February 27, 2009
Big League Stew contributor David Brown is in Florida this week for a spring swing through the Grapefruit League. He'll be posting throughout the day — both to the Stew and his Twitter feed — plus he'll also be filing a report each night from his day's action, complete with photos, videos and observations. His trip continues to Tampa, home of the Galactic Baseball Empire from the Empire State, the Yankees. Last year, these two teams didn't like each other in spring training. Would we have another brawl, or would everyone play nice? Ah, who cares? Let's go find Yogi Berra!
A guy walks into a ballpark, and a duck and Yogi Berra try to sell him AFLAC. Wait, that's not how it goes. Well, the most thrilling part of my trip so far happened Thursday at Steinbrenner Field. I got to meet the one of the biggest figures in Yankees lore.
No, not cousin Yuri. But his name does start with a "Y." Yogi Berra, one of the two or so greatest catchers of all time. They had him perched behind the batting cage in something of a high chair so he could look out over BP and grant his wisdom to the likes of Rays manager Joe Maddon and that hitchhiker Alex Rodriguez.
Since we're in spring training and everything's casual, I decided to stray from the dugout and get up real close to say hello and take a picture. Now, if you're Peter Gammons, going up to the cage isn't an issue. I'm not even Peter Brady. Plus, I forgot that Yankees season never ends, it only draws breaths. By getting "too close" to the animals players in their native habitat, I risked getting yelled at, perhaps kicked out, perhaps excommunicated, by stadium or team personnel.
"Not too close!" Berra might say. "What do you think, I got that insurance?"
A fellow reporter encouraged me to get close, anyway, and while he stayed safely on the warning track, I sought the counsel of a Yogi.
* * *
What a smile! He asked me who I was with, and asked him if I could take his picture.
"Sure, why not?" Berra said.
I knew my time was short and, because as the game hadn't started yet, I wanted to not put myself on a list to get tossed. So I asked Berra how his seat was, and he said "pretty good," and then added something about the weather being nice.
Not very glib on either of our parts, but that's OK. With security lurking, I excused myself and headed away. I got the shot, most importantly.
* * *
There's cousin A-Rod with Joe Maddon behind him and Yogi in his personal bleachers. On the right, someone standing by to make sure Maddon, or anyone else, keeps clear of Rodriguez's personal space cushion. Can the Yankees hire someone to protect Rodriguez from himself? Get on that, Cashman!
* * *
Maybe they could just send this sign home with Rodriguez to remind him.
That wraps things up tonight. Tomorrow, more with the Rays, who host the Boston American League Ball Club in Port Charlotte.