveiled his number and plaque alongside Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner and general partner Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal. They eventually made their way to the center of the field for the ceremony amid former players David Cone, Hideki Matsui, Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte; former coaches Guidry, Willie Randolph, Jose Cardenal and Lee Mazzilli; longtime managers Tony La Russa (who was inducted into the Hall of Fame this year with Torre) and Jim Leyland; former trainer Gene Monahan and Jackson.
An especially nice touch was Jeter escorting Jean Zimmer from the dugout to the field. Known by her nickname, “Soot,” she is the widow of the late Don Zimmer, Joe’s longtime bench coach. There was also a touching video message from former Yankees pitcher and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre, who was unable to travel to the event.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who served for Torre both as a catcher and a bench coach, presented his old boss with a framed version of his Monument Park plaque. Hal Steinbrenner and his wife, Christina, presented a framed version of No. 6. Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal on behalf of the organization gave Torre a diamond ring with No. 6 embossed in the center.
Observing all this from the visitor’s dugout was another of Torre’s former players, White Sox manager Robinb Ventura.
“It feels like the World Series all over again,” Torre told the crowd. “To have a number retired for any team is something special, but when you’re talking about the history and tradition of the New York Yankees, it is a feeling you can’t describe. There wouldn’t have been a Cooperstown without Yankee Stadium. I want to thank Randy Levine, Lonn Trost and Brian Cashman and the woman behind the scenes, Debbie Tymon, who does so much for this organization. Arthur Richman mentioned my name to George, but it was Stick Michael who recommended me for the job.”
And what a job Torre did. The Yankees reached postseason play in all 12 of his managerial seasons and won six pennants and four World Series, including three in a row from 1998-2000.
Torre acknowledged his gratitude to the late owner George Steinbrenner for taking Gene Michael’s advice and hiring him despite a resume that included mediocre results as a manager with the Mets, Braves and Cardinals, the same three clubs for whom he had played during a 16-season career. The kid from Brooklyn who grew up a New York Giants fan clearly fell in love with the pinstripes.
“George gave me the greatest opportunity in my professional life,” Torre said, “I played in the majors for 16 years, but they could never match my 12 years in Yankees pinstripes. I will be forever grateful to the Steinbrenner family for trusting me with this team.
“One thing you never forget or lose feeling for are you people, all of you people, and it continues. I walk around and people thank me. They don’t realize what a good time i had. New York fans make this city a small town. When you get to this ballpark you feel the heartbeat, and it’s something that does not go away.
“It’s a short distance from the old Stadium to here but a long, long way from the field to Monument Park. I was blessed to make that journey on the shoulders of some very special players.”
In his previous managerial stops, Torre had worn No. 9, but he could not get that with the Yankees because it had been retired for Maris. Early in his playing career with the Braves, Torre wore No. 15 (his brother, Frank, had No. 14), but that was also not available with the Yankees since it was retired in honor of the late Thurman Munson.
Actually, Torre is one of four Hall of Famers who have worn No. 6 for the Yankees. Some fans may not know that Mickey Mantle wore No. 6 as a rookie in 1951 before switching to 7 the next year. Tony Lazzeri was the Yankees’ first No. 6, followed by his successor at second base, Joe Gordon.
Perhaps some karma was in the air because the Yankees second baseman Saturday, Martin Prado, was a huge factor in their 5-3 victory over the White Sox that was a fitting accompaniment to the afternoon.
Prado, who won Friday night’s game with a walk-off single in the ninth inning, had a part in four of the Yankees’ runs Saturday. His bunt single in the second helped build a run that subsequently scored on a double play. He drove in two runs in the fourth with the first of his two doubles in the game. He also doubled in the sixth and scored on a fly ball by Stephen Drew. Carlos Beltran drove in the other Yanks’ run in the sixth with his 15th home run.
Perhaps the only thing more appropriate would have been if the Yankees had scored six runs. What is definitely appropriate is that the number was retired for the person who wore it the longest, one more year than the player who had it for 11 seasons, Roy White (1969-79).
Now all that awaits is the day when Jeter, who got a rare day off Saturday, completes the single-digit retirement.
The Yankees opened HOPE Week 2014 (Helping Others Persevere & Excel) Monday by bringing together representatives from all 25 prior HOPE Week days for a reunion at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum at Pier 86 on Manhattan’s West Side. The gathering celebrated the five-year anniversary of the initiative.
Attending the event to support the former HOPE Week honorees were Yankees general partner and vice chairperson Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal, general manager Brian Cashman, former pitchers Mariano Rivera and David Cone and disabled pitcher Ivan Nova, who is recovering from right elbow surgery.
“Everyone in our organization – from my family to the players to the front office – have been touched by our honorees’ struggles and inspired by their spirit,” Steinbrenner Swindal said. “HOPE Week shines a light on stories that need to be told and people who might otherwise go unnoticed. It is our privilege to give honorees a well-deserved moment in the sun and a chance to affect others with their message.”
On the final day of HOPE Week 2013 (Helping Others Persevere & Excel) Friday, the Yankees celebrated “Stand for the Silent” and its anti-bullying initiative in the Great Hall at Yankee Stadium.
Kirk Smalley delivered a moving presentation that has given to almost 700,000 children and adults around the world. Joining him on stage were Yankees general partner Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal; general manager Brian Cashman; pitching coach Larry Rothschild; pitchers Andy Pettitte, Joba Chamberlain and Boone Logan; catcher Austin Romine; designated hitter Travis Hafner and first baseman Lyle Overbay, with WWE wrestler The Big Show.
