I thought today was the most fitting time to release this post as today is Father’s Day.  My parents are two of the most influential and important people in my lives and this article is a tribute to my dad.  Our 1st game at Yankee stadium together.  Being both die hard Yankee fans this was a monumental occasion.  My parents have always been overly generous and this baseball trip was another example of that.  I am in debt for all the wonderful things they have done for me.

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See Part 1: http://twentythreesthoughts.wordpress.com/2011/06/11/summer-of-2004-part-1-enter-pujols/

My dad was born in White Plains, NY about 25 miles north of Yankee Stadium.  He spent some time in New Jersey as well, so his trips to Yankee stadium were during his childhood.  Until this day, to my knowledge, he hadn’t been to a game since.

We arrived from Chicago and were staying at the Lucerne Hotel in the Upper West Side.  79th and Amsterdam is a nice neighborhood a couple blocks from Riverside Park and a little bit of a trek to Central Park.  It was also my parents anniversary so while they went and celebrated with dinner and a show, I was picked up by my now fiancée and spent the night in New Jersey.  I remember the plan: I was going to meet my parents 90 minutes before the game so we could walk around the stadium and watch batting practice.  I was introduced to Yankee game traffic first hand that day and arrived about 30 minutes late.

July 22nd, 2004. Bronx, New York approx 12:00pm ET.

My dad told me go into the team store and buy anything you want.  Immediately my heart and eyes were drawn to an authentic home Mariano Rivera #42 jersey.  It was incredible and of course I got it.  I still have it to this day.  I walked through the crowds feeling a part of something special.  It’s VERY different from what I was used to at Angel or Dodger stadium.  Space is a premium in New York and if you are afraid of close contact then don’t move to the East Coast.  I managed to push my way through the crowds, down the tunnel to where I saw daylight.  That daylight was the field and how amazing the first glance was.  It’s like those that relish history and go sight-seeing in Europe, this my was Roman Coliseum.

Our seats were on the 1st base side field level under the 2nd deck overhang which kept us out of the sun.  I threw my Rivera jersey on over my Yankee t-shirt and I was ready to rock and roll.  My mom took a picture of me and my dad with the entire field and stadium in the back-ground.  It is one of my favorite pictures to date and I keep it right next to my computer as we speak.  I could tell my Dad was happy, we all were purely happy.

The pitching match-up was Orlando “El Duke” Hernandez vs. Ted Lilly.  But the most disappointing part about today was that Derek Jeter was not playing.  It seemed like they rolled out the B-Team as their next series was up in Boston against the Red Sox.  I think Torre wanted to keep guys fresh, so check out this lineup:

1-9: B.Williams, Cairo, Sheffield, A-Rod, Sierra, Matsui, Tony Clark, Flaherty and Enrique Wilson.  Yeah talk about your non-championship contending lineups.  But hey anything can happen.  Toronto’s lineup wasn’t much better with Wells, Delgado and Rios being the only real names.  As fait would have it the bats were not what was on show today.

Today was a great pitchers duel and never would I have thought that two guys who top out at 90 mph would be throwing shut-out ball.  Lilly went 6 2/3 only allowing 3 hits and no runs while striking out 6.  Hernandez went 7 innings with 4 hits and 10 K’s.  I remember after every El Duke K we looked at each other and knew he was dealing today.

The game dragged on with a 0-0 score and the Yankees were retired in the bottom of the 8th.  Torre wasting no time called on Mariano Rivera to shut them down in the 9th.  I remember Enter Sadman hit and the crowd exploded.  I was more than excited because I didn’t think I would get to see Rivera in a game that was a non-save situation.  As Mo usually does he trotted from the outfield to the mound and took his warm-up pitches and knew he was ready to go 1-2-3.

1st batter Frank Catalanotto grounder back to Rivera.  2nd batter Vernon Wells grounder to shortstop.  Delgado then ripped a single off Rivera and then Rivera K’d Eric Hinske looking to close the threat. Rivera is so effortless, he makes everything look so easy.  I can only imagine what that cutter looks like from the batter’s box.  Because from the stands it’s un-hittable.

It was a hot day and we knew after this game we would be traveling up to Boston for the 3rd leg on this baseball journey.  Everyone wanted this game to end in the 9th because the rest of the bullpen was shaky and you knew Torre wasn’t going to use Rivera for a 2nd inning.

Sheffield K’d swinging, A-Rod did the same. 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th.  Up comes the ageless wonder Ruben Sierra. To say Sierra took a swing on this 2-1 count that he come out of his shoes was an under-statement.  He swung like there is no tomorrow and he connected.  He blasted a ball to center field, ending the game on a walk-off 1-0.

When I woke up in the morning never did I expect to watch the Triple A Yankees battle to a 1-0 win with a walk-off from Ruben Sierra but you know what? It made this memory that much more unique.

I saw a great baseball game in the best baseball venue with a memorable finish and I got to do it with my parents, something I will cherish forever and never forget.  I could never really put into words how much my parents mean to me.  No matter what the mood, baseball and more specifically the Yankees always gave us something to talk about.

Happy Father’s Day Dad.