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Pinch hitting: Andy Bronson

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Andy Bronson is our next Pinch Hitter. He’s a 26-year-old from Herkimer, N.Y. currently living in Utica where he works as a broadcast engineer for a local news station. Andy wrote that he still remembers leaving a neighborhood barbecue to catch the beginning of a Yankees game in 1998 — he remembers because it was David Wells’ perfect game – and he still wears a No. 4 jersey (in honor of Lou Gehrig) when he watches games at home.

“I’ve always associated the Yankees with my family and our own gameday habits and traditions,” he wrote.

It’s that connection that sparked the idea for his post.

[2]I still have the ticket.

September 11, 1998 was two days after my 12th birthday, and my dad had rounded up my family – my mom and my younger sister and brother – and made the four-hour trek from the small village of Herkimer, New York to the Bronx. We were all crammed into the family’s 1996 Ford Windstar in order to make our first family trip to Yankee Stadium.

After arriving a little late, we got to see Hideki Irabu duel Roger Clemens of the Blue Jays. It was the first year where I really started paying attention to baseball, so I knew all about The Rocket’s all-star season and how the Yankees team was on the verge of history in its own right. My first Yankee Stadium vantage point was right in front of the left field foul pole, but I didn’t care. For a Yankees fan, I was home.

Fast forward 14 years and here I am, moved out of my parents’ house and living with my fiancée, who’s been learning how to put up with my crazed fandom. Though I’m still only a 20-minute drive from home, I feel the pangs of loneliness that come from year after year of mowing the lawn with my dad and listening to the Yankees on the radio or watching on TV. Now, it’s telephone calls of, “can you believe that A-Rod chased that 0-2 slider?” or, “boy, the Yanks were in total control last night, weren’t they?” It’s always great to have that connection, but it’s not the same. At least, not for me.

I was adopted as a month-old baby on Halloween, 1986 (or, five days after Buckner). I never knew my birth parents, and I still don’t. All that I truly know of them is that I was delivered in Albany, and that they wanted me to go to a good family that was rich in values. While my brother and sister are both biologically from my parents, I still feel the same bond of family that everyone else does. Part of that bond, of course, is baseball and the Yankees.

Ever since tee-ball, my dad would take me in the backyard and spend hours chasing after Wiffle balls I would smack into the neighbors’ yards, and I can remember my mom, too, playing catch with me when Dad was away for work. Looking back, those moments are some of the happiest of my life.

I don’t want to spend the whole post gushing about how great of a family I have, but I definitely could. What I will say is that we are quite different in our tastes of outfits, television choices, and career paths, but ever since 1998, we would sit down and watch the Yankees, no matter the outcome.

When I was in middle school and high school, I would typically have to go to bed before a ballgame was over, so my dad would always leave a note on the kitchen table, giving me the final score of the previous night’s game, corresponding with either a smiley or frowny face and three tokens of wisdom that he shared every day. “Be good, be neat when you write, and be yourself.”

While I’ve definitely gotten into my fair share of trouble, and my handwriting is absolutely horrendous, I definitely took my dad’s words to heart, and being able to see the baseball score was definitely the highlight of my morning. Then, when he’d come home from a long day, he would always drive me to my Little League or Babe Ruth League games, no matter the distance, or we’d just watch the game on TV.

[3]Dad would always brag about how he would be able to predict events in the game. My mom would just roll her eyes and hope upon hope for a decent outcome, while Dad would wait for his prophecy to come true. When it inevitably didn’t, he would just shrug and say next time. I’ll never forget when next time came. It was with Derek Jeter sitting at 2,999 hits and facing a 3-2 count against David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays.

“Wouldn’t it be something if he hit a homerun right here,” he asked me. I just chuckled and shook my head while pacing the room, waiting for 3,000. Sure enough, on the very next pitch, Jeter parked it in the left field seats and I just looked at him for a moment before we both burst out laughing.

I don’t want to suggest that this past season, my first away from home with my fiancée, was completely depressing. It was just different. I still love my family very much, and we were all equally frustrated during the ALCS, but the whole season got me thinking about my youth and how I would want to introduce my own son to the Yankees.

My dad is definitely one of my heroes, and I’d probably show my son the exact same way he showed me. Hopefully I can dispense some of the sage wisdom he’s had for me over the years. But that’s still in the future, and my immediate future holds planning this crazy wedding and, more importantly, Spring Training, which just gives me another reason to give him a call.

So, with many thanks to Chad, I would like to offer you all some of the advice that Dad bestowed upon me…

Be good, be neat when you write, and be yourself…

And hey, if you’re still so lucky, give your Dad a call, too.

Associated Press photos