Hip Hip, Jorge

Today was opening day at Yankee Stadium. Long-time catcher Jorge Posada threw out the first pitch today, but this time in civilian clothes. In January 2012, he announced that he was retiring from baseball. After 17 years in pinstripes, with one team, through multiple playoffs, championships, and near misses, Posada was a constant fixture in one of the franchise’s most storied dynasties.

Posada started with the Yankees just as I stopped playing baseball. I grew around Yankee Stadium, so growing up it was hallowed ground. Baseball was the first sport I really got into, and I was obsessed, so much so that even my father is now a diehard Yankee fan, so much so that we will start our phone conversations about the most recent Yankee news. Like Posada, I was mainly a catcher, the only position on the field that is both involved in every play and is able to see the entire field. Because catchers manage pitchers and move position players, many of them turn into coaches. I ended up coaching little league <smiley face>; I think Jorge will be a major league coach one day, because he has a brilliant mind behind the plate.

Jorge gave me and my father incredible memories over his solid, 17-year career. I know there are Yankee haters out there, but no one can deny that Posada was one of the best offensive catchers in history and lights out in the playoffs.

Most important, however, is that Jorge was “the man.” He hid behind clunky catcher’s gear, often referred to the “tools of ignorance,” crouching behind home plate and managing some of the best pitchers in the country. He caught and applied the tag after the “flip.” He didn’t wear batting gloves. He didn’t get caught up in the media circus. He was supportive of his teammates and coaches as if they were his family. And, away from the diamond, he was the family man. His son, for instance, was born with a severe cranial condition which required 7-8 surgeries to repair. From this, he used his wealth and celebrity to create a foundation solely devoted to finding other children with this rare disease and providing support for their parents.

I can’t find the interview, but I remember seeing a clip with then Yankee head coach Joe Torre recalling one of the Posada family’s charity events, which they hold each year in NYC. Torre said that, to the shock of the crowd, at the end of dinner, there was a surprise keynote speech. It was Posada’s son, Jorge JR, who had finally finished his last massive facial surgery. He stepped up to the podium, all of 8 years old, dressed up in a tux, and addressed the crowd, thanked them for their support, and declared that he was excited to fight onward. Torre remarked the entire crowd fell silent, sitting on the edge of their seats, people wiping their eyes, and when Jorge JR was done, the room erupted into a standing-ovation.

I don’t care if Posada has awesome stats, or if he ends up in the Hall of Fame. It doesn’t matter. He was one of the classiest, most durable baseball players of his generation, a throwback of sorts, and who used whatever good fame and fortune for good means. So, thank you, Jorge. Hope to see you in Pinstripes again.