At last, the final Yankees road trip of the spring. Unfortunately, it’s a long one.
The Yankees clubhouse opens down in Ft. Myers in a couple of hours, so I’m making my way down with the usual carload of reporters (in this case Mark Feinsand, Marc Carig and Sweeny Murti). Unless the Yankees email a lineup, we won’t have one until we get down there. Until then, he’s a cool Associated Press story about Alex Rodriguez and a special guest for today’s game.
On behalf of the New York Yankees, the star slugger called a 12-year-old girl Saturday and invited the young hero and her family to a game this weekend. Less than an hour later, Rodriguez homered as the Yankees beat Pittsburgh 4-2.
Last June, Julianne Ramirez of Tampa noticed 3-year-old family friend Bella Villa had stopped swimming and was sinking underwater at a backyard pool party. Ramirez, having learned CPR as a third grader in the Girl Scouts, rescued Villa from the pool and began chest compressions.
“I have two daughters and I can just really appreciate what an amazing thing she did. She’s a true hero,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez surprised Ramirez with a phone call about 25 minutes before the Yankees played the Pirates. He extended the invitation for Sunday’s game against Minnesota in Fort Myers.
“I have a little surprise for you,” Rodriguez told Ramirez from an office phone near the clubhouse. “We would like to invite you to a game tomorrow as our special guest. Would you be interested in coming down and watching us?”
Ramirez quickly said “yes” and added “thank you.”
“We’re going to make sure that it’s a very, very special day and a day you’ll never forget,” Rodriguez replied. “We’re very proud of you. It’s a remarkable story and it’s one that I shared with my teammates. I’m inspired by it and can’t wait to hear more about it, and really enjoy a great day with you tomorrow.”
Rodriguez’s call was part of the Yankees announcing the return of Hope Week for the third consecutive season, a weeklong community program that highlights inspirational stories.
The Yankees and Twins are jointly hosting a pregame ceremony to honor Ramirez at Minnesota’s spring training home. The Twins are holding their own HOPE Week in June.
From July 25-29 this year, the Yankees will recognize an individual, family or organization each day. All players, coaches and manager Joe Girardi will participate.
Many of the events will take place away from Yankee Stadium, which allows interaction with individuals in the settings of their success. HOPE Week received the President’s Volunteer Service Award last July.
Rodriguez also had an impact on the field Saturday, hitting a two-run homer in the first inning against the Pirates.
Assocaited Press photo