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Big League Stew

Yankees make most of visit to West Point

Mark Townsend
Big League Stew

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Joba Chamberlain jogs with a few cadets. (AP)

A baseball game was played in West Point, N.Y., on Saturday. The New York Yankees won it 10-5 over the Army Black Knights in front of 6,127 fans — a record for an Army home game. The Yankees' "hero" offensively was Brennan Boesch, thanks to his two-run home run in the second inning. They also received five innings of stellar relief from Adam Warren.

And none of it mattered. Because this game event and the gathering it drew was all about the experience for everybody involved. Based on the interactions and reactions before, during and after the event, everybody involved enjoyed it thoroughly, too.

Here’s more from MLB.com’s Spencer Fordin:

But this game -- and this day -- was bigger than the box score. For the Yankees, it meant an opportunity to both get some work in and to give back to the community at the same time. And for Army, it was the opportunity of a lifetime and the chance to measure themselves against the best in the world.

"I think the big thing that was obvious today was respect," said Army coach Joe Sottolano. "These individuals, each and every day, they've been to this type of situation hundreds of thousands of times. They've come to these types of ballgames and lived it each and every day. Not only did they come over [to our dugout], but they came over open and with a legitimate interest. It wasn't a job at that point. For them, I believe it was more of a curiosity and something they really wanted to partake in.

"They made us feel special, even though for them it's two days away from their Opening Day. They're not going to see their families very often, and tomorrow's Easter Sunday. The greatest gift that they say you can give people is time. They gave us that time, and we're very respectful and grateful for that."

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As Fordin explains, the Yankees began playing against Army back in 1927 and made frequent visits to West Point during the '30s and '60s. Unfortunately, as is often the case in sports and in life, tradition takes a back seat to logistics and other issues, so the series quietly faded away in 1976.

But it appears that it may be back on now, or at least will become more of a semi-annual event, which is something manager Joe Girardi certainly supports.

"I thought it was a wonderful experience going around the university and looking at the different buildings," said Girardi. "I took my time. I had a chance to eat with the cadets in the mess hall, and then the game. I spent 2 1/2 innings over there talking to their players. That was a real thrill."

There's no questioning what this day meant to the Yankees. But if there’s one guy who really seemed to enjoy and embrace the experience more than just about anyone else involved, that would have to be Joba Chamberlain. Even while the game was still going on, Chamberlain jumped in the stands with the cadets to sign autographs, take pictures and just generally chit-chat with as many as he possibly could. That even led to a between inning jog across the diamond as you saw in the photo above.

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Injured first baseman Mark Teixeira is another guy who went above and beyond. In fact, at one point he even asked if he could join the Black Knights in their dugout, and of course they were more than welcoming.

"I forgot how fun it is to be in college," said Teixeira of his afternoon at West Point. "When I was a freshman, I got to play against the [Atlanta] Braves. Being a kid who was a switch-hitter and playing third base, getting to play against Chipper Jones was just unbelievable for me. For these kids, I hope they had the same experience. I know my teammates, and we enjoyed the heck out of it."

Love the attitude and appreciate very much what the Yankees did on Saturday. They reminded us that as great as baseball is to watch and play, it's even better at bringing people together, creating memories, and putting smiles on faces.

Just look at those smiles.

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