Tonight’s Thurman Munson dinner honored six athletes: Nick Swisher, Angel Pagan, Mike Piazza, Julius Erving, Devin Harris and Evan Lysacek. If any of those names is unfamiliar it’s probably Lysacek, who’s an Olympic gold medalist in figure skating and showed up wearing a massive gold watch.
When it came time for Swisher to address the media, the MC introduced him as “the happiest athlete I have ever watched from afar.” Swisher went on to speak glowingly of his relationship with Munson’s widow, Diana, and said he was humbled to have his name mentioned with Munson. It was a universal theme for the night.
Piazza said Munson, “inspired his teammates to get the most of their abilities,” and joked that the award meant even more because he knew it took a lot for a former Mets catcher to be honored by a former Yankees catcher. “As an opponent,” Piazza said, “you can’t help but respect the record and the legacy of the (Yankees) organization.”
Harris said he was “humbled” to receive and honor named after “one of the great Yankees.” Turns out, Harris is a Yankees fan. He was in Yankee Stadium for some of the ’09 World Series game, and he said Derek Jeter is his favorite baseball player. “Has been for quite some time,” he said.
Dr. J called the Munson Award, “an institution in New York.” He called Munson, “a great athlete, great husband and father, (and) a great man.” For whatever it’s worth, Dr. J said he quit playing baseball as a freshman in high school. I think my highest batting average was .190-something.”
I was in the hall talking to Swisher when it came time for Pagan and Lysacek to address the media, but my guess is they had something similar to say. It was a nice event, and a brief Yankees beat reunion — part of it anyway — before we all settle into Tampa in less than two weeks.
Some other notes from today.
• For a while today there was a lingering don’t-know-what-to-make-of-it story about Andy Pettitte and a possible autograph session scheduled for February 15, suggesting he would be signing baseballs — not pitching them — when spring training opened. Steiner Sports momentarily listed the autograph session on its website but removed the listing when it got media attention. Steiner now says a date for the autograph session has never been set, and the group has “nothing planned” for Pettitte.
• Keith Law ranked Jesus Montero 20th on his list of prospects likely to have a big league impact this season. Law writes that he has “little doubt” Montero can hit at the Major League level, but he can’t rank him any higher because he’s not sure how much time he’ll actually spend in New York this season.
• Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez were introduced this afternoon in Tampa Bay. “This is home for me,” Damon said. “This is my dream team.”
• Speaking of the Rays, they’re reportedly on the verge of a minor league deal with utility infielder Felipe Lopez.
• The Red Sox aren’t taking much from Brian Cashman’s comments that right now Boston looks better than the Yankees on paper.
• Looks like Alfredo Simon won’t be in spring training with the Orioles. He’s been denied bail on a charge of involuntary manslaughter.
Associated Press photo of Pettitte