Our next Pinch Hitter is Fred Navarrete, who grew up in New Jersey, attended Rutgers University and now lives in New York City – with his mini-schnauzer, Lulu Guinness — working for a video game publisher. He writes about food, craft beer and occasionally baseball on his site, Thirsty Reveler.
Although he roots for the Giants and Knicks, Fred said his real passion is reserved for the Yankees. He attended the last game at the old stadium, the first game at the new stadium, and lists Don Mattingly as his favorite player. “I really miss Scooter Rizzuto and Bobby Murcer,” Fred wrote.
Fred’s father would have turned 75 years old today, and for his post, Fred looked back at his father’s life as a Yankees fan, and wondered what his dad would have thought about the role of a certain Yankees reliever.
I like many of you, was born into a Yankee family. My father, an immigrant to this country, initially settled in Boston — where his brother was a big Red Sox fan — before ultimately settling in New Jersey. He didn’t particularly like Boston, wanted to live closer to New York and he always wanted to be a fan of the Yankees. That’s all he knew of baseball before coming to this country. If you ever meet anyone from abroad, one the most recognizable things about New York is the interlocking NY of the Yankees. To my father, a hard-working, dedicated family man, he could only support one team, the greatest team, the New York Yankees. The team of Ruth, Gehrig, and Mantle.
My father was a rationale man, calculated and thoughtful. This would quickly change when he would turn on a Yankee game, he would lose his mind. He would throw his hands up at the TV, curse in his thick Latin accent, then turn the TV off, only to turn it back on a few minutes later. Needless to say, I inherited some qualities from my father. Patience, or the lack thereof, being probably the worst. I learned just about everything about baseball, early in life from my father and my older brother. This included how sad it was to watch one of their favorite players, Thurman Munson, die tragically on my brother’s eighth birthday.
Tales were told of Graig Nettles as a human vacuum at third base and how he broke Boston’s Spaceman with a body slam. He would recount stories from when Ron Guidry was young and electrifying, Louisiana Lightning! He recalled how my favorite player, Don Mattingly even played a little outfield when he first came up. Billy Martin, Paul O’Neil and Lou Piniella were some of his favorites. Guys with some fire in their belly.
This April, it will have been ten years since my father passed away. When he passed, the Yankees were coming off their dynasty. He loved those Yankees, maybe more than some of those Bronx Zoo teams from the 70’s. He cheered for Jeter and Bernie, and especially the Latin players. Guys like Mariano, Jorge Posada and Ramiro Mendoza. He just absolutely loved
them. But every once in a while he would find a random role player to root for. Whether it be a Louis Sojo, Mike Pagliarulo or Randy Velarde.
He just loved those kinds of guys. Maybe it’s because he always thought of those guys as scrappy and tough, similar to himself. And if no one was rooting for them, he would.
He never got a chance to see Jobamania. He never once saw the round mound fire those high 90’s fastballs and do that over the top fist pump. I have no doubt in my mind, that he would have loved it. That was the type of player my father loved watching. He loved emotion from players. He would have screamed and shouted when Joba struck out a guy. He would have screamed, cursed and probably turned off the TV during that game in Cleveland, when Joba was covered in bugs. I know he would have freaked out over the Joba Rules. He would have loved those brilliant little stretches of Joba as a starter in 2008 and 2009. My father was one of those people who hated wasted talent. He hated when someone didn’t live up to their full potential. The kid came up as a starter in the minors and at Nebraska. I can just see him saying, “those stupid Jankees, yo-yoing that kid around.”
My dad never read Moneyball, couldn’t tell Sabermetrics from Dianetics, but he trusted what he saw. He is big, he throws hard, he can take all those innings. He electrifies the crowd, he electrifies me.
As we wait for pitchers and catchers to report, we hear news that the big kid from Nebraska is working hard and getting himself into shape after Tommy John surgery. My hope — and maybe that of my father — is that they let him come back as a starter.
Think of all that potential. Think about a kid who’s still only 26, the age when a lot of young starters figure things out. Why not take the opportunity now, while he’s rehabbing, to convert him back into a starter? The bullpen would be fine without him, they managed OK last year after all. The Yankees once thought of Joba as a future ace and maybe he still can be. Why not tap into that potential and give the kid a shot to electrify and dazzle the Yankee crowds?
I know I would like to see it and I think if my dad was still around, he’d like it too.
Associated Press photo