Archive for category Aris Sakellaridis

‘Yankees Idol’ in Orlando

Posted by on Sunday, 6 March, 2011

Freelance writer and photographer Aris Sakellaridis is at Yankees Spring Training to assist community advisor and author Ray Negron, writing stories about heroes and unsung heroes that surround the Yankees Universe. Aris visited Apopka, Florida, a suburg of Orlando on Saturday, February 26th, to report on a movement led by local businessman Armando Gutierrez to possibly relocate the Class-A Tampa Yankees to the area by 2013.

The Yankees organization showed the town of Apopka that they are serious about bringing a pro ball club to town.  A team of Minor League players and coaches, along with staff members and team mascot Bly, made the trip from Tampa.  They put a whole new meaning into the phrase, “If they build it, we will come.”

As a full house was enjoying the opener of the Yankees 2011 Spring Training season at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, over 1,000 baseball fans showed up in Apopka at the Orange County Northwest Recreational Facility to support the return of pro baseball to Central Florida.  The starving fans started entering the facility at 7:30 a.m. with a hunger for baseball, and Yankees community advisor Ray Negron complied by keeping them entertained with a Yankees version of “American Idol.”  Negron gave young fans a chance to step up to the stage and belt out a tune for a prize of a replica 2009 World Series Championship ring.  The lesson here was to instill confidence that you can become anything you desire if you focus your mind to it.  Thanks to the Yankees, there were plenty of rings available as the crowd was entertained by over a dozen talented singing  hopefuls.  Just like that, a “Yankees Idol” was created.

An introduction of future Yankees players were greeted with wild applause as bobble heads, bats and pins were handed to everyone in sight.  Legendary Mayor John Land was introduced and shared his memories of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio.  He was taken aback when he was presented with a replica 2009 ring and wanted to earn it by singing a song.  A baseball clinic followed with fielding drills, a baseball IQ and advise was offered for life skills.

With 15 million tourists and a huge residential following, the ball is on their side of the fence, Orlando.  Armando Gutierrez, Jr., president of Baseball Enterprises in Central Florida, declared the three-hour affair a success.

“The impact of the community was felt today” said Gutierrez.  “The kids were on top of the world and the rest of the world that we attract will recognize the Yankees emblem and will flock to games.”

Yankees vice president Felix Lopez is excited about the potential move of the Tampa Yankees.  “An extension of our team to the Orlando area will mean more fans representing us” said Lopez, also stressing the importance of the impact it will have on youths.  “They will focus on working to become Yankees in various positions like scouting directors or front office personnel.”

It is a real-life “Field of Dreams” and with the Yankees’ desire to relocate, Orlando owes it to their taxpayers, but more importantly to its’ future leaders, the children.  With the NBA’s Orlando Magic being the only sports team in its’ radius, it’s a win-win situation for everyone.

A-Rod and Teammates Join Youngsters in a Good old Fashioned Stickball Game

Posted by on Monday, 7 September, 2009

On this wet Friday in August, there is nothing abnormal about seeing kids play stickball in the streets oh the Bronx. Add some Yankee players to the game and you now have the makings of a dream.

A-Rod and Kids

A-Rod and Kids

Yankees Alex Rodriguez, Jerry Hairston Jr. and Sergio Mitre decided to get some extra swings before making their way into the Cathedral they work in. They joined youngsters from The United League in a good old fashioned stickball game at a lot outside the old stadium where the Yankee Mural wall is. The kids lined up to take turns of pitching to both A-Rod and Hairston. Mitre played the role of cheerleader, as he was left with babysitting duties for his son Sam. It was more than hit and run for these three Yankees players. They took time to sign autographs and pose for photos with all the kids and passersby who were stunned to see the trio playing stickball on this drizzly day.

The last Yankee player to be seen swinging a stick in the streets was folk hero Joe Pepitone, back in the 1960’s. NY Giants Willie Mays was also a regular swinger back in the 50’s.

After the game the players treated all the kids to lunch at Billy’s Café. Rodriguez spoke to the kids and challenged each of them to read a book a month. He stressed how education is huger than hitting a homerun. Yankees Advisor Ray Negron was hailed by Rodriguez for giving back to the children. Negron organized the event and helped to hand out gift certificates for Modell’s Sporting Goods which were donated by CEO Mitch Modell. They were then presented with Certificates of Appreciation, which were freshly signed and put together by Bronx Chamber of Commerce President Lenny Caro.

The players then made their way to work, which was across the street, as they mingled with the well behaved crowd which showed nothing but love to Rodriguez, Hairston, and Mitre. For the few lucky players of The United League, who had a chance to pitch to Rodriguez and Hairston, the memory will last a lifetime. The Yankees come through again providing HOPE to everyone they come in contact with.

By Aris Sakellaridis