Approximately 500 students, parents and teachers from local schools and community groups were in the audience to hear Smalley’s message.
Ty Smalley was raised in the town of Perkins, 15 minutes from the campus of Oklahoma State University, in the heart of Payne County. For Ty, who was small and looked much younger than his 11 years, school was a waking nightmare.
By sixth grade, he had already been the subject of unmerciful bullying for a number of years. Kids tossed food at him. He was regularly jammed into lockers and garbage cans. Deflecting insults, coping with intimidation and suffering violence from classmates were part of the daily curriculum administered. Most administrators looked the other way or brushed off the incidents as “boys being boys.”
Throughout it all, Ty maintained his good nature and ever-present smile. Unfortunately, his outward demeanor masked a great deal of hurt. No one saw coming what seems inevitable now. On May 13, 2010, Ty was provoked into a fight at school and was suspended. Home early from school and left alone because his parents had to work, he took his own life.
That summer, Ty’s story was taken up by local high school students participating in Oklahoma State University’s Upward Bound program. Together, they set a goal to end bullying in their respective high schools and began an initiative called “Stand for the Silent.”
Word of the movement spread quickly and just over three months later, a silent vigil was held on the lawn of the Oklahoma State Capitol. Related ceremonies took place simultaneously in 20 other states and six other countries, including Australia, Canada, Ireland, Spain, South Africa and the United Kingdom.
Needing an outlet for their grief, Ty’s parents, Kirk and Laura, threw themselves into the movement. When summer ended, they assumed leadership of the program and took Ty’s story on the road to any school, community group or religious gathering that wanted to hear it.
“Bullying is the same in the city as it is in country towns, and it’s the same among the big kids as it is with the little kids,” Kirk said. “The message resonates no matter where I go.”
His typical audience ranges from fourth-graders to high schoolers, though he has spoken to pre-kindergarten children, prison populations and senior citizens.
At the start of his presentation, five life-size photos of children are placed on easels behind five empty chairs. Each photo is of a child who has taken his or her life as a result of being bullied. Student volunteers read aloud the stories of these children as written by their parents. The children then introduce Kirk, who tells how bullying has impacted his family’s life.
“Kids have a built-in b.s. detector,” Kirk said. “I’m no public speaker. I’m a construction worker. But they realize that I’m someone who cares. I can’t let this happen to another family.”
Kirk also urges children to cultivate a culture of kindness toward each other based on recognizing and celebrating the worth of every individual. He asks everyone in attendance to take a pledge entitled “I Am Somebody.”
Together they recite:
“From this day forward, I promise to respect those around me as well as respect myself. I am somebody, and I can make a difference. I can make another feel loved. I can be the helping hand that leads another back to a path of hope and aspiration. I will not stand silent as others try to spread hatred through my community. Instead, I pledge to lift up these victims and show them that their life matters. I will be the change because I am somebody.”
“No one is born to hate,” Kirk said. “It’s something that’s learned and something that can change. “To the bullies who gain an understanding of what they’ve done, I say ‘We love you. But now you have to apologize and change your behavior.’ ”
The Smalleys have sacrificed almost everything to spread the Stand for the Silent message. Prior to Ty’s suicide, Kirk was a foreman for a union sheet-metal company; however, after a year of mourning and dedicating himself to speaking to children, his job had to let him go.
“It’s very hard on us, but it’s what I do now,” Kirk said. “Laura and I prayed over it, and we decided that Stand for the Silent was our mission, and we would let God take care of the rest.”
Stand for the Silent receives speaking requests daily, and Kirk is booked solid into the summer of 2014. Booking Kirk’s travel, handling the organization’s finances and managing the e-mails that flood in from around the world is Laura’s full-time job. She was previously employed as a member of the kitchen staff at Ty’s school, but never went back. Their daughter, Jerri Dawn, coordinates the scheduling.
Kirk and Laura ask schools and organizations to cover his cost of travel and lodging. If that’s not possible, Kirk will visit anyway, out of pocket. He and Laura never turn down a request. As a result, they have burned through their savings and are now using their retirement money to fund their work.
“Knowing that we are saving lives is gratifying,” Kirk said. “We get messages by the thousands from children and young adults who want to get involved and from kids who hear us and realize that taking their own life isn’t the answer.”
Jerri Dawn arranges her father’s schedule to enable him to speak three or four times in a day, often at various locations in the same city. Then, he will drive or fly to the next city and do it again. Typically, he’s on the road five or six days a week, recounting and reliving any parent’s worst nightmare solely for the benefit of others. At this point, the pain is permanently watermarked in his voice.
“The most important thing parents can do is to be completely aware of what’s going on in their child’s life,” Kirk said. “Don’t take ‘OK’ for an answer. You have to ask your child hard questions and be prepared to fight with his or her school in making sure that their safety is looked after. Kids need to know not to internalize any mistreatment they receive. If they’re upset, they can talk it out. They don’t have to act it out. My boy didn’t know that, and it’s too late for him. But it’s not too late for others.”
The Yankees will donate $25,000 to support the Gulf Coast region relief efforts associated with Hurricane Isaac. The amount will go to the American Red Cross, which is already working in the affected areas.
“On behalf of the entire New York Yankees organization, we are eager to extend our support to the people of the Gulf Coast region who were affected by Hurricane Isaac,” Yankees general partner Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal said. “The American Red Cross is again answering the call in the face of this disaster, and we are proud to assist in their tireless efforts.”